The keeper and the corpse

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

11 September 2017

Mansfield Town 4 Grimsby Town 1

Would I like to talk about it? There's not much to say. Town played at lunchtime and our club's in disarray.

On a showery day of dryness and sun, 1,252 tremulous Townites awaited the next episode of Watery Fowls, a slapstick comedy of embarrassment with just 41 episodes left this season. It may not get recommissioned if it keeps losing viewers.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Mills, Osborne, Clarke, Dixon, Dembele, Rose, Berrett, Woolford, Vernon and Hooper. The substitutes were Killip, Davies, Collins, Summerfield, Jones, DJ Jinky and Matt. Same as last week; let's hope Mansfield are as fey and bored with life as Crewe were.
Blended shirts. Bad idea. A youth teamer strolling around eating a lukewarm pie? Bad idea, young Alex. We all know Mascara Man ate all the pies, then claimed there were no pies at all despite the gravy stains on his blouson.

Where are the home fans? Ah, over there. Are we supposed to be intimidated by an empty ground and a fluttering flag?

Let's go towar…?

Towards what? To Worksop, Warwick or the Warmington-on-Sea Novelty Rock Emporium where 'urricanes 'ardly 'appen? Oh, hang on, we're the Dad's Army here, aren't we? Let's hope Evans has followed his own advice in the programme – "forgetting Grimsby".

If only we could Steve, if only we could.

First half: Whatever happened to all the fun in the world?

Mansfield kicked off away from the unpopular end and towards the Town fans. Up and under, bish-bosh, Town under the cosh. Clarke retreated towards Pets at Home seeking a tortoise to outrun. Angol flicked, Hemming licked, Mills slipped and Angol was in on the angle. McKeown flew up and flicked over finely for an Angol wrangle.

Yellow movement, striped shivers. Sub-standard shuffles and scuffles in a field.

Dembele discoed delightfully, and Hooper bloopered off his backside at the near post. Backside, derriere, rear end: there are many ways to avoid saying the obvious. Why not say bottom? We will be soon.

Yellow movement, monochrome messing, Mills missing. McKeown scuttled out to swamp the marauding Hemmings after a very slow and obvious one-two.

One-two. One-two. Testing…testing, can anyone hear me out there? Is this team switched on yet?

Ah that's better, normal rules of engagement have been restored. Fifteen minutes in and the first warning to Evans the Steam for sarcasm. And we all know that behind his sarcasm desperate memories lie. Will he be gone by half time, steamed up at the steaming pile of plodding goo?

Crosses, so many crosses to bear. We must always rely on the kindness of strangers to avoid social embarrassment. What good fortune that Mansfield are so banal.

Hey, we're having that. Slumbering and bumbling and Osborne spectacularly hooked a volley from inside the Town half. Up, up and away this beautiful balloon sailed. Lucky Logan flapped away from his right post. What do you mean it was just a hoiky hoof? No sir! Corner, cleared, Dixon shot, the ball squishled across the face of the angle of post and bar. Sort of, nearly. Dembele jinked this way and that way, a shot blocked and Mills slashed highly over at the near post from somewhere near.

Hey, they're rubbish too. Town seeping forward, pressing, pressuring, pressing the big red button marked "DO NOT TOUCH". A yellow throw of most foolish foulishness was unpunished by the municipal authorities. In-out-in-out-in-out, shake yer booties! Townites wiffled and waffled, tepidly tapping and Dembele was mugged half way between safety and surprise. Tic-tac and Mills' toe. Murfin won his swimming badge for performing the perfect plunge into the pool of Town sorrow.

Angol swiped highish to his right and over, just over, Jamie Mack's waving hand, then ran off into the dead zone twixt two sets of stewards, rubbing his hair towards the Town fans.

Town? Flakes! Flakes! They don't do you no good, they can't fix your brakes.

A moment from Town, but nothing of note. A Woolford corner wobbled and dobbled. Osborne wrenched a slap goalwards and the ball hit somebody, somewhere in between, rolled out to Woolford who rolled weakly straight to Lucky Logan.

Mariners in a mess, a foetid mess, standing away from blended yellows watching crosses flocking. Mellis, alone beyond the absent Mills, volleyed into the slowly seething, seething Russ, masses. McKeown flinger flipped and finger flicked in the absence of a defence.

Never has a drum been so ho-hum.

Second half: Tryin' to grow a glass chin

Our capacity for innocent enjoyment is just as great as any dishonest man. When Killip is a-clipping in the kick-a-bout, a policeman's hat is not a sturdy one. Wahey, Killip won a cuddly toy for knocking a policeman's hat off a policeman's cheery head and neither side made a change at half time.

Ooh, when did that happen – Woolford and Dembele switched wings. Ah, tasty. Dembele dribbled up the touchline under the boardroom, out of the sun, having fun, past Bennett and kissed the turf under the force of the Mansfield man's personality. Up he popped and immediately stroked a quickly taken free kick into the path of the unmarked Berrett, in a vast acreage of unmanned space. Berrett leant back and toe-slapped straight over the bar from a dozen yards out on the angle.

How pleasant: football. Ticking and tocking and Mills flat-dinked diagonally beyond the last centre-back. Vernon eased back and… and… timidly chested the ball down rather than head goalwards from four yards. Four yards. Words were uttered.

Oh, it's fashionably in this flat-dinking thing. Some bloke in yellow clipped shallowly and Clarke stuttered, we all tutted and Hemmings was swamped by McKeown on the edge of area. Town zoomed up the other end and Dembele wiggled west and wrapped his full-back into a pretty little bow, swivelling infield and bedraggling weakly wide.

A foul yellow throw, obviously, sometime, somewhere near Town's left corner flag. A corner to the Staggerers, where justice demanded the freeing of all prisoners from the Bastille. Clarke hared across the face of goal to the near post and completely missed the ball. The ball travelled on with no stripes moving, but many near. Pearce carefully cushioned a volley in from six yards. More words were uttered. Some of them quite impolite, dear reader.

Jones replaced the inconsequential Hooper, the human blooper. I'd quite forgotten about him in this non-excitement. He was less a presence, more a philosophical conceit.

You are warned not to proceed beyond this point if you wish to retain your belief in the possibility of redemption. Do not enter this cave, Dave. I'm afraid, Dave. Russ is losing his mind. Men dissolving before our eyes, their footballing mortality flashing behind their eyes and behind the full-backs. Clarke and Dixon slapsticked a whoopee cushion of sky-high squishes. Macdonald fizzled across the face of goal.

Davies came on, Mills' body joined his mind somewhere else in Mansfield.

A chip and chase and Clarke simmered after Angol into the deep, deep right corner and swiped sillily. Angol took the opportunity to decline and fall like the Roman Empire. A free kick drimbled to the far post and Bennett arose alone and headed firmly and downwardly. McKeown superbly sprang left to paw and slap aside. Clarke ambled after the ball and Pearce clattered lowly through the thicket of legs, exclusively red-socked legs. Osborne edged onto his stumps with a thick inside edge. Words were grunted, seats were slapped and the staunchly supportive Town-fans-till-they-die headed off for the car park.

At this point a couple of Mansfield supporters worked up the courage to start singing. Just a couple mind. They are a small band of fragile brothers and sisters, sage enough not to count chickens before they've been stuffed. We know, they know we've had our onions.

Why am I bothering to tell you about a Woolford clip where Vernon was free, free to walk the ball out of play pathetically? You gots to know the gory bits if you have entered the infernal last half hour of this game.

Them, stuff, things, not really much, but enough to make 'em happy, and to cause more seat flipping at the ease with which the annoyingly average Staggermen were sauntering through the abandoned house of fools.
As always, DJ Jinky replaced Dembele for the last 10 or so minutes, or whenever, whatever.

Another foul throw deep, deep down near the left corner. Angol slowly, slowly, shuffled his pants and stepped over a daisy. Clarke faced towards the gallows and left his leg hanging around without purpose. Angol accepted the invitation to party and boo-ga-looed to earth. Angol swiped highish to his right and Jamie Mack's waving hand deflected further and higher into the net.

Boo-hoo-hoo from the boozed up. Shrugs and sighs from the sanguine.

Osborne ducked, Angol bicycle booted. Good lad Osborne, nice to see someone willing to get hurt to stop the hurt.

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking about tonight's dinner.

Ah, DJ Jinky jinking, Bennett panicked and panhandled and manhandled our man. A penalty. Jones rolled low and right under fatty Logan. Gravity couldn't help him. Nothing can help Town, not even a couple of gifted fig leaves. Who wants a fig leaf for a gift? What do you think I am – some kind of tree-hugging freak?

Balls, time, more balls, more time, more balls and two yellow handballs, but no pens for Pauline. Rose slapped and Logan finger flipped over. More balls, more time and yet another time Vernon wouldn't shoot, so Rose sliced over.

4-1 flattered both teams, but flattered Town more. Town were overrun because they didn't run. Town were in effect over-walked. Midfield? Pfft. Attack? Sir, you amuse me with your wit and repartee. You know Osborne Clarke are a firm of solicitors from Bristol, not a central defence. Osborne Collins sounds more like a sound hero of a Victorian novel to me. Let's try that out.

Inept, insipid, incoherent, incompetent. Players, management and fans. We're doomed at this rate, with this squad being chosen in this order. There is no team: just a shifting cast of cast-offs, has-beens and never-will-bes sharing the same coloured shirt and same employer.

Has the penny dropped yet? Have the scales fallen from your eyes? Is anyone left believing that all will end well?