Future games and bare trees: Fleetwood (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

18 September 2010

Grimsby Town 1 Fleetwood Town 2

Welcome, fellow fish filleters, to the Prozac nation where silence is mouldering.

Around 150 or so Fleetwooders came softly to us down in that thar Osmond stand, as we entered the season of the itch to ditch the man in charge. It's people who don't think who think things are unthinkable. Think on that as Town sink.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: O'Donnell, Bore, Garner, Watt, Ridley, Coulson , Hudson, Cummins, Eagle, Connell, Corner. The substitutes were Gobern, Peacock, Leary, Atkinson and Wood. It would have been Arthur in goal, but he broke his fingers in the warm-up. Do you need to be told who stood where? It's 4-4-2 so read from right to left. It's simple.

Fleetwood played in Morecambe's kit, with a bunch of round the north-west houses lower-league trundlers. And just because you've grown a beard doesn't mean we don't recognise you, Mr Linwood. Oh, it does mean the knee-jerkers don't recognise him. Maybe it's because he looks like Action Man with real hair. And his civil partner put down his hod and picked up a shin pad. Fleetwood's Mac was the de rigueur 'fat man' that every proper non-League non-League team has.

But who ends up laughing last?

First half: Rumours
Town kicked off toward the Pontoon with a hump and dump down the left. Corner and Eagle collided, heading against each other and into the Lower Findus, where some people were seated. And Town got a throw-in. The clues are there for the afternoon.

I don't know, something. Up there at the other end. A shot, a cross: two bits of things from them hinting that this week will be as last week. Town were idling and watching, the red shirts were frothing and foaming their beer.

Coulson chuckled, Connell muckled and spun a slow, slow chip towards the top right corner. Davies shined his shoes and ate his sugar puffs. Tusk, just a moment of minor interest, for we walk a thin line between the marvellous and the mundane. A bit here, a bit there, six inches short, two foot long. A snake or a rake? What's going off out there? Not much from Town.

The Fleeters' crocodiles swallowed Town whole in midfield, where Hudson and Cummins were sat on the ducking stool next to The Big Pond. Big Pond was big, mobile, neat and had a knack of sweeping up the detritus of everyday life. Big Pond was the pendulum, as Fleetwood had clocked Town from the start.

Tip-tap-tap-tip, a chip and the ball snicked off Bore's jaw into the penalty area. Craney spundled and O'Donnell panel-beat away, low to his right. Fleetwood were passing, Town were flashing their knickers at passers-by, hoping for a free ride home. Huh, Connell curled a free kick over the angle of post and bar. Some people get excited by the smallest things.

The Fleeters soaked as the Pontoon croaked its boredom and Town poked around at the bottom of their toybox, looking for the old jack-in-the box. It ain't the Cornerboy - McNulty had his wires tapped. Fleetwood's Mac put the dope on the table.

Magno-Man chased a chip down their left and Garner missed with a lunge. With Town's legs akimbo Magno-Man rolled a pass into the path of tubby Curtis, three yards out. It's déjà vu all over again. A break, a defensive flake and a silly goal. The crowd cleared throats for the impending impotent howls... but O'Donnell threw himself across Curtis and blocked away. After some rib-tickling play on words with Dave Moore, O'Donnell got up and carried on.

And on the game carried. Tongue-tied Town against the loquacious Lancastrians.

Fleetwood passed to each other, Fleetwood players moved. Their right back za-za-zoomed up the right and across the pitch, across Eagle, across Hudson, across Cummins, across Bore. Not one tackle was attempted; perhaps one black and white boot was hung vaguely near the travelling alesman. Beeley shimmied behind Bore and O'Donnell raced out to flat-pack the shot away for a corner from a narrow angle. In came the corner, up went Big Pond to head firmly across the face of goal, possibly off the post. It just seems so normal, doesn't it. They, whoever they are, nearly score with any attack they do.

Oh look, some passing! Eagle flat-crossed near Connell. Well, it was something. Better than long punts onto The Big Mac's bonce. Town broke and Coulson swished over the bar from way out as the bay window lay open, net curtains wafting in the northern breeze, cup cakes cooling on the kitchen table.

McNulty wasn't booked for clobbering one of us. He was told off though. That always works.

Bore slipped a chip down the right behind fatty and the bear. Connell bounded away, alone, free , unhindered by humanity or the Fleetwood defenders. Davies stepped way out to his left and Connell slowed down to almost standing still. They stared into each other's eyes and Connell fell for Davies' charms and fell over his arms. Not even a shot.

And would you believe it, another Town attack with cohesion and adhesion. Coulson trickled and swept low into the centre, Hudson allowed the ball to run on and Eagle was hunted down by men with shotguns. The ball flew out and Cummins dripped a drooping volley a yard past the left post, This was almost exciting. Let's not get carried away.

With a couple of minutes left Fleetwood moved forward with forward movement while Town players marked that important space three feet away from their opponents. Town are world leaders in marking alter egos. Watt stood off Curtis, stood further off Curtis and watched a cross being crossed. Seddon drifted across Bore and flicked a header from just beyond the penalty spot. The ball arced and floated onto the inside of the right post, bouncing down on the line and nuzzling into the net on the left.

Well, we said they looked like Morecambe. What do we think of it so far?

Second half: Second-hand news
Eagle and Coulson were replaced by Peacock and Gobern, with Town moving to the lesser spotted 4-3-3 formation, with Peacock the coccyx of Town's spine. Peacock spent ten minutes repeatedly tying up his bootlaces and ripping off tape. Girdle too tight?

Ridley nicked and knocked and Town had one of those Toblerone moments. Hudson flicked, Connell snicked, Hudson ran through into the penalty area. As a red mist descended, he calmly rolled the ball across the face of goal to the unmarked Cornerboy ten yards out. Unmarked. An open goal. And unmarked, of course. Cornerboy waited, and finally disentangled his limbs to pass against Davies' legs. The ball returned, the goal was still open and Cornerboy mis-hit a fluffy bunny past the keeper down the centre and straight to a defender, who gave it some lettuce and escorted it back to its hutch.

Bore swivelled wide. That's probably all Bore did all game that's worth mentioning in a positive light. This incredibly shrinking man ceased to function as a footballer, playing musical statues in the library. He verged very close to disgracefully inert.

And Town players huddled together in the centre, frightened to venture into the lonely outlands where devils lurk behind every reserved seat. In the space on the wings Gobern can hear you scream. Town dissolved, disintegrated, disingenuously dawdled and dithered in a dreadful funeral dirge. Watt walked the ball away after a headless chicken entered Town's coop, or would that be a Fleetwood fox?

Near the hour the officials failed and gave a pathetic free kick to Fleetwood on the halfway line. The ball was tipped and tapped and zapped over the top, Garner and Curtis had a tango on the right, and the ball bumped out off a thigh. Which thigh? Ah, thy will be done. Neither referee nor linesman could see and instantly gave a corner. Over it came, up went Pond on the penalty spot and into the top right corner thumped the header. Peacock in absentia, Pond sent the self-styled cod army to haddock heaven.

Mariners marinated for an hour, then flash-fried on a griddle. Mariners marinade? More like a pickle.

At this Wood replaced the embarrassing Cornerboy, who wasn't even capable of running quicker than an old fat man. McNulty had eaten him for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper, even allowing for that Mars bar he was munching during the first half.

And Town moved back to 4-4-2, with Wood on the left. Gobern was on the right, but you can forget about him. Long balls were pumped and finally a Town head connected. Bore flat flipped a punt from the right-back position. Peacock rose in the middle of their half and flicked on behind his marker; Connell ran on, turned his body and steer-volleyed into the top left corner from just outside the 'D'.

And finally the little drummer boys awoke, par-umpa pum-pum. There was even the hint of support from various sections of the home crowd. I did say 'hint'; let's not go overboard.

Fleetwood had occasional breaks, which is an occupational hazard when Town's business plan is to let the opposition score two goals before we give it a go in the last half-hour. That way lies liquidation madness. The Fleetwooders started to time waste even more blatantly. Curtis took two minutes to be injured, and Davies was booked for a very poor Jacques Tati impression involving a bicycle, inflatable armbands and a string of onions. Sometimes they bothered to move into the Town half and Craney shankled a shot a yard wide. That was just about it from them.

Did I tell you about Connell's chip? Unfortunately it wasn't crisp and brown, but soggy and limp. As time went by Watt and Garner took it in turns to stay upfield and Town resorted to route zero nonsense. Hit and hopeless. Wood had a shot, apparently. So did Watt. So what?

There were six minutes of added time, which would be plenty enough for Town to throw away a lead, but never enough to retrieve the little dog form the bottom of the well. Gobern crossed, Peacock nodded back across the face of goal and a red-ite walloped clear from near the line as Cummins phoned a friend. The ball hoisted high, hoofed higher, Watt flimbled a shot which hit some flesh and scrawled achingly across goal as Davies did the Charleston. Connell menaced beyond the far post and hooked back across the face of an empty goal. Peacock had spent too much time asking the audience and the streets were full of people, but no-one was there inside the six-yard box six minutes into added time.

We're inured to such things these days. After a decade of dross you just get used to it. This week it was Big Pond who parked his tanks on our lawn; last week it was little Smith. There's a common thread and it isn't to do with physical size. It's the same thing every week (Luton excepted). It's getting beyond tiresome for these professionals to repeat the cycle of dishonour.