Time bandits: Southport (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

16 October 2010

Grimsby Town 1 Southport 1

Good afternoon. Today in Blundell Park we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've lived through something before, that what is happening now has already happened. Today in Blundell Park we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've...

It's 1978 all over again and Town are playing Southport in a league game. Are Brian and Michael top of the pops again? Do you get a sense of déjà vu?

A chilling afternoon in the autumn of our days, with some Southportians huddling in the sun. Why are they here? Why are we here? Are we really here? Who am I? Who are you?

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: O'Donnell, Samuels, Atkinson, Kempson, Ridley, Bore, Wright, Cummins, Wood, Connell, Carlton. The substitutes were Croudson, Hudson, Peackock (still sic.), Leary and Garner. Right-backs should be at right-back: it's an old saying in these parts. Wood was at left wing. There was no excitement at that prospect, just bewilderment, anger and a little bit of crying from the hoi polloi, glitterati, cognoscenti and riff-raff. Failing centre-backs shouldn't be in the team: it's an old saying in these parts. Garner was still on the substitute bench, while Kempson remained in situ. There was no acceptance of that prospect, just bewilderment, anger... do you get a sense of déjà vu?

Southport turned up in yellow and black halves and no Scouse wigs. They wouldn't, would they - they're from the posh bit. They'd have fitted toupees, and we wouldn't see the join from the Pontoon. None of their players had short fat hairy legs, but they had a totem pole centre-forward and a vat of dripping at centre-back.

I suppose we'd better get on with it.

First half: Daydream believers
Town kicked off towards the however many Sandgrounders, Sandpipers and Sandgrinders there were in the Osmond stand. Life is too short to count semi-Scousers in the sunshine or moonshine washing lines.

Wheel out the piano and roll out the barrel, when there's summat 'appening tha'll be told. Stay on the path lads.

McNeil has arms that longed to hold Kempson, to keep him by his side. And lips that long to hiss at the ref and make us dissatisfied with the pusillanimous pandering to the yellow fever. We were fed up with their chuntering and muntering after just five minutes.

Their keeper wellied it; Kempson back-grazed a header over O'Donnell and the right angle of post and bar. That was as artful as they got. They launched long hops on McNeil's head and hoped for flicks. They had no other tricks. This was their ragged pony. This was them, and them was this.

There were moments of clarity in this drunken haze. Cummins coiled to Connell 30 yards out, who spun-flicked and then hung, drew and quartered his marker to swing-dip a volley a yard past the left post. Go on. Oooooooooooooh. Heaven knows you were nearly not miserable then.

Carlton chesty-turned and draggled a low shot to the foot of the left post. Their keeper sprawled low to scoop and clutch without much fuss. Clutch, hmmmmm, sounds like Futch. Didn't he manage them for a bit?

Peel a potato, or maybe crush a grape. There's nothing going on apart from the bits that did go on. Sunshine between the showers.

Around the tenth minute events occurred which demand they were recorded for history. Not one, not two, not three but four deliberately directed movements of the football towards similarly clad humans. Connell was the fulcrum as Bore went on a windy-winding tour across to the left and back to the corner of the area. SPB sidestepped infield and chip-curled towards the top left corner. The keeper shrank and thanked his lucky stars that we're not as smart as we'd like to think we are. The ball tinkled the underside of the crossbar, bumped down and out. Carlton waddled and wafted the rebound softly past McMillan. The ball rolled on and on and Fatman Flynn swiped off the line, against the underside of the crossbar and out.

Ah, it's too easy humming songs to these boys in yellow shirts. It's been a long time since we partied and the room is in a mess. But that was that. There were no other moments of interest for the monochromers for another hour. It was too easy - it wasn't a challenge.

Nothing. Nothing happened apart from bumps and barges and a growing realisation that the angle-grinders were just a bunch of mobile muggers, and the officials were complicit in this auto-destructive performance art. It is perfectly feasible that at some point one of their players got inside the Town penalty area, but only after an error by, ooh, probably Kempson. Kempson kept missing ball, man and his lucky white rabbit. Oh Darran, if you go chasing rabbits you know you're going to fall.

After 25 minutes of what is claimed to be football the irritating Mersey mumblers got a corner when a huge wallopy drop-kick bounced and bounced behind Atkinson, who tried to shield it out of play, or for O'Donnell to collect. But it wouldn't go out of play. And O'Donnell didn't collect. And it got closer and closer to goal. Finally Ridley shinned it out as a yellow swarm appeared. In came the corner, out went the clearance in to a huge vacant space 20 yards out on the centre-right. We could all tell what was about to happen. It always does. Blakeman strode forward and whacked a perfect shot through a thicket of humans between him and goal. It took the perfect unhindered path into the net via the right post, with O'Donnell unsighted and helpless.

Typical: one shot, one goal. The bloke hit it and it went in; nothing more to it than that. No science, no art, just opportunism and fortune.

And half the Town team took this as a cue to go and hide behind the bike sheds.

A minute later a corner flashed through the six-yard box unhindered. Scroll on: Kempson stretched and missed and Ridley headed the cross clear at the near post. Scroll on a bit further: Blakeman had another shot from the edge of the area.

And those were the incidents that make the newspapers and text updates. What really happened was that Southport expanded their already extensive repertoire of outrageous and blatant gamesmanship: overdosing on time wasting, falling and fouling, crying and trying to con the risible ref. Spoiling tactics, they are euphemistically called. Soiling tactics, more like. Whenever a Town player touched them they fell, pleading hospital treatment. McNeil wrapped Kempson in tinfoil and in Simm they had the ugliest little snark since Dennis Wise sneered northwards.

He was disgraceful, utterly disgraceful. Even leaving aside the persistent pulls, tugs, clips and whips. Even ignoring the punched flick on from a punt. We just give you the raking stamp and follow-up kick at Atkinson when awaiting a free kick to be lumped into the Town area. We know what we saw, right in front of our eyes. And he got away with it all.

You thought we were complaining about the bouzouki player? Certainly not. We are people who delight in all manifestations of the terpsichorean muse.

Town crumbled, crumpled, imploded, dissolved. Take your pick. A collective failure, a collective fear of failure, and a collective crowd idiocy in multiplying the angst. O'Donnell fluffed a punt, then another, then another in a swirling vortex of fear and loathing. Samuels shivered and shook when the ball arrived near him and Kempson became a footballer farceur, prat-falling in front of the Pontoon.

It was horrible stuff from a horribly fragile Town and just plain horrible opposition.

And the end, the very end of the half summed it all up. They lamped it downfield, McNeil chased and the ball ran out of play. Everyone ran back for the goal kick, but the referee gave a corner.

It was not there for you all to not see. Shot through the heart of the matter, they're all to blame, they give football a bad name.

Second half: Tapioca tundra
My hovercraft is full of eels! I'm sorry, but I don't speak Hungarian. Now, where were we.

Town replaced Samuels and Carlton with Hudson and Peackock (sic), moving to a 4-3-3 formation with Wood at right-back.

Throw-ins and a bit of activity here and there. You know, things seemingly almost happening at some points which might have ended up in something worth mentioning. But didn't. But at least there was a bit of oomph.

Southport's left winger went into the box once. Way later they hooked the ball vaguely goalwards after O'Donnell flapped a cross away. Those two moments are the utter entirety of their threat to world peace in the second half. Nothing else, nothing else at all. Nothing I tell you, nothing.

Town huffed, Town puffed, the wind kept blowing the semi-Scousers down to relieve their pain. And finally that Simm got a card for throwing the ball into the toilets. Still things almost happened, then something did happen, but the ref de-happened it.

Wood slung a flat screen cross in from the right and Peackock (sic) rose early and rose high above his feeble marker to spunch a firm header over McMillan and into the net. Disallowed for climbing. There was a foul on Connell inside the area, but why did anyone even think about thinking about a penalty? Are we mad? Oh yes, very mad.

Hudson broke, and Hudson chipped near the far post. Hudson broke, Hudson crossed and Peackock's (sic) shot was charged down. Wright wafted the corner way way way way way over the bar bar bar bar. Hudson had a shot blocked, then Bore had a shot blocked. In between these isolated moments there was a warm-up for the duller bits of the Olympic games: nothing but Greco-Roman wrestling and synchronised diving. Don't forget the time wasting.

As the drum started to stop banging, Town banged their own drum. A daft free kick was given down near the left corner flag for some Randy Scouse Git groping the Riddler. O'Donnell whacked long and hard, Peackock (sic) flicked into a hole 20 yards out on the centre-left. McMillan saw the wind of change blowing through his incontinent defence and, as if by magic, Connell appeared to calmly lob volley the floundering flan flinger. Well about time.

What happened next? Spoiling, diving, cheating, booking, falling, cheaty, snidey, sneaky Southport.

One team wanted to win, the other to drink whiskey and gin. Connell twisted and turned, back-heeling beautifully into Cummins' path. From a narrow angle on Town's right Cummins shot low across the face of goal. The ball went past the keeper but Fatman Flynn brilliantly slid-blocked away. Bore drifted into nearly doing something, Hudson almost did things frequently. There were five minutes of added time during which Southport wasted more time and Peackock (sic), eight yards out to the left of goal, mis-hit rubbishly straight at the wobbly keeper.

The other five minutes were taken up with Peackock (sic) giving away free kicks every single flippin' time by jumping too early and allowing the am-dram Sandbaggers to die for the cause.

Spoiling, diving, cheating, booking, falling, cheaty, snidey, sneaky Southport. Shocking Town. The time is gone, the game is over, there really is nothing more to say.