A fun day in the park: Bath (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

21 January 2012

Grimsby Town 6 Bath City 0

'Twas a brisk, windy day in the lair of the rumbling giant. It had all the accessories required for that big-match atmosphere: the crowd and the dugouts and floodlights too. We counted them all in, and counted them all out. A ragged remnant of the Avon army, just forty XL Romans marched into verbal battle with the local tribes.

Town lined up in the Buckleyesque 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Silk, Miller, Garner, Townsend, Coulson, Disley, Thanoj, Artus, Elding, Hearn. The substitutes were Wood, Pearson, Church, Duffy and Hughes-Mason. All stood where you'd expect.

The red Bathmen lined up with wing-backers. Burnell had the slicked-back hair of a minor Mockney mobster, while Canham had a mysterious white blob on the side of his head. Perhaps it's a directional aid for his wing-backers.

There is no time to worry, close your eyes and drift away...

First half: Anthony Elding is Offside
The Bathers kicked off towards the Pontoon and Thanoj slabbler-tackled in the dark, forbidding shadow of the Findus. The referee wagged a finger, the free kick was drooped, cleared towards Coulson and boinked to a Bather off the woman in black. Stonehouse ran towards the beach and faked his own death, plunging under a Thanoj waterslide. Out came a yellow card, up went the masses, for according to local legend seeing a woman in black means a child is about to cry.

Oh do grow up.

Bath hurried and scurried as Town sat deep and watched them give us a twirl. Silk stood on the burning bridge, jabbering to himself and jabbing the ball fecklessly to no-one, nowhere. Garner slip-shoed away, Artus and Coulson delved into the fancy dress box and found Stuart Campbell's camouflage coat, taking it in turns to wrap up warm inside the cloak of invisibility.

McKeown drop-kicked to the green man out in the distance. McKeown drop-kicked to the green man out in the distance. McKeown... McKeown... McKeown.

They had a shot. No worries.

McKeown drop-kicked to the green man out in the distance. McKeown drop-kicked to the green man out in the distance. McKeown... McKeown... McKeown.

McKeown star-jumped at the near post as a corner flugelhorned across the face of goal uninterrupted by humans. McKeown drop-kicked to the green man out in the distance. Shouty shouted shoutily; McKeown waved his arms and shouted back. No-one outshouts Shouty.

McKeown finally stopped wasting everyone's time and Town started to stand near their visitors, conquering their inner cultural cringe.

After 20 minutes Town stopped being dumb and moved the football so that it not only stayed within the designated playing area, but also travelled towards a team-mate at a velocity and direction that allowed the possibility that the word 'passing' could be used without fear of ridicule. In other words, Disley ran back and took the ball off the defenders.

A throw-in at the farthest end of the Findus led to Town triangles, a silky Silk cross to the far post and an Artus bobble-header back. The ball bombled parallel to the goal and Hearn volleyed lowly from a dozen yards, the keeper frozen solid. One attack, one goal.

A doyen of topiary once told me that one day he would like to grow a maze. It seemed to be quite logical that this should be his wish. And with that we both went our separate ways. Anthony Elding was offside.

You can't claim to have dropped in while passing on someone who lives in a cul-de-sac. Anthony Elding was offside.

Townsend threaded his own needle and darned a sock to Coulson, who twisty-turned and fell in a graceful plunge. Some people wanted a penalty to be awarded. They may be living on Fantasy Island. What a dull game. If John Fenty was Chairman of the Board, does that mean Town is run by the Rat Pack?

A long punt punted, Canham chased, Garner lost his marbles and swirled and hurled his arms around like an overwrought ballerina as the ball dropped and bounded along inside the penalty area. The whole crowd hushed and hummed a guilty secret as Garner turned and whacked clear as play continued. No-one saw anything, honest.

Thanoj stooped and turned in midfield to receive the clearance. The whole crowd hushed and hummed another guilty secret as Town broke away and away and away to get a corner. Great refereeing. Fantastic. Coulson flapjacked the corner into the heart of the six-yard area. Garner skipped and sighed and Gallinagh, in homage to Buckley's finest hour, did a Burnettesque sexy little flick, to volley over Matthews.

FA regulations deem that own goals are attributed to Anthony Elding, aren't they?

And Canham sliced safely wide from a safely wide angle just to remind us that there is nothing better in life than writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro.

How strange life is. Two attacks, one shot, two goals.

Second half: Anthong Elding is Still Offside
Neither side made any changes at half time.

From the off Town passed to each other, with pace and purpose. Disley ticked and tocked, carotting a curler behind the right-back for the trotting Townsend. The wind recoiled the ball around and Gallinagh faced towards his keeper. He looked once, saw Hearn betwtixt and rolled a delightfully weighted pass directly to the feet of Mr Goal Machine. Hearn soft-shoe-shuffled the keeper into a paper bag, waltzed along the bye-line and walked the ball into the empty nettage like a six-year-old scoring in front of his mum, dad and bestest mates from school.

As is traditional at this point in a Town game, we asked ourselves: "How many can we be bothered to score?"

Bath kept crossing straight out of play. A red Bathman had a shot. It went wide, probably. It does seem that if Jeffrey Bernard was unwell, then Anthony Elding was offside. After 52 minutes one of them headed over when free and easy in front of goal. Not many Townites noticed, as we were too busy counting how many plastic bags swirled across the pitch, and bags of so many colours too. We're the rainbow nation of litter.

And the moment came that many men had dreamed of: Anthony Elding wasn't offside. Oh, sorry, yes he was. Dream on, baby, dream on.

The Bathers carried on scuttling around the fringes of Town's penalty area for reasons only they can reveal, possibly under court order. They dinked, and Miller calmly placed a headed clearance into Coulson's path, on the edge of the area. Two touches, one long swipey pass and Hearn was chasing cars along pavements. The ball dropped like a stone, right into the zoomster's flightpath, as the keeper skidded to a halt ahead. If you want to get ahead get a halt - no, a hat - just like the natty one the Pontoon ballboy was wearing. Very Nordic cool.

Unlike Matthews, Hearn was not distracted by errant headwear behind, letting the ball bounce off his chest and superbly measuring a volley-lobble from 25 yards out into the vacancy. All rooms are now booked on the steam ship Hearn. Are we getting a bit blasé about the blaster from Bulworth?

Them? They kept on trying to score a goal. Canham chipped a central free-kick to the top left corner. McKeown waddled across to parry-palm away. He didn't have anything else to do as the Roman clods frittered and flattered themselves around the fringes. Miller had all the time in the world to play his trumpet toons.

In an effort to enliven the evening, the referee and linesman decided to have a madcap five minutes of mayhem, making wilfully laughable decisions, culminating in the linesman giving Disley offside when he was standing still avoiding the ball and surrendering to the void. The Shouty one brought out his Dennis Taylor impression, standing next to the linesman claiming his old mind boggles, 'cos he should wear some goggles. The referee suddenly scooted 60 yards backwards in a sprint to do that whispering grass routine with the fourth official, and off went Shouty, muttering and gesticulating.

The Sid the Sexist had to admit that he could now never claim that women can't reverse. And in a reversal of roles Shorty had to stand in the Shouty shoes, while Shouty had to muse on his short fuse. I'm sure they are confused.

Silk slid through a little red ball player and we awaited his fate. Just a tut or two from the now seriously relaxed and liberal referee. Off went Thanoj and on came Church. Off shimmied Hearn and out came the keeper to excellently parry away a nut-rocking, bee-bumbling stinger.

And off went Hearn completely, saved for a rainy day, his job was done, the game was won, it was time for us to see the mystery man, KHM.

By 'eck! Did you see that? Not such an instant impact since the Golden Dude glistered briefly. A swivel, a swerve, such verve! Twisting Roman melons, swishing past one, two, three and clipping over the advancing Matthews. The ball hit solid green flesh and looped up and behind towards the net. An old wise head tracked back and spectacularly cleared with a scissor kick.

The ground buzzed as eyes popped and all the while play continued amid the hubbub. Townsend retrieved and curled in a coiling cross between keeper and defence. Hughes-Mason slid forward on the penalty spot to stamp the ball into the ground and over the flailing and exposed Matthews. Wa-hey-hey, what an entrancing, enchanting entrance.

It's time to change the record on the jukebox of jeer. It was Duffy's turn to annoy us, for Elding had slapped his last thigh for this game as he slapped the dug-out like an old pro. I cannot confirm that Mr Fluffy touched the ball in any meaningful way. Perhaps he's only wheeled on to make us appreciate that, however bad Elding is, things could be worse.

Are we done yet? No sir. And don't think anything happened in between these goals. Nothing happened between these goals; this was a game of goals and dark secrets.

For a reason that, like Brigadoon and Brigg, is lost in the mists of time, Town got a corner on the right. Coulson flat-floated to the near post, where it be-stumbled off various bits of variously covered human anatomy and humbled out towards the edge of the area. Church took a step and smershed a half-volley into the upper left side of the goal. This church may have evolved from the primitive, limited followers of St Clog of Hoof; it may even have women priests.

Just one more thing: KMH had a half-shot half deflected wide in a moment of nearlyness. There really was nothing more to this curio.

Town were ultimately dominant without dominating, especially in the first half where there was little monochromatic cohesion. Town were barely a presence at all, but then the Bathers got cramp after lunch and drowned themselves in self-pity. Signing Gallinagh really worked out well - for Town. Faster, stronger and eventually more tactically aware, with more defensive organisation, this Grimsby is a team which is oddly able to overcome some glaring individual deficiencies. Town weren't great, just ruthless enough to end the life of the runt of the litter.

So Town finally sink the shower from Bath. No room for the bidet though, Mr Fluffy.