Fatball's going home: Braintree (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

3 March 2012

Grimsby Town 1 Braintree Day-Glo Sticks 1

On a day of sly brightness 37 ironmongers and costermongers joined the local fishmoaners in worshipping at the altar of clog.

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Silk, Pearson, Miller, Townsend, Coulson, Thanoj, Disley, Soares, Duffy, Hearn. The substitutes were Garner, I'Anson, Church, Hughes-Mason and Southwell. We shall just have to continue our surge without Serge, and no junior psycho was to be seen either. Where shall we get our light-hearted interludes during the drudge and fudge of the biff and bang? Louie Louie? Sturdy and athletic; a study in black and white. These days a study would have to have built in wi-fi, wouldn't it.

In hi-vis vests and hard hats the Essexers trundled and rumbled like a bunch of brickies. Cultural heritage, national beverage, being fat and union jacks! Let's thank the Braintree Irons very much, thank you very, very, very much for turning up.

With spring in the air you'd expect at least one man to turn up in a turquoise polo-neck. Mr Shouty hadn't been to Greenwoods, but was back prowling his Shoutical Area in full technicolour. Do you think he's undergone primal scream therapy? No, hang in, that's for us, isn't it: that's what coming to Blundell Park is.

First half: Clog Day Afternoon
Braintree wellied off towards the Pontoon with a wallop and a wobble. Hump, bump, bish-bosh, what a load of tosh. Free kicks for goalposts. Hmmm. Nonsense all round, with the happy whistler chirruping for any touch upon the fluorescent flowerpot men. The referee just wanted to let the wind blow right through their hair.

Ugly, schmugly, Soares passed passably, Soares dinked dinkingly, Soares fell over and was not seen again for 20 minutes. Hearn nearly crossed. Duffy nearly moved. Pearson back-headed and Assombalonga nearly scored, heading straight and softly at McKeown from, ooh, six yards out.

Hearn did cross. There was nobody home.

Braintree bashed on: Bill and Ben their striking men kept swinging and swaying. And here comes Looby-Loo, being Looby-Light as he fell over Miller like it's Saturday Night. Get-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t up, Mr Wobblebottom or Mr Bumble the beadle will book you.

It's duller than a kilted accountant in spartan tartan listening to Dolly Parton.

There was almost some pressure from Town. A corner half cleared, half returned, half a pound of tuppenny rice, half a pound of treacle, that's the way that Liam Hearn turns, popping a cross-shot closely wide. Somewhere in that stream on unconsciousness there was a Thanojian interjection, which is a critical part of Town's speech patterns these days. Pity he had a bit of a sore throat game.

What about the Orange? They had a shot. Yeah, whatever, Grandad. Do you want a bag on your head? It bedumbled scrubbingly straight at McKeown after some tic-tac-toe. That was all they did, apart from being big, falling over and generally being whining, diving pests.

Moments of nearlyness were like hurricanes in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire: they hardly happened hoften. Silk silkily milked a cow, Hearn spun and... the admirable Aswad Thomas swept the carpet. The boy Thomas kept chasing the Hearn breeze and catching it. Don't turn around Liam, young Aswad is behind you. McKeown was Town's quarterback, spearing searing whacks which sometimes punched a hole in the ozone layer and sometimes dropped on Duffy's bonce. Soares rinky-dinked a chip wide from one of these sophisticated dance moves.

Now don't you go away thinking Town were one-dimensional. No, no, they had a second string to their one-dimensional bow - Townsend spearing searing whacking free kicks, which sometimes dropped on Duffy or Pearson's bonce. Disley slow-looped a header to McDonald after some Duffy slow motion immobility caused havoc and devilish deflections, slowly.

Everything was preceded by a McKeown whack. If only Town had a goal for every dot ball delivery. Free of income tax old boy. It's the only way for Town to make a living these days. Soares volleyed wide or high or high and wide, after people did things on the other side of the pitch. Soares fell over when freed. Duffy... nope. Townsend coiled a central free kick over and around the wall and into the existential emptiness beyond as the tiny keeper rotted and was rooted.

And finally we had something that was more than a nearly, verging on an almost. McKeown boomed, Duffy danced his eyebrows like a jaunty Edwardian josker and Soares surged across the face of the penalty area. He flicked! Coulson spun international webs of accidental intrigue, and the Duffster slashed and burned inches over from a dozen yards out.

Those were the moments that linger, though not much longer. No-one did a conga after all that jazz. It was Australian rules football without the violence or beards, up-and-unders with wrestling. But no be-hatted grannies with handbags to amusingly attack the referee, even though Braintree were built like those pantomime wrestlers of yore, all flab and tickle. They should sign Damien Spencer to bring down their average BMI.

It was dull. It was really dull. Full of dull and we could mull over who to cull. We couldn't even be bothered to moan about the referee and the time-wasting by southern men.

Second half: Quando Quando Quando
Neither side made any changes at half time.

There may have been a shot by Andi Thanoj. You have to laugh.

Duffy was sent free behind the defence. You have to cry.

McKeown big booted, Soares chested and Hearn was free. The keeper crept out and shinned away. You have to sigh.

Braintree were just cones in the road.

Sometime, somewhere in England nothing happened. Disley stretched to intercept some mediocre pinball nonsense halfway inside the Town half and deflected straight to Wright, who was several years beyond the fringe. Town players stopped, arms aloft and peered at the linesman, whose arm was aloft with flag in hand. Shall we all put our arms in the air and wave? Arms aloft, ruddy cheeked, bewitched, bewildered and between, he tapped the ball to the onrushing Marks, who walked on, walked on, with hope in his heart and passed the ball around McKeown and into the bottom left corner.

Everyone had their arms in the air and was waving. Orange delight, monochrome madness. Pushes were shoved, shoves were pushed as the officials officiated officiously together. Officially it was a goal.

At least something had happened. And that roused and riled the crowd and the Town players into something approaching something. Ah yes, motivation. We all needed an external stimulus package.

Let's get them out of the way right now. There was no specific or particular danger to Town from now on ¬- apart from big Braintree boots down the middle, causing McKeown to come out and head and scrape away a few times. Once he had a secret love. No, that's something different entirely; our lawyers tell us to blame Twitter. Once McKeown scriggled alarmingly straight to a squat midfielder. The shot returned towards the emptiest net but mumbled to itself as it apologised straight to the retreating showstopper. That really was all from them. How could they attack if they kept falling over the moment a Townite breathed near them? Inner ear problems abound, perhaps it was the journey up. Coach travel can have that effect.

Ooh, lovely passing, lovely crossing. The ball dinked over the keeper, the goal was empty and Mr Fluffy ambled up on the left. He arrived in the vicinity of the ball as it dropped perhaps five yards beyond the far post. The angle was narrow and the crowd narrower still as he turned away from goal and passed back towards the halfway line.

Town swept on like a demented curler. Townsend swayed and crossed, Coulson dived and grazed a header wide off Thomas as Duffy lazed behind. Coulson clipped the corner, Pearson bonkled goalwards and McDonald excellently plunged right and plucked the ball away from the top right corner straight to Hearn, who slapped in the drooping inflatable from two yards.

Let there be light.

Town surged on. Another corner, the keeper flapped and Duffy scruffied in to the empty net from at least a yard out. No goal: something happened somewhere.

The big balls kept on getting bigger and ballier. Duffy twiddled, Hearn fiddled and Disley zoomed on through the gaping gap. The keeper furled himself at the Dizzler and fingertipped the dink high in the air. It arced and tumbled beyond and behind the keeper, dropping vertically below the crossbar, almost on the line. Disley pursued his quarry and Big Paine was a big pain by making the impossible possible, scraping the vertical plummeter brilliantly over the crossbar from on the goal-line. Impossible, incredible. The Pontoon was stunned into applause.

Soares was booked for a lunge at a newly arrived big bloke, which just gave them time to waste time, not for the first time. Town abandoned the prettiness. Scruffy hoiks were hoiked, Thanoj bellowed a ruddy great up-and-under back into the penalty area. Duffy immobilised himself with feigned interest as out came their wanderin' star to knee the ball nowhere. Soares spun himself into a mitten and hoiks were hoiked again hoikily. And in the end Townsend swervled a beautifully dripping cross through the area, enticing the keeper into another wander. Soares, surrounded by three satsumas, stretched beyond the far post and scraped quite wide.

Louie Louie. Oh no, he gotta go, replaced by Hughes-Mason.

It's all Town. Except for when the Brainiacs handballed themselves free to get a throw-in inside the Town half. Or when McKeown slapped away a corner. It was nice for their fans to see them close up.

Duffy headed softly down at McDonald; Hearn was free, free, free and free bearing down upon goal. Alas he stepped back on to his right foot and there was never any doubt that Thomas, his nemesis for the day, would spring up from behind a four-leafed clover. Hey, hey, what's this? One-touch passing, no big ball bashing? KHM started and didn't finish, stumble-slicing wide when set up with a Reesian flick. Disley intercepted and spread his wings in the shadow of the Findus. The ball was a foot or so out, but Disley tished to Hearn who burned his marker, twizzling to the bye-line and flabbering low through Coulson to KHM, eight yards out. A tackle avoided, the spindly speedster spun and ladled goalwards. The keeper ducked and winced to his left and struck it lucky as the ball struck his turning backside and crawled over the crossbar.

Just fill in the blanks with big balls to nowhere and oranges falling from imaginary trees. The referee walked over to a steward, pointing to the centre spot and the tunnel. Ah, plotting his getaway from the scene of crime. There were five minutes of added time. There could have been twenty.

Boom, boom, boom, eventually the sound barrier must break? Town launched a public consultation document in the local library announcing their plans to win this game. Or was it a poetry reading? Bang, up it went, down it came and the little lad in goal was tempted out to play. He crept forward and shinned the ball directly to Pearson 15 yards out in the centre, who shot against the startled retreating keeper. The ball ricocheted to Hearn, with a narrow corridor of unmanned turf between him and the billowing nettage. A touch, a slash, a shot dragged into the side netting.

Is that all? No sir, they walloped and tilted at Town's wilting windmills. Off they hurtled, into the area, unmarked, alone about to... peep peep peep. That's enough. Go home.

We may not find their names in a book of Who's Who but after all that they weren't our stepping stones. Could have been worse, should have been better; it was what it was.