A tall tale of hubris and self deception: Darlington (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

27 August 2011

Grimsby Town 1 Darlington 2

Stands the Osmond clock at ten to nine? And is there honey still for Fenty?

Town lined up in a New Romantic haircut 100 formation as follows: McKeown, Wood, Kempson, Pearson, Ridley, Thompson, Disley, Artus, Makofo, Duffy and Hearn. The substitutes were I'Anson, Coulson, Church, Spencer and Elding. There were four defenders all in a row, three centralish midfielders standing anywhere but the right. Makofo was a left winger and the two sugar lumps upfront stood far apart in the middle. Apart from Bradley Wood, there was no-one on the right side of the pitch.

Darlingtown turned up wearing stewards' green fluorescent camouflage - so they could be seen but also be invisible. Another cunning ploy by our bĂȘte blanc et noir hoops. Why do we even bother playing these matches, whatever happens they always win here? We know it, they know it: it's da law.

It rained and rained and rained. Then it stopped.

First half: There's a wrong way to do it

Town kicked towards the Osmond and within 30 seconds Serge had been snapped like a wet twig. Ah, they'd been watching on Tuesday.

A step-over surge from Serge and a low widdle from the bye-line. The Riddler slid and steered over. Nice. Pace, passing, movement and no moaning. Ah, nicer still. Passing and snapping from Disley. Duffy flicked, Thompson nicked, Disley sneaked and fell over Russell. The ball rolled loose, Thompson stepped forward and rolled goalwards slowly and lowly. A Darleyman strolled back and stroked away from the line.

Pressure and crosses, surging and urging, Serging and merging, snip-snap passing, Hearn crossing and Duffy heading straight at Russell.

This was more like Town than "Town". This was... good.

Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble; Darlingtown moved with menace. A rebound, a deflection and a tip-top tip over from McKeown. The corner cleared, Makofo fouled, the ball pinged to their left. Error message 501 - no Grimsby player on right. Ah, no right turn available to Town. Typhoon Thompson's schoolboy slider missed man and ball. Taylor hop-skipp-and-jumped, curled low and Pearson stretched to expertly dink the ball over the diving McKeown. An own goal in everyway. Ah, they'd been watching one-eyed Town on Tuesday. This was not good.

Carry on steaming. Hearn turned and crackled, Russell leapt and levered a cracking save. Hearn chased a punt, Hearn lobbed, Russell hoped and the ball drooped across the face of goal and a foot wide.

Ridley, Disley, Bo Diddley and the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley! Danger! Danger! A cross and Stretch Duffystrong poked and prodded beyond Russell. Perhaps we should have gone to Bisley not Wisley for our intimation. Sorry, I drifted into Fentyspeak there, I meant inspiration. The mis-speaking Mariners Mrs Maloprop is such a reliable hardy annual for comic diversions.

The Findus Stand provides shade from the sun. Townites sunbathed as a trio of Darlings crept forward. Yes sir, they can boogie all night long down Town's right. Bradley Wood: home alone without a catapult. Campbell crossed but there was nobody home. Darlington had a simple method. They passed and passed and passed and then switched play to their left, where two or three had gathered together on street corners. Murmurs became growls and then demands: bring on Coulson, "sort it {insert preferred soubriquet for the double-take brothers}".

Twisty turny Hearny widey! Twisty turny Hearny gurdy man roly-polying inside and flicking through. Thompson spun-turned and volleyed from the corner of the six-yard box. Russell spectacularly raised an arm, parried and clutched the falling star and put in his pocket, saving Darlington on this rainy day. Disley shimmied and shammied, slapping a one wood straight down the middle but a foot or so over.

Repeat error message 501 - Darleymen teased and tickled around on the Town right. Taylor sneaked past Hearn, Disley missed a tackle, Taylor crossed, a luminous loon missed, andArnison swept the ball into the centre of the net, and many wept. A lot of people had made a lot of mistakes.

And the game carried on in the same pattern:Town attacked, Town attacked, Town nearly scored, they broke away down their left where Townites feared to tread and repeat ad nausea.

Artus slapped strongly, Russell plunged carefully, Serge surged superbly, Disley sailed and soared and roared a header straight at Russell. More passing, more shots, more custard on the Bakewell tart please mother. Hearn swept low, Russell went to the foot of his stairs to flip aside from the foot of the post.

It was all Town apart from the moments it wasn't. Town had moved the ball quickly to each other, mainly on the ground, with players moving and shooting. It was very good going forward. Much better, if you ignore the dreadful blancmange that was Town's organisation. There simply weren't players standing in places where Darlington always attacked. Town's right. Poor old Typhoon Thompson didn't have the athleticism, pace or stamina to provide solo cover for half the pitch. He became desperate and made desperate challenges, which made things worse.

Town were losing when they should have been winning. Individuals were to blame, but where in the stadium were these people? On the pitch, or beside the pitch?

Second half: There's a right way to do it

Coulson replaced Thompson. A very large cheer rose up as Town moved to an orthodox, stable and balanced 4-4-2.

Things can only get better. They did.

Town roared down the left, Duffy sidle-headed backwards and wide at the far post. Town moogled and droogled with menace and intent as Darlington were stretched across the whole of the pitch.

Ah, they broke, they got a corner and it dripped through everyone as no-one attacked the ball. Was this the moment Wood stood away and let it bounce through the six-yard box, or was that later? Pah, a minor detail in history. Let's get some good old false hope going. Town cleared.

Woah! Hearn burned Coulson free. The tiny Tyke took one look and no touches before rolling a perfect cross across the face of goal. Up popped Makofo at the far post to sweep high into the net. Gestures were made towards the dug-out indicating that the crowd's serving suggestions had proven to be sound. Yes, the sound of the suburbs: supporter vindication.

Pressure, pressure, pressure! Hearn pumped up and pumped out a shot against the breeze block barricades temporarily erected in front of the Pontoon. Artus curled the rebound through a small gap in the fence. A Darleyman leg poked out and missed the ball as it rolled directly to Russell, not passing Go at any point. Frankie didn't collect his goal bonus. Frankie, Frankie Artus, a man who sounds like a Belgian domestique on one of the more obscure Tour De France teams, his sole function to carry 65 water bottles up a hill to the stars atop. He'd been playing like a man with 65 water bottles up his shorts, but he was rather sweeter and lighter today, dovetailing with Disley (which is a programme on BBC4, isn't it).

I digress, as did the Quackers, who broke away and had a couple of scramblettes of almostness. McKeown slapped away a knock-down when some lime lump leapt alone after a free kick was pumped and dumped to the far post. And off Town roamed again, Ridley lamping against a Limester after pressure-pressure-pressure of tricks and flicks and Duffy knocks. This was weird: Duffy winning headers, Duffy trying. Duffy trying so hard he got annoyed at the referee and was booked, he cared that much.

And Ridley fell to earth, being replaced by I'Anson, with Wood moving to left back.

The game ebbed and flowed from one end to other, from panic station to panic station. McKeown plunged low to parry from a header then punched the returned cross away. Off Town broke with a Wood surge, a Duffy tap and Coulson overlapping narrowly to flap-jack low across Russell, who stuck out his biggest, most annoying toe to poke up and away. Off they raced, one v one, McKeown came out, the strike rolled and dinked and I'Anson raced back to hook swipe away from the foot of the post.

And Town came back. Serge was defenestrated, Russell mis-punched and Kempson rose near the penalty spot to loopy-di-loop a header over the retreating defenders. The ball arced and dropped...onto the top of the crossbar.

With a couple of minutes left Spencer replaced Makofo and who knows what the formation was, as Town simply piled more and more players forward, leaving less and less on the halfway line. Five minutes were added for all the time wasting I haven't been bothered to tell you about. Too much was going on to be interested in the moments of nothingness.

Town pumped the ball forward and the full-backs took it in turns to slice crosses in to the Pontoon. The Quackermen ineffectually tried to waste time in the corners. Town lamped long from left to right and Duffy nodded firmly across the penalty area to the unmarked Spencer ten yards out. Russell was near his left post, the goal was a-gaping, Limesters flung themselves as Spencer volleyed and the Pontoon rose as the ball soared unerringly towards the top right corner. Out of the past came Russell, the man who we cannot beat, to superbly spring and hurl and fly and soar and jet pack and brilliantly impossibly parry up and over. Quite the most magnificent save he's ever made against us, and that is saying summat. World class, not Conference class.

McKeown came up for a corner, and stayed for the next one. They cleared and ran off down their right, carrying on running towards the extremely open goal. McKeown ran back accompanied by some jaunty piano and trombone incidental music. The Quacker passed the ball goalwards and Bradley Wood slid and blocked away.

And that was finally that.

What a cracking game, which Town gave away at the start. Darlington won because of Russell and their own first half tactics. Town lost because of Russell and their own first half tactics. This was by far the most complete and acceptable performance by eleven footballers under the Short and the Shouty Ones.

Performance good, reasons for losing bad. The managers need to learn quickly and have some humility. Beware of hubris, it precedes nemesis.