Life upon the wicked stage: Darlington (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

10 December 2011

Grimsby Town 3 Darlington 0

Turn around. Is there anybody out there? Every now and then we get a little bit lonely when the FA Trophy comes round. At least there were plenty of seats for impressing your beau by dining al fresco at a major sporting event. Don't you get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of tears bewailing that fings ain't wot they used to be?

A bright chilly-willy day by that Ol' Man Humber with 62 bodies aching, racked with pain down in the Osmond. Too many home games, my dear Mozart, not enough cash in this fetid isle, the bankers' paradise. Don't get Manny the Panther started on fiat money. No, he's not buying a Punto, that's just the style down these parts.

Town lined up 4-4-2 as follows: McKeown, Wood, Antwi, I'Anson, Townsend, McCarthy, Panther, Disley, Coulson, Elding, Hearn. The substitutes were Pearson, Artus, Thanoj, Duffy and Silk. Same as Tuesday then, with little lad Luke freezing on the flank. With this wind he'll be needing help tying up his laces, so more like cold hand Luke.

The dearth of Darlomen available left our Millennium Nemesis with Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich in midfield. They turned up in hi-vis jackets, perhaps as a sartorial metaphor for their annual cash crisis. At least Town would have an advantage, what with the Darlypeople not being used to swirly winds and empty stadiums.

Ah yes, there's the tumbleweed. We'd better get on with it before someone's fingers turn shocking blue.

First half: Brain damage
Ah… Shocking Blue. Focus. Golden Earring. Pussycat. Very much the Ajax of rock - all big Dutch things in the 70s. Except Pussycat - they are more the Go Ahead Eagles of this prog-rock/football fusion digression.

As the Darlington kicked off towards the Pontoon you could hear a honky-tonk guitar from afar. The Constitutional Club then closed its back door, as did Town. Antwi smothered the little chicks and stir-fried Town in some cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil with a hint of chilli.

McCarthy be-dumbled a shot straight at Russell. Mmm, hints at football.

Darlington whirled their little cogs around with tips and taps in a giant game of mousetrap. The ball plopped on the rail and rolled into the basket, dropped on to the catapult and flipped to Bridge-Wilkinson, 30 light years out, who skimmed a low cross-shot towards the bottom left corner. McKeown eventually sighed to slide down and scrubble aside via the underside of his left wrist. The toilet was flushed and Darlo returned to their previous mousetrap space, returning all their cheeses.

This looked like a day when Town held all the crackers. It was like using a panther to catch a mouse. That's overkill to cook the roadkill.

The long whacks and hoofs diminished by the minute. The ball was passed, the ball was arced carefully to the space into which a Townite glided. Wood pimpled to the left and Coulson drove his little moped through the centre of Darlington beeping his horn and waving at his mates. Hey, it's a small town at the weekend; that's life. He shimmered severally wide, but it looked good from the distant foothills. Was it an augury? Don't ask that when you're waiting for the bus up top town. They'll think you're dead posh and are talking about a cooker.

Coulson. Long shot. High. Better still.

McCarthy scamped and swept the ball out to the Elding, in the glaring shadows of the Findus. The Eldster carefully slowed play down and meandered infield to lick a pass into the path of the unmarked Coulson, 25 or so yards out on the centre left. Coulson shuffled his iPod and precisely plonked a low inswinging yorker to a left-handed batsmen. Russell, the magnificent, unbeatable Russell, messed up and missed the ball as it skipped into the bottom left corner. Mr Coulson had done it again: he'd only gone and scored that thing you earthlings call a goal.

A minute later more Mariners magic. Disley tobleroned with Hearn and floated a supreme dink into the D, coinciding exactly with McCarthy's lonely surge. Little Luke took a touch and bedraggled woefully wide.

Football is an easy game to play and there is one thing I feel obliged to say: it's looking good, it's looking good, it's looking good, it's looking good. It's looking good.

And what of our fine friends from far away? Whoops, a break, a moment of danger, brilliantly averted by an I'Anson sweep. A corner followed from which Manny the Panther volleyed away from near goal. And that was just about that for them, unless you really want to know a free kick swayed away from a long way. It was nothing.

Darlo were clamped, with Town camped outside Russell's gates. Hearn wiggled and whacked weakly after Buckleyball brisk one-touch passing emanating from I'Anson. Hearn wiggled and whacked wonderfully, forcing Russell into his obligatory excellence. All followed patient passing, with Town sparring like experts of the epée. Ooh sump-that-tious. Passing, passing, passing and Coulson thrusting: the shot genuflecting off a defensive toe. The corner squawked as defenders gawped.

And on Town's sea swelled as the half ended. A break, Elding spun and scootered goalwards, bazooming from distance, but straight at Russell. The suddenly human glove puppet parried aside to McCarthy, who scratched a cross to Hearn. The ball bumped up off Hearn's ankles and Elding, perhaps ten yards out, sweep-volleyed into the bottom left corner. Straight in, no defender's shins needed this time.

And still Town attacked. Speed, accurate passing, verve and vim, McCarthy's low shot fimbled low across goal. Russell plunged and the ball missed the far post by inches. A corner given, a half ended.

Well, well, when the hoodoo dam breaks it sure breaks. This was all Town but, unlike in every other game ever against Darlington, Russell played like a normal non-League keeper. Darlington could not cope with pace and power, but especially the possession football employed by Town. Not everything was perfect, as McCarthy's wimpiness had many a woolly jumper pining for the comedic movements of the Serganator, the Norman Wisdom of the Conference. Manny the Panther was like a giant Pacman eating up the little radioactive cheeses.

Nothing can go wrong now!

Second half: Eclipse
Why has Russell got a scratch and sniff pad on his back? Why is the linesman in 1974? Wide, white-winged collars and tight shorts will make him lonely this Christmas. What is going on? A-ha, a partial eclipse causing mental mayhem. That's why Russell is pants and Manny isn't. It still doesn't explain the retro-linesman.

Oh yes, football. Neither side made any changes at half time.

Town kept calm and simply carried on steaming Darlo. After moments of this and that which are not necessary to remember, Town applied an early coup de grace, ending the afternoon's tension. Wood took several years to take a throw in under the Police Box, so long that a couple of Quakermen went off to the snack bar for a Kit Kat. Town tipped and tapped around the flailing safety vests with The Pantsman a hub around which Darlington blubbed. Hearn did a Reesian flick, Manny trundled a pass just like Cockerill and off Hearn flew into the area, side-stepping and dragging a pass to Coulson on the edge of the six-yard area. A simple spin and Coulson crackled a snipper into the bottom right corner, with Russell motionless. More Aguero than Makofo, more Sergio than Serge. How lovely. How can anything go wrong now?

Town rested; Darlington decided to give it a go and started to tickle Town's tummy. A cross za-zoomed through the six-yard area unattended. Ah, all their non-scoring strikers were injured, of course - that's why they had no-one to kick it over the bar from three yards. We're safe from false worries.

I did say Town rested. Elding sunk back to the earlier version of the Duffyesque stroller, Hearn started to play for himself and, weirdly, McCarthy started to get stuck in, attack with a bit more vim and even defend. Even Manny was looking tremendously all right.

At some point Town got a free kick down near the corner flag in the dead zone twixt Pontoon and Main Stand. Coulson flighted; Disley arose alone to have an airborne short back and sides, the ball sliding off his quiffette. I'Anson sneaked back and levered a hooky hoik towards the bottom right corner. As Russell waited Elding opened up his body and carefully steered the ball the other way. Slowly, slowly, slowly it bimbled to lightly kiss the post on its way to another party. Oh what a tease.

While Antwi received some treatment Darlington wibbled waftily to McKeown. Historians will argue for centuries over whether this was a shot or not. Hah, like we were bovvered. Ah, maybe we should be. A cross dimpled in from the left. Good Will Antwi ambled as Reach hurled himself forward, heading down and across. McKeown superbly parried way and Townsend cleared. Woah, something. Ah, a peach by McKeown from Reach.

Woah, these little tinkers won't stop, will they. Another sneaky cross from their left. Antwi spectacularly scissor-kicked a clearance against Lee's nose. The ball boomped across the static McKeown and missed by, ooooh, shall we say millimetres? We shall. Millimetres.

Town really had called it a day by then as Duffy came on for Elding, then Mad Frankie Artus for McCarthy. Frankie had a pleasant little cameo with drags and flicks, and that was just his hair. Duffy seems to have lost the fire and spark he never had in the first place. Even by his standards he shirked and shrugged through the afternoon like he begrudged the time taken from his Christmas shopping trip.

Town could have had more. They didn't. Coulson avoided his hat-trick after yet more beautiful one-touch ballet dancing down the right - great catch by the be-hatted chap in row K seat 51 by the way, though he needs to get his body behind the ball if he wants to make it as a professional. Can't rely on hand/eye co-ordination, you know; it's all about technique.

Hearn rolled around frequently with his head down and ended up neither shooting nor passing to his unmarked chums. Then he did roll around and shoot, with Russell finally remembering his duty on Earth, to make a brilliant save low to his right. Much too little, too late sir.

Thanoj replaced Coulson for the last five or so minutes and Town indulged in some finery. Olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé. Aaaaaaaaaaaah, Duffy. Olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé. Aaaaaaaaaaaah, Duffy. At some point the ball would inevitably end up with Duffy, and Town just had to start again. Credit where credit is due - he did win a header once at the end of a 341-pass move, looping it gently to the keeper. Once, mind, just the once.

What a pleasant afternoon. It was virtually everything we'd asked Santa for. The overall everythingness of it was heart-cocklingly warm. It was as near as this Town will get to total football. Town had moved from Pussycats to VengaBoys via those tulips from Amsterdam.

Is it a Town spring again, or are have we all gone a bit cuckoo?