Great expectations: Ebbsfleet (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

17 December 2011

Grimsby Town 4 Ebbsfleet United 3

It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid. As a seasonal gift to us all the dark shadow has finally left the building. Look, those are his hoofprints right there! The non-dazzling Dazzer's December departure delighted the denizens, spreading alliterative comfort and onomatopoeic joy to all.

'Twas a day with no climatic personality, with emptiness all around for the two minibuses of manic marshlanders in their latest brush with footballing history. Ebbsfleet, not so much a place as a planning aspiration. We're playing a train station. And at Christmas. What more could a poor boy want?

Town lined up 4-4-2 as follows: McKeown, Wood, Antwi, I'Anson, Townsend, Green, Panther, Disley, Coulson, Elding, Hearn. The substitutes were Pearson, Artus, Thanoj, Makofo and Silk. Let's gloss over the Tuesday meltdown with very thick paint, at least three coats. Hang on! Green? Where's Jamie? I'm looking, you're looking, we are all looking and we see no such hips. The boy McCarthy stood under the Findus on the burning deck out on the right.

The rootless roofers and hoofers turned up in a fetching purple ensemble with lots of blokes looking suspiciously big and athletic. But they did have a superb collection of superb names. Who's the big boy at the back? Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mambo number 22. They grow their own Enver-Marums down in the hanging gardens of Kent too.

A three sock day, let's get on with it.

First half: Three socks to heaven
The purple people carriers kicked off towards the Pontoon and just rushed forward like six-year-olds. Runaround... now! Is that three or four Ebbers fleetingly free?

Elding's head flimped a bumble away, the ball skipping down the touchline, under the frozen Findus. Marwi soft-shoe-shuffled and scuttled, stroking a backpass as perfectly weighted as his cod pony-tail into the path of the hidden Hearn. Off the boy flew, out came the keeper, down went the keeper, up went 4,000 arms in Grimsby, Lincolnshire as Hearn carefully swept the ball low into the bottom right corner. One minute, one goal: one was pleased.

They kicked off again, they rushed forward again, they had four or five fleetingly free and off Town went again, breaking and shaking the money makers with some passing, some movement. A corner drooped, the Ebbers were chickens in a coop and I'Anson scooped straight at Edwards.

More, more, more of the same - Ebbsfleet's obsession with British bulldogs continued as they ran and ran quicker and quicker in more and more numbers straight at Town at Town, I'm repeating myself, and so are Town, are Town. Coulson clipped a corner to the far post. Antwi bulled as Mambo dozed and thumpered a header high into the net. Ten minutes. Contentment doubled.

They kicked off again, they rushed forward again, they had five or six fleetingly free and off Town went again. Mambo headed straight at McCarthy's chest and the little lad Luke licked a lollipop through the non-existent defence on the left. Hearn shuffled, stepped inside the purple shopping bag that wafted by and carefully steered a pass under and around Edwards. Twelve minutes. Yes, just twelve minutes and we could all relax, what with the game won and all that. Ebbsfleet really should mind the gap in their defence.

Town were like hot butter through a knife - it doesn't make any sense at all, but it somehow sounds right.

They kicked off again, they rushed forward again, they had six or seven fleetingly free and off Town went again. Elding turned and lob-volleyed magnificently over the peering Edwards. Ah, the good tidings turned to dulled whine as a little yellow flag fluttered in the west, the goal disallowed when Elding appeared very onside, even from 90 degrees and 90 yards away. At the perpendicular the decision was peculiar, for Elding watchers know his movements well.

A single ray of sunshine almost broke through: "We'll need four to draw!" Yeah, and nothing can go wrong now. Nothing. Poultry enumeration skills to the fore? Surely not. And don't call me not.

Enver-Marum jostled and junked a curly-wurly dipper around and through all sorts of humanity, the ball creeping a yard or so wide. We can let the scamps run around in the garden as we sip our champagne on the patio, what does it matter, this day is done. The purplers kept za-zooming and booming forward, almost as if they though they could still win it. Ha, indeed, hah. Ho, and don't forget to ho.

And from such Olympian heights Town still managed to find new and exciting ways to keep the customer dissatisfied.

The drums were humming, the yacht becalmed, the moment redundant as Antwi rolled a pass back to McKeown. Pinney tutted and ambled forward from the halfway line, walking, then trotting and after about 20 minutes, sprinting as he realised McKeown was playing chicken. Jamie Mack eventually finished his Christmas shopping, with a little diversion to hand-deliver cards to save on the postage. He got around to kicking, but only as Pinney flew, legs akimbo, into the flight-path, the ball rebounding and lolling into the be-netted chasm in front of the apoplectic Pontoon.

Some things don't have to be said, but that rarely stops your average Pontoonite. Some things don't have to be repeated, but that never stops the average Pontoonite.

The lad had form, Town had been warned. Pinney had already chased down punts from Wood and I'Anson.

The Kentermen flooded forward with vim and vigour, abandoning the subtlety they never had. They chipped and chased hard and fast, that was their simple method: big men running rapidly in a straight line all the time. There was a crack upon Town's ceiling as the complacency was peeling. But as they ran forward, they didn't run back. There was space in which Town could play their own games of Twister. Tip-tap, this way and that, Panther cheeked a pass, Wood creaked a cross and Hearn looped a header. It was a nice-looking moment of almostness. There were others, but why waste words on the repetition of nothing.

Near the half-hour the Ebberpeople finally had a shot, from way out, which went way high, allegedly off a Town boot. Swung high and long from their left, Mambo arm-wrestled Antwi to the turf and bazoomed into the bottom corner where the post had been left unmarked. Could have been a foul, was a goal. Typical Town. It's a rather drunken magic carpet ride today.

Ebbsfleet re-trebled their attacking numbers, but without actually having a shot, a chance, nor even a moment. But Town had scramblettes without adding the toast. A Coulson corner flibbled and flappled underneath the crossbar with some hibbleage and bibbleage here and there. A hook was blocked, a hoik was socked and Edwards finally caught the last bus home. Wahey, here they go again. Mr Double Barrel rolled past Wood and Disley diverted via a divot at the near post as southern boots waited behind. Their corners tootled in to wherever Mambo slithered. He hit the post you know, but the referee finally gave a free kick fro Antwi's plunging neck lines.

Ooh, that's nice. Town nearly made a seasonal gift out of a couple of old coat hangers, but Coulson dropped the glue. It's the thought that counts. Town tried again, for Toblerone is a traditional stocking filler in these parts. Manny the Panther dinked for Elding, who rocked and slowly rolled to lift past the keeper from a narrow angle. Sadly the elves forgot that batteries were not included as the winding-up shot ran out of puff and Simpemba chuckled back to muckle away from near the line.

Time for your medicine now, it's half time. Town make the unbelievable all too believable, the impossible very possible, but not in a wholly good way.

Second half: Mr Wopsle has left our village
Neither side made any changes at half time, and eventually the purple posers returned.

They, that is them, the Magwitch cuckoos, were relentlessly unrelenting in their full court pressing game. It was tiring just watching their anarchic gumball rally approach, but without the moustaches, thankfully.

A corner doodle-bugged into the heart of the Town penalty area, hitting Wood's shins, rolling to Disley a few yards out. And if you haven't guessed, this was an SOS, but the captain of our ship calmly turned away from danger and released Coulson on the right, who rolled to Hearn, who caressed to Elding, who took a sneak peak and curled into the vast vacant expanse of Lincolnshire, known as the penalty area. The ball barundled twice, Edwards came and stayed as Coulson burstled through and expertly steered into the bottom right corner.

A marvellous counter-attack and marvellous moment. It was marvellous and less fat too.

Have they given up now?

The Town tiki-taka commenced! Coulson, now the prominent prompter, not the myopic cobbler of the first half. A corner flared: Antwi stooped and steered micro-inches wide. This is what we want. This is great, this is fine, this is... not what we ordered from the soup kitchen.

They redoubled their re-tripled efforts, abandoning their lack of caution to the winds of fortune. Pressure, pumping pressure and hoofs and chases and rocking, rolling, falling and calling for a penalty as Pinney plunged under an Antwi apology. The referee pointed for a goal kick and didn't book Pinney. Tut-tut, sir: it was either a dive or a foul, not neither. The man was frit as he fretted.

Southern Men, you better keep your head now. Disley was felled with lunges and rocket lockets as Pinney lost his marbles and his place on the pitch. The game ebbed and flowed between two points that were not near either goal. Things almost happened frequently, but didn't. At some point Elding scored again, but was again waved offside. He probably was, but who could possibly rely upon the fumbling flag wavers? Town got a series of corners after kicking the ball out. Hey, who's complaining? Ah, yes, the men from the imaginary planet near Thanet.

With about 20 minutes or so left the limping Disley was replaced by Thanoj, with Mad Frankie Artus shape-shifting into McCarthy's twinkling toes. McCarthy? McCarthy? Ah yes, McCarthy, only noticed when being replaced, like a Campbellian ghost of Christmas Past.

Within a minute The Thanoj had awoken the crowd with a swish and swipe which Edwards rather excellently fly-tipped away for a corner as it zoomed towards the top left corner. Town had a few not very good shots, but a lot of good passing, even from Manny the P. Even his mother wouldn't wish to remember Mad Frankie's Dalglieshian curler into the top corner of the empty corporate windows. Thanoj's mum might coo at the low swivelling swerver that soared straight into Edwards' hands. Ooh. Coo at the Artus bender, tipped over spectacularly after an old-style Town cha-cha-cha, with Manny shaking his maracas and crooning to the ladies in the Lower Findus.

Ebbsfleet kept messing up their final moment, crossing long, short, high, low and managing miraculously to avoid their own players as Town were squeezed and wheezed like an arthritic accordion.

As the flashing board winked out the number four, Elding carefully cleared a Town cross, setting off a chain of events that will not be subject to a parliamentary enquiry. No need to summon witnesses, everything was entirely predictable and normal. Off went the purplemen down the centre. Townsend backed off slightly and they carried on running very fast down the middle. A pass was slipped behind Townsend and Shakes glided along to thwackle an unstoppable swasher into the top right corner.

Been there, done that, you know. Typical Town. Some in the crowd, those contrarian optimists and the under-sixes, still believed Town could draw. You can't abandon all hope, ye who enter Blundell Park. As the minutes ticked on and on and on, the game wouldn't end. Ebbsfleet's crosses were burning through the area fast. We heard screaming and fingertips cracking; how long, how long? In the fifth minute of the four added, a corner was cleared, Elding shirked near the ball and back it came. In, out, noodled away by Antwi, niddled back to the man he was no longer marking, a dozen yards out, to the left of goal. Danvers let the ball drop, aimed and smiggled a volley straight into the whites of McKeown's eyes. Up went two foam-filled hands and the ball squirtled away crazily for a corner.

Heads arose together, and a monochromer steered the ball out of the area and that was the end of another trip upon the magic swirling ship of state. A victory eked out against a team with no defence, no reverse gear, just dedicated and persistent triathletes.

It's just weird these days, as Town are getting to the same place as last season but via a completely different route.