Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
8 October 2011
Mansfield Town 2 Grimsby Town 1
Cold. Sheeting drizzle. This is Mansfield.
Around 600 Townites swept over the stewards and over the sea of blue seats in the three-cornered hat of a ground. Every penny counts in cash-strapped Stagland. Everything is sponsored: the substitutions, the added time in each half, the hole in the roof, the walk from the car park, the booing of Duffy. Only one of those answers is false and one other is pointless by the way. You have 30 seconds to make your choice, contestants.
Town lined up in all white in an unsponsored 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Wood, Kempson, Garner, Ridley, Coulson, Disley, Church, Eagle, Duffy and Hearn. The substitutes were Silk, Pearson, Artus, Makofo and Elding.
Mansfield wore a yellow ball gown with an off-the-shoulder blue swoosh. There is nothing more to add to those bare facts.
First half: Poking with a stick
Town kicked off away from the Town 600 with a chipolata down the left, the ball falling for Eagle, who tried that strange thing called passing. Confusion reigned and the rain confused the hackers and thwackers of Field Mill, who sliced and diced back for Eagle to slyly volley-droop a deep, deep cross. The ball plopped over Hearn and Duffy, unmarked six yards out, who skilfully adjusted his body to allow the ball to roll down his sins and back to Marriott. Or maybe down his shins. Or was he attempting to atone for his sins by avoiding scoring against his erstwhile employers?
Duffy's whole career seems to be a nationwide tour of contrition.
Still Town, still passing, still down the left. Tip-tap, tick-toc, top of the shop! Crosses, corners, a cross from a corner and Church stoopled a header directly at Marriott's midriff. Duffy bowed and free kicks arrived. The locals howled their appreciation Duffywards, inducing the emergence of that rare bird - a Town supporter audibly supporting a player. Town supporters audibly supporting the team too. What oddness lies in the home of the Mansfield chad.
Meikle the Mansfield mauler bedraggled befuddlingly at McKeown. Murray slip-slapped and some big lad squinted way, way over as Wood squatted. The Staggers were a rag-tag bag of hit-and-hopers, fleetingly concerning, frequently deferring to the Knights in White Satin.
The only thing Town had to fear was fear itself. Or when Garner decided to head back to McKeown, when Jamie Mack was standing behind. A little bit of Keystone copping kept the locals interested.
What's that going over the stand, is that a football, is that a football? One by one the balls were lost down the streets of Mansfield. What non-League atrocities, you say? Shall Town show you something to make you change your mind?
Try to see it from our angle - Eagle and Disley with bemusing triangles. Some short back and sides by the left corner left Coulson leaping and leaning back to glancy-graze a foot wide from an Eagle cross. Eagle crosses, Coulson crosses, near corners, far corners, scrambles and handbags and glad rags and Hearn chesty spun-volleyed safely over. All Town.
Near the half-hour McKeown drop-kicked and Duffy ducked and snuck a header sidey-waysy into a huge hole 30 yards out. Coulson side-stepped, licked his lips and left footedly caroused a curling cracker. Marriott tried to fly like Mary Poppins, but his brolly only half opened. The ball looped off fingers and slowly, slowly bumbled into the right side of the net. We're counting that as a Coulson crackerjack, rather than a Marriott flapperjack.
This was so simple, with lots of peasy to go with easy.
And that was the end of Town as we knew it. A half-hour cameo of old style anygoodness and superior passing, movement and organisation was all we got. As the rain dissipated, so did Town.
The Staggerers were miffed and they gave their all, and all they had were energy and enthusiasm. And lots of set pieces courtesy of Mr Wacky the referee, who turned from Town-phillic to Town-phobic as the cocky Townites crowed. Disley's head was spinning like a whirlpool when he was booked for a perfect tackle, the referee trained his single CCTV camera upon Garner and Town sank into the slushing gloop of their own penalty area, inviting and inciting Stags to rise.
A cross, a block, a punch, and Meikle flubbled a sweeping swoosh through all humanity and a foot past the left post. Garner touched Green and O'Neill crimpled a coiling free kick against the crossbar. The ball boinged vertically and Futcher's old oak tree sank to earth, noodling straight at McKeown. They pressed shirts, they fell upon trees, they mugged McKeown, they chugged around pootling and tootling on the fringes. They, that is them, were running around like mad dogs; sheer will was beginning to submerge Town. Disley blocked brilliantly as pressure pressure pressure squeezed Town's bloated tummy.
And when Town did break Marriott dropped a cross and Duffy slimped the ball into the bottom left corner for a disallowed goal. Foul chicken? Who can tell through 100 yards of despondent drizzle.
The ref was all over the place - McKeown was a local favourite for his attention to detail at Town free kicks - and Town were starting to find a way to avoid happiness. Mansfield were presenting nothing but the spirit of endeavour. That shouldn't be enough, should it.
It may be wet, but this was no time for sogginess.
Second half: Nits in white satin
No changes were made by either team at half time.
Did anything happen for ten minutes? Town hoofed and hoped and played like they were just waiting for the game to end. Occasionally Mansfield dumped the ball in or over or through the Town penalty area. The lumpen clearances got closer and closer to the hole in the roof. Kempson even hit the red markings on the rim - perhaps there's a small prize from the sponsor. Kempson upended a Staggerman and was booked. It may have been now, it may have been later. It happened at some point.
Bored. I'm bored. Will the windows continue to mock us? And the walls? How come Focus and Arthur Brown are playing together in Clitheroe? Electronic yodelling and a man with a colander on his head soaked in methanol - rock 'n' roll heaven.
Wake up! Town are still in this Conference hell - yodelling fans and defending with methanol-soaked colanders on their heads.
The referee gave Town a free kick as Hearn burst past the last man. Other things may have happened too. Some pressure from Town with passing, Coulson's shot hit Futcher's backside and fell between his legs rather than to two waiting Townites. Twenty minutes later Hearn flick-headed wide. There is nothing more than this.
We sat there waiting for the sun, waiting for the locals to have their fun. The yellow bellowers brought on Connor, a big lad, to replace Meikle, a little lad. Now, if the little lad's parents had any sense of humour at all they'd have called him Brian, wouldn't they.
The Staggermen boomed and tried to bust Town through sheer force of personality. A tip and run and Wood leant on Green as Jamie Mack slid out. What do you mean shoulder barges aren't legal tender any more? C'mon this is Mansfield, it's still 1957! The Town fans twirled their rattles and tapped the tip of their titfers to hail Mr Bradley Wood with a hearty "well played sir!"
Connor headed the corner firmly down and up straight to Jamie Mack. It's coming and not to a cinema near you either. We can feel the rumble of the bumble as Town will stumble to defeat. Corners crouped, crosses drooped, McKeown punched and slapped inside his six-yard box.
How can we save ourselves! Hobbling Duffy was replaced by Elding, to the accompaniment of ironic applause from Townites simply to counter the homesters' bile. They had stolen all our lines. Or maybe we have now stolen theirs? Anyway, facts. Elding. It is a fact his surname is Elding. There is nothing else to report. You can guess what he didn't do, and you'd be right.
Is this it? No. Murray swoopy-droopy swerved goalwards with McKeown swaying left and right and left again to spurtle onto the ball.
With 20 or so minutes left a big punt downfield... hang on - is that referring to the ball or Kempson? The dazzler bumped into a yellow man, causing some stumblage: a free kick, 30 yards out. Is this it? Yes. O'Neill craftily, cleverly, crackingly crimped over the wall into the top right corner.
A minute or so later another free kick, another O'Neill curler was flipped uncomfortably onto the roof of the net by McKeown. And we just had pressure, incessant pressure as crosses and corners were drooped towards the bulky big men inside the six-yard box.
Finally, finally the dam broke under light to moderate bombardment from above. A corner curled in from their left, McKeown was blocked, Garner and Kempson marked each other while marking McKeown, and Connor stood still, nodded sagely and steered a simple header through the dregs of Town's defence.
Gazing at people in the home stands, some hand in hand, just what we're going through they can probably understand. We've all been there, some just happen to be there all the time.
Rather than McKeown time-wasting we had the locals perusing, pondering and politely not returning the ball. They're just stopping themselves winning by more.
After two poor crosses Eagle was hauled off. Mansfield had the Big Mo in the game and we have Le Big Mak. Serge spent more time pulling down the full-back's shorts than with the ball. Two seriously idiotic fouls inside their penalty area finally roused the mumbling Mariners into fury. Well, about eight of us, here and there. The rest are far too experienced to get worked up now.
What more? Let's get this over with quickly so we can recline in our seats and think of something of a lighter tone. Their useless striker Green ran around unmolested and had a shot deflected. Futcher hit the bar from the corner and Green tried to chip McKeown rubbishly after being played free by Silk. Ah yes, Silk replaced Wood with a couple of minutes to go. We're well beyond bemoaning such matters.
There were five minutes of added time sponsored by Tesco. We'd already done all those clubcard and special offer jokes in the first half. You're way behind man. Just like Grimsby Town.
Town showed why they should do better and why they won't. It's the same old story, wherever we go. Players, management: they change constantly, but the one constant is the outcome. And the fans. That's two constants. The two constants are we keep seeing the same thing week after week, year after year. And not a comfy chair in sight.