Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
24 November 2012
Grimsby Town 0 Buxton 0
Another day in paradise: the Pontoon packed with empty seats, the Findus full of funambulists, the Osmond an oasis of excitement as 94 Buxtonians came to Town to say hello to the circus.
Town're favourites and Shorty is dreaming of Wembley. It's a breeze! There's no need to play this game, is there. It's a tiresome chore imposed on royalty. We'll just wave a few times and pretend we are interested in their lives over tea crumpets.
Town lined up in a 4-3-3 formation as follows: Fleming, Hatton, S Pearson, Miller, Thomas, Disley, Thanoj, Niven, Marshall, Cook and Neilson. The substitutes were Wood, Rankine, Hannah, G Pearson and Southwell. Ah, 4-3-3. We know entertainment and success is guaranteed. Are we taking this seriously?
Well, bless my cotton socks, they play in blue and there's nothing to chortle at or fear. No crinkle cuts, twizzles or frizzles atop their heads. The keeper was broad and bald, which is always a comedy fallback for a fall guy.
It wasn't raining yet. But raining what?
First half: Garbage in
Town kicked off towards the Osmond, it is said. Many things are said; some you can believe, many you shouldn't. In between there is a greyness, a void, where perspective and prejudice rule. Remember: context is king. What you must do is be rational and test the statements made, evaluate the evidence before you. That is your mission for today.
Is this fact or is this fiction?
Thanoj ambled and eventually be-bumbled a non-stinger against the outsidermost layer of paint on the keeper's left post as Count Vlad coolly leant against the post and chatted with the stewards.
Neilson and Marshall hugged the touchline and nothing happened. Marshall and Neilson squeezed into the middle. Nothing happened. Hatton punted wafters from way out. Nothing happened. Nothing happened. Nothing really happens. Nothing really matters. I owe you nothing but the truth, can you handle the truth?
The truth was out there. A greyness, a void. A long throw from underneath the Police Box, flicked on, bustling through the six-yard area, hoiked back, headed meekly into Fleming's hands from three yards out. Buxton did well to miss.
Town roused themselves into a higher level of torpor, with passes being made within seconds of the ball being received. There is even the suggestion, from those who had remained awake, that at least two players moved. Their tenancy was up and the landlord wanted them out. Needs must. It's about priorities in life.
Woah, did something just nearly happen? Cook headed, Baldy bloke saved, but a free kick was given anyway. What a waste of time reading that. Yeah, but you didn't pay to watch it - you will share my pain. A bit of what you might call football: Cook turned and turned and spinkled straight at Big Baldy Bloke. In this game, that was something. And it wasn't anything.
Don't you just love it when a training ground routine works? Buxton dumped a free kick near no-one, the ball drifting a few yards wide. Flappy Fleming parry-pawed away from his invisible tormentors. Pearson wallied away, and Town miscontrolled, underhit and had an accidental collision with ball and Buxtonians all the way upfield. Cook was suddenly freed on the right of their penalty area and spangled against the inside of the near post, the ball fleagling across the face of goal and out for a goal kick. It doesn't get better than that. A series of low-speed accidents resulting in a goal kick for them. Perhaps Town are messing with narrative structure.
What else? They kept fouling and mouthing off. Miller was blushed on the halfway line and the bluemen ran off. I really can't be bothered to go on any more. Buxton pac-manned Town into cul-de-sacs and there was nobody home.
The fact is, there was no fun.
Second half: Garbage out
Neither team made any changes at half time. It was just the same old story.
Do you want a flavour of the atmosphere, or the smell of mud seeping out of the pixels and into your brain? Where is this going? The same place as a Marshall dribble - drivelling nonsense ending up inside its own contradictions, like a spiral staircase and a wheel within a wheel, like a cumbersome Cumberland sausage.
Hah, that's ten minutes of dross dressed up with nowhere to go. Cook soft-looped a header softly wide. Neilson stooped and steered a header towards the bottom left post. Big Baldy plucked and scooped without breaking stride or sweat, his bonce glistening in the floodlights. He's never eaten a salad, you say? He's wearing one.
Now there was a cat that really was gone. On the hour Niven was replaced by Hannah and Town moved to 4-4-2. I'd forgotten Niven was on the pitch. And now he wasn't.
Err. Urgh, mmmm. That's another five minutes dealt with.
Ooh, Buxton chucked long from their right, a bloke glanced, Fleming swiped weirdly from behind his right ear and a shot was blocked. They nearly scored again from a long throw. The clues are there.
There are no blanks to fill, by the way.
I can't remember when Rankine came on. He added the appearance of verve and vim, bustling and barracking past a defender once. Then he tried to shoot. At this point we will play games with the narrative structure, a non-linear affair that resembles one of Fleming's weak punts. During the pre-match warm-up the substitutes, as ever, whiled away their time trying to hit the crossbar from 20 yards out. Each time Rankine tried he scruffled the 'shot' and the ball travelled no higher than three feet off the ground. Powerless, directionless and hopeless. Ah, now you see it don't you: he's a mobile Damien Spencer. We may wish Town had signed a mobile library instead.
That Neilson free kick. Twenty five-ish yards out, centre-left. Pearson, another brick in their wonky wall, causing confusion. Neilson coiled lowly around the wall and through a gap; Baldy Bloke waited and swayed right to parry aside well. A good save, but one he should have made.
Hey you, out there in the cold, getting lonely getting old, can you hear me? Don't come back if you only want Town-ness: that's the best it got, the acme of Town, the pinnacle of professional perfection. Thanoj flibbled lowly off a blue bottom and at the very, very end Thomas sliced his ham into the nether regions of the Pontoon. Between these points there were arm wrestling, bar billiards and Buxtonian dreams.
Town skated on very thin ice as a corner was cleared to the edge of the Buxton area and they all ran like hell downfield, monochromers trailing. Ah, all those empty space, what shall they do? Waste it, fortunately.
And then we had the moment when brave, plucky Grimsby had that little bit of luck little teams need to earn their big replay payday. Buxton fizzed in a corner from their left. Rankine was nowhere, a blueman rose alone in the centre of the area, glancing on. Thomas leaped. The ball sailed over his head, hit the post, hit his back and rolled six nanometres wide.
Southwell had come on for Marshall somewhere in between all that. So what?
It started to rain. So what?
The referee blew his whistle. So what? It's ended. Please release me, let me go. To remember this match would be a sin.
Oh well, the show must go on. But I can feel one of Shouty's turns coming on. And they deserve it. It was an insult to Buxton and an insult to the paying throng. It was all so very wrong.
Silence has it, arrogance has it, so Town have it: their just rewards.