A Cook and Bulls story: Hereford (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

5 January 2013

Grimsby Town 1 Hereford United 1

Ah, the first Saturday of the new year. Time to press our noses to the steamy windows and watch the magic unfold: it's the magic of the Cup for everyone else. At least we have the titillation of the Trophy next week.

A balmy day in the barmy black and white world of post-industrial ennui, where there's a spring in the step of seventy-odd Bullies leaping the cracked pavements and into their prime perches in the Osmond stand. In the January fails there's 50 per cent off Town attendances in just four days! Still more footfall than in Scunnyland though.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton, Miller, Pond, Wood, Colbeck, Disley, Niven, Marshall, Cook, Brodie. The substitutes were S Pearson, Thanoj, Devitt, G Pearson and Southwell. Brodie, what more is there to say about the pantomime villain, the pub bouncer, the human chaff for every promoted team; like a modern-day Daryl Clare, but without the hair, or goals? Perhaps he'll surprise us, like Barry Conlon, who was always useless against us but, when he pulled on the striped shirt of destiny, was transformed into... ah.

Hereford had a lot of young-looking straplings and saplings, wearing what your mum would buy from Boyes if you asked for an AC Milan shirt for Christmas. Well, you did tell her that it's got red and black stripes; you didn't say how wide.

It's Pond's birthday, it's Pond's last game, it's our party and we'll cry if we want to.

First half: The Birthday Party
Hereford kicked off towards the Pontoon. Probably. Let's skip over the introductions, we know how those go and they can be so awkward.

Act 1, scene 1: Brodie trundled towards the Findus and fell over. Fouled or fooled? With Brodie it's always 60-40 the latter, but somehow we're less affronted when he's wearing monochrome. Colbeck swished the free kick highly and curly beyond the far post. Pond arose above an ant on the edge of the six-yard box and be-bopped a header firmly inside the near post. Two minutes and we're going to a party, party. Hey Nate, they say it's your birthday and we're gonna have a good time.

And that was the end of this affair. The rest was an 88-minute lecture showing, with diagrams and handouts, how Town would avoid promotion this season. Thankfully no-one knows how to link the Powerpoint presentation to the scoreboard.

Act 1, scene 2: a non-entity knock into the corner twixt Pontoon and Police Box. Wood kettled the ball as it trickled over the bye-line and Bowman leapt upon the crawling Wood, rat-a-tatting a couple of rabbit punches into the kidneys. Junior Psycho attempted to open a debate upon the ethics of professional sport, but the referee refused, as Wood wished to do this through the medium of mime. Mime is for the French, or tourists outside the London Eye.

Hereford calmly carried on with their plan. They waited for Town to not cross the ball very well and then broke away. Nothing much happened. Cook couldn't trap a donkey in dry dock, a vixen in a vice, or a ball with his feet. Cook rarely moved. Brodie did move, did hold the ball up now and then, but was slow in thought and foot. The two strikers were two sides of the same tarnished coin. They did absolutely nothing . And they weren't helped by a series of non-crosses from the wings. It gradually dawned on even the dimmest Herefordian that Town didn't have anyone willing or capable of kicking the ball with their left foot.

Oh, they had a free header. Lobbed gently and straight at Jamie Mack from the very centre after Wood was fleur-de-lys, whatever you desire. And they had that shot. Town didn't clear, Town blocked, and Pell, 30 or so yards out, swung his pants and the ball swayed through a thicket of thick thickees, swinging low and late towards the bottom right corner. McKeown superbly sashayed down and flipped aside for a corner. The light went down, the crowd went up. I suppose that's scene 3 finished then.

Ah, time for the dancing girls. Who among you can remember Disley grazing over and wide from a high cross from the right? I thought not. Let us make a pact to never mention this again in front of the children, or any prosecuting authorities. I bet you remember Miller's instant swivelling swipey volley that fizzed and pooped just over the bar. You must remember this, a miss is just a miss, a sigh is just a sigh. You must, you better, you better, you bet, for that was the nearest Town came again. That was the moment, the only creation created and it was just a corner not cleared that fell down next to him.

Oh, yeah, sure, Colbeck weakly headed down and straight at the yellow custardian on the right, then headed weakly high and over on the left. But it was Colbeck. I rest my case. We will have to wait 30 years before official documents are released which explain why Colbeck and Marshall switched wings. They were much, much less effective after their digital conversion to digital signals. And the picture was incredibly fuzzy when they were in analogue.

All right, I'll get it over with. Three minutes before half-time Wood opened the doors of perception to intercept a pass in the shadow of the Police Box. Off he hared on a world tour, with Colbeck and Niven as his travelling troubadours and the Bullies undermanned and overwhelmed. Wood waited for the only ciderman to arrive within his personal space and passed directly at the only opponent within the same galaxy. And now Town were undermanned and overwhelmed. The winger raced on and Niven attempted to dissuade him from frightening our horses by doing an impression of Devon Loch. The redster ignored this pratfall to tip-toe into the area on the bye-line and carefully roll a cross in to the near post. Thumper Bowman neatly flick-steered the ball over McKeown.

And on that suitably dramatic ending the curtains came down.

[All cast exit stage left. Interlude.]

Time for the overpriced ice cream.

Second half: Old Times
There's a fog along the horizon, a strange glow in the sky. Neither team made any changes at half time.

Well, the game started again and by the time you got to Phoenix, or I finished my ham roll, something nearly happened. Or maybe two small things, maybe nothing. A Buller stooped and steered a header from somewhere near the edge of the penalty area that whimpered softly to McKeown. With fading light and fading interest the smallest grub can be transformed into a butterfly memory. A little later a long, floaty free kick from the halfway line, scientifically proven to be within the groanzone of the lower Findus, dropped to a solitary bovine boy, perhaps eight yards out. He leant back and carefully hit the underside of the scoreboard. Are we even bothered by a long shot that arced achingly slowly into Jamie Mack's midriff? Hey, I'm really trying hard to find facts to report.

On the hour Devitt replaced Colbeck, the new Stuart Campbell. Hear the crowd roar. And then there were ten full minutes of something. With his first touch Devitt stepped inside his lover and slicey-shot across the face of goal, with the unmarked Mighty Mariner glancing a header towards the corner flag. Another touch, another Devitt riverdance and twisty hook chip way, way over. He has verve, he has vim, he has zest and he probably wears a vest. He doesn't have much fitness though; after a couple more high-speed, high-pitched squeaks goalwards Devitt almost collapsed with fatigue while standing next to the post awaiting a corner. That was that then.

For the last 20 minutes nobody seemed to know where to go. Town had no gumption, playing in drearily straight lines. Cook wasted a momentary moment of almostness by blasting a shot from oodles out when Town had cannons to the left of him and cannons to the right of him. Brodie did the same. Frustration is a game played using a pop-o-matic dice.

There were events, dear boy, which may allow the superficial observer to believe that pigs and even DC-10s can fly. Marshall was pushed on the very edge of the penalty area, falling outwards. The ball was placed where he fell and the Holy Trinity of free kickery, Hatton, Devitt and Brodie, watched and waited as the referee counted out eight ever-decreasing circles. Hatton tapped, Brodie slapped and the shot shoo-shooed past the wall, past Bittner's flailing fists and dodged away from the net at the last moment. Worth an ooh.

Ooh, they had a free kick which swerved wide too. Keep your tea cosy on, it didn't take a genius to work out that it was always swerving, never serving tea and biscuits.

Brodie and ball, friends but not lovers. Brodie fell in the area, the referee gave a free kick for diving, but didn't book him. Brodie twisted a shot straight at the keeper. Brodie was Elding.

With ten minutes left Cook was replaced by Southwell. Further information not required.

Blah-blah-blah, yabba-yabba-yabba, hugga-hugga-hugga, wacka-wacka-wacka: name that tune. I haven't forgotten the Marshall dragger. It was just par for the course - out of nothing much, ultimately nothing much happened. And then it ended. Eventually Pond sauntered over to the awaiting throng, gave his shirt to a child and walked away. That was that.

This was really rotten stuff, dispiritingly dismal and dim. For the second time in four days Town had looked awful against mid-tablers with limited ambition. There really were no ideas, from the players or management, on how to unravel a very simple puzzle, other than keep hitting it with the same plastic hammer.