A head and two noughts: Cambridge (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

26 January 2013

Cambridge United 0 Grimsby Town 0

A bright, breezy day in the fun-filled flatlands, the no-man's land between That London and The North, with 699 Town fans crammed into the big stand behind where those prison cages used to be.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton , Miller, Pearson, Thomas, Luton's Marcus Marshall, Disley, Niven, Devitt, Hannah and Cook. The substitutes were Ford, Wood, Thanoj, Colbeck and Brodie.

I could fill up two paragraphs with whimsy and observations on the size of the Cambridge derrieres, but I'd rather stare out of the window and watch the wind blow the squirrels off the fence.

First half: No man's land
Town kicked off in blue away from the Town 700 with the traditional Hatton swingle to where the Pringle munchers mingle. We could set it to music and make a jingle. Send a telegram to Sam to get back to the plan. A howlin' wolf led the pack charging down their left. He crossed; Gash leapt and missed the ball five yards out. Thomas ducked and dive-bombed the ball over for a corner. Mild pandemonium and the ball swizzled safely wide of a yellow head of some sort.

And again and again Town's comedy chops were roasted on the right by the effervescent elephants. Hatton was flailed by their man Curtis Haynes-Brown, who moved on up the field towards his destination, though at times there were some complications. Stripped bare, laid bare, over there, you get nothing for a pair, not in this game. A cross crossed and poke-volleyed wide at the near post. Pearson was cross at the dross as he suspected Hatton doesn't floss. Roaming, raiding, rockin', rollin', ridin' all along the wing, all bound for McKeown's goal, but shooting many miles away. It's a ball of confusion, what's the conclusion? A corner nodded, a stretchy swivel volleyed wide. Woah, turn down the heat, Mr Snowman.

That was five minutes of discombobulating discourse, but you can't blame the groundsmen in this weather.

Have Town found the Abbey habit yet? Oh, yes, just now. Marshall salsaed on the right, delightful dinking and jinking by the little jigger on the left. Cook arose and thumpled thunderingly and thrillingly against the crossbar. Up bounced the ball, up leapt Cook again to nod towards the emptyish net. Big-shorted Coulson trundled back and headed off the line.

And here they come again. Town teased and triangulated into a tea shop, choking on their French fancies as the Fennish funsters frolicked freely down their left. McKeown fumble-stumbled the low cross and the ball yawned slowly across the face of goal. Pearson stepped in to tick away from a sliding yellowman and the kneeling McKeown picked it up a yard out. We see no back-passing ships. The buck-passing stops with the referee, of course. Good lad.

Anything Jamie Mack can't do, Ross can do worser. Devitt river-danced in from the left to wobble straight at their keeper's head. Reader, he parried it, scooping up as a blue boy lurked. And repeat inaction. A soft cross flapped. Mmm. Town put the custardian under pressure when they stopped chippin' around and kicked the ball across the floor. Disley wallowed wide as Town ticked and tocked and Hatton coiled a free-kick a few inches over after Marshall was felled on the left. Hatton drifted forward and bedrumbled a long shot lowwwwwwwwwwww to the keeper.

After 20 minutes Town returned to that Hyde horror hour. Cook headed Hatton and eventually trotted off clutching a towel to his head, never to return. That's that then; here comes the pantomime dame. Yes, it's Brodie time. Time for Town to become inept and invisible.

The Cambermen careered and caroused over the tranquil blue sea with intricate ticking and big-shorted knocking. Space, the final frontier. They had a five-minute mission to go where no team had gone before: scoring against Town. Long shots longed for accuracy, passes passed Townites by, crosses were crissed and missed. They had many moments of nearlyness, foiled frequently by Pearson's emerging shorts and Miller's calm interventions and interjections.

It was frenetic, it was frantic, it was full of fantastic flagging. The linesman, who is understood to be called Mr Pavlov, automatically raised his right arm whenever he saw yellow.

Town were nothing but a wall off which Cambridge bounced the ball. There was nothing going on up top. Woeful whacking and feeble fumbling. Hannah and Brodie couldn't get any further apart on a football pitch. Town were playing with nine men. But, imperceptibly, the game was like the tide, getting further and further away from McKeown. It was stalemate, playmates. I thank you.

And in added time, finally Town said hello and waved goodbye. Marshall took too long to shoot, hitting one of their amply upholstered chaises longue.

Just the usual first-half performance: aimless and harmless, defensively reliant on individuals stepping up and opponents messing up. It's worked so far this year, I suppose. Whatever Town had had left the churning turnip patch in the 20th minute.

Second half: Brodie's banjo
Neither team made any changes at half time, though I did recognise some hair I hadn't seen for 25 years.

And it carried on as it carried on before. The moosemen muttered manically as Townites stuttered stoically. They flittered around the edge of the Town box, almost crossing, almost passing, almost shooting. What a nice word that is when thinking of the opposition. They can almost along all night long.

Miller was booked for winning a tackle as the referee started to take pity on the local riff-raffia. Arbitrary, sick and tired you've been hanging on me. Sorry, my mind is drifting like that crisp packet.

For all their forays forward, nothing really happened near McKeown. Hatton's first-half nemesis started to fall over his own feet and the locals lost their fizz, like an old can of Coke. I can, I can't? Indeed, they couldn't, and didn't. Their shots were from longer and longer and longer away and way away the ball swayed. McKeown had regulation scoops and whoops to deal with as Cambridge crawled around their own inner ring road of the soul.

Right, that's the first ten minutes done. The rest is all about Town, and all about swift counterattacking as the midfield finally gripped the handlebars and nipped the buds.

Brodie was freed down the right. We all sighed a sigh as he slowly rumbled and turned, the momentum lost. He looked up and espied Townites beyond the far post and casually coiled a cross into the sunny uplands. The ball sailed over the sightseeing stopper, drooped and dropped against the underside of the bar, bounding down and being flipped away as men without hats tried to get in on the action. The corner was rubbish.

The sea was rolling in.

He swayed, swung his pants left and right, edged across the yellow hedge and the road was free for Marshall. He smited smackeringly from the centre-right and the ball snaked goalwards betwixt and between a jumble of bodies. The keeper leapt left, the ball hit Brodie's brain and lolly-looped into the right side of the net.

Ah, we forgot about Mr Pavlov. Offside. You know, the ball was going in before the accidental intervention.

Devitt raced on behind the defence, skipping on and, from a narrowish angle, eight or so yards out, flick-poked as the keeper awaited, legs akimbo by the near post. Ross clicked his heels and the ball hit the inside of his left heel and snookered inches past the pope. I mean post. Rubbish corner again.

And finally not a rubbish corner. Miller arose in the centre and grazed. The crowd arose and a-posed with angst as the ball carried on regardless. Insanity laughs under pressure. They're cracking! Can't Town give themselves one more chance?

Oh yes they can. It is still pantomime season. Wallow in the memory of wonderful one-touch dissecting of the desiccated Moosemen. Intricate flicks and tricks parted the Cambridge rogues and Brodie, in the 'D', roll-flicked a wall pass for Devitt, who swiped back across the panicking keeper. The ball crawled towards the post as Hannah pursued, rolling a centimetre wide. If that had gone in it would have been a goal. No, not a goal: the goal.

And still Town tightened the tourniquet. Someone dinked, and some sighed; Disley must have closed his eyes as he ran on and noodled down to Ross's feet. A corner flew beyond all, Pearson thought himself some kind of Livvo-like creature, spinning upwards and bicycling into the side netting.

And the tide went back out to sea. Brodie irritated all with chuntering chivvying after an embarrassing dive-fall. Hannah fell over a yellow boot right on the edge of the penalty area. Brodie curled the free kick in from the right. It went nowhere that you want to know. If you wear a shiny shirt to football you'd say: "He'll be disappointed with that." If you wear a woolly hat you'd say something less dull.

With ten or so minutes left Devitt was replaced by Colbeck, which pleased the locals no end, but didn't please the away end. Colbeck won a corner, wasted a corner and was so very Colbeckian in his activities.

They did have a shot you know. One that wasn't so nothing that it can be swept up in a general dustcart and taken to the tip. Thomas failed with a pass and the mustardians mustered a move that ended up with Jarvis sweeping a shot from their right across Jamie Mack and within winking distance of the post.

Town still attacked in the four added minutes, but I had a curry waiting in Ely, so I'm not going to dress up that frog as a toad. What's the point? Ah, that's the point. Nil-nil. Let's go and get that curry.