A surfeit of nousery

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

19 January 2020

Grimsby Town 0 Exeter City 1

On a clear, crisp day in the Church of the Pied Piper around 180 Grecians earned our respect for the long trek north, a tiny oasis of red in a mountainous sea of monochrome. The masses, the masses, the Mariner masses: still hypnotised by the Holloway hype and hyperactivity.

Town lined up in a positive 4-the-rest-of-you-run-around formation as follows: McKeown, Hendrie, Pollock, Öhman, Glennon, Clifton, Hessenthaler, Whitehouse, Vernam, Clarke, Wright. The substitutes were Russell, Hewitt, Buckley, Starbuck, Tilley, Benson and Hanson. We're not very tall, you know.

Let's hope the Pied Piper isn't adopting the Mike Lyons approach to team construction. Where Lyons had a team with the same hair, Ollie's latest army of recruits are all the same size. Perhaps one size fits for all problems.

Exeter turned up in a lurid fluorescent yellow and purple ensemble. They are bigger than Town. Taller, wider. And older.

We looked across and there we saw Clarke, waiting to go and join the line. Right, c'mon Billy, don't be a zero.

First half: these boots were made for walking

Those lurid Devonians kicked off towards the Pontoon. The game is afoot.

Scuttling and shuttling, a chaotic, frantic muddling in the middle of the mudding-up pitch. Pollock boomballed Vernam. Vernam Vernamed into the ether, for there was no venom in Vernam's worming.

Whitehouse misplaced five of his first four passes, jammed up in crossfield traffic a la Summerfield. Hendrie joined the poor passing party as Town self-harmed harmlessly with magic markers.

They came, they miscontrolled, they went away again. They did, they did do, do that they did. De do do do de da da da. It's meaningless and all that's true.

Youth's been Pollocked! Pony-tail Williams was poleaxed by Glennon with a double dose of Premiership waftery. A throw-in for Town and a pain in the gentleman's particulars to boot.

Ah yes, boots.

You know, Pollock's a growing lad. He's growing into the game, he's growing during the game. Pollock's feet grew and he changed into bigger boots, more colourful boots. His boots are made for tackling. Are you ready boots? Start talking. Bowman's been a-messin' where he shouldn't've been a-messin'. He ain't messing no more.

Devon danger as a little lad lollipopped from afar. The ball squished lowly through a thicket of leggery. McKeown ached slowly and the ball flibbbled under his wrists and drumbled past the right post. The fluorescent corner flicked-on at the near and far post, Sweeney volleyed wayly over while unmarked.

And now we come to the interesting bits. Zippedy doo-dah, zippedy ay, my-oh-my what a wonderful way to attack. A spin and flick, Clarke tipped, Wright skipped and Maxted flipped the shot aside at his near post.

A Devonian plunged after Glennonian unsubtlety in the shadow of the Police Box. The free kick swirled in and out beyond the far post. Sweeney tip-toed like a Scooby Doo monster to stab-volley goalwards. He'd have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that pesky kid Jamie Mack star-jumping across the universe. Pools of luminous sorrow, waves of monochrome joy are still ringing through McKeown's ears. Law loped through a teeny gap and McKeown kicked aside.

Bowman was booked after Ludvig lashed him to the mast as Town gorged on wasted cornery. Clarke replaced The Hess as the under-hitter of lesser elevation and, finally, the fun with flags ended as The Hess slippered to Maxted.

Town stretched to snap, crackle and almost pop the Iscatorians with fizzing, and whizzing in a whirlygig of motion. Strangers on the right, exchanging passes. Whitehouse wriggled and wrapped around Maxted's fingers onto the inside of the far post. A luminous boot walloped away as Vernam's toes neared the rebound. Slim Charles chased a losing cause. Exchanges on the right, strangers passing. Clarke wiggled and slapped and Maxted's feet flicked up, up and away.

Moments of niceness, moments of clarity about the future?

One minute was added. And then there were none.

Exeter were a passive coiled snake, occasionally flickering and slithering around when roused. They didn't do anything except when they did. They looked totally under Town's control, except when they didn't. Town were very perky as an attacking force, finally finding some fluidity and flashing their fangs back at the viper.

There were possibilities. Town were not only putting balls in the box, but attacking multiple human bodies in the box. We just need the boy Lineker to finish things off.

Second half: the Devon lock

Neither team made any changes at half time.

The usual this and that of nothing in particular for at least two minutes. Mustn't grumble. How's your Bert's lumbago? Let's whistle a song with no words and no tune. Oh, it's a corner. To them.

Arising luminosity, a wall of monochrome. Hibbling-bibbling, hubble, bubble toil and there's trouble down't'mill. Balls bouncing off shins and skin, chests and the rest of the body too.

And Max Wright ran away with the spoon.

Pleasing teasing from the wheezing calliope as Town gave them the run around. Hendrie dinked, Whitehouse slinked back and he looped a delightful drooper between two stool pigeons at the near post. Clarke arose between these two thorns, just five yards out, nodded firmly, nodded down. Maxted stuck out a hand and magnificently diverted the ball onto the inside of the post. As Clarke advanced, an unfriendly foot intervened and we were left with a fleeting moment of whatiffery.


Near the hour we were denied our maximum fill of Wright as Tilley replaced the local hero. Tilley's first non-touch was almost a goal as two Town touches sent Clarke freely twisting on the left. A fizzing low cross whizzed through the centre of the six-yard box. Tilley slid, Tilley tumbled, there was the hint of a grumble as play simply carried on.

They made changes. You can look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls if you really want to know what love is. Two men came on for two others. No man came on for a sundial.

A lull, a temporary truce with five minutes of flatness. Hanson warmed up, Hanson put on the bib of hope and received detailed instructions on being James Hanson. The crowd quietened, the pace reduced, the seeds of doubt, the feeling of impending doomery, that Exeter were waiting for a little lapse, a single mistake.

A dither, a slither and Town in a right tither.

Prattling around near the dug outs the ball was tapped to Little Harry. He turned and saw the way back to McKeown strewn with danger, for there be dragons and daemons and the Exeter winger. Law mugged Clifton. Law ran away. Passes were exchanged, Hendrie was dummied into a slapstick slide and Law carefully curled across McKeown into the bottom left corner.

Town: burgled by a second generation old con, the son of the father. We thought we'd forgotten Nicky Law, but his son won.

Hanson finally came on for Whitehouse. Town were, it is claimed, now having two centre-forwards and two wingers on the field. Yeah, loads of blokes in the forward positions. Believe! Get in to them.

Town got into them. They broke away; Jamie Mack punched away the heartache.

Nooooooooooooooo! Benson replaced The Hess with about a quarter of an hour left.

Pings were ponged, balls were pinned. A straight flat-tap nut-megged the retreating Hendrie and little sub Randall missed splendidly as the advancing McKeown sighed left to leave an open goal. Absolutely splendidly. In terms of splendidness this was absolute. Another fluorescent fling and Town managed to spread the duvet across the danger as Glennon walked away with the ball. Oh, hang on, them again, another break another pall as some bloke blokily curled over and wide. It may have been near, it may have been far, you can fix a grin as you casually lean on the bar talking about that later.

And Town, yes Town. Jamie Mack wellied, Big Jim flicked, Tilley whipped in from the East and Little Harry, leaning back, facing south hook-swept an overhead volley from the "D" that crept over the bar. Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

Stripey swarming and the place warming to the full court press. A Townite tickled and Hanson galumphed away down the centre left. Maxted approached, the angle narrowed to nothing and Big Jim miscued a slicey cross over the big green flapper. The ball sailed slowly, tantalisingly nearer and nearer. And nearer. And oh dearer, Martin arose and twisted away a header from nearly on the goal-line.

I say ooh, you say ah.

Wait, there's more. Busy bees harassed the Grecians on their left. A turn, a pass and Clarke smackerooned a sizzler towards the toppish left corner. Maxted flew highly, twisting slightly as the ball swerved to bash away spectacularly.

Four minutes were added. Grecian nous ate up the moments, with much chuntering in the East Marsh about dastardly time wastery.

And there we are, everything is the same but different. Town got much less and Exeter a bit more than they deserved, but no-one was much bothered by the result. Another loss, yes, but this was not dross, for Town had heart and they gave hope of a better tomorrow. When Town attacked they flooded the penalty area with striped shirts. When Town attacked they did so with passing and movement.

Maybe there's more to the Ollieway than mass hysteria. Now there's positive thinking for you.