North country sketches

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

9 February 2020

Bradford City 1 Grimsby Town 1

On a clear and windy day you can see the whole of the Harry Gration Nation, a city close to another, Leeds's older, surly brother. A reminder, a remainder, a place of not quietness; they used to be a contender, now they're bumming around the bottom with us, having gone off the rails recently. As the philosopher John Hegley noted: from Bradford, West Yorkshire, to Bristol Temple Meads, you don't have to change your underwear but you have to change at Leeds.

Town lined up in the standardly boggy 4-3-3 formation as follows: McKeown, Glennon, Pollock, Waterfall, Hendrie, Whitehouse, Benson, Clifton, Vernam, Hanson, Clarke. The substitutes were Russell, Garmston, Öhman, Hewitt, Grandin, Tilley and Green. After a flirtation with Swedish meatballs, the Hollo-way is meat and two veg with some thick, thick gravy: we're back with Waterfall at the back.

Ah, it's the return of the Mac, back from his Scunny pre-retirement after tiring of flamenco classes and mid-afternoon meanders through his three gardens. Why do they do it? It must be the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd. The Bantams were bouncing after announcing McCall as manager.

The pitch? Ah, less of that later.

Shall we proceed to the football? Ah, less of that right now.

First half: three men in new tracksuits

The first half? Like the old empty barn, there's nothing in it.

Town kicked off in blue, away from the 2,500 travelling Townites wrapped up and wrapped around Jamie Mack in the teetering Teetotal and Aledrinkers stands, to a minute of murmuring.

Hendrie let them have a corner. Nothing happened.

Glennon blocked a cross. They had a corner. Nothing happened.

Rough and tumble, flap and fumble, Waterfall decrepit against the rollerball Donaldson; Novak's wandering arms introduced themselves to Pollock's nose. Ladies and gentleman, the nose has it. Corners, corners, corners and Donaldson groping McKeown. Nothing happened.

A duo of home shots slapped highly on the balding tramp of a pitch, a patchwork of bare mud and thick tufts of overgrown grass. Bobble, hobble, toiling and no troubles for anyone, anywhere, anytime as Benson's big booming balls carried on the wind and careered out of play.

I suppose we'll have to make our own entertainment. I spy with my little eye something beginning with... MPJ. How many mustard puffa jackets are in the crowd today? Look, there's one, over there in the clouds. And another, just above McCall's left ear.

Hurrah, something to get hung about. A nick, a knock and Whitehouse has the knack of just missing from afar, in Childsian fashion. Jamie Mack walloped longly, Hanson rolled Dickie-Toffeeman and fell over when hooking. O'Donnell picked the ball up.

A lone, empty burger carton floated down through the crowds, whirling, twirling through the Town penalty area, skittling slowly, slowly across the pitch and out of the ground. What's done is done. You have to make your own fun sometimes.

A claret cross over, a claret cross in the crowd. Clatterings and smatterings in a mudfield tug'o'war of slides and clear claret snides. The wind's ruining a sad game.

And in the very lastest minute Mr Charles Vernam, master of the manor of Caistor, vroomed up the Vernamator and beflumbled a blocked bumble that offspun achingly slowly to O'Donnell. Ladies and gentleman of the jury, that was the first "shot" on target. It was the first, the last, the everything. Apart from the Bantam cross that Novak headed on and Donnelly stretched into the side netting 30 second later.

Yes, apart from that.

I told you there was nothing in it. Just men running into each other in the wind.

Second half: standing room only

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Antes and pace were upped as the game became higher, stronger and faster. Bang, biff, and a whiff of cordite in the air, or was that TCP? Everton-Richards stooped at the near post and headed highly over the angle from a left-sided corner.

They can't shoot a partridge with a single cartridge and we can't hit a sparrow with a bow and arrow.

Donnolly collapsed under the weight of his own inertia, Reeves coiled widely and the Claret wailing wall oooooooohed in misplaced excitement and expectation. A yard wide, a foot high, nothing to declare.

Any ref you can fool, we can fool better. Whitehouse spectacularly tumbled under Bantam bumbling and Vernam dribbled under the wall straight to the keeper. It could have been something; it wasn't anything.

Ah, yes, Reeves, a small scuffler with a bold stare and silly hair. One on whom assurance sits as a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.

Vernam slept and the full-back crept to cross lowly. Donaldson arrived to poke nicely wide at the near post. O’Donnell flat-slapped a low wallop straight down the middle. Benson edged through the slip cordon and Donaldson bounded on beyond Pollock. Jamie Mack star jumped and the old roamer poked yards wide and tried to fall over our custardian. No goal, no penalty, no corner, no good. No, it was good - for us.

Town moments dissolved with unnecessary tricks and underhit flicks as Clifton deferred and Hanson demurred inside the "D". Still searching for the perfect goal rather than just whacking it.

Just past the hour Grandin replaced Little Harry. Our newest new man? Neat, tidy, unobtrusive, competently adequate: he passed to people in the same coloured shirt.

Bantams all tangled up in blue as a mass of Mariners swarmed upon a dither. The Wolds Panther sleekly swayed as claretters retreated meekly. Onwards into the penalty area, Hanson alone, awaiting. Along came a spider as Vernam's poke was dredged away by their last man standing. Big Jim was bigly annoyed at the greedy dimness; seats and thighs were slapped all around.

With about quarter of an hour left Tilley replaced Clarke, just after Billy Boy legged up a homester while shouting "C'mon get one in the yarbles if ya have any yarbles ya eunuch jelly thou". An unnecessary allusion to a comic set-piece and unnecessary comic leg-up. Clarke was roused off by the home fans, rising as one to celebrate his past, which was nice.

Back, back and back again, as the busy Bantams continued to peck. A striped shirted shirker shrank when stared at by a gaggle of blue meanies, way out right. A quick free kick was tapped to their spritely sub, the young dude Mottley-Hoople, who burned past Grandin, and clipped lowly. Whitehouse sliced away straight to Cooke, who crosstown dipper-clipped Novak's nose and za-zimpled into the right side of the net. Home happiness, away team angst as McKeown led the protests claiming offside, handball and possibly hit wicket too.

Typical Town in this neck of the woods: we're going to lose a draw again.

Green came on for Whitehouse and Town, it is claimed by the cognoscenti, free-formed their jazz into a 3-4-3 formation. Niiiiiiiiiiiice.

Dickie-Toffeeman roamed around Pollock after a failed corner, zipping a doo-dah through the absence of humanity that was the Town six-yard box. Like we care. A home shove ignored, a home break implored from the banks of Bantamry braying in the distance. He can kick like a mule in this really mean team can Mott Le Hoople. He flew through where a full-back once was, cracking a cross and Hendrie high strained away from in front of the empty nettery. Like we care.

Tippy-tapping with Tilley, Slim Charles shook his booties and curved an in-dripper over the penalty spot. Timmmber! A touch of genius? A touch of class? No, an invisible touch as Green slowly drooped his forelock nearly near the passing satellite and the ball whistled while it worked its way through the remaining penalty area, slithering foot or so past the left post. We tip, we tap, we trip over the jerkin' crocuses. Vernam bedribbled with Green theoretically close.

Four minutes were added, some people headed for the exits as they thought it was all over.

A nut was mugged, Tilley barged away a bantam and Vernam tangoed away from a fey boy in the way. Flittering to the bye-line, Slim Charles fizzed lowly through the corridor of uncertainty and, as if by magic, Hendrie appeared at the far post with his fez to slap highly into the net and disappear into the funky little shack where everybody was movin' and everybody was groovin'.

Listen lads, we can still do this. It ain't over 'til it's over. A little blueness out on the left as tricks were flicked. Grandin rolled over a helpful limb and Town had a free kick on the right corner of the Bradford penalty area.

How long left? Nothing left, this is it, this will be the end.

Green and Big Jim stood hands on hips, between the like of claret and keeper. Vernam chipped, chaos followed confusion, or was it the other way around? To tell you the truth I kinda lost track in all the excitement. A head, a bounce, a Hanson nod biffed off a defensive chest and the supermarket sweeper swept. Alas, the story has no fairy tale ending, as the pokey prod bashed against a stray claret leg on the line.

Ladies and gentleman, the end.

A game of one half, that wasn't half bad in the end. Town's defence was ropey when it didn't need to be, but staunch when it did, as Waterfall's rust disappeared after a half-time oiling. Occasional slickness was defeated by an obsession with passing the shooting buck but, once Town were behind, the hackles arose and the game was afoot.

Neither side looked like a team bad enough, or good enough, to be in the position they were in. That probably makes us happier as the only way is up.

A grand day out.