Reasons to be cheerful

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

23 March 2022

A very bright, clear day with a creepingly cold easterly wind harrumphing in from the Humber. Around 200 away supporters crammed into the covered corner. "Is that all you take away?" sang a dozen teenagers. Yes, about the same number we usually do. The pre-match atmosphere was very muted, with the only noise seeping out from the covered corner. There was a buzz, but that of a thousand separate small-talks prior to a piano recital. Blundell Park was in sit back and expect mode.

Wimbledon warmed up in a blur of circular movement, complete with jogs and keepy-uppy. Just like an exhibition of soccer skills by the cream of Mexico’s under 12s. No one wore a sombrero though, which was a shame, and would have been handy in keeping the sun out of their eyes. No bad hair, just a few big blokes with shaven heads; they had half a dozen Pouton-a-likes. Oh, and they wore an all-yellow kit. Town warmed up in the usual way, with many a smile across the face of the joggers and cone dancers.

At 2:55 Dave Boylen walked out in a suspicious suit to warm the crowd up. He really should change his patter as "one, two, three, wahey" is wearing thinner than Graham Rodger’s hair. The decibel level is reducing each week. The Pontoon pre-empted his exhortation with a chant of its own, but that didn’t stop him. Perhaps he's being paid by the "wahey". His extra special guest this week was….John Fraser, in very camp powder blue trousers, or should that be troosers, Donald.

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Todd, Gallimore, Butterfield, Coldicott, Pouton, Campbell, Boulding and Allen. The substitutes were Croudson, Ford, Burnett, Jevons and Rowan. Nothing to report from the kick-a-about, except that the four substitutes were totally unable to kick the ball past Croudson, most hit half way up the big red post lurking behind the goal.

And the four mascots were, possibly, the smallest mascots ever, as at least one seemed to be smaller than the ball.

1st half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand in hushed reverence. A state that continued for half an hour. Nothing, no noise, no particular will either from the crowd. Some isolated spots of enthusiasm attempted to encourage, then goad, the home support into, well, supporting the team, but terminal ennui appeared to have set in. So it must have felt like a home game for Wimbledon, and they played like it was, dominating possession throughout the 1st half, cutting through Town almost at will.

The first 20 or so minutes are lost in a fog of boredom, even though the game was played almost exclusively within 40 yards of the Pontoon. After about seven or eight minutes Wimbledon should, really, have scored. Frizzy-haired Dawkins, their left-back, took a throw about 10 yards inside the Town half in front of the Stones/Smith/Findus Stand. The most indignant supporter in Grimsby stood up and bellowed, three times, "Foul Throw!", as Dawkins almost rolled the ball to his team mate. Wimbledon tapped the ball around a couple of times, then knocked a pass down the touchline for Agyemang, a long and awkward, gangly sub-Wanchopian striker, who twisted, turned and drifted past his marker to the bye-line. Agyemang looked up and rolled a pass back to the unmarked Shipperley, about 12 yards out and level with Coyne’s right hand post. Shipperley allowed the ball to roll across his body, then carefully sliced a right-foot shot a couple of feet past the left-hand post. Bad miss, or rather good miss for us.

Town had done nothing constructive, with Coyne drop and fly kicking the ball to strange and unusual places, which some may describe as Butterfield's head. The result was Wimbledon possession, which they did not squander, playing through the midfield and using Shipperley's strength and Agyemang's litheness to set up numerous dangerous moments. The Town midfield was quite poor, Coldicott appeared to be half-paced and Pouton kept passing directly to Wimbledon players (which resulted in two almost frightening attacks which needed McDermott the Great to sweep across and ooze away the fear). Campbell was doing a passable impression of a ball boy and Butterfield considered jogging to be far too energetic; he let the ball do the work. He didn't subscribe to the controversial theory that he was required to play an active part in the proceedings. Butterfield, as the half progressed, was increasingly targeted for encouragement. He was advised to move his knees, the rest would follow. Even by his standards of lethargy, he was lethargic.

All of which meant that Wimbledon tap-danced their way upfield at will, with Francis particularly adept at infiltrating the space between Coldicott and Pouton, and then those two and the Town defence. But the danger was often nullified by one of the Town defence stepping forward to hustle and harry, with Groves and McDermott the most prominent. Agyemang did Town a favour a couple of times when his lack of control resulted in him dribbling the ball out of play after he had been released down the touchline, in front of the Stones/Smith/Findus. Town did have sporadic attacks, with a Boulding surge down the left and pass into Allen almost, almost, producing something to remember. But Allen lost control and tripped a defender, so forget about it, it didn't even nearly happen.

Trond Andersen whacked a drive from a central position, just outside the penalty area, a foot over the bar, after a period of relatively intense pressure from Wimbledon. The ball went in, and out, of the Town penalty area, with some half-hearted clearances just giving the ball back to them. Typical Town.

Andersen again nearly scored when he seemed to mishit a cross from their right, about 25 yards out near the Police Box. Coyne appeared to get his feet in a bit of a tangle and only just managed to tip the ball over for a corner. The corner was, again, only half cleared and Andersen, again, tried to hit a twisting, spinning bicycle kick, which he managed to spoon deliciously high above the Pontoon. A minute later the ball dropped, having obtained clearance to land, almost on top of the ball boy.

From another scrappy corner Willmot tried an overhead kick, which bounced, with great care and attention, into Coyne's midriff. Around the 20 minute mark Town managed to have a shot, not very good, but at least it was an effort. The ingredients were free kick on left, far post, Groves poked ball way over the bar from edge of area. Butterfield watched from close by. It wasn't enough for an "Ooh", even a desperate "Ooh".

Half way through the first half Wimbledon got a corner, on the Town right. The ball was swung in, bodies collided, the ball pinged about in the Town area, Town defenders chased, threw themselves around and harried. Eventually McDermott, on the centre left of the area, took control, dispossessing a Wimbledon player, and drove forward on a counter attack. He beat two players and, near the centre circle, was slightly baulked by Campbell. Cunningham ran back with McDermott and, after his third tug on McDermott's shirt, managed to stop the little maestro and get the ball. The Town players stopped momentarily and awaited the free kick.

The referee waved play on and Wimbledon knocked the ball out to their left wing, crossed from about 25 yards out and Shipperley, unmarked and about eight yards out in the centre, headed firmly over Coyne into the top of the net, right down the middle. There was hardly a sound in the ground, then a low rumble of anger towards the referee. Ah, the referee, a quick glance at the programme brought back a remembrance of rages past. P Rejer. McDermott had been fouled three times, by the same player, when he dribbled out of the area. It should have been a free kick to Town, it ended up being a goal to the opposition. Here we go again, eh?

Town visibly stepped up the pace a bit after the goal, but without much tangible reward, certainly no goal mouth incidents. A couple of crosses and momentarily interesting turns by Boulding, but no shots, no excitement, certainly no moves of any great consequence. Then, out of the blue, a shot! After 27 minutes, Boulding, I think, had a shot which went low, straight at the keeper, from the left edge of the area. It was so out of the blue hardly anyone was paying attention, I only remember it was after 27 minutes because half the crowd turned to each other and said the same thing "27 minutes to have a shot!".

Just after the half hour Town got a throw-in on the left, about 25 yards from goal. Gallimore decided to take a long 'un, which in Town terms meant it reached the penalty area. The ball shot across the face of the penalty area, with players bundling and barging. Pouton (I think) was about 30 yards out in the centre and knocked the ball forward to Allen, who had his back to goal and was just to the right of centre on the edge of the penalty area. Allen spun and flipped a first-time pass over the defence into a big, big, space on the left. Boulding sprinted forward, allowed the ball to bounce and, from about 10 yards out, just to the left of goal, smacked an unstoppable left-foot piledriver into the top right of the keeper's goal. Now the crowd woke up and made some noise; a happy, if slightly surprised, noise. An equaliser that was hardly deserved, but such fripperies are of no concern to the desperate.

There followed a short period of Town ascendancy, but little of note to report. A Todd free kick which was deflected for a corner and, erm, well, possibly a Pouton shot, or maybe it was a tackle? Town definitely got over the half way a couple of times and, in the context of the first half, that was ascendancy.

But still Wimbledon rolled forward. Shipperley barged his way through several Town players on the left of the Town area, a few yards from the bye-line. Like particularly sweet honey, he attracted most of the Town defence. He crossed, Ardley dummied the ball and let it roll further into the centre, on the edge of the area. Francis strode forward, espied Coyne racing across his line, and chose which bit of the net the ball would nestle against. He side-footed the ball a foot wide of Coyne's right-hand post. Another bad miss, another case of so what from 6,000 Grimbarians.

Town were very sloppy, with an increasing number of misplaced passes and poor control. Todd caused minor panic when he received a pass from McDermott inside the Town area and carelessly chipped a pass to Shipperley. Wimbledon continued to infiltrate the spaces between Town players around the edge of the penalty area and whip in crosses, but rarely threatened Coyne. Then, with only three or four minutes left in the half, Wimbledon whacked in a deep, high cross from the right towards the far post. Francis rose above his marker and, from about 15 yards out, headed firmly towards Coyne's top right-hand corner. Coyne skipped back and tipped the ball over the bar for a corner. It was taken from the Wimbledon right and curled, at head height, to the near post. Agyemang slipped in front of the ball-watching Gallimore and flicked his head at the ball, sending a glancing header in to the top right-hand corner. A really shoddy piece of defending.

Town again upped their pace, but again were ineffective, running head first into a yellow brick wall. McDermott was having a storming first half, often being the last Town defender and, increasingly, the only Town attacker. After his third or fourth surge into the space that Butterfield should have occupied something wonderful happened (something wonderful nearly happened on his second surge when Boulding just failed to get in front of a defender right in the middle of the goal). McDermott dribbled down the right and simply kept on going. I think he may have exchanged passes with Allen, who sent him behind the left-back into the bottom left-hand corner of the Wimbledon area. McDermott crossed low and hard with the ball zipping through the penalty area to Pouton, at the far post, who calmly side-footed the ball low past the keeper into the left-hand corner.

Again the crowd erupted in surprised relief. Two Town attacks, two goals – now that's efficiency for you. Perhaps they should try attacking a bit more.

And the half ended at parity, a fortunate parity for Town, who had been outplayed. The general consensus was that we'd settle for a draw, as Town were playing poorly against opponents who looked like they could score many more, if they could be bothered. The wide midfield players had been varying degrees of pathetic, with Butterfield appearing to receive three on-field lectures from McDermott, Allen and Coldicott for his indolent contribution. There had been very little passing from Town, and when they did Pouton kept passing to Wimbledon players to set up counter-attacks. It was frustrating and a million miles from last week's performance. It was as if they were resting on the laurels of the Wolf slaying.

So it all depended on the half time team talk. It's called management, isn't it?

Stu’s Half Time Toilet Talk

"We'll need four to draw". "I'm wearing a different shirt today." "Butterfield is a disgrace, take him off and he should never be allowed to wear our shirt again." "We'll get nothing for a pair, not in this game." "He'd rather play table tennis, he has a wicked back hand."

2nd half
No changes were made at half time by either team, at least not in personnel. But Town came out and pulverised Wimbledon, there is no other way of describing it. It was like last season against Tranmere and Watford, but with knobs on. It was power, pace, controlled aggression and, above all, football. It was jaw-dropping stuff, and Wimbledon players were like rabbits caught in the Blundell Park floodlights. No, not that, they were caught in something bright.

But the first five or six minutes were merely a bit better from Town, who had quite clearly been told to tackle more, rather than stand a few yards away from their opponents. Wimbledon were not allowed any time on the ball, or space into which to play the ball. And then the steamroller started to move forward, crushing all in its path. The crowd responded and the wall of sound started to thunder around the stadium, a constant roar swirling like a quadraphonic sound system, set to 11, of course. There was no escape.

Allied to the attitudinal change there seemed to be a small tactical one. The wide players were a bit more forward, Coldicott sat in front of the defence, leaving Pouton to roam the earth, like Cain. And how he roamed. His hooking, raking tackles swept the ball back whenever Wimbledon seemed to be breaking out of their half. He added a new trick to this party piece, he now swivels on his backside as he swipes the ball off the opponent, allowing him to rob and roll in one move.

The first real effort on goal in the second half came from Pouton, who hit an attempted volley into the ground, from about 20 yards. The ball bounced over the defence and into the keeper's waiting arms, like a sobbing child running to mamma. This period of the game was just intense Town pressure, with Allen drifting away from his marker into Sheringham-like positions, and making Teddy-like cunning passes to Boulding, the little scamp, who fair terrorised the Wimbledon defence with his constant running behind the full-backs. Pouton, the Colossus of Grimsby Road, began to surge down the middle and, to the consternation of everyone inside Blundell Park, Butterfield became the mesmeric wizard of the dribble on the right wing.

It was Gary Childs reborn, with a hint of the Beckham glide. The Wimbledon left-back probably sobbed uncontrollably on the bus back home, for the word torrid does not do justice to his second half experience. Butterfield weaved, danced, skipped, tricked, surged, and finagled his way though non-existent gaps. Wimbledon ended up with three players trying to mark him. Butterfield, the transformed man. Butterfield was quite fantastic in the second half, constantly ghosting through the opposition and getting to the bye-line, and often winning free kicks in dangerous positions.

There were very infrequent attacks from Wimbledon, who nevertheless looked very dangerous. The Town defence played excellently to restrict them to perhaps three shots. There were several moments of extreme danger, especially during the middle part of the half, with Shipperley again barging and bundling his way through half a dozen tackles on the edge of the area. The ball squirmed out to Cooper, whose shot was blocked by a magnificent Groves sliding dive. A bit later Agyemang sprinted down the left, cut inside and rolled a pass to Ardley, about 15 yards out on the centre left. His shot was half stopped by Groves, with the ball bouncing down off the turf and up into Coyne's chest. Again a marvellous block by Groves. Apart from that I can't recall anything remotely interesting up at the Osmond End.

As the half wore on the Rocks of Grimsby simply brushed aside the attacks, with Todd increasingly confident, with many a surge forward after robbing Shipperley on the edge of the Town area. The Wimbledon 'keeper began to take longer and longer over his goalkicks, prompting the Pontoon to hurl abuse in his direction. His response was to wiggle his bottom. Yes sir, he can boogie, oogie-woogy.

The rest of the game was played exclusively at the Pontoon end. That is no exaggeration, not one–eyed memory. It was all Town, all action, an all-encompassing emotional high. But it was still only 2-2.

After an hour, Town won a corner on the left, Pouton floated it serenely to the near post The ball drifted over Butterfield, hit Groves (about six yards out) on the backside and plopped against the foot of the keeper's right-hand post. Feuer grabbed the ball as it rolled back past him. Allen, following a Town set piece which was half cleared, tried an overhead kick from somewhere near the penalty spot. Unfortunately it lacked a bit of pace and height and it arced gently to the keeper, in the centre of goal.

Still only 2-2, but the decibel levels were rising, Wimbledon looked like they were about to succumb to almost intolerable pressure, with Boulding as fast as lightning and just a little bit frightening. Crosses rained in, there were many, many, nearly moments around the Wimbledon box. A Campbell cross was flapped away for a corner, even Gallimore started to wander forward, with one memorable chest-puffed-out turkey trot down the wing, which resulted in a corner. Campbell dribbled down the left, exchanged passes with Allen and was behind the defence, inside the area. He tricked his way past the full back and, when six yards out at a narrow angle, only managed to toe end the ball slowly to the keeper as he stretched forward under pressure. Campbell, again, was set free behind the defence on the left, he cut inside and curled a cross shot in to the keeper's midriff. All action and a pressure slowly, slowly being applied like a tourniquet to the Dons' neck.

With just less than 20 minutes left they cracked.

A Town corner from the left was only half cleared, there was a bit of a scramble inside the area and the ball was played back to the unmarked Butterfield on the left edge of the area. Butterfield dallied so long, dropping his shoulder, waddling his feet and not getting any space, that the crowd started to make the Grimsby Groan. Butterfield made his way out of the area, then across it. Spotting Boulding unmarked at the far post he dinked a superb pass over the defence. Boulding, about nine yards out near the corner of the six-yard box, controlled it on his chest, turned, and had his shirt pulled by Francis. Boulding took one step, then fell. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and booked Francis.

The crowd rose and roared. Who would take it? Pouton of course, the Penalty King, who always puts it in exactly the same spot. Pouton calmly walked forward and hit a right-footed pass to the keeper's right, half way up the goal, half way across. The goalkeeper dived the wrong way and there we had it, the damn had finally been breached. Maybe not his usual spot, as it went about two foot higher than it normally does, but who's complaining?

Town continued to pour forward, not doing a have and hold operation. A couple of minutes after the goal Allen released Boulding down the left. He beat a couple of defenders, got to the bye-line and hit a hard cross at head height through the middle of the six-yard box. It missed everything, including Butterfield who was at the far post. It was all going swimmingly, though a fourth would have been nice. The waves of Town attacks, with Pouton starting to make driving runs down the left, were still crashing like a tidal wave all over Wimbledon. They were being absolutely drenched.

With about five minutes left Wimbledon had an attack, of sorts. The ball was played forward towards Shipperley, but Todd muscled his way through, controlled the ball, advanced a few yards and pinged a quite brilliant pass over, and through, the petrified Dons. Boulding sprinted onto the pass and approached the penalty area just to the left of centre. Feuer raced off his line and Boulding tipped the ball over him, then fell over the goalkeeper. Another penalty, and this time a red card for Feuer. The whole stadium was up and starting to bop.

In the interminable delay whilst Wimbledon brought their reserve keeper on, the Pontoon sang to Pouton, who stood on the penalty spot, ball under his right arm and left thumb raised. He then waddled up and hit his penalty into exactly the same position as his first. Gore, who looked like Mark Bosnich's second cousin (distaff side), leapt to his right and saved. His team-mates ran over and congratulated him, the linesman signalled furiously to the referee, and they had to take it again. No-one was sure why, perhaps it was encroachment, perhaps the jumping leprechaun had wandered off his line before saving? You wouldn't find 6,000 people arguing with the decision. We all agreed that if we'd been the referee we'd make Pouton take it again. Pouton waddled up again and this time he smashed it straight down the middle, as the goalkeeper dived.

Cue celebrations and jubilations; it's so glad to have Town back where we belong (out of the bottom three). And, then it struck us - a Pouton hat-trick. Who'd have ever thought that would happen: Alan Pouton, goalmachine. 'Tis true, sir.

The crowd sang, and danced, and roared and laughed and watched in wonder as Town got the ball off Wimbledon, almost straight from the kick off and promptly scored again. I can't remember who made the pass, there were too many people jumping up and down with excitement, but somewhere from the Town right, about 30 yards out, the ball was played forward down the centre. Willmott stretched and managed to get the endest of his toes to the ball, simply taking the pace off the pass and allowing Boulding to saunter away down the right. He took on a defender, swayed to the right and, from a position wide of goal on the right and a dozen or so yards out, Boulding hit a right-footed shot across the keeper. Gore got a finger tip to it and the ball slowly crept beyond him and dribbled into the bottom right-hand corner of his goal.

The whole ground rose and rose and rose, people were bouncing around the stand, the whole ground reverberated, just noise, no-one was capable of saying actual words, a primeval scream seemed appropriate. There was an outbreak of celebratory hair ruffling, with added hugs.

Wimbledon players looked totally shell shocked, as they saw their season end. They played the ball around for a couple of seconds then lost possession as the Mongol Hordes swept forward and ransacked Rome again. Pouton won possession just inside the Town half in the centre left, with a trademark tackle. He sprinted forward with the ball tied to his superhuman feet, straight down the middle, with defenders running away, shaking their knees and rattling their teeth. When he approached the penalty area, about 20 yards out, he whacked a searing shot straight at the keeper, who couldn't hold it, the ball bouncing off his chest back to the edge of the penalty area. Boulding raced on and side-footed the ball into the ground, bouncing over the keeper and into the bottom right-hand corner. Another goal, another hat-trick. More bouncing, more hair ruffles, with people running around, up and down, over and over again, just making noise.

Two minutes, three goals. It was pandemonium, it was staggering, it was Town. It really was.

As the ground partied, Boulding and Coldicott were replaced by Jevons and Burnett, with Allen being replaced by Rowan a minute or so later. And still Town searched for more, and more, and more. An insatiable appetite, a ruthless search for goals. Jevons tricked his way down the left, cut inside and, from the edge of the area, mishit his shot and it rolled pleasantly to the keeper. How very Jevons. In added time Campbell headed a cross from the right towards the keeper's top right-hand corner. It lacked a bit of power and looped comfortably into Gore's outstretched hands.

And then it was over, though no-one actually heard the referee's whistle, such was the intensity of the crowd's celebrations. The Town players got together in the centre of the pitch and saluted the crowd. The crowd saluted the players. The crowd buzzed as it left the ground, children jumping up and down in uncontrollable glee, smiles permanently frozen, eyes staring wildly. Walking down the Grimsby Road to hail the Groves' aces.

Perhaps an analysis is redundant and the facts should be allowed to speak for themselves. The first half was worrying, the second, shall we say, wasn't. Town played with controlled passion and aggression, allied to intelligent defending and attacking. The second half was exactly how one would wish football to be played, as near as can be perfect. Wimbledon didn't lay down for Town, they were simply out fought and out thought. Town were irresistible and arguably no-one in division one would have been able to repel us between 4.00 and 4:50. It's a pity there aren’t any more teams who play at Selhurst Park, I fancy a 7-2 Town win next. Or is that being greedy?

This result and performance says a lot about the players and the management. They can do it. They just did, didn't they. Let's hope they don't think that they have done enough already.

Just smile, lay back and think of Grimsby. Breathe, breathe in the air. Do you smell it? It smells like victory.

Man of the Match

So many to choose from, Groves and McDermott were magnificent in defence, snuffing out the very potent threats from Shipperley and Agyemang. Their solidity gave a base which allowed the midfield and attack to assault the Dons. Allen made some exceptional runs and passes, playing with great intelligence and his ball control was excellent today. Butterfield in the second half was quite amazing - twinkle toes Danny. Pouton was impassable, though his passing at the start made him unpassable. However, today the award goes to Michael Boulding, who was a constant menace, irrepressible, and involved in all but one of the Town goals. Given his illness in the run up to the game, his performance was, as David Coleman often said, "Quite remarkable".

Official Warning - P Rejer

Kept missing handballs by Wimbledon, made an awful decision in the build up to the first Wimbledon goal, ignored Shipperley's armlocks on Todd at every corner and free kick, kept getting in the way in the penalty area, and was awful against Port Vale a few years ago. On principle he will not get higher than 4.6. And he has a bit of a paunch.