It was a little bit frightening - huh

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

11 May 2022

A gloriously clear sunny windless day in olde Cleethorpes town. The away end was packed, with some overspill into the open corners, giving a certain vibrancy to the occasion. Well noise, anyway. The Town supporters even managed a couple of songs before the game and, oddly, there was a hint of a band over on the left of the Pontoon. It sounded like someone had a tape recorder turned down to a low volume. It might have been, I suppose, as I saw no musical instruments.

Town lined up in the old, and yet at the same time, new 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, McDernott, Groves, Enhua, D Smith, Donovan, Burnett, Willems, Campbell, Jeffrey and Livingstone. The subsitutes were Croudson, Handyside, Coldicott, Butterfield and Rowan. Donovan was wide right, with Campbell wide left and everyone else in their normal positions (if you believe Groves at centre-back is normal, that is).

Oh yes, there was a fascinating hat in the Pontoon. Green, Alpine-style with a little grey feather. High in the Pontoon sat a lonely goatee beard.

1st half
Town kicked off away from the Pontoon in languid style. The pace of the match was quite sedate, with no sign of the furious pace that characterised the start against Portsmouth. It was also quite obvious that the game would be no classic footballing occasion. Burnley were not organised to play sweet passing football, nor did they have the inclination. A big team who liked to put it forward quickly and chase after it. Neither did they shirk a tackle, even if a tackle wasn't there.

The first thing of any interest to happen was a Town corner, from the left, after a couple of minutes. It was swung into the centre of the goal, around the edge of the six-yard box, after being missed by four or five players at the near post. The ball hit Enhua and rolled towards the goal, being fly kicked away before any Town player reacted.

A few seconds later Burnley wellied the ball over the top of the Town defence behind McDermott. Groves ran over and collided with McDermott as they both attempted to head it back to Coyne. Groves kept on his feet and, just inside the penalty area, on the right, headed back to Coyne. Unfortunately he didn't head it hard enough and Mullin nipped around to challenge Coyne. The ball rebounded off the custard-clad keeper, rolling out towards the other striker, Moore, about 10 yards out, to the right of the penalty spot. Enhau impersonated a mysterious shopkeeper and, as if by magic, appeared from nowhere, throwing his body at man and ball to block.

Town went up the other end, attacking down the right with a cross going way over everyone. Campbell ran after it and crossed it back to the far post where Burnett went up for a header, remaining prostrate after the challenge from the defender. Burnett was taken off down the tunnel clutching his face and never reappeared. This was in the fifth minute and it may sound relatively interesting and exciting. It wasn't.

I really can't remember anything happening for the next 15 minutes, apart from Coldicott eventually coming on for Burnett. It was a rotten midfield scrap, with Town having difficulty stringing more than a couple of passes together, and Burnley having no wish to make more than two passes. Burnley had a few corners and I have a vague recollection of a couple of headers which were totally unthreatening. These may have been in this Bermuda triangle between the fifth and 20th minutes. The crowd were settling into comfortable groaning by this stage, with no expectation of Town doing anything. Poor old Jeffrey was looking slower thatn Livvo and that's saying sommat.

Then Jeffrey jinked past a couple of players and fired in a drive from the left edge of the penalty area. It went a few yards high and wide, but seemed to spark a bit of life into Town, and him. For the next few minutes Town got a bit more possession (helped by Conan flying wholeheartedly into some challenges) and exerted some pressure. Ironically, given Burnley's propensity to "launch it", Town got their first goalscoring opportunity from a long ball straight into the middle of the penalty area. Their goalkeeper, Michopoulos (what's a Greek earn?) flapped when faced with the possibility of colliding with Livingstone, knocking the ball straight to Campbell, 25 yards out. Instead of lifting the ball over the now stranded keeper, Campbell decided to place a gentle low shot through the centre of Michopoulos's body. He caught it, about 15 yards out, with no-one behind him. A wasted opportunity. It should have been a goal.

A minute later Willems whacked a low left-footed hooked shot straight at the goalkeeper from about 15 yards, just to the left of the penalty area. This followed a three-man passing move involving the now sprightly Jeffrey. The game then got a bit fruity. Just in front of the away manager's dug out Campbell and Mitchell Thomas slid in to challenge for a loose rolling ball. Campbell was at 90 degrees to the touchline, with Thomas arriving a little later, parallel with the touchline. Thomas went in with two feet. Campbell was left in a crumpled heap. The Town fans went potty. The referee, Mr Nutty (officially known as Uriah Rennie) ran over, putting his hand to his back pocket. When he got to Thomas he had a long chat and, er, that was it. A long chat. To say the Town players and supporters were displeased would be an understatement. A couple of minutes later Thomas left D Smith in a heap with a heavy challenge. No card. A minute later Thomas stopped a Town breakaway by handballing. Finally, a yellow card.

And then we had another 10-minute spell of tosh, during which Burnley should have scored. A long clearance down the Town left was chased by Moore, who outpaced Groves and D Smith. He raced into the penalty area and, about 10 yards out, eight or so yards to the left of goal, let fly with a blistering mishit shot which ended up hitting the roof of the Pontoon. Five minutes or so later a spell of Burnley pressure (also known as hitting hopeful crosses into the box which were half cleared) resulted in the ball breaking loose for them on Town's left. A short dinky cross was played into the unmarked Moore about eight yards out and four or five yards to the left of the post. He headed it 10 yards wide and eight yards high. The Pontoon began to warm to young Mr Moore. He was our type of away striker. In his case, Moore is less.

The Nutty Professor riled the Town supporters even more just before half time. The tricky Burnley right winger, Little (who isn't), fell with purest ham when D Smith tackled him. Rennie was suckered into giving a free kick. Enhua stood next to the ball to stop the kick being taken quickly. So Rennie booked him. Everyone ambled off towards the edge of the Town area. As the free kick was about to be taken, Rennie blew his whistle, raised his hand and walked the distance between the ball and the Town "wall", Jeffrey. He then ordered the Burnley player to bring the ball forward to that spot. Further comments were made by many in the ground, in unison, on the subject of Mr Rennie's competency.

But the last thing to happen in the half was typical Town. Or should that be typical Livvo. Town cleared down the right. Jeffrey and Donovan challenged the left wing-back. He passed to his centre-backs, about 25 yards out. Somehow he failed to see Livingstone, who took the ball on into the area, to the right of goal and drilled a low right-foot a shot across the keeper and a foot past the right-hand post. Bad miss, reminiscent of the Bolton blunder.

Things happened, but not often. The bits between the things were really, really poor. Town played like a bad First Division team and Burnley like a slightly better than average Second Division team – all huff and puff and directness. Both teams deserved the nil. It was awful and no-one could see Town scoring. Donovan was hardly used at all, in fact it was difficult to work out what Town were doing; the ball seemed to disappear into the middle of the pitch and be buried under a mass of heaving humanity. At least three balls were used The first one was replaced before Burnett was taken off through lack of air and one of the linesman called for a replacement flag! Defensively, apart from the Groves/McDermott collision, nothing had gone too wrong, with Enhua making some excellent recovery tackles and not once waving for offside.

Toilet Talk: "They're rotten who?- both teams." "Livvo's on Mogodon again." "Is Pleasure Island open yet?" "Rennie's a total plonker."

2nd half
Neither team made any changes at half time. The game restarted at a cracking pace, with both sides seemingly playing with orders to "stop faffing about". And disaster should have struck. Moore easily turned inside, then outside, Enhua on the Town left, deep inside the penalty area near the touchline. Enhua fell over and Moore turned to find acres of space in front of him. He ambled towards goal and curled a gentle cross to the far post. Big Steve Davis trundled in with no Town player within light years of him. He calmly leapt and, from about two yards out, headed over the bar. It was a fantastic miss. You could almost see him crying at missing. The goal could hardly have been more open. I shall treasure that moment should Town fail to get relegated this year.

So Town went straight up the other end and nearly scored. Enhua drilled a superb, inch-perfect 50-yard crossfield ball to Donovan's big toe on his right foot. Donovan attacked the full-back (no, not literally) and got to the bye-line. He crossed toward the centre of goal, about seven or eight yards out. Livngstone headed firmly back towards the left-hand side of the goal but the goal-bound header hit the back of a defender. It bounced into a big space about 12 yards out, levellish with the keeper's left-hand post. McDermott sprinted into the area and slashed a half volley just past the angle of post and bar, on the keeper's left.

For the nest few minutes the game went from end to end, well really from one end of the Burnley half to the other. Town had the majority of the play and were rather slicing them apart down the right. The half time team talk quite clearly included the instruction "pass it to Donovan", who at times appeared to be persona non passa in the first. Jeffrey, Donovan and McDermott linked dangerously, even if no clear-cut chances were created. The usual Town complaint – final pass rubbish and not enough blokes in the box.

After a period during which Town appeared to get fired up for every challenge, the ball broke loose following a Coldicott man-sized tackle. There was a breakaway, some pressure and the ball went out for a corner on the right. Willems trotted over to take it and swung it hard and low to the far post. Enhua was unmarked and at a narrow angle a few yards beyond the post. He headed down firmly and the ball bounced in, despite the flailing feet and arms trying to keep it out. Great corner, well taken header and just about deserved at this point, for Town had surged back and were starting to impose themselves in midfield. The catalyst for the momentum that led to the goal was a double crunch from Coldicott, who won two 30-70 tackles – he was the 30 in both cases. Willems was not far behind in the hard man stakes.

A couple of minutes later Jeffrey sprinted on to a channel ball down the left, held off his marker and back-heeled the ball into a big space for Campbell to run on to. Campbell cut inside and tried to curl a shot past the keeper, which he held on his six-yard line as Donovan and Livingstone bore down on him.

From now on it was all Burnley. They decided on one tactic to save the game - Hang 'Em High. The ball was pumped forward into the box with bodies flying forward. They abandoned their ultra cautious 5-4-1, bringing on three forwards in the remaining 35 minutes. Just after Town scored, Enhua produced a simply great recovery tackle – he again appeared from nowhere – to rob Moore just as he was about to shoot, having being sent free behind the Town defence with just Coyne to beat. There were a couple more last-ditch saving tackles from Enhua and D Smith on Moore as Burnley tried to attack Town's weak left. Only today it wasn't weak. So effective had D Smith been against Little (their attacking inspiration normally) that Little switched to the left and tried his luck with McDermott. Silly Burnley, do they know nothing?

During the last 20 minutes the game was played 100 yards away from me. And Town were very fortunate to keep the ball out of the net. A couple of linesman's decision went Town's way, which infuriated the Burnley supporters and players. Mullin was booked for protesting too much and was promptly taken off: the linesman raised his flag several seconds after Mullin had broken clear and just as he passed to another striker for a one-on-one with Coyne. The linesman signalled that Mullin hadn't been offside but the player he passed to had been and was not interfering with play. It was quite clear that the linesman was saying this even from 100 yards away.

And then there were the scares, the big, big scares. One of the substitutes whipped in a cross from the Burnley left to the far post. Davis rose above a bundle of players and, from about five yards out, glanced a header a few inches wide of Coyne's left-hand post. Some frantic play on the edge of the Town area (a couple of up-and-unders, flying challenges and toe pokes) saw the ball roll between the outward rushing Town defence and Coyne. Moore ran on and lifted the ball over Coyne. It was a bit confused down at the Osmond End, the ball seemed to be rolling towards the goal with loads of players running after it. Anyway, what I can be certain of is that between McDermott and, finally, Enhua the Town defence managed to scramble the ball away.

With about 10 minutes left Butterfield replaced Campbell in a straight swap, though we did notice that Livingstone had already sunk back to be a third centre-back. This meant that the pressure increased on Town as the tireless one up front was outnumbered and received little support (normally Willems). Whenever Town cleared it just went to a Burnley player on the half way line, who lobbed it back. At about the same time Livvo lumbered back, Davis stayed up front permanently and Payton had already come on. So Burnley ended up with a 3-3-4 formation, although in the desperate mess this sometimes became 2-1-7. Coyne was required to do two brilliant rush and grabs at the feet of onrushing strikers. One came from a rebound and toe poke through the defence, the other after a break down the Town left and Moore wriggled past Groves. Just as he was about to shoot, Coyne sprinted off his line and blocked.

It was almost like a cup tie, with the Town support roaring them on to every saving tackle and the Burnley supporters imploring the equaliser. With their increasing desperation, gaps were left for Town to exploit on the breakaway. Jeffrey sprinted down the right and curled a cross just too far in front of Donovan at the near post. With a few minutes remaining Rowan replaced Jeffrey and had the game's last chance. A clearance bounced in to a huge space just inside the Burnley half. Rowan ran on and took the ball into the penalty area, waited for the keeper and poked the ball a few inches wide of the right-hand post from a few yards out on the left. In truth he should have rolled the ball sideways to Willems who had steamed up into the area and was unmarked in the centre. Willems quite clearly told him this.

After a few more hoiks into the box, Rennie eventually put us out if our misery. If the first half had been rotten the second was a cracker, in terms of passion, commitment and sheer bloody-minded defending from Town. There were many individually fine performances and a couple of super ones. Only Livingstone had a poor game, and even then he did perform well in defence in the last 15 minutes. The defence looked more of a unit today, with Enhua eradicating his penchant for waving. Jeffrey was tireless Mike today. Even if he didn't particularly look threatening himself, his work produced openings for others. D Smith saw off a dangerous winger and looked quite solid. Coldicott was in full destroyer mode, and was exactly what was required against a big bruising team like Burnley. Willems had a wayward opening 20 minutes but got better and better as the game progressed.

It wasn't a pretty game, partly down to the poor state of the pitch, partly to the way Burnley play. But Town didn't give in and did what was required. Can't ask for more, can we?

Burnley had the opportunities to scores four or five, and probably should have, but they didn't. You won't find a Grimsby fan who cares about that, will you. Burnley were a big team, but they weren't in shape.

Man of the Match: Enhua - a couple of dodgy moments outweighed by the excellence of his saving tackles and goal. Without him we would have conceded at least one gaol, and probably wouldn't have scored.