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The Meek that was
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Review previous campaigns covered by Cod Almighty
Neither here nor there
17 March 2004
Swindon Town 2 Grimsby Town 0
A balmy evening in Swindon, with cars spinning confusingly, endlessly, around the multi-roundabout arrangement that skirts the County Ground. More wankel rotary engine than traffic management system. Dizzy, you make me dizzy.
Inside the ground, the loyal, the otherwise unemployable, the southern migrants and the foolhardy huddle in a side stand and wonder who the hell those fellows in black and white could be. Last time I saw them play was January and I can barely recognise anyone. Time was you'd be excited when an unfamiliar face was spotted in the Town stripes, now I feel excited if I can name a player without asking someone. The formation was 4-4-2: Fettis; Edwards, Warhurst, Young, Armstrong; Thorrington, Boulder, Campbell, Barnard; Rowan, Jevons.
Within a few minutes Swindon attacked and should have scored, but Fettis somehow clawed the ball away for a corner. A great save. The first 15 minutes continued in the same vein: Swindon pressure, Town wobbling. We looked disorganised, confused, ragged. After 15 minutes, again, Fettis made an excellent save. Town then began to slowly get into the game: the passes got better, though not that much better, and we began move further upfield. A few chances came our way, Jevons and Rowan linking up quite well, though still looking lightweight, with Swindon keeper Evans being forced to make a couple of saves.
We had a lot of possession, but no penetration (sound familiar?) and, in typical Town fashion, hopes were raised that a New Dawn was arriving. Then on 34 minutes the Old Dawn re-emerged and Swindon scored. A quick break on the right, a nicely hit cross and – where the hell was Warhorse? – Mooney rose and nodded it past Fettis. The torpor that is a football match at the County Ground was rudely interrupted. The announcer played The Clash's 'Tommy Gun' in celebration. How tacky (but what would they play if Parkin scored?).
Ten minutes later, they scored again, this time from the left inside channel, the defence falling away, quite politely. "Oops, sorry – was I in your way?" Two-nil. Mooney again. Cue The Clash and 'Tommy Gun'. I'm starting to hate this song. The ref immediately blew for half time.
Town started well. That is to say, they had possession, they moved somewhere within the vicinity of the opposition's half and they singularly failed to concede any more goals. They didn't look like scoring. Ever. They attacked at a pace so slow I was surprised there wasn't a man with a red flag walking in front of the strikers. The passing got better, occasionally reaching a player in the same coloured shirt.
We created chances but, in truth, while they were good chances Evans was never stretched for any of them. The most comical of them came when Campbell was clean through but somehow fell over backwards and just managed to flick the ball to a defender. Nice. It should also be noted that Swindon hit the bar twice, the second of which was most unlucky not to have gone in.
The highlight of the second half was undoubtedly the specially appointed St Patrick's Day streaker, whose modesty was maintained by a pair of green Y-fronts that were, it's fair to suggest, not his pulling pants. He ran the length of the pitch, arrived at the Town end and dropped his shreddies before darting off into the empty open end behind the Swindon goal.
With about 15 minutes left, Flash was brought on to replace the increasingly ineffective Rowan, while five minutes later Anderson replaced Thorrington. With a few minutes left, Howard made a pretty gruesome two-footed challenge on Anderson and walked. A bit out of character, really; it wasn't a dirty game.
Then the ref blew.
It was neither a bad performance, nor a good one. According to one Swindon poster on the Fishcake, we were one of the best sides they'd played this season. Really? Really? We were average, as were Swindon. They're fourth, we're nineteenth; what a mediocre division.
Law claimed the only difference between Swindon and us was Mooney and he's probably right. Up front we lacked an incisive edge; Jevons works better as a wide midfielder. In defence, the full-backs were poor, but we looked more solid than recent performances I've seen. Warhurst organises well but has Ford-like moments where he loses concentration.
The midfield was like a soufflé with the oven door open: sunken in the middle, doughy on the outside. Barnard is no midfielder. I'm not even sure if Barnard is a footballer, but he's certainly no midfielder. Thorrington was tricky, but was edged off the ball too easily, and we seemed to have no wide support when we attacked. The best that could be said of Bolder was that he was Campbell-esque. Up front, Rowan was out of his depth and Mansaram, when he came on, provided a comedy cameo which suggests that his game has utterly, butterly, collapsed.
This was not a relegation performance, but neither did it suggest we were going places. Except, perhaps, 18th place. Or, if we're lucky, 17th.