Catch the pigeons

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

5 April 2003

Leicester City 2 Grimsby Town 0

A pleasantly sunny afternoon, though there were few tales of drunkenness and cruelty, in the Stadium of Savoury Snacks, the architectural centre of ‘new football'. Around 750 Town fans were shoved into a slither of blue plastic behind a corner flag, marvelling at the clear sight lines, adequate leg room (for those under six foot tall) and the cavernous silence. But not the toilets, which would be adequate for an away following of 93 (inclusive of half a dozen total abstainers), though spirits were lifted by the betting boards, which offered odds on Rowan being the first Town scorer in a 3-0 win. It is entirely possible that I am still laughing at that thought.

Town lined up in the fun-for-all-the-family formation of 4-5-1 as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Ford, Santos, Gallimore, Campbell, Bolder Groves, Hughes, Keane and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Chettle, Boulding, Livingstone and Cooke, presumably because there is no-one else left whose voice has broken or who has obtained a cycling proficiency certificate from the local council. And now the complicated bit: who is who and who played where. The back four was as you'd expect. The midfield? Campbell on the right wing, Keane on the left; and Bolder flanked Groves on the right with Hughes in the centre left. Easy really, wasn't it. Keane is built like a squashed Pouton - a very squashed Pouton: bullet headed and squat, he pointed a lot in the pre-match kickabout, in which, incidentally, the orange and blue bibs were used.

As three o'clock approached the atmosphere in the ground reached snooze pitch. The Leicester fans were curiously quiet - bored? Apprehensive? Or were they a bit brighter than your average Wolves fan and refused to count their headless chickens before they'd blown automatic promotion?

Two minutes before kick off, a load of Town fans stood up and started singing very loudly, which visibly bemused the Leicester fans sat near us. Perhaps the Town fans thought they'd never get the chance to be heard during the game, what with 30,000 satisfied midlanders waiting to party, so they'd get their whole repertoire in early. Which they did - every single one of them, just one line each in throaty defiance - and then the game began.

First half

Leicester kicked off towards the end where the Town fans were (to the right as per TV, it seemed). They didn't kick the ball out of play, which is almost cheating. That's the way we do things down here in the first! Any more of that sort of thing and we won't let them play with our ball next year. We have standards.

The opening couple of minutes were fast and a little frantic, with each team having a thrust parried easily. Then after two minutes and three seconds Town's concentration, hitherto perfect, was broken. Rogers was allowed to clip in a cross to the far post, from their left, near the corner of the penalty area. The ball floated over Santos to Benjamin, about seven yards out. Oddly, he chested the ball behind himself, then tried an Izzettian overhead kick, which arced over Coyne and over the bar, kissing the roof of the net on its way to San Jose.

A minute or so later, Leicester broke exceedingly quickly, like Mr Kipling's cakes, and Benjamin was released on the left of the Town penalty area as Santos hesitated. Benjamin pulled back his right leg and whacked a thumping great shot... against the swooping eagle's talons, for Santos saved the day with his enveloping presence; like Dracula's cloak he wraps himself around his prey, who is transfixed with fear and awe. Fortunately for Benjamin, Santos didn't sink his teeth into his flesh. Well, he doesn't play for Sheffield United any more. Town are vegetarians.

Town! Attack! Shoot! Yes, something happened, and it happened right now, with some nice passing and moving down the centre and right, involving Bolder (the man who moves like a prototype android, each limb moving in sequence, only after the previous limb has completed its action). You can't hear the motors though (and nobody has since 1980). Repulsed by the old Titans in the centre, the ball rolled back to McDermott, who looped a high cross over to the far post. Impey missed his header and Mansaram, perhaps a dozen yards out and wide of goal, lashed a first-time, swinging and dodging volley towards the top left corner of the goal. The ball hit Taggart on the back and ballooned up and over the angle of post and bar. Worth an "ooh" and got an "ooh". "Ooh."

The corner fizzed through the centre of the six-yard box and the referee gave Leicester a free kick because someone fell over. That's the story of most corners; the ref arbitrarily gave a free kick to the defending team because someone hit the turf gurning. It didn't take long for the two teams to work this out, so each set piece became a contest in falling over in the most amusing and unlikely fashion. Like a Monty Python sketch made flesh. Groves won, with some lovely accidental collisions with Taggart, who became very agitated. And it was this that provided most of the interest in the first half, for Town players took it in turns to wind him up, indulging in a bit of antaggartism. On one glorious occasion, four - yes, four - heavily striped footballers walked into, tripped, nudged and shoved the chunk of mature Irish cheddar within the space of 10 yards. Groves, Hughes, Campbell and Bolder all had a nibble on the cheese dip.

There was a three minute hold-up when Santos headed the back of Benjamin's sturdy cranium. Santos simply fell to the ground, motionless. And he didn't move for a couple of minutes. Not at all. The Town fans' mood sank lower and lower, but rose with the man. Although he wasn't a well man at all. Leicester, not being dim, spent the next five minutes whacking up high balls for Santos to head, which he eventually did.

The defenestration of Georges brought forth a further gilt-edged, golden, and some say easy chance for Leicester. A corner was won on their right, with Izzet bounding across to take it, right underneath the Town support. Around 50 Town fans loudly reminded the cockney chappie the final scoreline on Wednesday night, and of course he crumbled, literally bursting into tears, screaming that he couldn't take any more of this, running off the pitch and...of course he didn't. He flipped over a perfectly flighted cross into the centre of the goal, about eight yards out. Elliott rose above the peasants and guided a header back down towards the foot of Coyne's left post. Benjamin, unmarked, snuck around the back and wafted his right foot in the approximate area of the ball. Warning lights flashed on our map. We eventually opened our eyes and to our surprise it was still 0-0, as good old Trev had missed the ball, just a yard out from goal.

A minute or so later a Leicester surge down their left resulted in ping-pong crosses, blocks, deflection and reflections on what might have been, as Benjamin thwacked a drive from the centre, 20 yards out, which sailed through the air with the greatest of ease and missed Coyne's left post by a few inches.

The game then entered a curious period when neither side had a clear-cut opening, but there were many ‘moments of danger'. Walker dropped a corner, but only to himself, as the ball bounced back into his arms. McDermott made a couple of superb runs down the right wing to provide overlapping support to Bolder, who had dribbled down the centre on breakaways. The resulting crosses were blocked for corners. No action to report. Scowcroft bundled about, Benjamin surged, Rogers and Impey crossed, but there were no saves to make, or chances created. Town blocked, Town headed, Town smothered with numbers. The occasional cross got through, but the headers were wayward or, more often than not, a free kick was given. Rodgers flung in a couple of long throws, but Santos dealt with them by falling over most convincingly.

The nearest Leicester got was after a break down their left, a cross and a clearance by Santos, which hit Scowcroft on the hand. The referee allowed play to continue, with the ball at the feet of a Leicester player eight yards out. But Ford and Santos flung themselves at the ball and the shot was blocked, with the ball dribbling to Coyne. Groves headed a Gallimore free kick just over the angle of post and bar from close in, and - well, that's just about all the Town attacks that resulted in something barely tangible. The movement was interesting and fluid, but the final ball...that phrase again, it could be cut-and-pasted into every report. [I've set up a macro, actually - Ed.]

Near half time Santos stooped to head while Scowcroft leapt to kick, resulting in another couple of minutes' stoppage for the physio to come on and glue Santos' head back on to his shoulders. Half time, nearly half time, could Town hold on? Yes, for the nearest Leicester got was another long-range shot from Benjamin, this time from about 20 yards and near the right corner of the penalty area. The ball wobbled towards the post, but Wales' occasional bench-sitter majestically soared across and tipped it away for a corner.

A minute or so later Mansaram twisted left, turned right, shimmied, shammied and drifted past Elliott and Taggart. Right in the centre and on the edge of the penalty area he mis-hit a low shot through a defender's legs for a corner. The corner flew over to the far post, where Groves chased after it into the corner flag, did a slow motion stepover, then a full blown, authentic, Pouton stepover. The referee ended the half immediately, for what could top that?

It could have been worse, and was adequate, especially given the personnel on the field. Bolder was very impressive when he didn't have the ball. He ain't no passer, that's for sure, but he tackles like a relentless tiger (rather than a hopeless Tiger). Keane, well, he ran around a lot, waving his arms in Donovanesque fashion when approached by an opponent, always rushing to the left touchline when Coyne had the ball and rushing towards the corner taker. He got in the way of Leicester and stood in the right places, which is a start, I suppose. Ford was his usual lackadaisical self - the King of Cool mixing solidity with some bizarre clearances, none better than his groin-away of a cross.

But 0-0 it was. It ain't our fault if Trevor Benjamin can't shoot straight. But he was having an awful lot of shots. one was bound to go in sooner or later, wasn't it?

Stu's half-time toilet talk

"At least Gillingham painted the walls."
"Santos - a man barely alive. Do you think they can rebuild him?"
"He's going to take my dad's cap from 1926."
"They think we'll win 1-0, but we know there's a headed goal coming in the 66th minute."
"Who is Vic Goddard?"

Second half

Neither team made any changes at half time, and all went swimmingly for Town for quarter of an hour. They broke in numbers, causing problems to the ageing defenders. Bolder and Mansaram menaced the Foxes down the Town right with some excellent link up play. Within the first five minutes, Mansaram received the ball on the halfway line, close to the right touchline. He knocked the ball over Taggart's head and spun around the giant haystack, who tried to halt The Flash with a kick in the goolies. Fortunately he missed. Mansaram continued down the line, cut inside, looked up and crossed towards the near post. Bolder, about eight yards out, leant back and wellied a half-volley just over the bar, as Campbell flung his arms up in frustration.

A few minutes after that, Leicester made tentative enquiries down the Town left, but Santos made an enormous tackle, then another, to rip the ball off the foot of a sneaky Reynard. And thus started a flowing move from left to right, then down the touchline, with Campbell flipping a back-heeled, volleyed pass down the line to send McDermott free, who passed into Bolder, just inside the box. Bolder stepped inside one challenge and tried to crash a singing left-footed drive, but mis-hit it slightly and the ball rumbled low to Walker's right. The floppy haired fopster plopped onto the ball with no great concern. Free flowing or what!

This was just too good to last, wasn't it. Town in the slight ascendancy, Leicester huffing and puffing, but Town creating the danger. The Town fans were beginning to believe. Big mistake. Pride comes before a fall, if not a foul.

A couple of Leicester attacks nearly caused worry, with Groves deflecting a shot wide of the post after a drag-back to the edge of the area. Mmmm. Benjamin stepped inside Santos and, from the left corner of the Town area, cracked a curling left-footed drive around two defenders to Coyne's left. Coyne caught some thermals, hanging like a barn owl above his afternoon tea, and one handedly pushed the shot aside. Well, we liked it.

Around the hour mark Leicester exerted some consistent pressure, with Town being unable to clear a free kick; the ball just kept coming back into the area. Eventually it was sliced out to the Leicester right and a cross was hit in towards the near post. Ford and Santos both went to head the ball with no Leicester player challenging. The ball skimmed off Ford's head across goal and beyond the far post. Scowcroft raced around the back and from a narrow angle, perhaps 10 yards beyond the far post, hooked a first-time cross back into the centre. BENJAMIN, unmarked and just a few yards out, dived forward and headed into an open goal. Finally some noise was heard from all those blue clad blobs out there in the cold distance.

The game became a touch tetchy after this, with some fruity tackles and salty shoves. Rogers, in particular, lost touch with Planet Earth, clattering a Town player, then engaging in a slanging and shoving match with Campbell, who was pulled away by an irate Irishman and calmed down by Matt 'The Peacemaker' Elliott. Other players ran across and there were several slaps and tickles going on behind the referee's back. The upshot of all this heaving and ho-ing was a yellow card to Rogers and a Town free kick halfway inside the Leicester half, right on the touchline.

About 10 minutes later Rogers, sitting in his tin can far away from you, re-entered the solar system, having taken some stress pills and a huge gulp of oxygen. Leicester got a couple of free kicks near goal, one of which Izzet curled to Coyne, the other charged down when tapped sideways. And there were more crosses and Santos headers away. You know, the usual sort of thing. Halfway through the half Boulding was seen preparing to come on, and rather nice hair he now has, having used his recuperation time to grow a bit of a bounce on his bonce.

With about 20 minutes left Leicester lobbed the ball down the middle and McDermott intercepted a flick-on, but headed straight back to Benjamin, who simply dinked it over the top to the unmarked Stewart, just to the left of centre and about 20 yards out. The perfectly positioned Town fans cried "offside" and all the players seemed to stop. Stewart finally got the ball under control, walked forward and shot against Coyne. The ball rebounded out to DAVIDSON, a bit further wide than Stewart and just inside the penalty area. He carefully steered the ball wide of Coyne and just inside the right hand post.

At this a party started, for the Leicester fans realised that fate was beyond tempting. They taunted the pocket of Grimsby tucked safely in a corner. They considered that Town were going down with Derby and, eventually, that Leicester were going up. They then started a Mexican wave, which is to their shame (and that of the half-dozen Town fans who joined in). The ground may look blandly American, but they didn't have to act like them. This is football, not frisbee flipping.

A couple of minutes after the second goal Groves was replaced by Boulding, which gave the newly confident Leicesterovians a further opportunity to show how far their civilisation had advanced - 40 miles to the west, to St Andrews - for they adopted the oh-so-funny Birmingham trick of shouting "who?" when the opposition substitutions were announced. Read your programme, or look at the scoreboard.

With the introduction of Boulding, Town reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, with Hughes and Bolder in the centre. This gave Leicester more space into which Izzet, in particular, could advance; and they continued to pile forward, creating half chance after half chance. Forgive the lack of detail, but when Town are 2-0 down there is no real point in continuing - the game is over, so peripheral matters become fascinating. Why was Mighty Mariner wearing large shorts patterned with bears over his jeans? Is that a Rasta I see before me, for that surely isn't local hair for local people? Ooh, look - some pigeons!

With 10 minutes left Mansaram was replaced by Livingstone, the creation memorably described as resembling an igloo made of marzipan; and Bolder was replaced by Cooke. All this meant that Cooke went to right wing and Keane to central midfield. I hesitate to describe Livingstone for Mansaram as a like-for-like swap, but in the context of loose generalisations it was - a striker for a striker. Cooke's first contribution was a good cross into the near post which was headed away for a corner. A good cross, but a pity it was towards midget Michael and not the looming Livvopotomus. Cooke's second cross was a high, droopy, loopy scoop, which was a waste.

His third appearance was far more interesting. A Town attack was half cleared and the ball was immediately zipped forward to Boulding, offside and 25 yards out to the right of the Leicester goal. Boulding shinned the ball towards the by-line, got it caught up between his ankles, turned around once and from a few yards wide of goal rolled a pass behind Elliott to the unmarked Livingstone, seven yards out at the near post. Now an untrained Livvo watcher would assume that the talismanic terminator of Tranmere keepers hilariously miskicked the ball off his shins. How little these people know. Livvo spotted Walker a yard off his line and decided this was the moment when he would show the world his delicate nature, he'd show "that Zidane bloke" how to do it. Livvo chipped a beautiful spinning lob over Walker and the ball thumped against the face of the crossbar, bouncing out to the right of goal. Cooke raced in and smashed a first-time volley from about eight yards out, which hit Elliott, and was parried by Walker across the face of goal. Livvo waddled forward, the ball hitting his shins, bouncing back towards Walker and, finally, from a yard out, Livvo lashed the ball into the roof of the net. Unstoppable, and the most beautifully created goal, ever, today, by Town, on balance. Up went the Town support, down went the Town support, all in one seamless movement, for the linesman had flagged for Livvo being offside. Drat, drat and triple drat. "Offside? Moi?" Livvo never said. Yes - Livvo, the Archie Rice of Grimsby, was on the pitch; his mind was boggling and, like all bad sitcoms, it was with outrageous results.

A minute after Town's disallowed goal Scowcroft jumped at Coyne at the near post: the ball ran loose, Benjamin smacked the ball in, and Town got a free kick, for Scowcroft's unsubtle molesting of the revered one. One of the pigeons flew straight down one of the exit tunnels, and I refuse to make a Dick Dastardly reference here, or a caustic reference to any Town player; they don't deserve lazy criticism. I thought the pigeons were rubbish though - no co-ordination in their swooping.

Around the same time, Hughes curled a shot from about 20 yards just over the bar. Towards the end Livvo turned in midfield and flicked a pass with the outside of his right boot between two defenders. Unfortunately, it was slightly overhit and Boulding just failed to get there before Walker. Apart from a Santos surge down the centre, when he took on four Leicester players before overhitting his through pass to Boulding, that was Town's attacking. Our only moment of potential excitement was when Elliott decided to duck underneath a deflected cross and, for the splittest of seconds, a comedy consolation goal was a possibility. But it didn't, so it wasn't. Oh well - why waste a goal?

Leicester had numerous opportunities in the last 10 minutes, with Benjamin dragging a shot wide from the left of the Town area and Stewart hesitating when attacking a bouncing ball about 10 yards out with just Coyne between him and goal. Coyne did one of his star jump blocks. Ford managed to get himself in a tizz by kicking the ball against an attacker when clearing, the ball arcing over Coyne and being swiped clear by Ford himself. The Leicester substitute, Wright, twice cut inside from their left and dragged shots wide of the near post. Stewart tried a speculative volleyed cross-shot from about 25 yards, way, way to the right of goal, which Coyne caught easily at chest height.

Right at the very end, another injury scare. Some dreadfully casual defending saw Town keep kicking the ball against Leicester players, then themselves. The ball crazily bumbled around the area and finally through to Coyne, who jumped on the ball, let it go and had to snatch it off a striker's foot. In the process he got a kick on the hand. Finally the pigeons went home and so did we. The Town fans applauded the team off, for they had performed OK. It was simply that Leicester were a better team - they looked a bit more solid at the back and had better strikers. Benjamin was a pest all day and was bound to score; the laws of probability were on his side. Town didn't look awful, but the song remains the same as they resembled a relegation side - occasional errors in defence and lightweight upfront. The bit in the middle was fine. Taken in isolation, this was just a normal, average game between two teams at either end of mid-table. But with six games left, the look ain't enough. This isn't ice skating; you don't get points for style.

Farewell Leicester, we shall not see the likes of you for many years. Get some more toilets for next time.

Nicko's man of the match

There should be a default setting here, for again, it was the great Grimsby Gaul, Georges Santos, literally heads above the rest. [Like I say, these macros are really useful - Ed.] No-one was poor; he was simply the best, with some huge headers, especially after he had twice been decapitated, some fine control in intercepting passes and exciting surges upfield.

Official warning
Mr D Crick

A curious fellow, seemingly afraid of making a controversial decision in the penalty area. Distinctly average, though not awful, he was in danger of losing control when Rogers embarked upon his exploration of Andromeda, and he ignored the Taggart-Groves bickering. He needs a score, doesn't he? Well, how about 5.967.