The pump don't work

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

27 March 2004

Chesterfield 4 Grimsby Town 4

A dull, still, grey afternoon in Sheffield's lost suburb, the Atlantis of Derbyshire, with around 500 Town supporters slouched against the crush barriers on the open terrace behind one of the goals. Bemusement, incredulity, indifference and general confusion abounded as we peered upon the lush green turf. Another week, another Town.

Is that a new player or has Warhurst had his hair cut? Who's the Beau Geste with the Foreign Legion crew-cut? Ah, that's Armstrong, due for testimonial soon of course, nearing ten whole games for Town. In these mercenary times loyalty should be rewarded. Wherrrrrrre's Jonny? Perhaps Rowan's in the basement, mixing up the medicine. He won't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows when his contract expires in June. Hey! No Edwards again, yet Ford is out there lolloping around like Daisy the pregnant cow.

Town lined up in what many would guess as a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Fettis, Crowe, Warhurst, Young, Armstrong, Anderson, Coldicott, Lawrence, Barnard, Antoine-Curier and Rankin. The substitutes were Jevons, Mansaram, Thorrington, Ford and that was it. Just four on the bench. Oh, nope, it's Campbell.

Lean back in your chair, stroke your chin, raise your left eyebrow and look at the ceiling. Is that a crack? No, no, it's Law's latest lullaby to hush us to sleep. Tonight Matthew, Jamie Lawrence, flying right winger by day, shall be transformed into a hustling, bustling playmaking central midfielder. Yes, he's going to be... not Des Hamilton. So who is captain then? Must be the international? No, not Barnard. Must be the longest serving player and heartbeat of the notional 'team'? No, not Coldicott. Step forward Jamie with his magic torch. [You have got to be fucking kidding me - Ed.] And no Jevons - now that's a way to get the fans behind you, isn't it.

Chesterfield were big, they played in blue and they had a rat, or a rabbit, or a wolf or something indefinably animalistic but grey as the mascot. They also had teenage girls pom-pomming. How quaint: they are ten years behind Town, who are ten years behind everyone else. Welcome to 1984. No perms or tight shorts though, at least not on the pitch.

First half
Chesterfield kicked off towards the Town support. It went in the air, it stayed in the air, it eventually went out. Repeat for the next five minutes. Hit it long, hit it high; at least we could see the ball without these new-fangled modernist notions of a roof. Some Town players tackled Chesterfield players. The referee blew his whistle a lot. There were some offsides. Fettis even nearly almost thought about coming off his line to flick a crisp packet away from the penalty spot.

Bored already? Let's talk about the alfresco toilets then. We had the traditional Yorkshire wall, painted black and with a perfect view of the... oh sorry - Chesterfield Is Not In Yorkshire. There's a T-shirt in there somewhere, isn't there?

I'm not telling you about anything that happened because nothing did until now. After about ten minutes, Town got a corner on the left. Barnard tapped it to Coldicott, who stopped it and allowed Barnard to flap it high beyond the far post. Anderson drimbled around the back and from about a dozen yards out leapt hugely to smack a firm header down and through the six-yard box. The ball bounced once, hit a Chesterfield player somewhere near the hand and diverted straight to Muggleton on the line.

Back to life, back to reality. There ain't nothin' going on. Even the official matchday programme failed to divert attention; I suppose I'll have to watch the park football the other side of the wall. Antoine-Curier almost won a header, but he didn't. The towering Spireites lumbered forward, barging into Warhust and Young. Town got a few goal kicks.

You know, there aren't many lamps on the floodlights. Just eight on each. Perhaps they sell them off one by one when trading gets sticky. Hey, there's an idea for Town's website once they've sold off all the old crockery: the family silver has long gone.

A-C kept missing the ball or controlling it out of play. Rankin ran around muscularly, and Anderson kept jumping very high. Did he have ants in his pants? No, the ball was always up where it doesn't belong, sailing towards the stately homes of England that line the faraway Derwent Valley.

After 19 minutes Chesterfield got a free kick about 30 yards out, in the centre. One of the fuller backs waddled up and dinked the ball straight over the wall. Hurst ran across from their left, twisted, flicked his floppy hair and, from about 10 yards out, diverted the ball by about 20 degrees: just enough to wrong-foot Fettis, who had scrambled over to the foot of his left post. First shot, first goal and a silly schoolboy trick too. If proper fans don't set conditions for their support, then proper footballers don't concede goals like that.

Town did seem to respond by running around a bit more and even got around to passing to each other, which is nice. They did this by avoiding Armstrong, who spent the first part of the game whacking the ball down the left touchline for a variety of throw-ins and goal kicks to the blue-collar bruisers. If Chesterfield were basic, then Town were basically rubbish. At least the opposition had a method, a game plan; we could see what they were trying to do. What was that? Did I miss something? Was that really Madame Curie flicking a deft little header a few feet wide of the far post? Yes it was. Someone crossed from the right, Barnard headed back across goal and A-C Gallicly shrugged the ball aside and a-wide.

Chesterfield had another effort, which probably looked close to those sat in the seats. It wasn't; it was always going wide. A free kick 25 yards out on the centre right, curled over the wall and hitting the green pole that held the net up. Fettis had a little trot over, just for something to do. Around the same time Reeves headed into the side netting from a very narrow angle on their right. Again, only those terminally deranged, or in the press box, would have been concerned.

Was that a passing move? It was! One, two, buckle my shoe. Coldicott, Anderson and Rankin the flickering flames, the dying embers of old Town style, finagling a slick, one-touch flick and tricking interchange down the right. But the Frenchman mis-controlled the ball on the edge of the area. Quelle surprise.

A couple of minutes later Town raided down the left with Rankin racing away and knocking the ball down the line to Antoine-Curier. The ball ricocheted back to Rankin, who took a couple of strides forward and slashed a shot over the bar from just outside the penalty area. Some Town fans permitted themselves a little "oooh", just for old times' sake. You know, just to keep their hand in; we don't want to get too rusty at this excitement and celebration lark, do we.

With about 10 minutes left to half time Town got a free kick way out in the centre. Barnard tapped it to Anderson, who dinked, jinked, and winked his way past one, then two defenders. Anderson, about 25 yards out on the centre right, thwacked a low, right-footed drive across Muggleton, the ball skipping off a divot (no, not Antoine-Curier) and high into the right side of the net. We laughed.

Chesterfield finally threatened from one of their huge throw-ins, this time from their left. Launched long, flicked on, and beefy Blatherwick got bad eyebrows on the ball, with Fettis calmly plucking the dropping snowdrop from the sky. Have you noticed something? Chesterfield 'threatened' only from free kicks and throw-ins. How wonderful it must be to watch this every week. Town, on the other hand, threatened, ooooh, last year, when passing the ball was not a punishable offence.

With two or three minutes left to half time Town had some kind of movement towards the other goal. Legs flashed and flailed, with a blue boot diverting the ball away from Rankin. Antoine-Curier chased the ball and allowed it to roll out of play about 10 yards from the bye-line. The linesman pointed upfield, but the referee overruled him, pointing to his shins and indicating a Town throw.

The officials had a little argument while the defenders stood around and moaned, and Crowe picked up the ball and threw it to the totally unmarked Antoine-Curier, who bounded along the bye-line inside the penalty area and rolled the ball into the centre. Lawrence, on the six-yard line, in the middle, caressed the ball into the empty net. We started laughing again, as did the Town players, by the look of it. The homesters gathered around the referee, moaning and groaning, with at least one of 'em getting booked.

As the game drifted to half time they pressed down the Town left, with Armstrong giving possession away with another vague attempt at whacking the ball up the line. Young was forced to sprint across and perform a terrific twisting, hooking tackle to dispossess Reeves just outside the Town penalty area. As he twisted he fell on his shoulder and writhed around in agony. Reeves had a go at Young, and the Town fans had a go at old git Reeves. Young was taken off the field in obvious agony and, to the obvious agony of the Town fans, Ford took his protein pills and put his helmet on, warming up just a few yards, but many moons, away.

Young came back on. The referee blew his whistle, The half ended.

All the Ceefax watchers were, no doubt, pleased. But it was dire, truly awful. If we close our eyes it doesn't matter about such quaint metropolitan notions as style and beauty, does it? Never mind the quality; feel the width - and at least we had some with Anderson back.

So, this Lawrence bloke then. You want to know? He may have lots of legs, but why did he bring two duff ones with him? He didn't duck, he did stand near opponents, he did tackle. And he scored. But apart from that there isn't anything to say about him. Have I missed something out? Oh yes: Barnard had a rubbish shot, which went way over the bar.

Let me think, some way to sum up the half... a pithy one-liner... what a load of old cobblers.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Campbell's been invisible again."
"The only way Town'll get three points is if the coach driver was speeding through Staveley."
"Is Lawrence Des-light, or Des-lite?"
"Take your brolly to the toilet - wasn't that by Iron Maiden?"
"Stand behind the yellow lines, there's a train coming."

Second half
Town didn't make any changes at half time, though Chesterfield did, taking off some bloke later identified as the one who got injured in the first half and replacing him with the Gus of Wind, Uhlenbeek.

Town started well, squeezing down the right with Coldicott robbing some klutz and sending Anderson behind the full-back. From near the corner flag Anderson curled a high cross to the far post, where Rankin leant back and headed towards the centre of the six-yard box. Antoine-Curier, with his back to goal, put a foot up and then his shoulders slumped as a big blue boot appeared to welly clear.

Town didn't get inside the Chesterfield penalty area for another 38 minutes.

The Derbyshire droogs pummelled forward, abandoning their prissy route one stuff for something more direct. The ball was literally hoofed as far and as high down the middle of the pitch as possible. There were moments when they got carried away with their territorial domination, when one or two of their players started to have ideas above their footballing station. Quite amusing it was to see them try some passing along the ground. You could see the panic in their shinpads as the ball bombled towards them. The spirit of Corporal Jones wafted through the still air: apt given that Town don't like it up 'em. A bit of cold steel always undoes the Town trousers.

Cross after cross, header after header. Yawn... get on with it, Chesterfield; we know you're going to score soon. Is this it? Young tackled well and the ball reared up and hit Coldicott's hand. A free kick in the centre about 25 yards out. Some bloke ambled up and slapped a wild shot well wide of the right hand post.

Well, that wasn't it. Perhaps this then. A corner from their left hit hard, hit low and a big bloke about 10 yards out headed firmly goalwards. The ball disappeared into a thicket of legs and other limbs. Players jumped about and the ball was scrambled away from the foot of the left post. Maybe Fettis saved, maybe it was cleared off the line; whatever - it didn't go in.

Another minute, another 'maybe' moment. Brandon fizzed down their left, with Crowe in urgent pursuit, into the area, towards the bye-line. Crowe tackled, Brandon fell. Penalty, cried the multitude. Corner, said the referee. It looked more a penalty than a corner from our perfect vantage point 120 yards away. Phew, the referee has taken agin the homeboys.

Oh no he hasn't . Coldicott mugged in mid air: play on. Lawrence restrained by special constable Evatt, using truncheon and secured by handcuffs: play on.

A flicked header at the near post, plopping to Fettis; a long throw, a scramble, Brandon continually pestering Crowe; Town barely able to reach the halfway line. Around the hour Warhurst stood in Zhang-like tranquillity, arm in air, meditating. Ommm, ommm. I am at peace with the Earth, the Earth I am at peace with, yeah, yeah. Hurst ran off, down their right, crossed and the ball was headed back to Uhlenbeek in the middle of the penalty area. Windy Gus fell over the ball, allowing just enough time for Stacy to race over and sweep danger away with his trusty dustpan and broom. You'd have thought the referee would have noticed the cleaning implements being brought onto the field of play.

Another long throw, another flick with a big balding bruiser free inside the Town area. Must have been a defender, for the shot flew free as a bird towards the craggy dips and dales of the Peak District.

After about 65 minutes Chesterfield got a free kick about 25 yards out near the left corner of the Town penalty area. Uhlenbeek swung it into the centre of the area and Reeves, stood on the penalty spot, stooped in front of Warhurst and glanced a header into the bottom right-hand corner. The old Fettis tree was felled by an invisible lumberjack. The locals woke up.

Young was substituted a minute later, holding his shoulder, enduring a painful walk to the dressing room. The stewards allowed his dad to go down the tunnel, which was nice of them. Now that was a great big shame for Town too, for Young had played very well - the pick of the Town defenders. Jevons came on, to much public demand, with Armstrong moving to the centre of defence and Barnard to left-back. At first it looked like Ford was to replace Young but the Town fans made it pretty clear that this ought not to happen.

I'd like to tell you more, but there isn't anything to tell you about until seven minutes later, when Antoine-Curier was caught offside. The free kick, about 10 yards inside the Chesterfield half, was launched straight down the middle. All their big blokes ambled forward and settled on the edge of the Town penalty area. They all jumped and a bald head flicked the ball on. Brandon sneaked around the back, with Crowe behind. Around the penalty spot Brandon caught up with the ball and fell over, as did Crowe. Barnard cleared and... the referee was suddenly Mr Popular down Saltergate way. Reeves placed the penalty kick into the bottom left corner as Fettis ailed to his right.

Emboldened by the fortuitous lead, the 'Field fans started a cheeky chant of "Nicky out". The Town fans didn't respond with supportive shouts for the Bouncer. Just silence and a few caustic comments about "we never wanted him in".

Around this time Town got over the halfway line. Just once.

A period of great drossfulness chuntered on towards full time. The Town fans who had some life left began to get angry with each wally, welly and whack. With 10 minutes left the Frenchman was replaced by Mansaram, a move that was seen as an improvement. You wouldn't have bet on that last week, would you.

And there was an improvement. Mansaram held the ball up, then ran free down the left and crossed towards the near post, but behind Coldicott. But hey, that was the first time Town players had come to see the Town supporters for ages. We'd forgotten what they looked like - always assuming that Law hadn't gone out and signed a few more new players in the meantime.

With five minutes left the game went haywire. Lawrence collected a knock down and burst through the centre. Two defenders bundled him over about 30 yards out. The ball rolled on to Innes, who looked at the referee, saw the referee staring at him, then kicked the ball away. Out came a yellow card, then a red. Ah, so it was him who got booked after Town's second goal. The referee, prompted by Coldicott, picked up the ball and marched forward 10 ever-decreasing paces up to the middle of the D. Jevons and Barnard stood over the ball. Muggleton stood in the middle of his goal and joined us in admiring Barnard's delightful little sand iron into the top left hand corner. The Town fans laughed.

Chesterfield kicked off, Town won it back, Coldicott played the ball out to Barnard in the left-back position, who hit a superbly weighted pass inside the full back. Mansaram ran across from the centre, twisted and hit a first-time cross from a narrow angle across the face of goal. Muggleton ached arthritically down and missed the ball; Blatherwick stretched and missed, but Rankin, a yard out, didn't. The Town fans cheered and began to count several chickens.

Oh what a party, Chesterfield defeated, abject, dejected, streaming out of the ground in their tens. Mansaram wasted a couple of minutes by the left corner flag, winning throw-ins and free kicks, getting a player booked for barging him into the crowd. A corner, kept by the corner flag and the referee finally gave in and awarded Chesterfield a free kick. Muggleton wellied the ball forward from about five yards in and upfield. What does it matter, eh; the game has been won, such trifling matters can be overlooked.

Oh. The ball was headed to their left and Brandon, a pesky little blighter all afternoon, skipped past Coldicott and zoomed towards the penalty area. Crowe stood his ground and Brandon flicked the ball out wide, tumbling spectacularly over an invisible leg. The crooked Spireite had won another penalty. Reeves placed the ball high to Fettis' left, as the wandering Hullite wafted beneath.

The kick off was delayed as the referee sent off Mansaram, presumably for dissent. All of which meant a further delay as the whole Town team surrounded the green manalishi to discuss recent developments in soil technology. Or something. Can't think what else it would be.

Game over, season over? What a waste, what a waste of time. The last five minutes were pure madness and blurred the reality of the previous 85. Chesterfield have the worst players in the division and Town struggled to get the ball off them. Chesterfield were big, and they didn't have to be clever to cause Town problems. It is still impossible to discern a method for Town; the goals came from individuals doing something rather than from organised team play.

This game had everything - except skill, finesse, decent refereeing and all those things that raise the professional game above pub football. Don't worry too much; we'll be playing them next year. In Division Three.

Oh, and the crowd was 4,444. Wow, like yeah, really freaky. Perhaps that's why the ref gave the last penalty - he's into symmetry.

Nicko's man of the match
Iain Anderson, when he got the ball, was Town's most threatening attacker. But the jury retired for a short period only and came back with a majority verdict: Greg Young, for fortitude under fire, solitude standing.

Markie's un-man of the match
Mickael Antoine-Curier achieved the previously unthinkable: a Town crowd pining for the introduction of Darren Mansaram. He won two headers and is only partly redeemed by setting up the second goal. Our survey said: uh-uh. Sorry - Mickael isn't up there; try again.

Official warning
Pah! Mr F Stretton infuriated the locals with some pettiness and sent the Town contingent stratospheric with his penalty decisions. Everyone had something to complain about. One must leap to the players' defence here, though, and I'd be prepared to provide a witness statement; they definitely did not use the 'C' word to him. They never accused him of being competent. If he was that fussed about dissent he would have sent Jim Reeves off way before the end for his constant harassment. So, a score on the door, Isla? He gets 3.41075 on the Richter scale of arbitrary assessing.