Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
20 September 2003
Grimsby Town 4 Chesterfield 0
A clear hot, hot, then humid day in the tunnel of love that is Blundell Park with around 300-350 Chesterfieldians recreating their summer ancestral charabanc trip, lazing on this sunny afternoon. The Mighty Mariner was eventually spotted, never straying more than a dozen yards from the players' tunnel. Perhaps the club think that the Main Stand needs special treatment, to whip into a frenzy of apathy using only foam and imagination?
The Mighty Mariner is supposed to lead the crowd, not hide. Is it Stuart Campbell inside there? Or perhaps it's another money-saving scheme and part of the new-style contracts - the injured players have to take it in turns to provide match day entertainment. Or maybe it's Phil Jevons, which would explain why it never went near the Pontoon: the overpaid player's fear of the goalmouth. Whatever, the Mighty Mariner is a spectral presence these days, almost gone, and almost not forgotten.
There was much interest in the new players, with at least one irregular claiming to be "excited" by the signing of Iffy Onoura. He was easy to spot, but what about Daws? There? No, that's Cas? There? No, that's Groves. Nope, can't spot him. He must be injured already. Typical - Groves hang-glides over South Yorkshire and scoops up a couple of broken old codgers.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, McDermott, Ford, Crane, Barnard, Cas, Daws, Campbell, Hockless, Boulding and Onuora (or as announced by the tannoy "hurhahhhahahuha", or was he clearing his throat?). The substitutes were Bolder, Edwards, Nimmo, Crowe and Mansaram, whose pre-match shooting practice dislodged many pies, hats and quiffs in the Pontoon. Oh, so that's Daws. The one who looks a bit like Groves, who runs a bit like Groves and we'll soon see which vintage of Groves he plays like. Chateau Grove du Pomp 1994 would be ideal.
At 2:45 a Lancaster flew over the ground, its bomb doors failing to open. Some people clapped this accidental fly-past. How very odd. For those completists out there, Daws was number 32, while Onuora was number 39. Neither won the half-time lottery draw. Now if David Nielsen was the Golden Dude, would Onuora be the Golden Oldie Dude? We'll soon see if this Dude abides.
The tannoy had a second, slightly more successful, go at pronouncing Onuora and the Pontoon drummer returned.
Chesterfield kicked off towards the Pontoon with a vague thwack towards their huge, enormous, gigantic and also quite large centre-forwards, Folan and Evatt. Vague thwacking characterised most of their play, which was, for the most part, monotonously one-dimensional. Ball up, head down. Tiresome, but often effective against Town defences, let alone this Town defence. The visitors twice caused problems with hoofs up to the twin towers and Brandon sneaking off the left wing, drifting into the centre and collecting the knock-down.
After three minutes the offside flag saved Town; after four minutes Davison, with a curious window cleaner's save, parried the ball just over the bar, following a smacking shot from Brandon, 25 yards out on the centre left. The corner caused a bit of minor Town flappage as the ball dropped, plummeted and generally bobbled around a few yards from goal. Fortunately a Chesterfield player cleared the ball with a swinging volley from about six yards out. How nice of them to help the old lady. All Town had to show for five minutes of barging about was a soft Onuora header after a high, drooping cross from Cas.
Daws had a very uninspiring start, his first two passes being misplaced. But no-one muttered too much, for Town were beginning to play the ball around, to feet, with Davison starting to roll the ball out to the full backs. You know, like Town used to do, way back when. A quick flick by Boulding sent Cas free down the centre right; he bore down upon goal and let fly, his shot seeming to take a deflection and skip off the side of Muggelton's near post for a corner. That woke us up a bit. The corner sent us back to sleep again.
Then we woke up again, courtesy of the referee who, to the amazement of all but the inhabitants of the Osmond Stand, started to penalise Town's opponents for things like fouls. And we thought that sort of thing had been erased from the game by a FIFA directive in 1992. Hockless was hoiked down and several seconds later the full back strolled over to the ball and wellied it downfield. Out came the yellow card and forward went the free kick, to the edge of the area. You can sit down now, don't get excited, stop daydreaming and it's not because he's short. Hockless placed the ball, Gallimore style, into the shins of the player third from right in the wall.
Cas was starting to frighten the Chesterfield defenders with his power running and, as ever, Boulding was all scampering and twisting on the edge of the area. A fine Town move down the right, involving Cas, McDermott and Boulding, saw our little pony drift past his marker, cut back onto his left foot and curl a delightful, de-loverly cross to the far post. Hockless waited; Onuora shuffled across and glanced the ball away from the Tiny Tot, effectively clearing it.
Around the quarter hour Town really should have scored. Cas was sent free down the centre left and, as one would expect, no-one could catch him. Muggleton raced off his line and smothered the attempted dink. The ball rebounded towards Boulding, who was levered away using planks, ropes and an army of Assyrian slaves. He still managed to get in a shot, which Muggleton again smothered at source, with the ball rolling up and striking a white-shirted athlete somewhere close to an arm. In the grand scheme of things it was worth on "ooh" and got two.
And there's more. A Town corner from the left was headed back across goal by Onuora to Ford, who juggled once, juggled twice and dragged a low shot from the centre edge of the penalty area towards the bottom right hand corner. Muggleton zimmered across and saved at the foot of the post. Another oohsome moment.
It sounds all Town, and it was a bit like that, but Chesterfield were still attacking, still finding those holes in the centre of the Town defence. The hole was mainly Crane-shaped, for Chesterfield's next attack saw the former Wednesdayite fumble, stumble and allow Hudson to waltz through into the area. As he was about shoot, Daws cracked the ball away with a terrific sliding tackle. And then we started to notice what Daws was doing: nothing spectacular, just standing in the right places, stopping them and starting us with simple passing. An old-fashioned holding midfielder's role, allowing Campbell a bit more freedom to scurry up to help the forwards.
After 23 minutes, Boulding, Daws and Onuoura pressed the Chesterfield defenders as they tried to clear the ball. They panicked and scuffed a pass straight to Campbell, 30 yards out, who simply ran straight back at them. The defenders backtracked, waved their arms about, cried out "think of the little children!" and fled to the hills, allowing the Town terror to drift into the penalty area. Campbell scuffed a shot from the left side of the area across Muggleton and the ball bombled and embarrassed itself as it apologised its way past the flailing stopper. A big-haired defender ran back and tried to whisk the ball off the line, but succeeded only in clipping it against the post and into the net at the speed of an elderly Lincolnshire driver on a church outing.
Campbell or big-haired defender's own goal? Only the video jury can decide. Set the video to stun, Scotty. The crowd went wild, and so did Crane and Barnard. Yep, Crane had a huge barney with Barney. Ford literally prized them apart and the referee wandered over and had "words". If Ford hadn't been there then one of them would have been on the floor, teeth akimbo. It appeared that Barnard was not appreciative of some aspect of Crane's positioning, judging by the finger-pointing and amateur lip reading (expletives excepted, if not accepted by Crane).
The rest of the half was torpid, poor, so very poor, punctuated by brief moments of unfettered excitement and skill. Around the half-hour mark several things happened; a bit like buses, we'd waited ages then it comes all of a rush. Town should have scored again when Barnard surged, swayed and swaggered down the left and middle, before playing a perfect pass through to Boulding on the centre right. Boulding swept on and, from just inside the penalty area, to the right of goal, dragged a shot across Muggleton and straight out for...a corner.
The corner, on Town's left, was clipped to Barnard, waiting outside the penalty area on the left, whose first shot zipped into the area and back out again. Barnard thundered forward and murdered a shot from the edge of the area which went a few inches over the angle of post and bar.
A minute or so later Town had a beautiful flowing move down the left, started by Daws, who intercepted the ball in midfield by volleying a cushioned pass up the wing. Barnard, Daws and Hockless combined, with the tiny tot caressing a pass out to the unmarked Cas, on the right edge of the penalty area. Cas slightly miscontrolled the ball, allowing it to bounce up, giving just enough time for Muggleton to race out and block the shot.
Chesterfield broke back down the other end and the warning lights flashed on our map. The ball was knocked over Crane, who trundled back and totally mis-hit a back pass. Folan, who was wearing Leroy's hair out of Fame, pumped up the volume and was set on a collision course with the now plunging Davison. They collided; the ball rolled free and Barnard tapped it out of play, as both lay prostrate on the ground.
Folan was wheeled off the pitch and eventually replaced by Robinson. This was just one of many stoppages for injuries, including Ford, who suddenly started hopping after he'd knocked the ball back to Davison. Down he went; on came the physio; and eventually off went Ford, to be replaced just a couple of minutes before half time by Edwards. There were three minutes of added time, during which another lengthy stoppage occurred. The half ended when Boulding was hacked down from behind off the ball. No action taken - Boulding just left in a heap as everyone else walked off the pitch.
That was just about all in the first half, a scrappy, stop-start affair. Chesterfield had several more efforts on goal, including a couple of long shots that forced Davison to plunge and pluck. They probably should have scored near half time when they infiltrated the Town area on the right and the ball was pulled back to Robinson, just 10 yards out. He tried a first-time steered volley, which ended up as a poked, sliced, weak embarrassment as it rolled slowly, slowly across goal. It probably looked closer from 100 yards away, or behind a post in the press box. The Pontoon just "pfft"-ed at that.
Town were leading and it should have been by at least three, but that defence was still not convincing. The full backs were untroubled, but the centre had difficulties with two large lumps of lignite. Having said that, Edwards had a cracking two minutes, so there was hope for the second half.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Well that's two teams worse than us so far."
"It's nice to see we have the real Barnard back from the garage."
"My money's on Gladys."
"This is my first game this year. We were better last season."
"I like that Daws, he's big."
Chesterfield made a change at half time, bringing on Rushbury for Davies, news which failed to cause ripples of excitement among the Chesterfield fans, nor waves of fear among the Townites. How about the word indifference? That sums up the collective view on this.
Town kicked off while many were still eating their pies and sandwiches, as were the Town defence when Chesterfield won a corner. Davison came off his line, tipping the ball off the forehead of a giant Derbyshire defender. The ball fell and Daws proved his credentials as a non-Town player by hacking the ball downfield without hesitation. Give him a couple of weeks and he'll soon know how to play the Town way. Let the ball drop, treat it like a social embarrassment and wait for the opponent to shoot, before pointing at Simon Ford.
Town's response was a bit of twisting and turning down the left, with Campbell sneaking behind the defence and playing the ball back to Onuora. He's a big man, and he is in shape, but he still surprised the Pontoon with a drag back, a shuffle, some dainty footwork and a clipped dinky cross which skimmed off a defender's forehead as Boulding lurked at the far post. How very Livvo-esque.
Chesterfield looked like Town did last year, just that bit worse than everyone else - not much, but just enough. Neither defence nor attack looked capable and so it was no surprise when Chesterfield ripped Town apart and failed to score. Crane lost an aerial challenge with Evatt, who headed the ball firmly infield from their left. Robinson sprinted towards the ball as it bounced towards the penalty area. Fortunately, Edwards seems to have some spatial awareness about him, for he was well positioned to stroll over and make a superb block as Robinson was about to shoot. Who knows where Crane was, but suddenly Allott was surging into the area and Davison had to fall to his right to hold at the foot of the near post. Is this a recurring dream? Town lead 1-0, then crumble away in the second half?
So thank you Mr Uhlenbeek, the Gus of Wind. Ten minutes into the half Town lobbed the ball down the left. Campbell scurried in front of Uhlenbeek, right underneath the Stones/Smiths/Findus Stand, about 30 yards out. Uhlenbeek grabbed hold of Campbell and hauled the Corby Trouserpress around and around, spinning like a record baby, or a wheel within a wheel, depending on your socio-economic grouping and/or music collection. A pretty obvious free kick to Town and a clear cautionable offence. The referee jogged over, preparing to get the yellow card out, when Uhlenbeek suddenly went bonkers, raged at Campbell, and flew towards the referee. Uhlenbeek raised his hands and barged into the ref's chest, like a rutting rhinocerous. We could see the referee's expression change and out came the red card. Still the demented Dutchman howled and seethed as he trudged across the pitch.
A minute later that really was it. Boulding was sent clear down the middle, exiting the Town half pursued by three big Chesterfield bears. He cut back inside to his left foot and the chance was gone, but he continued across the penalty area, with his back to goal, rolling the ball out to Hockless, perhaps a dozen yards out and just beyond the far post. Hockless calmly controlled the ball, looked up and carefully caressed it over and around Muggleton into the top corner. The goalscorer ran into the Pontoon, being immediately dragged away by Boulding. The referee booked Hockless as he made his way back to the halfway line.
Game surely over. Surely, but not certainly, for once again Chesterfield missed a free header (Robinson I think) from the middle of the goal.
On the hour, Blatherwick should have been sent off, and not for having a good old-fashioned centre-back's name, straight out of Ripping Yarns. Boulding outpaced the strapping Spireite down the centre, 30 yards out. Blatherwick simply wrapped his arms around Boulding and hauled him to the ground. The referee waved play on, perhaps feeling sorry for Chesterfield.
A couple of minutes after that, Robinson made a dreadful, though cumbersome and somewhat comic, attempt to scythe down McDermott, who had played a dink upfield. Robinson arrived not so much late as tomorrow, with McDermott having enough time to try and step over the boots as if he were straddling a babbling brook. Around this time, Edwards made his only mistake of an otherwise exemplary appearance when he tried to back-head a bouncing ball to Davison, completely unaware that Robinson had anticipated such and was waiting like a cat at dinner time, salivating lips an' all. Fortunately Robinson, right in the middle, about ten yards out, sliced his volley very high. On Earth we call that missing.
From now on it was party time. For once Town took advantage of the sending off, playing some sumptuous one-touch, old-style football. Barnard and McDermott were rampant, unstoppable, attacking machines and, most wonderfully, there were very few long punts upfield. Virtually everything started with the full backs receiving a short pass and dribbling forward. Some Chesterfield players looked sorry for themselves but so what, that's not our concern.
Oh, Macca, you're back. Here's a four-man passing move down the right, starting with McDermott, through Daws, to Cas, Campbell, and back to Daws, who flicked a first-time pass inside the full back for McDermott. Into the area, to the bye-line, on and on he went, taking just one touch too many. Muggleton plunged at McDermott's feet at the foot of the post.
What about Barnard? Even better. Replicating those Macca moves Barnard shinned one shot a few feet over and curled another to the foot of the right post. Again Muggleton made a superb clutching swoop low down. Unstoppable Town, unstoppable Cas, zooming, zipping and bazooka-ing his full-back into oblivion. So many chances created, how can one remember them all? Cas was denied by another Muggleton smother, blocks, deflections, stumbles, slides, action, action, action, all in front of the rapturous Pontoon.
With just over quarter of an hour left a deserved third arrived in most unusual fashion. In complete contrast to the beauty of the general play, the goal was a scrappy-dappy affair, and from a corner too! A Town corner on the left was hit flatly to Crane just beyond the far post, who headed back across goal. The ball hit Edwards on the back and bounced up; and several Chesterfield players took it in turns to miss the ball. The final defender slapped the ball against Cas, who turned and thwacked it into the middle left of the goal.
At this point some Chesterfield fans began to walk out. What wimps. Only three goals. We tough Townites can stand double that, and more! A point the local police took on board, for they refused to let the dejected Derbyshire drifters leave the ground.
A couple of minutes later another sweet, sweet move with a Reesian flick sidling the ball across the face of the penalty area. McDermott raced on, sidestepped a defender and dragged a low, left-footed shot towards the bottom left corner. Muggleton saved marvellously at the foot of the post, pushing the ball aside for a corner. The corner, from the Town right, was pulled back to Barnard, who thundered a shot through the penalty area, which was diverted this way and that, and back out for another corner, this time on the Town left.
Barnard flipped the ball into the centre, with a Chesterfield defender half clearing. Campbell challenged and the ball dropped to Cas, just outside the penalty area in the middle. Cas hit a spinning, twisting volley, which was going straight down the middle, Bing and Bob. Edwards did a comedy double-take and the ball glanced off his peculiarly shaped head, diverted just enough to beat Muggleton, who was going right as the ball went left.
Still Town flowed, like the Severn Bore. Barnard curled a free kick just over, tried another long-range shot. Hockless was replaced by Crowe with about 10 minutes left; Mansaram came on for Boulding five minutes later. Barnard rampaged some more, with a couple of 50-yard runs followed by dangerous curling crosses into the near post. Mansaram just missed one, then just missed another, but caused enough confusion for an almost comic fifth to arrive. The full back at the far post left the ball, which hit him on the forehead and bounced up to Muggleton as Onuora lurked, forcing the keeper to flap the ball away for a corner.
One of the linesmen was replaced with a couple of minutes left, causing yet another interminable delay, with the plumper of the two running across the pitch to run the line in front of the Main Stand. The game ended with Town pulling back a corner to Campbell who, 25 yards out, volleyed way into the top left of the Pontoon. What a lovely afternoon, after all.
This isn't something to get too carried away by, as Town have only managed to crush the two bottom teams this season, and no-one else. But something was better: the midfield, where there seemed more organisation, a better shape. Daws, perception personified, had the knack of being in the right place at the right time, keeping things ticking over nicely. He may be, literally, the missing link in the centre. Onuora was, well, big and slow, living life a second behind the rest of the world, as if in some kind of alternative universe. However, his sheer presence meant the ball didn't come back from the opposition defence so much, or so quickly. Edwards looked OK. He may be slow but he does have a notion of where the ball is likely to go, and where a striker is likely to run. It's called defending, I understand. Is notion better than motion?
So better, but let's keep it in context, and remember that Chesterfield should have scored a couple too. Perhaps Daws and Onuora are like the rug that every room needs to pull it together well.
Nicko's man of the match
Several worthy candidates, with Cas irrepressible, McDermott superb and Daws wonderfully sensible - but Nicko is adamant that Darren Barnard is the man. He was everything he hadn't been on Tuesday, and even squared up to Crane as an added entertainment bonus.
Inconsistently pedantic, Mr G Salisbury set markers that he later ignored. Should have sent two more Chesterfield players off, but overall he did at least identify fouls on Town players, a lost art form these days. Another one to get a low 5 mark, being 5.357. At least when he was wrong he was wrong in our favour.