Play misty for me

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

10 August 2004

Grimsby Town 1 Boston United 1

A howling, sulking day of slab grey rain dissolved into a still, humming evening dans L'Humber with around 1,100 followers of our nouveau-riche country cousins packed into the Osmond Stand. A humming evening and a humming ground: even the green seats temporarily filled with temporary backsides. Expectation and hope were as high, and possibly as wayward, as a pass from Justin Whittle.

Town warmed up in a circle, dancing lightly to some modern music with an incessant beat. Slaves to the rhythm, at the mercy of the weather as it rained matchstick cats and dogs, they didn't look that enamoured with life. The pre-match kickabouts were much better organised than Saturday's drippy debacle; they must be gelling. Or is that Reddy's hair?

Town lined up in the five-year plan formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Ramsden, Jones, McDermott, Pinault, Fleming, Crowe, Sestanovich, Parkinson and Mansaram. The substitutes were Soames, Marcelle, Young, Reddy and Coldicott. The only change from Saturday was that McDermott played as right wingish-not-quite-full back, and Crowe moved to the left. Nothing much else to say really, apart from Reddy's hair was as shiny and slippy as the pitch; it must be a memento of his Premiership days, clinging to his former (reserve) glories.

Boston turned up in blue but without the trophy wife of the fourth division, who was left fretting and fumbling with his wine gums in the stand.

I don't fancy Ashley's macaroni cheese, the dish of the day according to the programme. We don't do florets of broccoli in Grimsby, unless they are frozen first, of course.

First half
Boston kicked off towards the Pontoon and immediately displayed their ambitions for promotion. They kicked it straight out of play, nowhere near anyone, perhaps 2.43 seconds from whistle to throw-in. If you want to live with the big boys, you play like the big boys. Oh how we chuckled to ourselves, in a 'vague memory of once being any good' sort of way.

From the throw-in Town ripped Boston apart. Pinault twisted, turn-ed and pass-ed to Sestanovich on the centre right. Sestan did the Sestan thing of being Mr Choo-Choo Train, a giant fantabulous steam contraption, an iron horse scaring the injuns as it ploughed through the countryside. Up to the edge of the area, waiting, waiting, waiting for Crowe. With perfect timing Sestan tippled a little pass between centre-half and full-back as Crowe flew into the area on the wings of a dove. Behind the defence, free and... falling over the ball. Ah, the secret of great comedy. I've more than a feeling that the Bostonians smiled, Mr Grimsdale.

A couple of minutes later, after a great deal of nothing, Boston lamped the ball downfield and won a throw-in on their right. Beevers launched it, with two feet on the pitch, a flick on, a half clearance, and the ball dropped to Noble, just outside the area in the centre. He leant back, prepared himself using the latest male grooming products only available from the most fashionable and exclusive stores, and shinned the ball high and wide. The ball remained in Blundell Park (footballers do like to take the positives from any situation, don't they).

The next five minutes were rubbish. Boston mostly had the ball, with Town completely unable to pass to each other. No, that's far too much of a sweeping statement. Pinault was already showing off a full range of tricks and flicks, nicking and knocking the ball around at will, but no-one else was capable of holding on to it. All this meant Boston kept passing and probing about 30 yards out, getting a succession of throw-ins, advancing up the right like it was American football.

In the sixth or seventh minute Jones tackled and remained on the ground, motionless. The referee let play continue and the ball went out of play near the Police Box via Crowe's foot. Eventually Jones was taken off the pitch for treatment.

The throw-in was flung towards the near post, where Ramsden jumped upwards, then moved horizontally; the ball slapped off his forehead and went across the face of the penalty area. The ball boobied about, squirted out to their centre left and someone, possibly Carruthers, stuck out a foot and simply lifted the ball into the centre of the penalty area, into an empty space. Should I stay or should I go, thought Williams. Go, go, go! Too late. The ball bounced once, and Melton strode through the centre and headed across Williams and into the right of the goal from somewhere beyond the penalty spot.

A pathetic goal to concede, and one soaked in fury, for the throw was foul and there was a push on Ramsden. They certainly took advantage of our reduced circumstances. After a couple of minutes of hopping and hoping Jones was eventually replaced by Young.

The rest of the half was dire stuff for diehard Mariners. Town were dreadful, simply incapable as a collective unit. Some individuals were simply incapable. As usual Mansaram was the focal point of all frustrations, though a couple of the newer players were worse. Fleming, in particular, was a spectral presence in the first half, a cross between Hamilton and Campbell. Let's call him Hamble.

But through all this there was something to chew upon, for Pinault was magnificent. Unlike the rest of the team, Thomas the Town engine did not go off the rails, providing a succession of magic moments, even that exaggerated nonchalant pass while looking the other way.

Look, nothing happened in terms of goalmouth action down in front of the Pontoon. Boston had the ball a lot, but just didn't shoot, nor get in any remotely dangerous crosses. A couple of times they infiltrated the Town box when their midfield runners weren't tracked by Fleming and Whittle, but all they got was a corner.

Ah, a corner. That corner. Nothing dangerous, why worry? Shudder at Williams' weakness. From their left, floated into the near post and no Boston player anywhere near the ball. Safe, blood pressure lowering? No sirree. Williams's legs started to quiver and quake, his left arm sneaked up in the air and he flapped the ball down to the ground, just a couple of yards out. Fortunately - very, very fortunately - the ball just plopped on the turf into a big space where there were no humans or Boston footballers.

Anyway, that's Boston out of the way. You think I'm joking? You think I'm doing them down? They didn't shoot. Having the ball and running around in circles is all very fine and dandy up to a point, as experienced Buckleyites will tell you. Like their Mascara-ed manager, Boston were impressively organised but with a dark underbelly, a nasty pong to go with the pocketful of posies. Yes, Jason Lee, one of Kenny Swain's one-month blunders from the dross of '97, was a constant thorn in the Town side. Barging, banging and blundering into Town defenders, he caused physical mayhem. Jones was forced off after a Lee tackle and Whittle was ordered off the pitch by the referee for having blood gushing out of his nose following a bundle by Lee.

Whittle was off for at least a couple of minutes, having been ordered to take off his shirt and get a replacement; then he wasn't allowed on in his replacement shirt. Eventually he was allowed back, with a numberless and nameless shirt, but without rivers of blood flowing down the front.

Hah, the referee. Infuriatingly petty, but at the same time inconsistently lenient. Flying hacks were allowed but winning the ball wasn't. Oh, and play was stopped while a free kick was taken from the right spot. No, the right spot. No - the right spot. Wherever it was, it was never where the ball was. And finally, when he was satisfied the ball was where he wanted it, he spotted a Boston player who had one of his socks rolled down. How can you possibly allow professional footballers to play in such sartorially inelegant fashion. What example would that set to the little children of little Britain? Why, anarchy will follow in 20 years' time, when they grow up to be a man. We all hailed his stand against loutish behaviour and the modern world of modern things and modern attitudes. We would never have had an empire if someone hadn't pulled their socks up.

Oh, you want to know what happened in the game do you? Mansaram this, Mansaram that. The walking, talking scapegoat wasn't that bad, either by his standards or those of his colleagues. He was constantly moving, constantly trying - and the infinitely more gifted Sestan the Man should take note of that. Sometime during the barren cultural desert that was the first half Mansaram received a clearance on the halfway line, under the Main Stand. He flipped himself around, zoomed up the wing, cut infield and flibbled a rising wobbling shot from about 20 yards, which went a foot or so over the bar. Thirty per cent of the Pontoon actually stood up, against their better judgement. That's football for you: no rhyme or reason to anything.

At another indeterminate time Mansaram was the final piece in a five-man jigsaw which saw the ball moved beautifully up the left. I can't remember who was involved in getting it to the Human Octopus but as there was beauty involved Pinault must have touched the ball. Mansaram, the strange curly bit with a kink at the top, spun away from his marker on the right corner of the Boston area and flashed (ah-ha, sorry for that) a shot high across the face of goal. The ball went out of play somewhere inside the penalty area and did get some Main Standers excited, so it can't have been too far away. Or is that too much of an assumption to make?

You want your Sestan moment now? Mansaram and Pinault exchanged first-time passes and flipped the ball to Ashley, who had drifted in from the right touchline. He bundled forward up to the edge of the area and, from a position just right of centre, slapped a low shot a couple of feet wide of the keeper's left post. Get used to it. He's going do that every game, like a permanent tape loop. Ooh, did you notice? Mansaram was involved in that too.

I have the dimmest of dim memories of Parkinson fighting his way forward on a breakaway, but his resulting shot is lost in the swirling mists of time, or perhaps the swirling mists that were starting to envelop Blundell Park. The boats had long vanished from view, the trains were becoming hazy, the dry ice was creeping around the ankles. The 15-minute guitar solo couldn't be far away. Yes, it was half time already, and thank goodness for that. It was rotten.

A word to sum up the first half? Bweurgh, that noise you make when you have a bunged-up nose. Now go away and stick you head under a towel with some Vicks Vaporub. You'll feel better for it when you emerge.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I can't hold this pose forever."
"I was doing an impression of a wood pigeon and she thought I was dancing."
"The fourth division - it's all come flooding back."
"What more could you give someone for their birthday than an inflatable fish?"
"I'll be doing mathematics and beer all year."

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time.

Town slashed 'em to pieces. But not until after an early wibble. After a couple of minutes Carruthers was flicked free inside the Town area on the right and his low shot went straight to Williams at the near post, who grabbed it at the second attempt. Then it was all Town, a raging storm lashing the Blue Meanies, the Bostonians stumped by passing and movement made flesh: Pinault and Parky. The Town fans awoke from their torpor, the silent masses finding voice, lifting the lads, roaring on the raiders. Pinault rolled the ball forward to Mansaram, who flipped the ball aside to the marauding McDermott (hello, nice to see you again, Macca). A void filled with an icon straining, pushing his ageing limbs to the limit. One touch, one shot, sailing a couple of feet over the bar. Argh, shame.

Pinault ran the game, dispossessing, distributing, disturbing the Bostonian peace, threading passes through, floating passes over, pushing and prompting Town forward. Crowe free, Parkinson free, almost, nearly, not quite. Temperature rising, the fever is high.

And the final Boston attack of note came and went in the 5Second minute. Whacked upfield, Carruthers falling over, Whittle penalised for looking at an opponent in a funny way. A free kick 25-ish yards out in the centre, a Town wall made of sand, the tide rushing in, Noble curled a beauty over the wall, onto the bar right above Williams' head.

After that Boston got near the Town penalty area sometimes, had a couple of corners and possibly made Williams come out and save at someone's feet. Maybe. The ghosts down at the Osmond end were difficult to see and frankly they never looked like troubling Town.

Town, pure Town, for half an hour. The Pontoon sucked the ball towards Abbey, who made a habit of saving Town shots. We don't expect that sort of thing from fourth division keepers: that's two on the trot that have been star savers. This will not do.

Sestanovich sent free down the centre, hareming 'em, scareming 'em, shooting low. Abbey flying solo, so low to push aside the dribbler. Aww, what a cracker. Pish-posh-pass, Pinault wooing the ladies, Parkinson scarpering free, letting fly from 25 yards. The ball drifted, drifted, catching thermals to rise and shine towards the top left corner. Abbey, superbly, rose like a mighty salmon to lift the ball over the bar with his wrist.

Pinault again, swoon at the swinging pantaloons of Paris as he smithered a whacking great effort from 30 yards. The ball wobbled over the defenders towards the bottom right corner, and Abbey again saved well, plunging on, and pushing away a dangerously dropping drive. The crowd were on their feet. Pinault again, a perfect pass inside the full-back setting Parkinson free down the left. On the bye-line, at the very edge of the area, Parkinson clipped a cross to the badlands of the back post. Crowe raced in unmarked, and from 10 yards out headed firmly back across goal. The ball crawled past the angle of post and bar as everyone stood motionless watching, waiting, wailing. How did it miss? Any answers Mr Crowe?

Still Town drove on like a demented shepherd taking his flock to market. Cross the river, run up the hill, follow that star. Sestanovich does the usual: turn, run, hold off, shoot, miss. This time just the four defenders bounced off his body as he singed the Boston beard down the centre. Now, surely, the time is near? Parkinson behind the defence on the right after a Mansaram flick. The cross hanging, titillating, teasing Abbey. Fleming hung like an albatross upon the air, inside the six-yard box, at the near post. A goal certain, certainly? Abbey jumped at Fleming and smothered the ball. How did he do that?

Will we ever score?

With 20 minutes left the existential finesse of Mansaram made way for the muscular hairstyle of Reddy. He jumped and missed an up-and-under, the ball ricocheting back to Town. Fleming free in the centre, licking the ball forward to Sestanovich, infiltrating the empty spaces defenders used to walk. He bundled forward, Parkinson veered right, Reddy left, the Boston defence put its collective hands on its cheeks and screamed, and the blue sea parted as he searched for the promised land.

Near the edge of the area, Sestanovich flicked the ball to his left and Reddy pushed the button marked 'turbo booster' and accelerated forwards. Abbey raced off his line, dived full length and the ball skidded on towards his waiting hands. The hairboy stretched forward and just managed to divert the ball from a straight line. It eluded Abbey, and Reddy skipped past him and rolled it in from a yard or so out, next to the right post. Grimsby was now Grinsby: one and a half touches, one goal; what a performer.

The game fizzled away slowly. Town were a blur of movement upfront, but nothing clear-cut resulted. Abbey was forced to hare off his line a few times to whisk the ball away from the rampaging Reddy's feet. What will he be like when he's fit? The pattern of the game was broken by Boston barging. Town seemed to play most of the game with 10 men, for centre-backs kept being led off the pitch to have head wounds tended to. Whittle, again, was sent away to replace his shirt. Young was battered by Lee and eventually came back with someone else's shirt; it was far too small; he could barely got his head through the collar. Town got ratty, especially Ramsden, who was eventually booked for failing to clobber a Boston player.

With about five minutes left Sestanovich was replaced by Boney Marcelle, he's crazy like a fool with that hair. Marcelle got the ball once and nearly passed it to McDermott. Nothing else to report, unless you really want to know about the Boston substitutions. Lee was taken off near the end before even this daft ref would send him off. Boston brought on players and they did nothing of any consequence, so why bother thinking about them? Some time towards the end the Main Stand lost its temper with Evans, for his constant moaning and jumping around.

And that's just about it. Two minutes of added time brought Boston a corner, Boston a throw-in and a happy ending for the men and women from the heart of Potatoland. They seemed ecstatic at not losing to us, a bit like we used to celebrate when we used to beat (no disrespect to) the likes of Wolves away from the Park. Ah, those far-off days of 2002, so long ago.

Town thoroughly deserved to win in the end; let's ignore that travesty of a first-half performance. Fitful, fretful, failing. Slade's half-time pep-talk, no doubt using the phrase "work ethic" at least twice every minute, did the trick. The force was with Town, if not the fortune. Boston were much better, more formidable opponents than Darlington had been, but less potent as an attacking force, though Lee's arms were potent (as the A&E department night shift will tell you). First-half blunderers reached a level of adequacy in the second, and the twinkling heartbeat of the team kept knitting some stylish continental cardigans in midfield.

The ingredients for sustained pleasure are there, and we can't keep meeting keepers who play blinders. Not perfect, but getting there.

Nicko's man of the match
One man, one vision-ision-ision-ision. Thomas Pinault, ooh-la-la, magnifique, hit them with your rhythm stick, pass it slowly, pass it quick. You must be a lunatic to come to Town, in the fourth division. What are you doing playing for us? Working for peanuts is all very fine but you can show us a better time. Yes, he played very well.

Official warning
And we were a-cursin' this pompous twerp, Mr B Curson. His indulgence of Jason Lee was quite disgraceful; perhaps he had decided that only after the final defender on Town's books had had his nose snapped off would he find the red card. He kept giving Boston free kicks for blatant 'falls', but ignored their wandering boots. And at times he allowed Town players to kick Boston; the later the tackle the more likely he was to allow play to continue. He managed to be worse than his linesmen: some feat. He set a standard, of sorts, and a score on his door not exceeding 1.022 would be more than fair. I feel in generous mood.