Waiting in vain

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

16 October 2004

Grimsby Town 0 Bristol Rovers 0

A warm, bright still afternoon in the Theatre of Groans with around 100 to 150 of the Brizzolian Diaspora scattered across the Osmond Stand. The Town fans stewed in their furry coats and hats: where was that biting wind, those rainstorms, that drizzle for the Brizzle? It's October, it's supposed to be mind-numbingly 'orrid. Maybe there weren't any sunspots today.

Andy Parkinson's mum made his costume for the last fancy dress party he went to. Including the moustache, I presume.

Town lined up in the cuddly 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Forbes, Gordon, McDermott, Pinault, Fleming, Crowe, Sestanovich, Reddy and Parkinson. The substitutes were Bull, Coldicott, Marcelle, Jones and Cramb. Relax, Macca's back, the world can start spinning again. The Hocklesslessness of Town was accepted in silence by the singing ringing tree corner. With Ramsden and Hockless absent, Town wouldn't be able to take advantage of that well-known phenomenon, the goalkeeper's fear of the mullet. What about the programme proofreader's fear of spelling Ramsden? Ramsdon? C'mon, he's our own player, get it right.

Who is Glen Downey? Has anyone ever seen him? Would you recognise him in the Chinese takeaway?

Bristol? What a disappointing show. No ex-Town occasionals in their starting XI, with just Pippa Forrester and that useless Trollope on the bench. No, I don't mean Stuart Campbell. I counted the subs: there were five, so Campbell couldn't have been among them. Shame on you Atkins. I must apologise to Atkins, in print, to set the record straight for his army of lawyers. I once referred to him as a charmless celtic nerk. I really am sorry for that - he isn't celtic. If you really want to know about the football then Brizzle played with three massive centre-backs, a couple of wing-backs, three scrumbly scrufflers in midfield and two up front.

Dish of the day: Dean Gordon's (and Clint Marcelle's) rice and peas. Urgh, it has coconut and evaporated milk in it. There aren't many West Indian restaurants in the North East Lincolnshire conurbation, so all you entrepreneurs out there listen up - there's a gap in the market with at least two potential customers. I'd still offer chips to capture that passing Yorkist trade.

Ah, the game.

First half
Town kicked off, wearing black socks, towards the Pontoon and didn't keep it for long. It went long, it went out. Within a minute Sestanovich had tickled Parkinson free down the middle but... offside. Of course he was offside. Another minute, another Town raid, Pinault carousing the ball down the left with Reddy roaming, barundling Edwards away. Sit down again; there's no-one anywhere near the penalty area.

Perhaps they were all in awe of Edwards' hair. He walked onto the pitch like he was walking onto a yacht, hair strategically dipped below one eye. More at home on the head of a Serie A reserve, it was long, it was slick, it was quifftastically grungy. He could lasso crosses away from danger. His feet were rubbish though. Reddy shrank in the face of such follicle magic; he's only just begun on his long road to hirsute freedom.

Whoops! Anderson, who no-one seemed to realise used to play for Hull, or if it isn't the same one he used to sing with Yes, slipped on an imaginary banana skin. Parkinson was away, scooby-dooing down the middle, head down. Yoikes! About 25 yards out Parky let fly and his shot went perhaps three feet before hitting a West Country boot. He could have passed to unmarked teammates, you know.

Sounds all Town, this first five minutes? It does, doesn't it? Funny, that. All long ball nonsense from them and pure passing from us? Tut-tut, you shouldn't make assumptions. Let's look at the facts, Jack. Just the facts. To the astonishment of all, including the pigeons roosting in the Findus/Stones/Smiths Stand, an Ian Atkins side passed the ball to each other, on the ground. They looked quite good: organised football, not the expected rugby union team. Town's moments of danger were arising from dinks over the top, down the side, a more basic fourth division style. Style - we think we have it, but rarely bother to show it in the first half of home games.

Enough waffle, let's see action. No, I didn't mean down there... Whittle whittled away a stick, allowing Doc Dave Savage, Man of Bronze, to nick the ball away on the edge of the area. Twice. Mild peril for a few seconds, Forbes dealt with danger. Relax, calm down dear, it won't happen again for ages. Town are insured, they have the Forbes-Gordon three-month cover plan.

Eh, you what? Thirty seconds later Rovers should have scored. More dreadful doziness saw Rovers nick and knock outside the area. Pass, pass, move, ooooooh dear. Walker suddenly alone on their left, a dozen or so yards out and wide of goal. He opened up his body, cheerily waved the ball on its way and carefully sent it over and around Williams. And over and around the far post. Sloppiness unpunished. Walker almost crying.

This little slap in the chops worked wonders and Town's double diamonds almost brought the crowd to its feet. At last some football, with Pinault scurrying about, beating out the rhythm, pushing, probing, passing to Reddy. The coolest Kilkenny cat in Lincolnshire danced and sung his way through several challenges out on the left. Into the area, by chance two passing glances meet. A short pass to the unmarked Transit Stan, a wiggle, a woggle, a blocked shot ricocheting to Parkinson, and a sea of blue and white crashed over the little pebble. His shot rebounded away, looping, dropping on the centre-left edge of the area. Pingu propelled a superb volley which managed to crawl over the crossbar as Miller flapped airily and possibly fairily. That's better.

Around the 20-minute mark Reddy was flattened after challenging for a long punt. He stayed down and barely moved. Eventually Sestanovich rolled the ball out of play. About three people bayed for retribution, but they were the ones sat behind the big red pillars in the Pontoon. It was simply a clash of heads. That's all. Reddy recovered, in the sense that he got back on his feet and those feet moved in a relatively co-ordinated fashion. His hair wasn't ruffled too much, so all was right with the world.

Town had a rather good spell of pressure just after this incident, Bristol pinned back on the edge of their penalty area, Town rolling the play left and right, right and left, teasing, testing, wolves waiting to pounce on any mistake. Sestanovich moved! Drifting infield, attracting the bees to his little pot of honey as he glided across the face of the penalty area 25 yards out.

What this? What's that distant object moving at speed? It's... it's... Macca jetsetting upfield and making a fantastic diagonal run behind the wing-back. Sestan espied the old drag racer and dinked a perfect pass behind the defence and onto Macca's chest. McD fended off Ryan and zoomed towards the bye-line. Windy Miller came out, two defenders raced across and, from about five yards wide of goal and at the bye-line, McDermott slid and poked the ball across the face of goal. Bumble, trumble, drumble, crumble in agony as no Town player arrived to poke the ball in from about a foot out.

Bristol Rovers? No, they got to the edge of the area and turned to stone when they saw Gordon, or had their pockets picked by Forbes. They looked pretty nifty though, always on the brink of doing something dangerous.

Hey, half an hour gone and Sestanovich moved again, dreaming past a couple of defenders and tapping the ball to Crowe, unmarked, 25 yards out on the centre-left. Crowe took two touches, looked a bit bored as no defenders bothered to approach him, then smacked a right-footed shot goalwards. Miller stood and stared as the ball managed to curl across the angle of post and bar. A belated "oooh" from the Pontoon. It was all going nicely-nicely along, not too much danger at either end, especially down the Osmond End.

Then Town dozed off again. Einstein Agogo and Savage played a little wall game in front of the Town defence, leaving Doc free 20 yards out in the centre. He took careful aim and, pfft, just think Pouton on a bad day. The ball stayed within the DN35 postcode.

Another minute, another chance, and boy what a chance. Town gave the ball away, didn't tackle, didn't cover and we watched as a blur of blue swirled around the Town penalty area. One-twos, give and goes, two unmarked inside the area on their left. A certain goal. About a dozen yards out, a few yards wide of the penalty spot, Walker placed a low shot across Williams. We sat expecting a goal, that barely audible resigned hum that accompanies disappointment. The ball rolled slowly towards goal, past Williams, towards the net, beyond the post. A corner given. Must have been a darn fine save. Hats off to Mr W. Phew and a half.

What else happened? For them Walker nearly went through on goal again, but after Town's defence insisted upon an offside decision, the flag went up. And quite right too! I think Agogo had a shot which flashed yards wide, and that's it. They caused concern with their intelligent counterattacking, but there was always a minor hero on hand to whisk danger away - usually the omnipresent McDermott. He was magnificent, a perpetual motion machine, always available, always attacking. Flicking and tricking the ball up to Reddy, McD took the return pass and flibbled a shot straight at Miller from 25 yards. A little later Pinault and Sestanovich tried long-range shots, both dribbling through almost apologetically.

Near the end of the half Town contrived to not score again. Pinault took a short corner to McDermott, who returned the ball to the unmarked French fancy. Pingu advanced along the touchline, curving infield, then back out as a defender belatedly wandered across. The penalty area was packed, but Pinault had a cunning plan, for he curled the ball between Miller and the near post, at shoulder height. Miller was clearly expecting an outswinging cross and the ball floated across the face of goal, about a foot or so out. As usual, no Town player was goal scrounging.

That was the first half that was.

Interesting football, and Rovers had been, by a distance, the best team Town had played so far. They looked like they could defend; they looked like they could attack; they looked, overall, like a team who knew what they were doing, with no obvious weak points (except Walker's shooting). They should have scored two, Town could have scored two. Parity was just about right.

For Town, Sestanovich was a concern. A couple of good passes, but that was about all; he barely moved from a five-yard circle just inside the Brizzle half. He didn't look fit. Pinault was trying, but there wasn't enough movement, so Town ended up lumping long high balls towards Parkinson. Everyone on the pitch looked content to be not losing.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I'm at the age for badminton and Mintos."
"I wouldn't say I wanted to shoot Burnsy, unlike Tony Blair."
"Has Reddy improved since the bang on his head?"
"Now, I didn't think Jane Asher was Paul McCartney's girlfriend in 1962."
"Parky's a headless chicken without a head."

Second half
Bristol came out ages before Town and started to do little warm-up routines, like that clip they show of Roy Castle dancing with 2,000 teenage tap dancers. Little skips, hands out, bend knees, twist to camera and smile - putting on the style. No top hats or canes though.

Cramb replaced Reddy at half time

The referee added two minutes and then we went home, or at least those without season tickets did; the rest of us queued for the Scunny raffle tickets.

Do you really want to know the grim details of 47 minutes of grim grimness in Grimsby? Oh all right, if you insist. Erm, someone passed to someone else and the ball went out of play. A couple of minutes later someone kicked the ball high in the air, and a tall player headed it back, but then it went out of play again. There were some throw-ins, a few free kicks, a couple of corners, and occasional punts towards the goals. There you are, in a nutshell.

Cramb was OK for about 10 minutes, though it was noticeable that his first action after laying the ball off is to turn and run into the penalty area. How bizarre.

I'm thinking... I'm thinking... ah, yes. Five minutes or so into the half, Sestanovich did his usual 'run round in circles beat five defenders and curl the ball just over from 25 yards' routine. This time going from right to left. He had another shot too, straight at Miller. Normally I wouldn't bother, but in the context of the second half it was an exciting moment of almost nearlyness. Sestanovich, the modern enigma. That cat's something we can't explain.
Near the hour Crowe lobbed a hopeful punt forward and Cramb slithered behind the defence, almost managing to reach the ball as it bounced into the penalty area. Miller would have been stranded had Cramb had bigger toes. Cramb dinked Parkinson free, but Parky was offside and... and... and... and... and... Between the ands were lots of throw-ins.

After 61 minutes the limping Sestanovich was replaced by Coldicott, with Town seemingly moving to a 3-5-2 formation, Pinault being flanked by his two minders in the middle of the congested motorway. The pyramid had been squashed. Things didn't get any better. The crowd hadn't been animated to start with and somehow managed to become even more silent.

Hey, something happened. Cramb hit the post! If you insist on accuracy then he hit a post. He chested the ball down about 20 yards out on the left, drew back his trusty right boot and lampooned a dipping shot halfway up the red post behind the goal. Or if you are a pessimist it was halfway down the post behind the goal. Shall we gloss over the centrefold in the programme: "29 - Colin Cramb", with a picture of Dean Gordon. Close, but you're not right.

How fast does a swallow fly? Sorry, I digress, we must practise for the GTFC quiz night on 9 November. African or European, by the way?

Without a by-your-leave one of their players came towards us in the Pontoon. He had his boots on, probably having awoken before dawn. He disturbed some children in the undeserved heating seating, for his shot didn't quite go out for a throw-in. We saw Junior Agogo... hang on... there's something not right with the world. A ricochet and suddenly the ball squirmed to Walker on their right, inside the area, totally unmarked. Williams ambled out to get the ball, but Walker reached it first. The warning lights were a-flashing as Williams stopped, turned round and ran back towards his goal. Walker crossed, Agogo waited, and Forbes, in the centre, six yards out, did a brilliant diving headed clearance from the very tip of Agogo's toes.

Town were just rotting in their boots, formless, shapeless, clueless really. Cramb and Parkinson were rarely within hailing distance of each other, with Parkinson confirming his status as the new Steve Saunders So little product for so much effort. The five-man midfield succeeded only in confusing Bristol even more than it did Town. The game was grinding to a halt. We need some oil! Bring on the Macca the Mechanic. Town managed three consecutive passes, someone shot and the ball rebounded to McDermott on the right, inside their penalty area with his back to goal. Methuselah twisted around, teed up the ball and plonked a shot across the face of goal, a foot or so wide.

Look, why don't you go off and make a cup of tea or something? Have a little treat, a chocolate biscuit. You deserve it for getting this far.

Hum morphed into drum. They made some substitutions and, huzzah, something to make a noise about. Forrester came on with about a quarter of an hour left. Some booed, some clapped, most made a confused gurgling sound. We couldn't remember whether we liked him or not.

What else happened? Gordon had a shot so bad that I can barely bring myself to describe it. I'll let you fill in the details. He was 25 yards out at the Osmond End and the ball ended up going out of play two yards from the corner flag near the Main Stand. It only just managed to roll out for a goal kick. And we had mocked them. We are certainly at home to Mr Hubris.

Crowe ran down the wing with a defender and, as Crowe managed to fall down first, won a free kick. Pinault curled it in, Miller dropped it, no-one around. By the standards of this game, this counts as a chance created by the gambolling Gaul.

In the last 10 minutes Agogo was a-gone-gone, being replaced by Liz McColgan, though the programme records his name as Lewis Haldane. Perhaps they should turn up the volume in the Pontoon, so we can actually hear 'Up the Mariners' and other important public announcements. Liz managed to liven things up a bit. He almost managed to wrestle past Whittle inside the Town area, but didn't. He hit the ground, clutching his injured locks, claiming some kind of elbow/hand/roughage in the face. Absolute nonsense. He stayed down so long, rolling like a kipper, that he had to stay on the grass feigning hurt.

When play eventually stopped the referee came over, at which point Haldane suddenly jumped up and aggressively remonstrated, before having a relapse when he remembered he was supposed to be dying. He just looked plain silly. A minute later he clattered into Whittle after the ball had long gone The referee almost ran over and hit him for being stupid, but didn't. 'Tis a pity, for then there would have been something to remember this game for.

In the last minute of added time Town failed to clear a long punt, allowing Forrester to control the ball and flout a shot straight at Williams from about 20 yards. Williams parried it away from his face and out towards Haldane, chasing after the ball and scooping it away from the silly boy's feet. We can go home now.

Both sides looked happy not to lose, with the second half a waste of time for everyone. I did warn you at the start, didn't I. So don't blame me for wasting 10 minutes of your life. I had 45 minutes of it; you got off lightly. The five-man midfield was just a lump of gruel on the breakfast table, Town were fortunate that the frequent moments of collective narcolepsy went unpunished. Choose your own excuse or cliché for the second half. One to forget about.

We had some dreams of this game that were just clouds in our coffee. Forget about what?

Nicko's man of the match
Terrell Forbes was again solid and a match saver but even his heroics fail to dislodge The Man. John McDermott was awesomely omnipotent, especially in the first half. Town flows through every vein in his body.

Official warning
Dive! Dive! Dive! Mr S Mathieson didn't fall for those dives. I didn't tell you about a couple of daft tumbles by Town players in the first half. One by Reddy would have disgraced Norman Wisdom. The ref was exceptionally decent, especially towards Town, so why waste words? A season-busting 8.762.