Addickted to luck

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

21 September 2004

Grimsby Town 0 Charlton Somehow 2

A big breezy evening in the Fenty memorial home for incurable tyrants and kings, with a squally drizzle occasionally drifting through the gap between Pontoon and Findus/Stones/Smiths Stand. The Town stands were almost full and at least, oooooh, 224 Charltonians had made the trip to the heritage footballing theme park by the sea. Is this the way life used to be for them?

Town warmed up doing a silent can-can, while the lemon-coloured trillionaires did some callisthenics, or was it calligraphy? They looked big, they were all recognisable, and some had white boots. A bit like Town then.

Town lined up in the 3-4-3 formation as follows: A Williams, Whittle, Gordon, Young, McDermot, Fleming, Pinault, Crowe, Sestanovich, Reddy and Parkinson. The substitutes were Robinson, Bull, Coldicott, Hockless and Marcelle. The defence had another shuffle: this time Gordon was the central centre-back, with young Young on the left. Everyone else was where you'd expect them to be, unless you have a Hockless fixation, of course.

The pre-match rabble rousing was led by Chairman Fenty, who got out his little red book and proclaimed a hero of a decade past. Out came Mr Clive Mendonca for a little wave and walk. He looked mighty embarrassed at this, or perhaps you can interpret that as humility. Wash your ears out. Humility, not humiliation; that was last season.

Dish of the Day: Justin Whittle's chicken chow mein, joining Boss Hogg Slade in the Chinese restaurant. Mange tout! This is Grimsby - peas are for freezing and boiling to death.

First half
Charlton kicked off towards the Pontoon, which displeased the moral majority within these walls. Oooh, fancy - no lumping out for a throw-in. Fancy-dan passing and movement, showing off their top table wares? Two can play at that game, sonny jims. And indeed two did, a rather cerebral opening, played out in respectful silence. A game of chess with an exchange of pawns early on, no advantage gained.

Young made two excellent challenges on limp-wristed Jeffers, surging upfield like a wing-back, curling in dangerous crosses. Small moments of interest, some verve and vim, but nothing tangible. Enough to get us off our seats in hope, but no chances, no shots, just gentle pressure. Murphy started to twist and turn, to tap out a slow groove sideways. Looked good, but no danger. Charlton were dominating the lateral, going from Main Stand to Smiths/Stones/Findus and back again.

After about seven minutes Sestanovich was slow to react to a pass in his vague direction, near the halfway line on the right. McDermott slid forward to tackle some anonymous Charltonian and Transit van man Stan successfully tackled Methuselah, sending the ball back towards the Town goal. The yellowman of London continued onwards, at some pace, pursued by our great big bear. Sestanovich clobbered the Charltonian with a scything wallop from behind. What a daft thing to do.

Murphy brushed aside the sniffer dogs and carefully eyed up the wall and the wandering Williams. The ground awaited and Murphy obliged, beautifully curving a dipping shot over the wall and under the bar, in the very top left hand corner of Williams' goal. Absolute silence, no tuts, no groans, and no audible reaction from the slumbering trippers in the Osmond Stand. One attack, one goal. Let's keep the score down, shall we?

Woh, no, sir. Town felt sorry for themselves for a few seconds and them went for the rather cocky cockernee types. Murphy's preening passing was replaced by Professor Pinault's masterclass in prompting; by Sestanovich's big-thighed dribbling; by Reddy's irrepressible running; by Parkinson's big-eared flapping. Town took over and footballed Charlton into the ground, forcing them face down in the dirt. A couple of minutes after the goal Crowe was tippled free inside the Charlton penalty area, on the left. The ball dropped, Crowe zipped forward and, from a narrow angle about eight yards out, shivered a shot just over the angle of post and bar.

Another couple of minutes of Town rocking and rolling saw a blizzard of passes with Sestanovich the fulcrum. Down the middle, up the left, Reddy spinning away from his marker on the edge of the area. The ball was caressed through the centre-backs and Reddy was behind the defence, rampaging towards Kiely. From about six yards out and to the left of goal Reddy pulled back his left boot and thadoomed a shot goalwards. The Pontoon rose and Kiely dived to his left as the ball flew to his left. Aaargh, how, what, why? Missed again, and so he's missed again. Reddy had clobbered the ball into the front row of the Pontoon; it didn't even touch the side netting.

About this time Charlton had their other shot. You think I'm telling a one-eyed tale? You couldn't have been there then. One of their blonder players skipped gaily down their left, hit the bye-line and crossed at thigh height through the box. The unmarked Jeffers sprinted to the far post and sliced a volley well wide from about a dozen yards out. Good fast move, the stuff the Premiership is supposed to be made of.

Now forget about them. It's all about us now. It's called football, and we are called Town.

And Town were superb, magnificent for the 20 minutes after the goal. Attacks rained down o'er Kiely, his defenders desperately hacking and thwacking anything that moved. Sestanovich didn't play on the wing, but drifted around in the spaces between midfield and attack, picking up rebounds and several delicate little passes from Pinault and Gordon, which allowed him to run and run down the middle. Panic ensues in the fourth, and panic ensued in a 'Premiership' defence. They, too, bounce off him like spinning tops.

Oh, what joy, to see such passing and movement, such power. Sestanovich received a pass just inside the Town half and he simply bundled his way forward, straight down the pitch. Four little Charltonites twittered around his ankles. What to do? To pass, to shoot? How about a little wiggle, a jump to the left, and then a jump to the right. Highly paid footballers scattered across the turf like dazed teenagers at a school disco as Transit Stan got out his sand iron. About 25 yards out in the centre Sestan looked up, saw things no-one else could even dream of, and carefully chipped the ball over Kiely. The ball drifted over the keeper's hands and sailed on and on, dropping, dropping.. the Town fans were ecstatic, raising their arms, their voices hailing the hero as the ball kissed the underside of the crossbar, bounced on the line and back into Kiely's hands.

Town, Town, Town, how do we like it, how do we like it? A lot. Dominant, delightful, de-lovely. Crosses to the left of them, crosses to the right, into the Valleymen rode the Town. A corner from the right curled into the centre of the penalty area to the unmarked Sestanovich. He rose like a god and powered a header goalwards. Kiely leapt and just managed to get his fingertips to the ball as it arced over him.

Another corner - can we roar any louder? Can Town score? Yes, now! Pinault purred a pass through the centre-backs for Parkinson to run on to from outside the area, on the centre left. Into the area, Kiely waiting, Perry stretching, Parkinson placing a shot towards the bottom left corner. Kiely flew across and palmed the ball away towards Sestanovich, lurking near the corner of the penalty area. He drew back his leg and controlled the ball before driving it in low. Fleming, about eight yards out at the near post with his back to goal, tried to backflick the ball in. With Kiely wrong-footed, the ball slowly, slowly bombled a few inches wide.

More Town, still Town, only Town. A one-sided caravan of love heading our way. Charlton seemed to be confused by Town, for they sat back leaving oodles of space in front of their back four. Did they think we were a fourth division team then? How silly of them. Were they bothered? At free kicks they had a habit of leaving McDermott completely unmarked at the far post. Pinault even managed to reach him with one, but the ball hung in the wind and Macca could only head it up in the air from inside the six-yard box. Sestanovich did his thing once more, barundling along, bouncing little boys off his hips before wellying a rocket into the nether regions of the Pontoon.

After 31 minutes some Charlton players ran into the Town half for a few seconds.

The game tailed off as Charlton players started to crumple to the floor whenever the ball went out of play. Some were injured, some were just doing that professional thing of breaking play up. Minutes seemed to be taken up with the referee standing over felled yellowboys, and Town started to tire. Hughes had a shot. Well, when I say 'shot', his boot made contact with the ball and it remained inside Blundell Park.

Where are we now? Getting towards half time, with Reddy rallying and revving up his engine, Crowe migrating down the left. Crowe free after a Young interception and pinging Pinault pass. A cross hovering through the area, dropping a foot past the post as Reddy hung about underneath the flightpath. Parkinson hit in the face as a brilliantly weighted Gordon dimple over the top dropped to him in the area. A Charlton boot flailed and smacked the ball against Parkinson and fortune was favoured as it bounced straight to Kiely.

Is that it? Just about, unless you really need to know that Sestanovich ended a sweet passing movement by volleying onto the roof of the Pontoon from outside the area.

As half time approached their Young collapsed when challenging Crowe near the corner flag. It looked a bit serious, as he'd twisted his knee when his studs caught in the turf. He got up and carried on though. He was still breathing - why should the physio come on?

Two minutes of added time? Gone in a flash, which, incidentally, you are not permitted to do inside Blundell Park. So that's why they sent him to Halifax. Oh, sorry, misheard - flash photography. There we are then: despite everything, these so-called internationals and stars of the silver boot were winning. Two shots, one goal. Town had 43.3 shots, and no goals (Sestanovich's last shot was only 33 per cent interesting). And the scoreline was the only down side. Rousingly cheering off the team, most of the crowd were happy with the performance so far. Most? Well, there's always one MOB around.

Town had been thrillingly good: the approach play magnificent, the defence impregnable. Everyone was playing very well indeed. Ah, that's nice.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Do they sell iced tea in the pie stall?"
"I'm taking Jeffers out of my fantasy team now I've seen him play."
"There's nothing wrong with beige trousers."
"You'll be graduating to a cravat soon."
"She's normal, but she did dress up as a Red Indian for my wedding."

Second half
Their Young was replaced by Kishishev at half time. Apparently he used to play for Lena Lovets: his lucky number's seven then.

Town simply continued to steamroll these yellow sub-mariners. A couple of minutes in, Parkinson tapped the ball down the left for Reddy to chase. Reddy out-sprinted and out-muscled his marker, rolling in to the area along the bye-line. He looked up and crossed; the ball hit a defender's bottom and trundled behind Sestanovich and just too far in front of Macca.

Less happened inside the Charlton area, which suggests some tactical change to nullify the threat a bit, but not a lot, for Town dominated possession even more than they had in the first half. Sestanovich almost rattled Kiely's cage, but only rattled the hairstyles of the rich and famous in the Osmond Stand. Sestan's massive curler from 25 yards dipped too late and nearly broke the girder keeping the scoreboard up.

And then it came: what we expect, what we get, every game. The referee decided he hadn't stamped his personality on the game. Parkinson was sent one against one with Perry down the centre left. Perry gallimored towards his own goal. Parkinson dropped his shoulder, jinked left, right, then left again, turning Perry Japanese, I really think so. Perry was dumped on his backside, Parky free, inside the area and... Parky down, all Town fans up, expectant, furious as play was waved on. You know how to whistle, ref? You put your lips together and blow. There was only one Mariner in Town who didn't believe it to be a penalty.

Charlton broke down their left with Jeffers almost played free behind the defence, but Whittle oozed him away as Macca came back to assist in cleaning up this minor dog fouling moment. Aaaaah, Macca, pure Macca: the years rolled away, quality will out, Jeffers was dispossessed easily, so he fell. Compounding his original felony, the referee gave Charlton a free kick. Fleming acted as the mouthpiece for the crowd, informing the referee of a few home truths, using words of one and sometimes two syllables. And he was booked.

The free kick was rubbish, by the way. Murphy rolled it to Johannson, who played it back to... Crowe. Town broke away, Town crossed, Parkinson was blatantly pushed in the back. Nothing given.

A couple of minutes later Crowe made his way towards Kiely as he awaited a dropping ball. A big yellow hip emerged to barge Crowe into the goal. Nothing given.

The crowd were not enamoured with the ref, for he was giving Town free kicks in the middle third, but everything to Charlton near each goal. Still, at least he was enjoying himself laughing and joking with these stars.

Jeffers was offside. There we are, Charlton's moments of danger, the full gamut of their attacking from A to B. They hadn't had a shot yet.

Hockless, while warming up near the Police Box, ran onto the pitch to retrieve the ball. There you are: a season's first to keep the children happy. Hockless on the pitch.

Town pinned Charlton back with passing, passion and precision. A flood of crosses, a torrent of crosses, wave upon wave of Town attacks. Almost and nearly, not quite, it just wasn't falling for Town. A corner dropped, Macca let fly, the ball clearing all. Sestanovich dribbled, crossed, the ball blocked near the line. A save, a clearance? A scramble, panic in the streets of London. Time ticking away, Crowe replaced by Bull with about 15 minutes left.

Jeffers was offside again. "Arsenal reject," sang the singing ringing tree corner. How harsh to heckle Crowe when he'd played so well.

With just over ten minutes to go Charlton had a break. That's really nice for them, having come all this way and never seen the ball. And nice for us too to actually see these stellar visions of manliness within ear and eyeshot. Oh, this looks dangerous. Lisbie (who'd come on for Johannson) sprinted away down the middle from the halfway line, pursued by Pinault. Sufficiently harried, he passed the buck, the ball making its way to Jeffers, suspiciously in front of the last Town player. Offside? He always had been before. Jeffers, inside the area, took one touch, awaited Williams and carefully lifted the ball across and into the bottom right hand corner from a narrow angle.

And now he was a "Scouse reject". Or should that be a "Scouse scoring reject"? Third shot of the game, second goal. What a shame, but shows why they cost millions and ours were found at the Toll Bar car boot sale. That's an awful lot of frozen prawns to sell, Chairman John.

Game over, then? Yeah, really. Town continued to attack, continued to pepper the Charlton goalmouth, but... same old, same old. Sestanovich raiding on the right, crossing, blocked near the line, rebounding to Fleming. A leaping, hooking volley from the edge of the area trumbled towards the bottom left corner. Kiely somehow flappily scooped the ball away. Another minute, another Macca shot, cutting infield and from near the corner of the box he flailed a shot high through the area, just missing the angle of right post and bar. Sigh. Is there nothing we can do to score? No.

With about seven minutes left Hockless and Coldicott replaced Sestanovich and Pinault. The towel had been thrown into the ring. Hockless was greeted with shock and awe by his admirers. That doesn't include the Charlton players, who were rather pleased to see a little boy arrive to play with the adults. Hockless' first contribution was to dibble about 25 yards out and lose the ball to Lisbie. Two passes later Jeffers was putting the ball into the net. Nah, offside again.

In injury time Fleming made a terrible back pass towards Williams, succeeding in setting Euell free in the middle of the penalty area, 15 yards out. Euell lobbed Williams and cleared the bar. Euell, yes - he came on for the last 20 minutes or so and made a major contribution to Charlton safety. Fleming had run out of steam so Big Jase was able to do a lot of late runs from midfield. Still counting those shots?. Not many, eh?

Have we finished yet? Yes we have. Town got the ovation their general play deserved, Charlton the win they didn't deserve, Mendonca the love of the Pontoon as he walked to the Main Stand. Charlton had been outfought, out-thought and outplayed, but they outscored Town. So everything was fantastic apart from the result. What's changed, Clive? Everything and nothing.

No-one played badly and all should be hailed for their effort and teamwork. Town looked great, missing just one ingredient. We need someone to score. Not much to ask, is it? Slade's got the chicken, he's got the noodles - now go and get the mangetout.

Nicko's man of the match
I'm looking inside a jewel box, I see Diamond Dean, Ruby Reddy, Amethyst Ashley and Garnet Greg. It's like the Romper Room, isn't it. Who could it be? They were all excellent, but Greg Young was rock steady in defence and a handful going forward with his barnstorming roadtrips and playmaking. But everyone gets a Macca-like thumbs-up (the other, less famous Macca) and mentions in despatches. Don't let the scoreline fool yer. We were ace.

Official warning
Hardly noticed Mr A Marriner in the first half - he was happy enough to stroll around sharing jokes with the players. But in the second he seemed determined not to make a 'controversial' decision that would affect the big team. He might as well have got his autograph book out. Not impressed. 4.301, even if he was right about the penalty.