Dead loss

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

2 April 2005

Mansfield Town 2 Grimsby Town 0

Do you need to laugh when the sun is out? Here's something to blub about. Beautiful downtown Mansfield on a sizzling spring afternoon with around 200 lounging Mariners sipping Pimms on the patio behind a goal. The Field Mill of dreams gleaming, the seats devoid of local bottoms. They have built it; they haven't come.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Williams, McDermott, Forbes, Whittle, Crowe, Fleming, Coldicott, Pinault, Parkinson, Gritton and Harrold. The substitutes were Crane, Jones, Ramsden, Soames and Heggarty. Wot no Downey? Yes, we have no banana on the bench today. Do you think young Glen is a professional seatwarmer? I must remember to look out for him at the next BAFTAs. Oh yes, the starting eleven, same as on Monday, everyone in the same wonky positions. Fleming on the wing, oh.

Mansfield dropped da kids and put bundling Barker and deadlegs Larkin up front, with a couple of nippy, tricksy wingers in Brown and Rundle. Ah, so they're going to have a go. Still think they could reach the play-offs? Perhaps Carlton Palmer has watched Escape to Victory one too many times. "Listen, lads - we can still do this!" Their right-back was Buxton the bulky bruiser, as wide as he was high; Parkinson would need an A-Z to get around Mansfield.

We have crazy legs, they have dead legs. And the season is on its last legs.

First half
Sorry you missed it - the game started two minutes ago. The referee just couldn't wait to get home. Town had kicked off towards the slumbering Staggers fans, with a few seconds of head tennis and British bulldogs in the playground. Free kick to Mansfield; Coldicott nudged when he should have nurdled.

Ooh, there's a surprise, a Town shot! Gritton, near the right corner of the Mansfield area, flicked on a Crowe chip. Harrold glided upon the canal, waiting for someone to throw some breadcrumbs his way. The ball dropped about eight yards out; he opened his body and steered a first-time volley across goal, high and wide. Not quite a half chance; more a sort of four-ninths chance, brief, almost, not.

During all this hullaballoo Fleming went off for some treatment, or perhaps he wanted to change his sunglasses to something with a little more pizzazz. He came back and Macca filled him in on what he'd missed. A Pinaultian shrug explained all.

One lump or two? Mansfield thrusting forward with direct passes to the hustlers upfront, Town lobbing towards Gritton. Shall we cut out the middlemen completely and shove this burger straight down the toilet? Let's not bother tackling, eh? Crowe watching, Brown dibbling a cross to the far post. Hung high, headed back in to the middle of the six-yard box, where Whittle cleared for a corner as Williams observed discreetly from behind an old oak tree.

Five minutes gone. A pulse has been found and the patient is resting.

It's OK, you won't miss anything, you can go to the loo or trim your azaleas, but don't mow your lawn just yet. Wait for the dew to burn off first.

Around the ten-minute mark Mansfield had a bit of pressure. Neil sluiced a volley straight at Williams when a corner was half cleared. Day flicked on a long throw at the near post; Williams tapped the ball aside with his fingertips as it bimbled across goal. A momentary gasp from the massed Mariners; no danger, no Mansfielders awake.
Five minutes of throw-ins. Sir John and Buxton taking it in turns to lob gently. Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go. Larkin trotting, Barker barging, no danger, no chances, nothing. It's easy, easy as a Sunday morning. Easy but boring. Let's have action, let's see people, let's see who cares. Crowe zooming, danger looming. Onwards, upwards, a Gritton flick on the edge of the area, and Coldicott rolling free on the right. The ace of Stace tried to poke-lob the ball over Pilkington from a dozen yards, but only looped it straight at the decorative glassware in goal.

Just one look and Pilkington went "boom", as he launched the ball upfield, forcing Forbes to flibble away for a corner. The Staggies tried to take it quickly, and short, but Pinault and Crowe stopped that with a little turkey trot. When they went back to their temperature-controlled hut Mansfield took the corner… short. To the same player. Crowe wandered, wondered and watched as the yellowboy hit the bye-line and curled in a dinky little cross to the near post. Larkin stretched a bit, but not much, and Williams scooped the ball up after, and only after, he'd finished chapter 23 of that book he bought at the service station on the way. A small moment that summed it all up. A sleepy spring snoozeathon, punctuated by sneakiness. Don't they know the name of the game?

You can go and mow the lawn now, but only if it's a small lawn. Ten minutes will do. And when you come back you'll find that Carlton le Palmer had had enough of Larkin's larking and off he came, replaced by a teenager, Diet Coke. Brown now accompanied Barker in the centre. Is this relevant? Why do you need to know this? 'Cos this changed everything. Mansfield began to pass the ball along the ground, behind the Town full-backs, stretching and retching Town. But not creating anything, just slowly pulling those stitches, the jumper unravelling imperceptibly.

And what a fine ten minutes Town had as the hems frayed. Parkinson racing and rippling past two on the left, a cross to the far post nodded back, a bit of scrambled egg and toast inside the area. Mansfield brows furrowing, no chance, no shot. Crowe taking the bullet train to the edge of the Mansfield area, flipping to Gritton, flicking to Coldicott, unmarked, 15 yards out, the ball at his feet, his feet over the ball. The Stacemeister stumbled, the moment passed, unlike him. Another minute another moment: Whittle headed a free kick across the area. Gritton, a dozen yards out with his back to goal, thighed the ball aside, turned and shinned the ball a couple of yards high and wide to the right of goal.

On the half hour, the chance arrived. Finally a Town move: flowing, fantastic, fun. Harrold received the ball just inside the Mansfield half, on the left. He chested down, turned and stonked a superb cross-field pass out into the desolate wastelands on the right. Fleming was prompted forward by the voice-activation remote control unit fitted earlier by Dave Moore. It wasn't a wet sponge, or a pair of sunglasses, after all. Fleming waited for support and Lord John got on his cloud, surfing down the wing. Macca took the ball into the box and crossed low to the near post, where Parkinson stepped over the ball and back-heeled to the unmarked Harrold, about 10 yards out. Prince Haddock leant back and swished a first-time shot a foot wide of the left post, with Pilkington left to indulge in some aerobic windmilling. Oh dear, what a shame. Never mind, they don't look like scoring either.

Oops. Pinault passing directly to yellow. Not once, not twice, but thrice. Shudderingly bad. Oh dear, off went Rundle behind McDermott, the cross kneed away from a blancmange of strikers for a corner. Warning, warning, systems failure in sector 17. Hey, they haven't made Williams move yet, have they? With ten minutes left to half time the usual happened: a shot on target, a goal. But you can't blame Williams this time, which disappointed many.

Forbes cleared a half-attack straight to Pinault, in the centre of the Town half. The Town defence started to push up, and Pinault passed straight to a yellow-clad brick wall. After some occasional challenges from Town, the ball was sent over the top of McDermott for Rundle to race on to. Half the defence seemed to be playing offside, the other off the wall. Rundle scampered into the area, steadied himself and rammed a shot to Williams' left. He parried the ball, which dropped straight at Barker's feet eight yards out. Williams got up, threw himself at the barrel-chested bundler and blocked superbly. The ball rolled further to the left, to Brown, who tripped over the only moving object inside the box, knocking it in. A lot of shoulders shrugged.

Forget Town for the rest of the half: they imploded. Pinault became even more inaccurate with his passing; Town players were third, sometimes fourth to the ball. I'm sure I saw Pilkington take out a little gas stove and cook up some bacon and eggs. I have a small veil; I shall draw it across this period. Except you can see through it, where Mansfield nearly/should have scored again.

Gritton and Crowe fooled only themselves down by the corner flag, allowing Brown to swerve through them, playing a one-two with a spare tyre, Buxton. Gritton tried to defend; Brown was away to the bye-line, a deep cross to the far post, where the unmarked Rundle awaited. The ball dropped, Rundle swung his boots, the ball zippedy-doo-dahed across goal and a couple of feet wide.

There was more awfulness, other efforts, more humbling stumbling by Town, but you've had more than enough. You've got the drift as the season drifts further away. It'll be over soon enough.

I didn't mean that soon! One minute of added time was flashed up and four seconds later the referee ended the half. Perhaps he's got a hot lunch date, or a flight booked from East Midlands Airport.

How many times can the same things be said? The twist this time was that we couldn't blame the keeper. Nice of them to share the burden. Is that what they mean by team spirit?

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"You can't buy contemporary art on Tuesdays."
"They're better than us at being average."
"Sorry, I'm too tall to use the other one."
"How many of our players would get a job on Cleethorpes beach?"
"I found the ladies' toilet. I don't think it's been used this century."

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

Behind the stands the flight of the caravans continued: the long line of wobbly metal and plastic sauntering off to Skeggy. So that's where all the Mansfield fans are. They'll get stuck on the Lincoln by-pass.

Within a minute the mobile home that was McLachlan was booked for tripping and whipping Parkinson inside the centre circle as the shimmering Scouser was about to tiptoe through the tulips.

Oh no, not again: another Pinault mistake, passing directly to jail, not passing Go. Mansfield off, off and away, Rundle scootering up the left wing, crossing beyond the far post, where Brown shovelled the ball towards the bottom left corner. Williams flipped the bumbler aside. What is this thing you call defending?

Is this some flotsam to cling on to as the river levels rise? Parkinson past one, two and a third, releasing Harrold in the centre, just outside the penalty area. A brief moment in time, snap, it's gone: Harrold delayed, passed towards the unmarked Fleming, who… lost out in the tackle. So close to being almost something where it is possible that it could lead to a potential danger, depending which way the wind blows.

They made another change, bringing on yet another willowy, callow youth, Lloyd. Sorry, I misheard the tannoy, that's Callum Lloyd. Still no animation on the Town bench.

Where's Crowe? Neil was away down their right, four attackers against two defenders, Brown unmarked ten yards out; Whittle's big bottom to the rescue. Good job he left his little one at home today. Wise decision.

Town were getting worse, players reacting only when the ball was near, easily shrugged aside by opponents who could see that win bonus in their pocket. If you go home now you'll beat the B&Q rush hour. Mansfield were being a little pixie-ish: Brown lurking behind Williams as Agony Ant waited to boot upfield. Yes, it's a pantomime. "Behind you!" we shouted at the grand dame in goal. Was this game any good? Oh no it wasn't.

Town did a move. Quite good. Four passes along the ground. But Fleming crossed straight to Pilkington. I thought I'd better mention it. Gotta be positive.

This game is hopeless: Mansfield strolling, cocky enough to start trying flicks and tricks. They'll be "olé"-ing soon.

On the hour Pinault was replaced by Soames, putting us out of his misery. Perhaps the weather had him pining for the fjords of France. Soames went to a wide right position while Fleming was released from his shackles to roam the savannah in the centre.

A small flurry of activity sparked by Soames' pestering got Town a corner. Cleared out to Fleming in the centre, his shot apologised as it passed several ankles before striking a blue sock and looping up towards the six-yard box. Gritton leapt, looked and attempted to hook the ball goalwards. Pilkington hurled himself at the upturned Scot, managing to block at point blank range. Ah well, there we are. Another minute, another false dawn. Parkinson surging past two, crossing a foot or so above the unmarked Harrold at the far post.

A few minutes later Parkinson sailed past three, cut into the box and chiselled the ball well over the crossbar as team-mates were yingling about to his right. Oh yes, this is where you are supposed to say: "Parkinson not offside but...". At least he was having a go, and if Town should do anything he would be the catalyst. Yes, I know, we haven't bought a converter for our little Mini's engine.

And what were Mansfield up to during this illusion of Town pressure? Dancing in the streets, wearing their hair in a bob and in short skirts too. They were having a lovely day, frequently puncturing the balloon, but teasing too. They didn't want to kill the bull too early; everyone might go home before they've finished their act. Neil, in particular, was dictating the tempo, scrumping the ball off the dozy Townites, encouraging his minions to scatter the good seed on the land. Barker wafted wide after a flick from a throw-in. Too simple, painfully poor by Town. We're waiting for the next goal.

We didn't expect that. A Town shot. Fleming advanced in the centre, tickled the ball to Harrold, who spun around his marker and played a perfect pass behind the full back for Soames to run on to. Alone inside the box, Soames hit the shot early from about 15 yards out, but straight at Pilkington's legs. The ball rebounded high, high, behind Pilkington into the six-yard box. Keeper, strikers and defenders all careered into the same spot, waiting for the sun. Gritton and Harrold were directly underneath the ball: they collided, fell and the ball bounced down, across, and wide for a goal kick. They brilliantly saved the day for Mansfield.

Town didn't do anything else any good, if you are prepared to class that as good.

Fleming was booked for moaning, then with 10 minutes left Ramsden replaced… Gritton. The Town fans considered that the management team had made a mistake, and alerted them to this belief in traditional manner. Gritton feigned an inability to see the board and trudged off looking slightly dissatisfied with life. Ah, now what formation did Town revert to... 4-4-2, still. Ramsden went to left-back, Crowe to right midfield and Soames partnered Harrold up front. This made things even worse.

With five minutes left Barker flicked on and Rundle za-za-zoomed through on the left. Forbes backed off (was that bloke from Radio Humberside at the same game? Can't tell his Maccas from his Crowes from his Forbeses from his elbows), and off, and off, and off, and was turned into a reversible raincoat when the flying funster cut inside. From about 12 yards out Rundle whacked the ball high across Williams into the top left corner. Good finish, lousy defending, lousy game over. What contest?

After this Crowe stopped moving backwards, twice allowing Mansfielders to drivel past him and get to the bye-line. Too much cockiness by the Stags saved Town, for they looked for their paper hats and kazoos, rather than crossing to one of several unmarked mates. In the last minute Barker was allowed to carry out a geological survey of the Town half, with the Town defence akimbo. Alone, inside the area, he smackerooned the ball way over the bar. Thanks for thinking of us Richie, as 2-0 looks a respectable scoreline.

During the two minutes of added time Town had a couple of attacks. So lacking in interest or purpose were they that I am not going to tell you anything about them. Town players inside Mansfield area shock.

It has finished.

This game was over last week. Town played like they wanted to be with the locals, caravanning in Skeggy. No-one came out of it with much credit. The best were simply people who could be seen to be trying. There was no form, no obvious style or plan of action. Town should really register themselves with the Charity Commission: we are dispensing much-needed succour to all our opponents. In desperate need of points? Welcome inside, here they are, take as many as you wish, be our guest.

The Scunthorpe game is looming: we've given generously recently, let's keep something for ourselves, just once. Patience is exhausted. We need some reason to keep going. Can anyone find one?

Nicko's man of the match
Erm, oh, do we really have to have one? We're attempting to differentiate between degrees of (in)adequacy. Why bother? They didn't, much. No-one was man of the match.

Markie's un-man of the match
Oh dear, the pain, the pain, poor old Pinault: nothing he did was right. It was plain to see he was hopeless. He was King Midas in Reverse.

Official warning
The locals roused themselves in faux ire with some decisions, mainly when Mr L Mason kept giving Town goal kicks. Oooh, you are awful. Overall there is absolutely nothing to complain about, nothing bad, nothing good. He was there, kept control of himself and the players; he ended the game. If we look to our right we can see the judges' score: 7.652. Solid and respectable.