What's the point?

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 March 2005

Grimsby Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

A hazy Monday afternoon; with 50 points we've got no time for worries, close your eyes and drift away… Cleethorpes, still only in Cleethorpes. Around one hundred Irthlings crash-landed in the Osmond, peering through the gloom into the silent hinterland beyond. They could see us, they couldn't hear us. How welcoming. It's just like being at home for them.

The number of matchday mascots increases in inverse proportion to Town's league position: the pitch was infested with them. How can the Mariners keep afloat with so many aboard? Given the average Grimbarian's propensity to be wilfully contrary, do you think Town'd raise more money if they'd called it Hold the Mariners Underwater? A little local knowledge goes a long, long way.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Williams, McDermott, Whittle, Forbes, Crowe, Fleming, Pinault, Coldicott, Parkinson, Gritton and Harrold. The substitutes were Hockless, Jones, Crane, Soames and the enigmatic Downey. Crowe played at left-back, with Fleming the wide right midfielder. Fleming: the very thought of you as a winger fills us with inertia.

Dish of the Day returned in typically half-cocked way as "Easter Eats". Chocolate? Breaded products? No, a thinly disguised advert for the Waltham Allotment Society, telling you to plant some onions. The enveloping ennui extends further into the programme, with a rehashed Glen Downey interview, and the players' sponsors page including two who don't even play for Town any more. Does anybody care about anything? Are we just waiting for the sun to come out?

Rushden played in all red and had players with names and hair, and all the normal number of limbs. Other than that they had no distinguishing features, unless Gray's beard is your bag.

First half
The plastic people kicked off towards the Pontoon to a deafening hush, lumping the ball up their left towards a tall man. McDermott challenged, the ball, the ball, the ball… sorry, I drifted off there, happily skipping through the land of chocolate.

The ball, the ball, the ball… mmmmm, chocolate.

You missed nothing. One of their defenders was injured. Perhaps his ego had deflated when he realised how low his career had got: the Mausoleum of Mediocrity on a murky Monday in March. You can have too much alliteration, but not too much football.

Football. Ah yes, that's why we turned up. Football. Foot... yes, I see feet. Ball - I see that too, occasionally descending on a point of flame. A pass! And another! Parkinson flipping free down the centre-left, a defender retreating like a world-weary tyre fitter. An invitation to shoot, hand-delivered to Parky, accepted with grace. Big Ears slapped a low shot from about 20 yards out which skiffled a yard wide of the keeper's right post. We could almost be bothered to "ooh", but not quite.

We should have gone to Ramsden's instead. They were having a "Price Crash", you know. Maybe that's where Mr Sort It Again was, searching in those big buckets for a left-back and a goalie; perhaps a two-for-one deal. Make sure to take the plastic wrapping off next time, Mr Russ. Will I ever have the opportunity to write that typo - Bull shot - again? Fingers so thick, vowels so close together: a bit like Boston really.

Am I digressing? You'll never know without a live videolink. That's my secret.

Wahey! Their goalkeeper slipped over when punting forward. You have to grasp on to little things these days. Are you listening, Anthony Williams? What an odd cove their keeper was, hurling and swirling himself around the area, arms swinging, jumping and jiving. Was he really a keeper? The programme has him down as a defender/midfielder, so it must be that old school football trick - catch the ball in the warm-up and you're in goal. "Haw, haw," to quote Nelson Muntz, their assistant manager.

You have got the drift, haven't you? Slow, dull, devoid of competence, Town seeking the big men up front, the Rushden & Carbons defensive in the extreme. Ten minutes gone and the Carbonites hadn't even managed to get one little toe inside the Town penalty area. A shot! Nah, not from them. Gritton receiving a flick-on from Harrold on the centre left, weaving and wafting a shot from just outside the area which drifted and droned wide of the near post, without Shearer bothering to move. He was bored already.

In the context of this game the following was an exciting moment to be savoured; treasured, even. Some Town player, lost in the mists of time, dinkled a cross from the right, and Gritton soared above his marker beyond the far post and headed back across goal. Fleming trotted in, the ball bombled past him, Harrold slid in as Shearer stooped and scooped the ball up. Yeah, great.

Rushden broke excitingly from their own half, getting within 40 yards of Williams. My, that was exhilarating. Handball? Has this officially been excised from the rule book? Handball again? And again? Pfft. La-di-da-di-da, dum-di-dum-di-dum.

A Rushden player set foot inside the Town penalty area, 22 minutes 34 seconds.

Boring. Another Town long ball. Boring, boring, boring, boring. Where are my old John 'n' Roly videos? Hoof, Harrold flick, Gritton nodded free behind the defence, bounding along inside the area, just Shearer betwixt Gritton and glory. Shearer ambled forward and leapt half-heartedly at the Gritster, who rather feebly tapped the ball against the goalie's thigh. Pathetic attempt really; awful miss, for the keeper was caught in a terrible position and just jumped up in the air hoping for the best. How long gone? Twenty-four long, long, long minutes.

Choose some suitable mental music to signify a moment of great joy and triumph. You could choose Beethoven's ninth, or perhaps the theme from Please Sir! The nesting entity that was Rushden suddenly shrugged off the torpor and timidity. From their right, just inside the Town half, the ball was curled into the Town area. Williams stayed on his line, Forbes raced back and, from the edge of the six-yard box at the far post, slid, stretched and hooked the ball away at the far post. The ball struck the dove from above on the chest, bouncing a couple of feet past the post.

Of course, a corner was given, flipped through the area, missed by all, except Gritton's right hand, which laid the ball off perfectly for Crowe to clear from near the foot of the left post. Some Town fans even appealed for handball, so desperate were they for something to happen. Anything, we'd accept anything.

Rushden had what was, for them, a spell of concerted pressure. In other words, more than three of their players were in Town's half and they had the ball for a minute. Nothing whatsoever came of it. No shot, no possible moments of almost nearness, not even any comedic fumblings and stumblings. A barn owl did not swoop down and pluck away the centre-forward's toupé, nor did Rob Jones breakdance in the centre circle to the hip-hop beat of Lieutenant Pigeon. What a mouldy old dough this game was.

Hibble, bibble, a Pinault shot, looped wide, looped high. An effort of sorts, an effort to describe it. What's going on out there? Nothing. No movement, therefore no passing, Pinault performing cartwheels, seeking out a pass, faced with a sea of indolence. A Gallic shrug nears. Forbes and Whittle tried to pass the ball out of defence, but then gave up, faced by a red wall, deciding to chip a steady stream of nonsense in the vague direction of the front two. This is not what we do; we are Grimsby, we play football. It would have helped if some of the males in striped shirts had moved their feet sometimes.

High ball from the right, far post, Gritton head down, Harrold slapped the ball wide at the near post. Not interesting football, nearly something: wasn't. Dull. Percentage football; Town statistically insignificant. Pah and pah again.

Has Blundell Park ever been so silent? The game was sinking into a gloop of steaming, festering compost. No skill, no wit, no chances, nothing has changed, it's still the same. Everywhere in Town it's getting dark. Dark, dank, rank. Hark, the Harrold angel nearly sings. Pinault, exquisite, sublime, a wondrous cross looping from right to left, dropping perfectly to the unmarked Harrold beyond the far post. The Prince opened up his body and steered a volley low across Shearer, who blocked the ball away into the centre of goal, with a bit of scrumblage by his henchmen scrumping danger away under a big red cloak.

In the last minute Whittle and Coldicott decided to do their infamous Chuckle Brothers routine, passing the lukewarm potato between them with boxing gloves on their feet. A Rushdenite embezzled the ball away, using left, then right hand. Off he went down the centre-right, down he went under the merest of stares from, err, I dunno, let's say Forbes. Williams hid behind the wall and we awaited the usual one shot, one goal routine. Hello sailor! The ball wafted into the loft apartments atop the Pontoon, knocking over someone's cocoa and an ornamental badger.

That, for statistical purposes only, was their shot. The ball just couldn't wait to get on the A180 and vroom out of Town as quickly as possible.

That was the half that wasn't. Half of what? Definitely half empty. Half-baked, half-cocked, half-a-sixpence, halfway up the stairs isn't up and isn't down, it isn't really anywhere. Fleming and Parkinson wasted: neither knew where to stand, caught in the headlights, neither here nor there. Crowe? Can he be bothered to tackle? Is Gritton fit or has he given up? Lopsided, disjointed fragments of football, the illusion of cohesion, not so much a performance as a contractual obligation to appear.


Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I have a tree that looks like Ken Dodd."
"Yeah, and Crane's been our best player this season."
"So, have you taken your kids to Grimsby's cultural quarter?" "They've been to Lincoln before."
"Ah, I see both legs are working now."
"Town've never suffered from safety before. It's boring."

Second half
Neither side made any changes at half time.

Pinault immediately curled the ball down the right, the ball rolling, rolling, rolling out for a throw-in two yards from the corner flag.

They got the ball, ran off, got a corner; it skimmed off a Town head for another corner. Town broke, nothing happened. There you are: basic facts, unembellished by frilly rhetorical flourishes. Cold and very, very painful. Like staring into the abyss, it was primal scream therapy.

A Town attack. Harrold, sent free down the left, twisting, twizzling, ignoring the pouring support on his right. Inside, outside, inside, outside, inside the area: thwack, a rising drive crawling over the angle of post and bar. Better, I suppose.

A minute later two red defenders challenged each other, flicking the ball on for Parkinson. Onwards, chased by some illegal hounds, Parky cut back from the corner of the penalty area, sending the two beagles sliding towards Mars without parachutes. Free? No, Parkinson fell over his own feet; the moment passed without cause for an obituary notice to be placed for Rushden in the Football League Gazette.

Parkinson again carouselling down the right, flicking his wand at one, scrunching his nose at a second, making the little pixies disappear. Then tripping himself, again, sending various inhabitants of the Pontoon into an altered state of consciousness, yapping like neutered poodles in frustration, words failing to emerge.

Pinault picked up his long-forgotten baton and got the orchestra into some sort of semblance of order. From the cacophony a tune began to emerge. You - yes, you behind the bikesheds - you, Parky, on second fiddle. And you over there, Mr Fleming on the big bass bassoon. Professor Pinault plucked his harpsichord, dropping perfect passes onto the feet of our widemen. We had a good ten minutes before the ugly brass section started complaining.

Parkinson again, sizzling along the right, drifting wide and croaking a low shot across Shearer and… a few inches wide of the right post. Macca raiding, Macca falling over his own feet, Macca falling over invisible feet. Crosses from the left, crosses from the right, Gritton shaking his hips and clutching his hair in mock frustration. Crowe bounding down the left into the corner flag, a cross drifting into the centre. Fleming rose, unmarked inside the six-yard box, right in the centre, but headed softly straight at Shearer, who dropped the ball before it was auto-shuffled away.

A corner given, cleared, the swamp reclaimed the lost tribe of Town. Pinault's cogs began to seize up, passes astray, radio detuned, contact lost, send out the search party in search of flair.

After 64 minutes a change: Coldicott replaced by Hockless, to subdued groans, for Coldicott had played adequately; it was Fleming who was expected to be sacrificed on the altar of the Nabob Hockless. Perhaps Stacy was wearing the big red ring. Fleming went into the centre with Hockless on the left. Hockless did one run where he almost did something. After that he caught the bug that is going around the squad. You know he should have had that anti-apathy injection when it was offered to him.

I haven't mentioned our opponents for some time. Rushden. There you are, just to remind you who Town were playing. They hadn't gone home yet. They had the ball sometimes too, passing it to each other. We could learn something from them. But not from their forwards, who were less striking than ours. Some going. 'Turgid' is a word. So are 'defenestration' and 'serape'. Only one of these accurately describes the yawning chasm on our lives that was this game.

Congratulations, Jason Crowe: 71 minutes gone and you finally won a tackle. Well, I say 'won'; the ball hit the back of his shins after rebounding off Hockless, but let's not be too picky, eh? I think I'll match your effort into describing how bothered you were playing in this game. Oops, I've already exceeded that.

A Hockless shot, over the stand. Pinault volleying, the ball remaining inside Blundell Park; another from Pinault, way, way high. Gritton complaining to McDermott; Macca dismissing with a regal wave. No, my celtic friend, Macca don't do route one. And Macca is Grimsby Town.

Ooh, hello, what's this? A Rushden break, almost through, Forbes to the rescue with a strong challenge in the middle of the pitch. And again, a sort of shot, more like a misplaced through pass, decades in front of his intended recipient, the ball struggling to roll over the bye-line, yards wide of the goal. At some unmemorable time one of their taller, blonder players had an unremarkable shot which hit Whittle's calf and struggled through to Williams. Look, I'm trying to be fair to them and tell you all about those Rushden attacks.

Hockless took a free kick… no, I can't be bothered to bore you with more details here. Awful.

With ten minutes or so left Gritton was replaced by Soames. And Town perked up a bit. Route one, here we come. Bang, hoof, hump, lump, what a dump this game is. A Town corner, pressure, head tennis inside the area, bodies barging, ball dropping to Fleming 12 yards out: sliced and hooked several yards over. Soames suddenly free down the centre after being tickled free by Fleming. One touch, to the edge of the area, still no Diamonds around, Soames slashed a drive across Shearer and an inch or so wide of his left post.

Another minute, another chance. Pinault seduced the ball over from the left, looping over Whittle and dropping into a big fat space. The defenders stopped; Hockless ran around and, from a narrow angle, slapped a low cross into the centre. Soames challenged a chunk of red cheese inside the six-yard box and the ball ricocheted just wide of the near post for a corner.

It all sounds very exciting, and in some ways it was, but without that expectation that the ball would go in the net. And if it did, so what? We're not used to this end-of-season strolling. Especially in March.

As the fourth official put his board up, some wondered should they go or should they stay, their band had one more song to play. The Rushden left-back drop-kicked hugely down the pitch; Littlejohn backed into Whittle, and they both fell over. A free kick was awarded to them, right on the edge of the area, just to the left of centre. Town set up two walls, which both crumpled as McCafferty stroked the ball goalwards. The ball crept through the theoretical outer wall and winked against Williams' right post, back into play, and Whittle tucked it under his shirt and ran off home to Mother. Town lumped it upfield, had a fight; Harrold chested the ball down 15 yards out and Soames poked a volley a few inches over the angle of post and bar, to Shearer's right.

Game over.

Do you hear that, John Fenty? It's the sound of silence. That is what you should worry about. I'm sure the bald statistics for this game would show Town dominant, and they were, but there was never, ever the feeling that Town would score, or that half the team were that bothered whether we scored or not. This game was a complete waste of everyone's time.

Harrold was moderately effective for an hour. Gritton was effective last month. Parkinson looked like he was about to do something, then kept falling over. Pinault had moments to savour, moments to forget, but generally at least tried to do things. He looked for movement, and there was none. Overall the style of play was horrible; the back four kept trying to pass it, like they'd been told to retain possession, but after a few seconds they gave up and cracked it long. An unedifying sight: a Grimsby team playing bad rugby.

Rushden may rue their timidity. That's two points dropped, not a point gained. This season can't end quick enough.

What wreckage can we cling to?

Nicko's man of the match
For the second home game running Mr Terrell Forbes was head and shoulders above the rest for consistency and effectiveness. Ignoring his chronic inability to pass accurately, he did what he's paid to do: stop them. Best player on the pitch by aeons, his last-minute surge upfield past three Rushdenites is the clincher - at least he was trying.

Official warning
Joe E Ross? Wasn't he Rupert Ritzik in Bilko? And Sergeant Flint in Hong Kong Phooey? Go back to your journeyman comedy roles. In a game where there were no decisions to make, you managed to get a load wrong. Do you know your basic anatomy? The hand is attached to the wrist, the wrist to the arm, and the arm to the shoulder. The chest is somewhere else, over the rainbow. Arbitrary annoyance gives an arbitrary score of 4.342.