The referee's a fig leaf

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 November 2004

Scunthorpe United 2 Grimsby Town 0

A dull, grey afternoon in a dull, grey town that isn't Grimsby. Two thousand Town fans crammed behind a goal in the Tin-Tack Shack; the pimple on the backside of Scunthorpe, if you will. It's closer to Crowle than the hustling bustling shiny metropolis that is our nearest county cousin. There were some attempts at banter as the warm-up progressed, but it was all so forced. The Scunthorpe teenagers were even more limited that their Town counterparts in dreaming up chants. They don't do to our steel what we do to their fish. Missed a trick there, didn't they. They were totally dumbstruck when their chants of "Sing when you're fishing" were flung back at them with glee.

Town lined up in the 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Gordon, Jones, McDermott, Fleming, Coldicott, Crowe, Sestanovich, Daly, Parkinson. The substitutes were Bull, Marcelle, Cramb, Young and Pinault. Hearts sank. Still the same glumpy gunge in the centre, but at least we have some defenders. And Jones. Transitory Stan emerged to roll his shoulders and was greeted with polite applause. He's on a suspended sentence from the supporters.

A new theory emerged concerning the Lord Lucan of Town. Glen Downey could be that fitness coach who makes them run between those cones. Well, have you got a better one?

I don't care about Scunthorpe. Do you?

Scunthorpe should be sued for harassment. Town had one tiny lass as a mascot and they had five boys. That's bullying, that is. See you in court Mr Laws. Ah yes, him, we'd forgotten about him, hadn't we? No we hadn't. The bile rising form our guilty past was reserved for him, and him alone. That's only when the "passion" emerged.

Fenty came out and did a mini-walkabout, applauding the massed Mariners. I wish he wouldn't do that: we always lose when he does.

First half
Scunthorpe kicked off towards their own supporters, knocked back to their left-back and wellied up to Torpey. Whittle headed away and the referee awarded a free kick. Beagrie tried to crack it quickly; it took a deflection, a corner, wasted, that's it for 15 minutes.

Bang, bang, bang. They sure know how to head a ball. A basic method was employed by Scunny: hit it quickly to Torpey, and Hayes sniffs for flicks and rebounds. Firm and fruity it was, not bone-shaking stuff, but no-one was pulling out of challenges, or refraining from stopping limbs connecting. The referee gave the first three free kicks to Scunthorpe and this displeased a significant minority within the corrugated calamity that is Blandford Park.

There was nothing else to get steamed up about. Town were formless, letting Jones heave hopeless punts in the vague direction of Daly and, usually, massive Andy Parkinson. Scunthorpe headed it away, lofted it forward and Jones or Whittle would then head it back to them. Repeat ad infinitum.

At one point Scunthorpe crossed the ball towards the Town area. The home fans made a noise, disturbing the light readers down in the Town end.

Ah, that's better. Sestanovich swirling and twirling down the left, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning, just turning on his heels and crossing for... no-one. Macca gave him a look that could have lasted years. I always have the music from Mary, Mungo and Midge playing in my head when Sus-Sus-Stanovich gets the ball. Going up, going down, dudderly-dudderly-dudderly-dudderly-doh! Does that make Parky the mouse on Stan's nose?

Where are we now? Still in the Scunny triangle of dearth.

A shot, a shot, Brian's kingdom for a shot! Things were looking sweet, talk about a treat. Town somehow got a free kick on the left; maybe one of the Town players was assaulted by any one of the old iron ninja centre-backs. Gordon whopped it to the back post. Jones stumbled around the back and headed the ball back across goal. Daly, about a dozen yards out, took one touch and did a bicycle kick that looped a few yards wide of Musselwhite's left post.

There were several flashes of macho posturing, all chest-to-chest snarling and pink handbags. I can't be bothered to remember who did what; it was all so small-time and pathetic. It may have been Professor Plum in the kitchen with Daly's wobbly stomach.

On the quarter-hour Sestanovich wasted a free kick, about 25 yards out, in the centre. It hit the underside of the beam keeping the roof up. Pfft, with nuts and a chocolate flake. Have Scunny actually got inside the Town penalty area yet? Have Town done anything but head and moan?

Another Town half-attack, the ball somewhere near the Scunny area, cleared to their left, halfway inside their half. Whittle and some bloke in claret challenged and fell over. A free kick given to Scunthorpe. Town players complained, Slade up off the bench remonstrating. The ball rolling, the ball five yards from where the 'foul' took place. Beagrie (I think) passed up the wing, and someone hared after it with Town all of a tither, hither and thither, not a parrot to be seen. A pass inside, Hayes free behind Gordon down the centre. One touch, Williams sank to the ground, Hayes without fuss or favour poked the ball past and over Williams into the right-hand corner. First shot, first goal, Town players furious, fulminating at the referee, Fleming booked. Lots of other words beginning with F, or maybe just one, said a lot.

I'd like to say things got better. They didn't. The game was still rotten, lacking the hyper- intensity expected. It was just a game; a bad, bad game between a confident, organised team and a rag-tag bunch of egotists. Town were awful, wilfully reducing themselves to long-ball hoofers. There seemed to be no plan about how to attack, other than give it to Stan and let Macca run down the right a few times. Oooh look, there's Stacy Coldicott, driving through the midfield, up the edge of the area and being cynically scythed down by imaginary Scunthorpian boots. It was such a rubbish dive that even Stace chuckled as he ran past the ref, who booked him, probably because he laughed.

I keep mentioning the referee. Not good.

After half an hour or so Fleming flipped in a corner from the right, which Daly, unmarked near the penalty spot, glanced safely wide. Then it was Booksville, Arizona. McDermott - McDermott! - booked when sliding in full frontal at Ridley, who stayed down. A very poor decision: it was just two men sliding towards the ball. And doesn't he know you can't book McDermott, he's royalty. Then, finally, after all their identical trips, clips and pushes, an Ironite was booked for putting his studs into the back of Crowe's ankle.

A period of Town pressure ensued with the ball being flung to the far post. Crowe infiltrated on the Town right, near the corner of the penalty area. Up went Crowe, down went Crowe as a claret clad arm went into his face, right in front of the Town fans. Uproar as play continued.

Then Baraclough fell suspiciously slowly, clutching his face. Daly was nearest, complaining about being elbowed. What happened? Watch the video, most missed it. Out came the red card, off went Daly, who left the field via a stomping, finger-waggling threat to the now recovered failed ex-Mariner. The Town players gathered around the ref, not quite grooving him with a pick.

Now work this one out - play restarted via a drop-ball!

Town played with just two up front, keeping the basic formation. Tackles became stronger, with Fleming in particular seeming to be on a one-man mission to snap legs. It would be wrong to say the referee had lost control. He never had it in the first place.

Up to half time Town had a bit of a go, with Sestanovich wasting an excellent chance, just a minute after the sending-off. The ball dropped from Heaven just outside their penalty area, rebounding back to Transit Stan, who hit a first-time left-footed volley which sliced comfortably over and wide. Parkinson, unmarked to his left, was unimpressed.

Macca raided down the right, crossing dangerously; Crowe did likewise down the left, but crosses were just over, just in front of Town strikers. And still Scunny hadn't got inside the Town area. Ah, that's nice for them - Sparrow headed softly at Williams after Hayes had twirdled around on their left and crossed to the far post.

Ah, the ref again. In the two minutes of added time (that all?) Sestanovich fouled Byrne as he cleared down their right and the ref allowed play to continue. Finally Hayes was offside. So that's a free kick to Scunny. A couple of minutes later Gordon was fouled on the edge of the Town area, but the ball fell to Crowe, who turned and was about to set up a counterattack. Play stopped, Crowe threw the ball down in frustration. And was booked.

It rather summed it all up: the little decisions were not kind to Town and a momentum of mutual antagonism had built up between referee and Town players. All Scunthorpe had to do was stand back and let the fireworks go off on their own. They really enjoyed the display. They got all the enjoyment and didn't have to pay for it.

Despite there being 200 policemen at Glanford Park not one of them arrested the instigator of this public nuisance, they let him walk off without even a caution. Standards of policing today, eh - slipping.

Have I said how utterly appalling Jones was? I have now. That man frequently allowed the ball to make contact with his head. Let's not think about his feet. He makes Mark Lever look like a cross between Futcher and Handyside. His distribution made Whittle look like Socrates. Maybe it's a bald thing, for Parkinson and Coldicott were equally inept. Even with 11 men Town were quite embarrassingly poor, trying to match Scunthorpe for fourth division football. Scunny have far more experience at hoof and hope - they've been built for that purpose - so let 'em do that. It's called playing to your strengths. The selection dictated the tactics. A mistake had been made. Again.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Will we have anyone left on the pitch at the end?"
"No poem I know rhymes toboggan with snow."
"Am I the only person who thinks Coldicott is Harry Hill without the badgers?"
"It's hard to say which is more excruciating - the ref or Town."
"My manager thought it was cold enough to snow, but she is from Birmingham."

Second half
Neither team made any change at half time. We were still crap, they were still pap.

From the off Town got out their fiddles and played a doleful tune. Back to Gordon, up to Coldicott in the centre 30 yards out, who dawdled so long that an Ironite burst forward and took possession, and Town had a minor panic attack. Nothing happened, a cross, a clearance, that's all. Scunthorpe aren't great; they are confident.



Minutes passed away, the game dying on its knees. What contest? What's the point of continuing? Town were simply filling space, Scunny keeping possession, alert enough to realise that the Town back three were going to lamp it forward sooner rather than later.

Here we go. Beagrie moved his feet and passed; some bloke in claret drove forward and rolled the ball diagonally across the face of the Town area. A dummy by Hayes, a roll by Torpey and a swishing swipe that rolled a couple of yards wide, slowly. Abysmal defending by Jones, who allowed that giant rusty hulk to spin past him and have oodles of space. They had another shot as well some time, not interesting, not close; simply not.

And here we have the two moments for which Town attacked. Sestanovich did some card tricks on the left, pulling the three of clubs from his right sock. The full-back turned to his mates, asking "How did he do that?", and before he knew it the ball was shipped across. McDermott sneaked in at the far post and headed straight at Musslewhite. I've no idea how close Macca was and it doesn't matter, does it. Life is too short for plain crisps, apparently. A couple of minutes later McDermott surged down the right, cut infield and slapped a shot just over the bar from about 20 yards.

It's supposed to be a fierce local rivalry, deep loathing spreading across the plains of northern Lincolnshire. Nothing. Town fans sat back in that glazed 'seen it all go wrong before' way. Why make noise, way waste effort? We couldn't even get up a head of steam when the ref came near.

You know it's halfway through the second half now. It was so turgid I'd rather have listened to a Brian Laws interview. No, that's ridiculous, no-one would want that.

Town made a couple of changes: Cramb and Pinault came on for Coldicott and, incredibly, Macca. I'll give you a metaphorical fiver if you find someone who didn't mutter "No, Jones!" at this point. Or something so similar as to suggest the same meaning. Laws brought on Taylor, wasting a minute or so with a very prolonged, delayed substitution.

Town went to a back four with Whittle and Jones in the centre, Gordon at left-back, Crowe at right-back. Cramb went up front on his own with Sestanovich and Parkinson supporting from the flanks. Or at least this was a theory propounded by some optimists. I can confirm that they were on the pitch in various positions and it is entirely feasible that there was some kind of 3-3-3 formation. Or maybe I'm being kind, for immediately the soufflé collapsed yet again.

Scunny walloped the ball high upfield, straight down the middle. Gordon and Whittle raced back, forming a human wall to shield the ball from the lone pursuer, Hayes. No danger... oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The crying starts now, for Williams decided to hurtle out of his area and head the ball clear. They all met 20 or so yards out, collided, fell over and the only man standing was... Hayes, who walked the ball in, then shang-shang-a-langed over to the Town fans and, with Taylor, politely expressed regret at the turn of events.

Those are the facts. Feel free to yell anything you want now. You're bound to cover just about every epithet flung towards this season's Welsh wobbler. The locals were laughing, and had every reason to. Counted the number of chances they'd had so far?

Of course the game was even more over than it had been. Just let 'em sing, they've waited long enough to be happy. We've only got another 20 minutes of this shabby shocker to endure. The majority of the Town fans continued their vow of silence, punctuated by the occasional groan at Jones and grumble as Parkinson tumbled. And we've got an hour in the car park to look forward to.

The rest of the game was a waste of time, almost waiting for them to score again, for they did start to attack a bit, exploiting the extra space and the lack of fight in the Town team. Pinault started brightly, prompting and probing, but with no-one to pass to, no-one moving.

Scunthorpe continued their game plan and with Taylor on adding pace those boys just couldn't stay put. Taylor had the beating of Gordon and crossed low. Williams palmed away to Whittle. Torpey wibbled a shot wide from outside the area, then had another one deflected wide for a corner. Then another substitute, Rankine, was sent free behind the flailing, ailing Jones, down the centre right. Inside the area he tried to side-foot the ball to the keeper's right, but finally Williams stopped something, his boot deflecting the ball wide. Anything else? Yeah, Beagrie dribbled around his own grave three times before passing the ball to Williams' right.

Near the end Cramb was booked for wellying the ball away in frustration. And Beagrie wasn't for kicking the ball away to waste time.

Ooooooooooh, I forgot, Sestanovich was taken off with 10 minutes left, Reddy racing on and leaping around like a hyperactive violinist. Reddy almost reached one ball and fell over, claiming some kind of foulage. He crossed the ball once, which was deflected up into Musselwhite's hands as Fleming was within a dozen yards. Town really turned on the pressure in search of collective redemption, eh. Within 12 yards of the ball!

Ding-dang-doo it's over. Should we shout, should we scream, what happened to our post-Laws dream? Oh Fenty, Fenty, what have you done?

As the players walked off police horses trotted on. One of them did on the pitch what Town should have done to the unremarkable opposition. Town capitulated to a team who played like Bury mark II. Everything went wrong from the start. The wrong team, playing the wrong way with the wrong attitude. Faith in Slade is draining away as quickly as he abandoned his faith in passing. He hasn't constructed a team capable of hoofing its way to 2Second, so they shouldn't play like it. In truth the referee provides convenient cover for the management and the more myopic Mariners. Even with an adequate referee Town were, at best, hanging around for a draw against limited opponents.

In August there was only one ingredient missing from this spicy cocktail, so why has he drowned it in salt and starch? Put back the sweet, sweet flavouring or else it'll be dates and fig wine for Christmas and a crucifixion at Easter.

Nicko's man of the match
Sir John McDermott gave his usual performance. Did he make an error? Of course not. Town's best attacker, Town's best defender; Town's best... Macca. It was either him or the five-year-old mascot.

Markie's un-man of the match
Parkinson is permanently on the fringes of un-MOMdom, and Coldicott was really terrible today. Could it be Jones, inaccurately described as a professional footballer by some? Maybe Williams, the man who stoppeth one in three? No, I'm gong for poor old Stacy. Sad, but true. He has to be dropped on his current form. Perhaps the club could auction the height of the platform from which he is pushed to raise some much-needed cash to pay the disciplinary fine for everyone being booked.

Official warning
If you close your eyes and immerse yourself in a flotation tank for 12 hours it is possible to avoid taking out a contract on the head of Mr N Wilson (sponsor's man of the match). He wasn't favouring Scunthorpe so much as disfavouring Grimsby. He took agin Town and every decision seemed to add to the sense of grievance, a snowball effect where he ended up looking to penalise. An ego thing. You can tell how poor he was - he booked McDermott. A drop-ball after Daly was sent off? Rolling balls? What an apt description. 0.0000000001, for he did get the Coldicott dive correct. Not every decision was dreadful; one has to be fair and impartial. Maybe he should remember that next time he struts on some grass.