Are you local?: Boston (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

24 September 2005

Boston United 1 Grimsby Town 1

A hot, still afternoon in the sunny delight of south Lincolnshire with around 2,000 Townites anticipating Geordies and taunting our favourite Boston fan. Yes, Mr Chav-in-a-trackie got in early to soak up his 15 minutes of infamy, though he'd forgotten how to dance. Had he ever remembered in the first place? He loved to boogie, but I bet he never grooved at the Gliderdome.

As a forward-looking organisation Boston had built a cage near the dug-out. Just in case, eh, Mr Evans? Why was he wearing a big red anorak on a steamy September afternoon? Anything to declare? What? "No-one tells fibs in Boston." You've been reading too much Henry James.

Town ran out to a humungous roar and lined up in the oh-go-on-I-admit-it's-a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Croft, Cohen, Bolland, Kalala-boom-dee-ay, Newey, Gritton, Reddy. The substitutes were G Jones, Barwick, Parkinson, Crane and Ramsden. It's obvious who played where so I will insult you: Newey played on the left, Cohen the right. There, told you. And Town wore the all-blue kit.

York Road: another design classic about to be cast into history in favour of a concrete and plastic Blanderdome. Apparently they want to move to Cuckoo Land. How appropriate.

Boston lined up in some kind of formation with various players. Joachim and Lee upfront, Whelan in some kind of withdrawn role on the left, or was that because he happened to stand near the pie stall on that side of the pitch. Noel Whelan: successfully avoiding salad for 30 years. How ironic that he's moved to salad central, a town surrounded by cabbages and whinge.

Ah, the pre-match frenzy to be whipped up by a pitch-walking man with a microphone. On and on he droned with the longest, most tortuous non-joke ever: it's Mr Potato. After fawning at our feet for dismissing Spurs he started a toe-curling story about a... oh, here are the salient points: Lincoln fan bought Lincoln shirt, washed it, left overnight on washing line, found pegs had been stolen. Does he tour the Spilsby area with the Tumbleweeds, one of East Lindsey's leading Grumbleweeds tribute bands? I'll gloss over his half-time singing. Let's just say the travelling Townites gave him a rousing reception.

Oh yes, it's a football match. Shall we start?

First half
It feels like a home game.

Boston kicked off towards the massed Mariners, clearly having watched Tottingham on television against some little team or other, for they avoided the mandatory aimless punt into touch. Croft dealt with matters, restoring that rip in the space-time continuum by heading it a long way out of play.

Lee kept standing behind Macca and Croft, their tactics hardly earth-shattering. Like we didn't think the ball would eventually be punted to the far post? There were a few minor moments of fluttering jellybabies. Whelan rocking into the box after a flick on by Lee, fainting once, twice, he was three times a lady before Bolland and Jones snaffled him eight yards out. The corner was cleared, Cohen poking the ball up the left to Reddy, who did a hand jive and was away into the Boston half. The linesman flagged, a free kick was given and Reddy was booked.

So five minutes gone and a chance to question the referee's personality. Is he really Neil Warnock? Oh dear, not a good sign, for the referee turned and applauded the Town fans for this remarkable insight. Hadn't we learned from Tuesday? Buttering works better than battering with banal insults. He's bound to favour the little team now, isn't he.

A free kick to Town. Hey, we're a set piece team now, let's get ready to rumble. Chipped forward by Kalala, flicked on by Jones, Gritton shimmied behind and, from the edge of the six-yard box, volleyed across Abbey and into the top left corner. Offside. Let's get ready to grumble about that, from our perfect position 120 yards away.

Newey nicked the ball away from a Boston player, Kalala spinning and clipping a pass down the left wing. Reddy clucked away from the halfway line, the Boston defence in lukewarm pursuit. McCann threw himself forward, leg outstretched, as Reddy approached the area. This courting dance was about to reach its climax: man touched man with the suitor's advances causing Dame Margot Reddy to fall for him. Reddy accepted his proposal and plunged headlong into the area. The linesman put his flag across his chest, the players wandered around for a few seconds and the referee wearily waved a red card. Er... at who? Has Reddy been sent off? No: McCann is no longer a Boston minder. Toodle-oo.

The most famous Congolese player in Grimsby history walked up and calmly rolled the ball down the centre as Abbey flew to his right. For those not reading in black and white, Kalala had scored.

This is all very pleasant.

Boston took off Jason Lee and brought on a little winger, Danny Thomas. It's the iron law of the fourth: every team has a Town reject or rejector. They all want the reflected glory, don't they.

Town started to knock the ball around a bit, even playing short passes on the ground, performing little Bermuda triangles around the local lettuce. Gritton was a prominent fulcrum around which Town twinkled; Newey tipping, Gritton tapping, Reddy free. Ooh ref, play advantage sometimes, will yer! Ah, some more lovely piggy-in-the-middle football confusing the horticulturists with some loopy first-time volley passing. Gritton-Reddy-Gritton: briefly free on the edge of the area, but the Scotch broth waited too long for the ball to bounce. Moment lost.

Boston huffling, Town puffling them back, easily repelling these little gnats. Cohen picked up a clearance 25 yards out, McDermott sprinted up the wing awaiting a pass, but Cohen simply gave the ball to the Bostonian. Danger, danger, Boston breaking. The mighty Macca surged back 20 yards, dispossessing this upstart and saving Town.

What a lovely day. Did you know that Radio Lincolnshire are running a folk song competition? The song must be about Lincolnshire though. We really must enter. Pontoon, Paul and Mary singing a jaunty jig-along: "It wasn't like this in Lawrie Mac's Day (when the hair was longer than the shorts)". I'll let you work on the rest. We can share writers' credits, but don't use a penny whistle; let's not sully the memory of John Fenty's chosen song of celebration, whatever key he sang it in. No-one did answer his question: what about the orange?

Congratulations and jubilations, I want the world to know Noel Whelan's had a shot. It's only 24 minutes from Sleaford, which is how long it took them to shoot. Whelan received the ball 35 yards out from a throw-in and tried a dipping volley. Mildenhall treated it with the respect it deserved, staying awake long enough to catch the ball as it slowly arced into his midriff. Actually it takes longer on a Saturday to get from Sleaford but, David, who'd live in a town like this anyway?

And let's have some more Town ooh-la-la-ing, shall we? Passing, massing on the right, Bolland punning a cross into the box, Gritton heading weakly to Abbey. It's like a training match, too easy, Town fans a little queasy. We need a second goal, we're gonna need a bigger moat around our castle. See, told you. Joachim suddenly spinning past Jones inside the area on the right. At a narrow angle six yards out Mildenhall ploughed up a few fields and then gathered in his harvest. Town became ragged, Boston pressed, becoming emboldened; Joachim a constant menace, causing more problems than Defoe for Whittle.

Has someone just released a video of Alan Pouton's 50 greatest stepovers? Everyone's at it these days. Noble (in name, not in nature) performed the slowest ever stepover. The gears in the jalopy cranked and creaked, the levers twanged, steam puffed from his ears and a tiny whistle blew, like the one on the miniature railway down Cleethorpes seafront. Right foot up, over the ball, down again. Repeat that action.

Town occasionally passed accurately, but as the half wore on they became more showbiz, the simple clip eschewed for the scenery-chewing special guest star appearance. Cohen was frequently ignored by the middle men in favour of the curly-wurly dissector for Reddy. Ah, Reddy, trying his party piece back-flick and chase, forgetting they still had defenders on the pitch. Whittle powered a header into Norfolk from a corner. Jones flicked on a free kick. Cohen, unmarked at the far post, glanced a header a foot wide from a Newey corner. Just moments of maybeness, nothing cohesive, concerted or corrosive to the Boston soul.

With a couple of minutes left Boston punted the ball downfield. Joachim ambled after Jones, who, 30 yards out, decided to caress a pass back to Mildenhall. He stumbled and hardly touched the ball, allowing Joachim to run on down the centre. Joachim approached the area; Mildenhall advanced and the little pest cut back to his right foot, just inside the area. As Joachim shot, Jones stretched and block-tackled, and the ball rebounded about 30 yards upfield.

In added time Whelan became agitated, perhaps annoyed by the marvellous Mariners choir. Noel, it was only figurative, not literal, we're sure you aren't happy. The Evans songs were perhaps a little different; the courts can decide. What did Whelan do? Firstly he pushed Whittle into the advertising boards after Big J ushered a hopeless punt out for a goal kick. Then, a few seconds later, Whelan trampled all over Whittle and kicked him up the backside as the ball fell. His attempts to laugh it off with Whittle (hey, great new TV concept for Sky One) were even less successful than his first-half performance. Our ex-Hullite shrugged him aside with disdain and anger. Whelan had better watch out: he may be sleeping with the fishes if he carries on with that.

Yes, it's over, the first half has ended. A bit of a stroll, Town seemingly in complete control: commanding and comfortable. But at the back of everyone's mind was a little lingering fear. Joachim had been a one-man band, twice almost scoring after lapses from Jones. Town were sitting back and showing off a bit too much, without really creating anything against ten men. All Town's efforts had been from, or derived from, set pieces.

But hey, it's half time, Town are leading against ten men, Newcastle at home next month and Carlisle losing, so we could be four points clear at the top by five o'clock. Woh-oh-oh, we feel good, didn't we know that we would. So good, so good: hit that sax solo and jive at the Gliderdome.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"When do they feed the rabbits?"
"They're going to score a stupid goal."
"If we stayed any longer we'd have had to buy some double glazing."
"It was either family or football. I chose Town."
"There were more Bostonians in Oldrids' restaurant."

Second half
Boston replaced Whelan with Rusk. I suppose the salad dodger wants to remain alive.

Thirty seconds in and Town had nearly punched their own sucker. Maylett spun on the left edge of the Town area and fizzled a low shot which struck Bolland's shins and skipped towards the bottom right corner. Mildenhall just managed to get down on the dancefloor to push aside for a corner. Up went their big men, in other words the son of Cod, and the ball eventually fell to Maylett, who shanked a dreadful swirler way over, way wide, way on down for a goal kick.

Yes, the son of Futch proved to be a big clod. Perhaps he got all his mother's football genes. Or Uncle Ron's. A couple of minutes later he panicked when a ball was tumbled over the top, rolling slowly towards the penalty area. Futcher hoped Abbey would come, but as is his habit the keeper ummed and ah-ed before waving a big white glove. Futcher just wellied it out for a needless corner. He then glued himself to Rob Jones, demanding the shirt off his back, but the referee didn't want to give another penalty: we'd had our water rations.

Town were full of shape, but without ideas, without energy. The players stood around in their positions, occupying space, encouraging Boston on. Reddy was sent free but hit a defender's hands with his mouth when falling over a foot rather than dribbling on. There was a long hold-up as blood was wiped away. Finally the kit man remembered he was holding a bag of shirts and Russell Slade thumped the side of the dug out. Reddy walked off and swapped into a numberless, nameless polyester bodyhugger.

Town sank further and further back, holding a line on the edge of their area, watching and waiting as Potatolanders peeled around in front of them, preparing to fry. Bostonians fell, free kicks aplenty. Twenty yards out in the centre, a free kick. The Town wall was cobbled together from old newspapers and toilet rolls, lining itself up in the centre. Both posts were exposed, the glue pot empty, staples and safety pins keeping the wibbly-wobbly wall together and Mildenhall bellowing instruction for it to be pulled across his left post. Noble and Ross stood over the ball, Ross spun and clipped it with his right foot. The ball seemed to curl to Mildenhall's left, then zoom back to his right. The Big M adjusted his feet, swung his body back and brilliantly parried the ball away from the right side of the goal for a corner.

No need to worry about that corner. It was cleared easily up to Reddy, who turned past Rusk on the halfway line and was off down the touchline quicker than an invoice through the office shredder. Out came Rusk's tusks and Reddy was impaled and tossed aside spectacularly, rolling thrice along the round. Rusk was booked. Boston fans raging.

Reddy was toying with his new admirers, nudging and nurdling his markers, who descended upon him like a disturbed wasps' nest. Reddy tangled with Maylett on the touchline as they challenged for a bouncing ball. They fell upon each other off the pitch, right under the inkpot of nutty Fensters, who roared at the referee in a attempt to get Reddy sent off. They failed: sensible refereering for once. The Town tide washed back, and with no offshore breeze there was no danger to the locals of flooding.

Back Boston came, suddenly outnumbering Town everywhere. Every clearance went back to them. No respite for the wearying Townites. Crosses raining in. Joachim bullying his way past sturdier opponents. A free kick way out on their right was clipped to the far post. Futcher rose unmarked and headed back across goal... and out for a goal kick. Why is Whittle, not Jones, marking Futcher? More crosses, more flickery and trickery from our county cousins, with more moments of extreme concern. The Town end was quietening, beginning to mumble; the Town team was slowing. Substitutions, anyone?

A cross through the area, Macca forced to nod away for a corner. It's coming, you can see it, you can feel it: Town were barely in this match, standing and waiting for the next attack. Remind me again - who has ten players? Another free kick, lofted to the left edge of the Town area. Mildenhall came out and half punched the ball straight to Maylett, 25 yards out, who took one touch and spun a volley goalwards. The ball glided over the retreating Mildenhall, over McDermott on the line and just over the angle of post and bar.

Town tried some possession football to slow the game down, to dictate, but after five passes the ball ended up back with the centre-backs, who just whacked it upfield.

The change it had to come, we knew it all along. With 15 minutes left Croft was replaced by Parkinson, with Newey retreating to left-back. Only one change? Within a minute Town broke away from the halfway line, Cohen dribbling forward, the defence retreating, he slid a perfectly weighted pass out to Gritton on the left. The Gritster took the ball on with the defenders running parallel, not closing him down. He got inside the area, looked up and saw blue shirts arriving in the centre. He took another stride and, from about a dozen yards out wide of goal, pinged a firm drive across Abbey, who parried the ball to Parkinson, a dozen yards out. Parky stretched to control the ball, but sliced a clearance out of the area, such was the power of the parry.

Once more into the breach in their defence. Boston desperation, Town clearance, Kalala in the centre, Gritton peeling, Reddy reeling and a perfect pass into Reddy feet. He zoomed, he loomed, he failed to look up. Kalala and Gritton were unmarked inside the area but Reddy only had eyes for himself. With three defenders huddled around, he cut infield and tried a further shimmy, rather than rolling the ball five yards to his right. He wasn't the toast of the Town at that moment.

Reddy and Gritton were hardly moving; Cohen seemed to be limping; Kalala was starting to become static; but still Town had the ball and an extra player. Town took up time with another period of possession football. Olé, olé, olé, oh no, it's back with Whittle. Boom, ball back in Abbey's arms.

Five minutes left and Town broke again. Parkinson tickled away down the left, lost possession, then won it back. About 25 yards out, just to the left of centre, Parkinson delightfully curled a shot over and around Abbey. The ball suddenly dipped and clipped the top of the crossbar. A sure victory missed by perhaps an inch.

Hold tight, defence: count to three, gotta stay close to Newey. Hold tight, fans: sing and shout, shut our eyes, ride this roundabout. Boston piled foward, sending Futcher up to centre-forward. Such space into which we could move - but we'd have to get the ball first. Gritton acted as an auxiliary centre-back, then left winger. He was everywhere, yet nowhere.

More free kicks given away, pressure building, we've been here so many times, where you see the future and it hurts. With less than a minute left Bolland pursued the bouncing ball as it bumbled across the pitch. Close to the touchline he jumped and a Boston boot stretched out and lifted the ball, which struck him on the arm and went out of play. The referee decided to give a free kick. The ball was lofted in, Mildenhall half came out, a Town head nodded half clear, straight to Rusk, who punted it back, high towards the far post. Gritton was outbumped by Ellender, the ball skidding off his forehead to the right edge of the six-yard box. Bolland pursued Joachim, who spun instantly and harpooned the ball high into the top right corner.

During three minutes of added time Town thrust forward, getting nowhere until Reddy, with just a few seconds left, was pushed over on the edge of the right edge of their penalty area. Reddy fell on the ball and immediately took the free kick, as Bolland dashed into the area unmarked. Free behind the defence and about eight yards wide of goal, Bolland opened his body and steered the ball over and around Abbey towards the top left corner. The statistically worst keeper in the division soared to his left, stretched every sinew and then some of Futcher's, Ellender's and the tea lady's, to magnificently tip the ball aside.

The ref ended the game there and then. The Town players stood aghast, astounded and apologetically in front of the huge wedge of Grimsby banked before them. Doing enough isn't enough sometimes.

Overall you can't complain about the result. Boston created just as many chances and had far more of the game than Town in the second half. After half time Town were hanging on - against a numerically inferior opponent. Town didn't play well; they didn't pass the ball well; some players didn't look well. But if this is going to be our disappointment this year, I think we'd take it.

I think we're all a little bit giddy from this last week. Let's take a break for a couple of days and put this down to hormones.

Nicko's man of the batch
Only two possible candidates here. Mildenhall was his usual commanding self, making three excellent saves, especially from the free kick. So, if not Mildo/Mildew/Mildy then who?

You've known him since you knew his name,
He's always on our side,
He's always there or thereabouts,
He's taller than he's wide.

Here's another clue for you all: the walrus was Paul. No, that's a red herring. Who else but media tartlet John Sir Mac of St Dermott. Why is he always interviewed in a helium-filled room?

Rob's rant of the day
They all came out today. Enquiring as to their mode of transport to this match and whether they all came on the same Massey Ferguson. Yes, rubbish ground and no fans, but that loses its edge when it's true: we must have irony, we are Town, we are unique.

Official warning
Mr G Salisbury concerned the cognoscenti by playing up to the crowd when clapping us for recognising his peccadilloes, but we warmed as he gave a penalty, sent one off and generally calmed down a bit. He was a bit inconsistent: similar challenges didn't necessarily result in the same decision, and he was a very reluctant giver of advantage. That suited us fine as it hindered Boston more than us. Overall he was OK. I see it in the stars, between Ursa major and Ursa minor: 7.03.