Senses working overtime

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

20 August 2005

Grimsby Town 0 Darlington 1

Would you take a seat, I have some rather upsetting news... streets flooded with apathy: please advise.

Cleethorpes, the home of the free header on goal, on a sunny afternoon, with around 300 Darlingtonians munching their Maltesers in the Osmond Stand. The conspiracy theorists were about: where's JPK? Has he been shot on the way here by a lone gunmen hiding in the classical music section of Cleethorpes Library? Has he seen the light already? Or is he just not fit enough yet?

Town lined up in the 3-4-nebulous cloud of gas-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Crane, Ramsden, Jones (R), Newey, Bolland, Croft, (Parkinson), Gritton, Reddy. The substitutes were Cohen, G Jones, Andrew, Toner and GI Joe Whittle. How exciting: three full-backs in midfield and Parkinson still in limbo between midfield and 'attack'. The Barwickless bench whipped away an early moan opportunity for the Pontoon purple-istas.

At least we have another returning favourite - first Gary Croft; now Players' Portions comes back with Mildenhall's irish stew. Officially there is no recipe - just make it up as you go along. Is that a metaphor? No, it's a meat-aphor, says the seven-stone Mr Pun. No-one laughed, and no-one cried; there were too many spaces in the lines of seating.

Darlington turned up in the old Arsenal tops with red shorts. They melted beautifully into the acres of empty seating in the Main and Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus stands. As during last season, they brought along some great names: the apprentice jockey Mr Jonjo Dickman, and Shelton Mathis, a quaint hamlet of seven thatched cottages in Oxfordshire and favourite haunt of neo-Romantic poets and painters. The tannoy announcer choked whilst trying to pronounce Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu; fortunately the cashew nut was ejected from his throat by use of the Heimlich manoeuvre, live on air. Or maybe it was a tackle from Tony Crane; they sound and look the same to me. And in central midfield they had used the latest Japanese technology to create the world's first footballer who can only be seen using an electron microscope: pint-sized Peacock, the tiny tot terrier. Oh how we chuckled.

First half
The game was delayed by a beach ball rolling gently onto the pitch behind Mildenhall. His attempts to kick it away just kept boomeranging back. A steward ambled from the Main Stand, stood, shook his head and went back to the safety of his hut. Too risky.

Town kicked off towards the Osmond, trundling the ball back to Newey, who looked up and smashed it downfield straight to the bananaboy in Darlington's goal.

I started to read the programme. Five minutes later I had finished, but the game hadn't, sadly. Nothing had happened in those 300 seconds. The sound of the suburbs was audible in the background. You could just about hear macaroni being boiled in a bungalow in Brigsley. I felt that they'd skimped on the cheese, but that's just a matter of personal taste, isn't it.

Oh look, a shot. Dickman advancing down the middle, the Town defence retreating, and a dribbling driveller dimpled along, wide of the right post. They'd passed it a bit, hadn't they? That's no way to end up 18th. Fancy notions. Where will that get 'em, eh? Good honest toil, no frills. Ploughing requires a sturdy horse and a straight line.

I'm slightly perturbed by Kamudimba's hair. That's what our cat's fur looks like when he hasn't been grooming himself. C'mon Jean-Paul, lick yourself a bit more, or use a comb. It was never like this in Alan Buckley's day, was it. Sensible hair and sensible passing. Football? No, go next door for that; this is postmodern football. You don't need grass, you don't need a ball, just 22 men, three lime crunches and an enclosed area. A real-life fantasy football match, where you use your imagination to guess where the ball would be if there was one, of course.

Someone threw a ball on. Parkinson, in the centre circle, hooked it over his head and down the middle of the pitch; Reddy raced past their giant peach and was away. Onwards, into the penalty area, in the centre, just Russell to beat. Reddy volleyed the ball straight at Russell from 15 yards, who superbly parried aside to his left. Reddy retrieved about eight yards wide and screwed the ball towards the open goal. Russell zoomed horizontally and parried aside again for a corner. Two great saves from the scourge of Slade.

A minute later some trickery and flickery down the Town left saw Bolland jink infield and va-voom a tubthumper straight at Russell from 20 yards. Quarter of an hour gone and some action. Rumours abound that there had been a further Town attempt at goal, but a Jones flick header from a free kick which looped lovingly into the arms of Russell doesn't count. OK, if the banana boatman had stayed at home and completed the whole of Puzzle Monthly then it would have been a goal.

Dickman advanced again down the centre. Jones half blocked his shot, the ball squirming like a toad to Mildenhall. Jones was furious with his fellow defenders for the lack of tackling. In response Newey clobbered Wainwright and was booked. He could have been sent off for a late tackle, but Mr Fussy was kind. The referee, our old friend from Hull, was quietly pedantic, stopping play frequently for the minorest of matters.

It all added to the torpor. The crowd was dulled by the pain, incapable of rousing itself to moan at the continual stream of long balls whacked from the back down the wings. Newey in particular had a Pavlovian punt every time, not even looking. Reddy chased, but rarely raced. Gritton had better things to do, like stroking his hair back and pointing. That's with his hands; he wasn't doing some sneaky brickwork while awaiting a pass. If he'd been doing that, he would have been able to complete a small extension for a kids' playroom by the end of the first half. Parkinson could do the plastering. Or would that be Crane's job?

What was that? Did someone just shoot? Oh no, just a near moment of almostness. Mildenhall fluffed a fly kick, Croft flicked the ball on and Reddy was almost through, but fell over when reeling. At times like this you wish the rains would come, a Chester-like deluge ending our boredom. Boredom, that's the word. Why would anyone want to come back to Blundell Park and watch this out of choice?

Eh up, hang on, Darlo have a free kick, 30 yards out on their right. Swung high, swung far, Clarke ducked like Hargreaves did two weeks ago and pummelled a swirling, curling header a few inches past the left post. A carbon copy, save for about eight inches, or a half-degree difference in the angle; maybe Clark has a lumpier head than Hargreaves. Close, very close, very, very close. Phewsome.

A minute later Town got a throw-in, which is a victory of sorts these days. Chucked in by Newey to the unmarked Croft, just inside the penalty area. He waited for the ball to bounce and pulled back his right boot, and a Darlington defender blocked. The ball remained at Croft's feet, but he was unbalanced and couldn't get a shot in as he was smothered by red dust. This was a scrap, a morsel of meaningless mush, on which we must feast. Unappetising, but it's all you'll get.

And back down the Pontoon end again. With Town's defence retreating and Town's midfield watching, Dickman advanced down the centre. From the edge of the area he lampooned a shot to Mildenhall's right, who parried aside spectacularly. A minute after that Logan played chase the lady with McDermott, tickling the ball through Macca's legs and caressing a cross though the six-yard box. Mildenhall sprung from his line, punching out towards the penalty spot. As a Darloman approached, Bolland snapped his fingers, raised an eyebrow and threw back his cape, snoogling the ball away with a witty bon mot thrown in for good measure. Half an hour gone and it felt like 30 days.

The tannoy announced there would be two minutes of added time. A Pontoonite claimed we didn't want 'em. "Hang on," I hear you say, "what happened to those fifteen minutes in between? Have you edited out, deleted, or otherwise withheld information?" If you believe that you'll also believe the Martians are here. "They're here already! They're all around you!" Which in a way they are if you are a Town defender. Oh, all right - the only thing that happened in those 15 missing minutes was that Crane clattered someone and didn't get booked, then he tried to scythe down Logan just outside the Town area on the right, but failed. Tony Crane was kung fu fighting, but he wasn't as fast as lightning.

Back to the fairy story. Croft cushioned a lovely volleyed back pass to Mildenhall. Lovely in the sense of perfectly weighted for Johnson to run on to near the penalty spot. The big S and Johnson tackled each other, with the ball rolling free. Johnson got up and shot goalwards, with Mildo parrying aside. With chickens clucking, another Darlington player raced up to the loose ball on the bye-line to the right of goal and carefully clipped a cross between and above the goal and his fellow Redsters. Half over, Town fans half-booed. The cold indifference of the ancient rock of the Town support was an ominous Pontoon portent.

It was like the Oxford game all over again. Same players, same 'tactics', same lack of interest.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Newey's just a fitter, slimmer Gallimore."
"He can't be a dwarf as he doesn't have a beard."
"Croft's a real pro - he gives his manager what he wants..."
"I don't want chardonnay - I asked for wine!"
"I promise not to shout 'Parkinson!' this half."

Second half
There were no changes by either team at half time. Darlington came out on time and waited and waited and waited. Bored, they indulged in some formation dancing just like the Red Barrows, Britain's leading wheelbarrow display team. But without the barrows, obviously. A couple of days later the Town team emerged. A-ha, Mr Russell Slade had clearly given them some stern words of advice at half time.

Indeed he had: for the first five minutes the Town players were most deliberate in their passing, trying to avoid kicking it in the air and/or a long way. They tried - they really tried - but failed. Darlington players simply stood near them and, with the ball frequently at the feet of the Crane/Jones duopoly of dross, Town had nowhere to go but get their kicks on route one. No width, you see: with only Newey and Macca on the flanks they were as easily closed off as a safety valve.

The nadir was reached in the 5First minute, when Jones walloped the ball upfield, straight through and out of play for a goal kick, replicating Crane from a minute earlier. The Town fans erupted in a chorus of boos. It wasn't particularly aimed at Jones, but a general cry of despair. We can all see why this is happening at home, match after match. Is there just one man who can't? Or won't?

An attack! A Town surge, Newey past one, past two, to the bye-line, and crossing just above McDermott at the far post. Finally some urgency, some movement, some players in the opponents' penalty area - and a couple of passes thrown in to boot. Along the ground. Sweet dreams are made of this.

Normal lack of service has been resumed: hit it long, let Reddy run. Exciting when he roams, but what end product - crowded out, lack of support, lack of intent to pass; the merest glimpse of hope. Gritton long since reduced to uninterested loping; Parkinson still not seen in active service. Poor lad. We don't doubt his willingness - no-one does - but he's reduced to be being a Subutteo player. If he ever flicked a kick I didn't know.

Ooh, wince. Darlo attacked with purpose and poise down their left, McDermott fleeced, flailed and flattened. Valentine teed up just inside the area, a shot rising and managing to crawl an inch or two over the bar. A corner given: nothing happened.

Just before the hour, to a great crescendo of ironic applause, Parkinson was replaced by Cohen. Nothing personal, Parky; it's only business. Cohen seemed to play as a right winger with Gritton sent to the Siberian steppes underneath the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand. It looked like a 3-4-3 formation, with Reddy alone in the centre.

One long Reddy run and some Cohen haberdashery later and the score remained the same. A fantastically exciting 40-yard run from Cohen down the right saw Macca race up in support; Cohen got to the corner flag, checked back inside and allowed McDermott to take the ball on into the area and cross, just behind Reddy. Ahhhhh, shame. No shot, no chance, just a chance to get out of the seat and the stretch legs. DVT can strike anywhere; it's something to do with women eating chips, or something. Health scares aren't what they used to be: where are the zombie germs from Zaire these days? Like Windscale, they've changed their name to get a better press, no doubt: the Democratic Republic of flesh eating zombificationaccocci.

Doesn't the ball swing after 60 overs and Jones becomes really effective? Or is that another sport? Did you know that swingball is really the ancient game of bumble-puppy? You thought I was insulting Parkinson again, didn't you.

With about 25 minutes left Darlo had a throw in on their left, about 15 yards out. Why mention it? Because something happened, that's why. Hurled towards Wijnhard, the dumpy Town rejector, he rolled around Crane, who indulged in some junior level Greco-Roman wrestling, hanging on Wijnhard's every fold of fat. Birds of a feather, eh. A penalty was given and, bizarrely, Crane wasn't even booked, not even for being really dim. Wijnhard got up, stroked his ego, and placed the ball just left of centre, the ball striking Big Steve around the knee area with Croft swiping the rebound away from Clyde on the edge of the six-yard box. For the first time the Pontoon roared.

Wijnhard was taken off immediately. Pity. He was a good stopper for Town.

Within a couple of minutes Cohen had wooed the crowd with his pace and persistence. Exchanging passes 25 yards out, he performed a painfully slow-motion stepover, which was more like a step-around, before clipping a shot a few feet above the crossbar. A shot! The first one of the half. And again: Town's pacy frontmen flibbered about, with Reddy bursting through two on the right. The ball bounced at shoulder height inside the area. Reddy nodded. A defender jumped up and booted the ball from the end of Reddy's nose. Ouch, no free kick, play on.

That was that. With 20 minutes left Reddy was replaced by Andrew, much to the noisy chagrin of the dwindling Town faithful. And what about Martin Gritton? Yes, what about him? Was he still on the pitch?

I really haven't mentioned Darlington attacking much, have I. Well, they did, but nothing was really coming of anything, Jones headed away the crosses, and stray Town legs managed to nick the ball away from their attempts at intricate tic-tac-toe around the edge of the box. Dickman was a constant menace with his bursts from midfield and Peacock was beginning to become a threat. Ah, the pitter-patter of tiny feet. The Mr Ingleby of Darlo used a box of Frosties and a tin of beans to peak above his socks, scan the horizon, and cause no end of trouble running between legs. Town players had trouble seeing him; well, as a professional you don't play football looking at your feet, do you.

Bang! You blinked, didn't you. You missed it. With quarter of an hour left Asbo Sodje, another sub, etch-a-sketched past three Town players on their left, cutting infield, across the face of the penalty area and hit a fast, zipping shot a few inches wide. Mildenhall was motionless and thankful for the little onshore breeze that lifted the ball wide.

And the game drifted on, Town receding on the horizon, no passing, no movement, just waiting for the game to end; or to get a set piece, of course. Ah, here it is - a Town free kick; let's send up the big men just for once. Boomed long by Newey, the ball was cleared with Darlo pressing. Newey fended off little Peacock, who twizzled and twirled in never-ending windmills. Back came two more defenders. Peacock still had the ball, ducking under and through the arches; three times he retrieved, swizzling back to goal; Newey the final defender with Peacock tumbling, Newey grabbing. They both fell and a penalty was given, a red card shown.

Ndumbu-Nsungu stepped up and smelled the ball to the centre right as Mildew went left. The referee booked the goalscorer and the goalkeeper, as Mildenhall raced up and pointed at the crowd.

I don't know what to describe Town's formation as after this. Three at the back and the others upfield? Crane looped a header from a corner very safely over, and Cohen had a couple of runs where he forgot to pass the ball. With three minutes left Toner replaced Bolland, who, a minute earlier, had suddenly stopped and waved his hands in the air when tackling. Toner made one good pass and one superb covering tackle in his brief cameo.

Ndumbu-Nsungu had a flashing drive parried aside at the near post by Mildenhall as Darlo went on numerous breakaways after Town lumped forward towards the big men. And then there were the last couple of minutes. A Town free kick was wellied down the centre. Jones, back towards goal, had his shirt inspected by Matron, and... nothing. As clear as Crane's mud-wrestling for their first penalty, but nothing given.

They broke and got a corner. Crane moaned and was sent off: idiot.

In the last minute Town got another free kick halfway inside the Darlington half. Lumped high, Jones was free 12 yards out and headed firmly down, but straight at the heavily limping Russell, who had been injured five minutes earlier. The game ended, officially. Had it ever begun?

It really is getting tedious. Town don't create anything, relying on Reddy's ability to run quickly and the big defenders coming up for set pieces. Darlington were another opponent who at least tried to keep hold of the ball, to pass, to move, to play some football. They easily repelled Town. Doesn't everyone at Blundell Park? The attendance figures are tolling the bell, and so is the sound of the crowd.

One day this bore's gonna end.

Nicko's man of the match
There are only two possible contenders: Mildenhall the blameless and Bolland the matchless. Some good saves from the Big S, but for sheer energy and determination Paul Bolland has a consoling arm placed around him, accompanied by a rueful smile and an imaginary magnum of isotonic Lucozade.

Markie's un-man of the match
So many candidates. It's like trying to taste the difference between lemon and lime. Croft, a yacht without a mast; Macca, holed beneath the waterline: the coastguards ignored their pleas. Newey was infuriatingly profligate with possession and disturbingly careless in tackling, while Crane is... Crane. But no, it's Martin Gritton, who isn't bothered: a telling indictment of his belief in the tactics. They aren't for him, but he's paid to run, at least.

Rob's rant of the day
Like a dog whistle, you can't hear it, but you can feel it in the atmosphere crackling around Blundell Park. It's a set of numbers: four-four-two. Is it a code? What does it mean?

Official warning
As welcome as an acoustic Rush tribute band, Mr Carl Boyeson is forever etched in the collective memory of the nation of Grimsby for past misdeeds. Today, well, true to form, he ejected two Townites from the pitch and Town lost. Was he to blame? No. He continues to perform the role of convenient fig leaf, perhaps kicking a Town when it's down, but not the cause of defeat. The first penalty was clear, the second potentially disputable. To be consistent he should have given Town a penalty at the end, but then that would be piling on the pain, wouldn't it, with our record of underachievement. He was incredibly pernickety in an occasionally inconsistent fashion. The merest touch was enough to get free kicks, though a boot in the head or shoulder barge was fair game.

Boyeson gets a boring 4.349. He wasn't as bad as we'd like to believe. He lost points for not giving Town a penalty and a general fussiness that would have had a carpet cleaner frothing.