We happy few: Macclesfield (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

12 November 2005

Grimsby Town 3 Macclesfield Town 1

A breezy evening in Russell Slade's garden of Grimsby delights. Who's tripping down the streets, smilin' at everyone they meet? It must the be that coachload of Cheshire cats huggin' and a-kissin' on the back row of the Osmond on a Friday night. Not many of 'em, not many of us - we all know that Friday night is music night. Oh, and that people are the same wherever you go, of course.

There is good and bad in every team selection, but we've learnt to live with splin-shint Parky. Town lined up in the 4-4-lumpybumpy cake-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Ramsden, Newey, Cohen, Bolland, Toner, Parkinson, G Jones, Reddy. The substitutes were Croft, Barwick, Andrew, Gritton and Gliding Glennnnnn Downey. Ah, but was it 4-4-lumpy-1? There was the merest hint that Jones the Lump was emerging from the Blundell Park Triangle; at least it looked like that from my angle. With Ramsden in the centre of defence and Toner the centre of midfield, everyone else is where you'd guess they'd be. Although am I guessing your guess? Hea-vvvvvvy.

Macclesfield turned up in a very nice Ipswich-like kit: sensible blue shirts and white socks. Very smart. They left any bad hair behind at the border post, taking away 50 per cent of our footballing fun. They also brought along the traditional Town rejector (Wijnhard) and Town rejectee (Harsley) and, to top off the cream cake, a failed trialist (Navarro) too. So a perfectly balanced diet: the lardy, hardy and mardy pros. Doh! I forgot about Fettis. That makes me tardy.

Dish of the Day: something about eating patterns; a little of what you fancy does you good, apparently, especially jaffa cakes. And don't believe anything based on rat experiments. If you eat after midnight you turn into a Gremlin, which may explain Tony Crane. One of those is an urban myth; you can decide which.

Oh, look, they've started already.

First half
The Macc lads kicked off towards the Pontoon with Wijnhard a lone striker. He's a bit of a two-for-the-price-of-one deal with that bulbous chest; he casts a giant shadow but you don't get many Nectar points when you buy him. They tipped, we tapped; Town were very deliberately playing short passes to each other... before Whittle wellied it.

After three or four minutes of joshing and jousting McDermott and Cohen fizzled down the right. The ball was flailed over to the left and Town lost possession, with Macclesfield breaking quickly, using Wijnhard as a rubber wall to bounce off. Bullock was tickled behind the sleeping Newey and he glided on into the area. About a dozen yards out, and from a narrow angle, Bullock smithered a drive towards the top left corner. Mildenhall stood up and plucked the ball from the air like a school caretaker wearily changing yet another light bulb. It looked simple and it was simple, due to his positioning.

A couple of minutes later the Macclespeople broke away again with Harsley a fulcrum, but going for the full fat cream option instead of the healthy eating crème fraiche. He swiped a low shot from the edge of the area straight at Mildenhall, who saved without fuss, despite the ball moogling and droogling along the ground: the Mildenhall magnet.

A pattern had been set: Town held the ball and the Maccmen broke away in numbers. Town were laborious but possession was generally retained between the penalty areas, despite being outmanned in midfield. The long ball was infrequent: it was a clear attempt by the players to avoid hoofing - and a bit painful to watch at first, like babies beginning to walk. But at least they were trying.

At last, a Town attack worth prodding you with. Reddy reddied down the left, twirling away from his marker and heading for the highway, looking for adventure near the corner flag. He looked up, saw Cohen in the penalty area and Jones in the vague area of Blundell Park and curled an inswinging cross through the six yards box. The ball sailed over Cohen's beads and safely out for a goal kick. A few minutes later Town got a corner; Newey swung low and Cohen rode his chariot into the middle of the box and noddled a glancing header wide. Not worth an "ooh", merely a ripplette of encouragement. Good corner mind - must have been all that practice last Saturday.

At some point the Lumpster, beyond the far post, headed softly straight at Fettis the lettuce, exposing a certain flimsiness in their defence. Town were beginning to find a beat, a simple but polite slow handclap, like at a Daniel O'Donnell concert. Bolland fetched, Toner carried: it was getting better.

If you're getting a bit bored, just jump to the left, and then to the right. You can do the time warp straight to some goals.

And they had another shot that drivelled low to Mildenhall, who again clutched the ball to his body with not the merest suggestion that it would bounce out. It's lovely having a keeper you trust to, well, keep. Now all we want is for the rest of 'em to habitually keep the ball. Oh Justin, third time unlucky, tempted into a clump downfield.

Around the 20-minute mark Town suddenly upped the pace. Cohen shingled through a tackle or two and was blocked on the edge of the area, with the ball trundling to Jones, in an inside right position. He bundled along a couple of paces and bumped a couple of placemats out of the way. From a narrow angle about ten yards out he thwacked a low shot across Fettis, across the face of goal and a few inches wide of the right post as Reddy lurked but didn't lunge.

From the goal kick Town regained possession and Reddy zazoomed down the centre-left. Fettis came out and Reddy knocked it away from goal. Fettis ran back while the Redster calmly controlled the ball near the bye-line, turned infield and dribbled goalwards. With three Town players pleading for a pass Reddy's shot hit a defender and bounded out. Fettis ran after the ball; Reddy saw his opportunity and fell over the plunging keeper a little too obviously.

Still, it gave an opportunity to the grizzlers to focus upon the referee, rather than their favourite faulty goods. The club shop really should market a series of My Little Scapeponies for the purpler Town fans: instead of mini kits in the car window, have a foam-faced Tom Newey preparing to waste a corner. Or perhaps a tiny rubber Andy Parkinson that squeaks when you press its head down? They'd need to drive a 4x4 for their Gary Jones voodoo doll, with added suction. Or what about a Justin Whittle pencil sharpener? Christmas, like a Town pass, is round the next corner.

Town were pressing and passing, how pleasing. Cohen was doing wingery-type things, the ball ricocheting out to Parkinson 15 yards out on the left. What a fine volleyed pass that was, not a mis-hit shot at all. Bibbling, bobbling, rebounding to Jones, unmarked a dozen yards out, the ball ballooned off his chest towards goal. Fettis froze, waiting for the music to start again. The ball bounced once, Jones shaped to volley and the shot cannoned off somebody or something causing crowd pandemonium that the stewards couldn't be bothered to control inside their penalty area. "Oooh" indeed.

Another minute, another Cohen surge down the right, across the face of the penalty box. A fleeting glimpse of goal and a fantastic block by one of their central defenders, making full use of all the material in his shorts.

How did Town keep getting inside Macclesfield's penalty area? Well, Jeremy, it goes like this: Mildenhall caught the fish, Bolland skinned the fish, Toner cooked the fish. The forwards were responsible for the sauce, but they couldn't quite remember how much lemon juice to use. You see, the ingredients were there; the dish was being prepared, but not quite finished. Fresh food, cooked on the day: so much better than the processed turkey twizzlers served up in the canteen recently.

A Newey free kick, curled straight into Fettis' midriff. He didn't have to move a millimetre. Such precision in passing.

After half an hour Macclesfield took off a full-back. While they fiddled about Bullock pretended to take a throw-in, then dropped the ball and walked off: the referee booked him for time-wasting. Then we waited a minute or two before the substitute came on. Rising from the bench, a creature emerged, obscuring the view of the hobgoblins in the Main Stand. They gasped in awe. Who is this man? Big Jon Parkin, the big Mac, their supersize lump rumbled on to the pitch. Macclesfield reverted to a 4-4-2 formation and Town creaked.

The game suddenly changed from a strollathon to a fearathon. Parkin was immense, in every respect. Ramsden was the first to be despatched to deal with the ogre of Moss Rose with just a bag of apples and a small stick. Parkin ate the apples - whole - and snapped the stick with his steely grin. Town were sliced and diced; Big Jon just drifted into the Town box and stayed all alone, flicking to Wijnhard, who squished a volley into the ground and straight at Mildenhall. Can we have our ball back please?

Oof! Parkin slabbered a first-time shot just wide of the right post. Now that's what I call striking. He turned, he saw, he bunkered all in one movement. Perhaps our Lump should observe how a top-notch lump goes about his business.

Harsley flickered a shot straight at Mildenhall and Whitaker bundled about in the centre of the area after some minor panicking caused by Parkin. Send for the wheelclampers? Hey, that gag's got whiskers on it. C'mon Town, either sign him or kick him, but don't let the big Mac lad do what he wants. Or as they call him in the pages of Paris Soir, "le Big Mac". Would that make Wijnhard a Royale with cheese?

With five minutes left in the half Ramsden collected the ball a few yards outside the Town penalty area. Eschewing the hoof, he surveyed the scene, concluding that this was a really poor area for luxury housing developments. He rolled the ball upfield ten yards to Parkinson, who had suddenly appeared in the middle of the pitch. Parky turned and dribbled upfield to the halfway line, before tapping the ball aside to Macca. Parky continued his run and received the ball back, again dribbling forward. The Macclesfield defence was sucked infield and Parkinson tickled the ball out to Toner, 15 yards out on the right. Toner took one touch and curled a superb cross beyond the far post to one of three awaiting Townites. Jones the Lump rose up from the gutter and we saw only stars as he thundered a powerful header across and high over Fettis.

From the kick off Macclesfield plucked Town's feathers and made us shriek, a near post cross shinned away as Parkin lurked. Phew, got away with that.

"We are top of the league, say we... were top of the league."

A long ball was played up from inside their half to Parkin, about 25 yards out. With his back to goal he thrice whirled around Ramsden, casing the mullet to shrink. Newey stood still and watched as big bad Jon thrust Ramsden aside and was alone, in the middle of the D. The ball bounced once and Parkin swaggered a volley that dipped over and away from the leaping Mildenhall and into the top left-hand corner. A fantastic strike but some ropey collective defending. With Parkin six times the size of Ramsden you'd have thought someone would have helped him out, just in case.

The first half apologised and asked if it could have a little rest. The referee obliged.

There, there, that wasn't too bad, was it. Not great, but better than recently and at least Town tried to play association football. It was a bit painful to watch them reinvent their own wheels, but just a little fine tuning, like playing Jones up front with Reddy, was making a difference. Macclesfield were OK to start with, perhaps a bit flimsy, but as soon as Parkin came on they became dangerous and actually quite good.

Grade B+ for effort but only C+ for attainment: improving, but can do better. Must concentrate more in class to reach full potential.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Are you too posh to flush?"
"So, is Jones our 20-goals-a-season man?"
"That sounds like California fusion cooking."
"I'm trying to find something to complain about, but can't."
"Why's Joe Brown in the Pontoon, and where's his brothers?"

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time. Thank goodness for Mildenhall. If only we'd had him last year, eh?

Within a couple of minutes of the restart the Big M had earned his and everyone else's wages for the rest of the season. Parkin and Wijnhard played a quick one-two with Big Jon, about 20 yards out to the left of goal, swivelling and assassinating the ball towards the top left corner. The Mildster stood tall and plucked the ball from underneath the crossbar. Absolutely brilliant, from both of them. Marvellous technique from the striker to turn and shoot so accurately, so powerfully, and such effortless calm and authority by our lordly keeper.

A minute later Town won a corner, which was half cleared out of Macc's penalty area on their left. Newey tried to retrieve possession with a hooking, sluicing, man-eating studs up tackle, dislodging several limbs from a defender. The referee allowed play to continue as Macclesfield broke away up their left. One of their little players, possibly Bullock, turned inside and out, beating McDermott for pace. Alone, racing away for the halfway line, a goal seemed certain. The Mildster took a few steps forward, jumped up and puffed his chest out, his arms spread as wide as could be, and stared at the striker. Like a king cobra he mesmerised his prey, choosing his moment to leap forward and snaffle his supper, the ball ballooning off his chest and away for a corner.

If they want to score against the Big M they'll need to take a shehnai double-reed flute and large laundry basket with them. A single reed won't do.

Mildenhall's great, isn't he.

Bolland decided to ruffle the Macc lads' hair a bit, having ten minutes of omnipresence sweeping away danger and shushing the ball to his partners in mime. The Town defence struggled en masse with Parkin, deploying two and three players to hoover around his feet, resulting in many moments of fear. Boy, were we impressed with Parkin - supposedly an unfit Parkin - now this is how a lump should play.

Our lump? Not so bad today; holding the ball occasionally, turning and flicking too. Just don't ask him to run much. Perhaps he was learning on the job from the lumpmeister general. Ooh, a corner; oh, Cohen headed over. Ooh again - something, almost, but not quite. Things are improving. What Town need is a thingummyjig that would bring everyone together. A goal?

On the hour Town got a free kick which was clumped up from the right by Newey. So far, so normal: the ball bibbled about and Reddy set off on one of his road trips across the USA, via the dead zone underneath the Stones/Smiths/Findus stand. After a couple of twirls and stepovers and a traditional Bulgarian folk dance, he turned infield and crossed in to the near post, where Ramsden challenged Fettis, who punched the ball out. Toner controlled the ball in the middle of the Macclesfield half and tapped it aside to Newey. Young Tom dribbled past one defender and, about 25 yards out in the centre, leathered a low shot goalwards. The ball hovered an inch above the hallowed turf, a defender dummied, Fettis finally fell to his left and Newey had scored. Finally. The ball screamed into the bottom left corner and Newey gesticulated to his personal moan club in the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand. Now that's favouritism: what about the purple people and the dentists? When purple people are happy what colour are they? Mauve? Plum white in the Dulux paint catalogue?

Macclesfield continued to contain minor peril that may upset young children with Parkin and Wijnhard rocking and rolling around the Town defence. The ball dropped, Parkin bazooka-ed a first time shot a yard wide from 25 yards out. You didn't see it? You must have blinked. Can we have him please Mr Fenty?

A Macc corner crumbled through the area with no-one touching it. A free kick curled into Mildenhall's waiting arms, which were attached to his waiting body. The pressure was tightening on Town: Macc fizzing, the pace upped, Parkin scary. Parkin turned Whittle into a novelty pin cushion, the sort you can buy in tea shops in the Wolds for £1.50, but fell over as he was free inside the area.

The snow flurry over, Town returned to the Pontoon with some one-touch passing mixed in with some lobs into the corner for Reddy to chase. He is Michael Reddy and that is what he does. Swooshing past Morley on the right, Reddy rolled into the area, along the bye line, and crossed into the near post, near Jones, who nearly touched it. We were nearly happy. Repeat formula, substitute Parkinson for Jones, add some egg white, beat with a whisk and watch Parky swing the ball over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box. Worth an "ooh" in anyone's language. Except Welsh.

You blinked again, didn't you. Gary Jones daintily turned, surged forward and almost played a perfect pass through the centre of the defence. Reddy almost through but wasn't, so sit down again. Get back up again - you may wish to catch the ball as it sails by. Parky perkying past three, curling the ball into the upper echelons of society, or the back of the Pontoon, whichever is posher.

You do see some amazing things these days. Lumpy the bush kangaroo bounced through two challenges, leapt over the eucalyptus tree at left back and clipped a tantalising cross over Fettis and just over Cohen's head. Whatever will they think of next?

Macclesfield brought on John Miles for his 15 minutes of fame. With all their troubles I'm sure his music will pull them through. Or they could just make sure Parkin remains fit. Around this time the game slipped into a bit of a torpid patch, not helped by a tubby linesman and Reddy's continuing quest to build a tunnel under the Humber. Are you worried at Wijnhard slipping into the Town area and lobbing the ball just past Mildenhall's right post? You are? Then you weren't very observant: the linesman's flag had been up for ages. The Town defence continued its four-man tug of war with the mighty Parkin, just about winning. Just.

With ten minutes left Town walloped the ball high down the pitch way into the Macclesfield area on their left. Jones challenged and a defender half-hooked the ball out of the area. Cohen, about 20 yards out near the corner of the box, chested the ball forward with the full-back careering off towards Spurn Point. These ships passed in the night, observing maritime law by switching their lights on and sounding their horns. Along came another defender, with Cohen stepping down on the bouncing ball, sending this one towards Chapman's Pond with a warning about the bottomless pit that awaits him if he's naughty. Fettis advanced to the edge of the six-yard box and Cohen, as he stumbled, steered the ball, left-footed, towards the bottom right corner, perfectly bisecting the plunging keeper and Whitaker's dying swan on the goal line. Think of John Barnes against a troupe of Brazilian circus clowns. Honk! Three-one, game over, yes!

Andrew immediately replaced Parkinson and we were re-introduced to that old tactic of whacking the ball towards the big bloke on the wing, which rather took the gloss paint off the rather fine new fitted wardrobes. The last ten minutes had a couple more tug 'o' war sessions with Big Jon and two lustrous Cohen dribbles which ended with nothing much, but they looked good for a few seconds.

Is that it? Well. O'Reddy has to riverdance once per game and he shivered down the right one more time for his old gran. Lung-bursting past two defenders, he shuffled into the area and, from a narrow angle, flickered the ball across the face of goal, missing post and Jones by an equidistance. The long day's journey into night had ended. Smile! We won. Smile! We won eventually, playing some fluid passing football. Isn't that what we want?

It wasn't an orgy of wonderfulness: Town were OK, doing adequately what the sullen silent shrinking support want, and winning. Let's not get too carried away just because we didn't lose. However, it was totally clear that the players were thinking before they kicked it and were making an effort.

Base camp rebuilt: we can start climbing again.

Nicko's man of the match
As usual Bolland ran around a lot, and was what some would call the heart of the team. Toner had by far his best game for Town, playing simple passes quickly and standing in the right places. But Town won because they didn't concede more than they scored and for that they have one man-mountain to thank: Steve Mildenhall, for thwarting the evil schemes of the silkymen. His very existence is enough to cause a rip in the space/time continuum of your average fourth division striker, and even very good ones.

Official warning
Mr E Ilderton wasn't that bad, playing advantage intelligently and correctly. A few little mistakes, and he could have given Town a penalty when Reddy fell over a body. From 100 yards away it was clear that Reddy was already falling before the Maccman arrived, so let's not be too one-eyed. It didn't matter anyway; we won. Everybody be cool, this wasn't a robbery. His winning lottery numbers are 6.81723.