Midnight cowboys: Morecambe

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

18 October 2005

Grimsby Town 1 Morecambe 1
Morecambe win 4-3 on penalties

You know, Grimsby looks great in the dark.

A still evening with a suggestion of a chill, the Dock Tower winking through the haze, ships gliding by, oblivious to the gathering of the groovers. Forty-five Shrimps, eleven hundred blimps: a fantastic crowd for a reserve game.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, Ramsden, Crane, Whittle, Heggggarty, Francis, Barwick, Toner, Cohen, Gritton, Slade. The substitutes were Palmer, Chamberlain, Higgins, North and Ashton. So that's just three and a half first-teamers and a rickety-rackety hotch-potch of pot pourri making up the numbers. Hang on there, matey - Hegggggarty at left-back? Gritton partnered Slade the Twig in a forward line long on hair, short on lifetime achievement. The Twig was wearing Cohen's hair, as was Cohen, which confused many of the millions gathered together in the strange land that is the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand. Why do they have yellow lines painted on the floor of the toilets? Do they have stewards stationed there at half time to warn people not to stand on the lines "for safety reasons"? Or is that just their excuse, officer?

Morecambe trundled around in nice red shirts with some curiously shaped bodies. Bentley, the big number five, was big in the old-fashioned sense, matching Crane inch for inch, girthly speaking. He looked like 'security': I half expected him to walk out with an earpiece and walk off with a piece of Gritton's ear. And he was wearing a family-sized touring tent with dividers for privacy and running water. Ooh, look - they have a minipop Alan Biley among their subs.

Is Peter Stringfellow playing?

Oh, do we have to start? I was counting the lights on the ferry. My spoon bent when I stirred my hot chocolate, just like a Kingsley Black free kick.

First half
Morecambe kicked off towards their supporters... that's it, I've finished reading the programme. What's going on out there? Why is Serpico in the Upper Stones/Smith/Findus? Why do kids think 1974 was a fashion statement? Hey, boys and girls: not enough brown.

Yes, you did miss something while you were thinking about Jack Lewis's sideburns. Twiggy flicked, Gritton picked his way around the lumbering old Bentley parked in the Morecambe driveway, spivvled and wivvled past another and lampooned a curling shot wide from 20 yards. Francis was easing down the right, perfecting his Transit Stan impression: waddling like the pencil-moustachioed Master of Hubris. Morecambe carved like a juicy chicken; Gritton the two-pronged fork, Cohen the slivering knife, slicing thinly. Breast or leg? Ah, somebody forgot the stuffing.

Twiggy pursued a chipple down the right and wiggled past Howard as he tried to shepherd the ball out. Slade twisted along the bye-line and tapped the ball against the goalkeeper. It ballooned away for a corner. When Town players moved the sun shone and the Morecambe petals opened. Did anyone want to pluck some pollen?

Have they had the ball yet? They have now: Town's defence a flying V guitar strapped around Mildenhall's neck. Power chords are for stadium rock, but this is an acoustic set for a small crowd of waiters in a cocktail bar. Crane was way out of position, playing offside in a game three weeks ago, allowing the great white shark that was their centre-forward to shuffle goalwards. Heggggggarty dashed across and managed to disturb O'Connor, who stumbled and poked a shot at Mildenhall from near the penalty spot. The Big M threw himself forward and managed to parry the ball upwards. O'Connor, the goal a-gaping, nodded and placed the ball a few inches wide of the left post.

I've just realised: no Gliding Glen. We all know that the mature man needs a mature whisky: Glen Downey, available at your local off licence this Christmas while stocks last.

Twiggy had had a fine ten minutes, linking well with Gritton, trying to play football. It looked nice anyway. Town still had the upperest of hands, stringing together passes and ripping them apart when players remembered it was a competitive match and moved their legs. Cohen burst through an imaginary gap on the left and teasled a lovely cross into the centre of the penalty area. Gritton, unmarked, leapt up, waved his underwear at Hull and tried a spectacular sideways scissor kick. He shinned the ball across goal where a defender walloped it against Slade. It rebounded off wide of the left post.

If a convoy moves at the pace of the slowest ship, this game is the Lusitania. Is time slower in the Beer and Fish Fingers Stand? I should have stayed at home and spun some plates.

Ah, Crazy Legs, crazy mind. Crane, a distant memory for Whittle, and a little Shrimp scuttled free down the centre-right. The ball bounced and Mildenhall, summoning his cosmic powers and glowing slightly from his toes, rushed out and caught the alleged lob. They were all right given time and space. Let there be less light for them, eh.

Ah, better: Francis bouncing three red cheeses off his platter and plotting a cunning plan through the centre of their defence. Gritton got off his double decker and burbled past the centre-backs, from left to right, inside the box, pinging across the keeper and wide. Repeat action five minutes later but on the other side. No, I don't mean he had a séance, searching for his long-lost, dear departed scoring form, but on the right-hand side of the pitch. Knock twice if you can hear me, Parky.

Half an hour gone, Slade off, head clobbered, dazed and confused. Settle down at the back and write a thousand-word essay on the spatial awareness of cows and their relationship to Tony Crane's banjo.

Some more minutes passed and three more ships sailed by, plus one train, five cars, four gulls and a paper bag. Or is that a description of Town?

Hegggggarty, at last, made an error, underhitting a back header. Mildew strode out of his area and bazoomed the ball towards the Dock Tower. Gritton lurked as the ball dropped inside the Morecambe penalty area. He missed it, the goalie caught it: that's all. It seemed interesting at the time, compared to the huggery and skulduggery that was passing for passing. The Morecambers were gradually starting to pull at the seams, with Town's midfield a higgledy-piggledy mess: too flat, too sharp; everywhere and nowhere; within you and without you. Urgh.

There were shots from Town; there was pressure when somebody decided to bother enough for a bit. Was this an injury-avoidance scheme we'd wandered into? A Town corner was half cleared to Toner, who wellied the ball back towards the centre-right of the goal. Cohen, 15 yards out, flicked his tousled head and diverted the ball towards the bottom-left of the goal. Robinson changed direction and superbly saved one-handed low down, the ball tantalisingly spinning on the goal-line. The windmills of Town's mind spun, but not their legs; the goalie retrieved and was given a little hair ruffle by his mates. That's a ruffle of his hair, not a ruffle in his hair; let's be clear about this. We can't have everything, can we.

Drifting by, a little cloud of doubt accompanied the steam from McMenemy's kitchen: more shots from Town, but hardly a save to make for the keeper. That sucker is about to punch.

There were two minutes of added time, and in the fifteenth of those minutes Morecambe penned Town back with some old possession football. From right to left and back again, probing, waiting for someone to fall asleep. Hah, so many options. The ponytailed right-back advanced, received the ball and was left with just Hegggarty in front of him. Heggy took a stride forward; Blackburn knocked the ball to his right and ran around the oddly selected left-back on the other side, using his biceps and biplanes to rid himself of this pesky oik. Whittle came across, Blackburn crossed and Lloyd, about eight yards out, scoopled the ball across the face of goal and in. After two touches, that was half time.

You wanna know how Town played? I am making the noise of an exasperated horse, and so should you. At times they cantered forward with gay abandon, seemingly about to start the riot; at others they barely seemed bothered, the closer to the first team the less the inclination to allow the possibility of contact with the human race. Slade looked like a good footballer, a bit weak, and very capable of not scoring. Oh, I forgot - he volleyed the ball over when unmarked on the end of a long, flowing move involving just about everyone in the ground, including the snack bar lady with the geyser supplying the water. Hegggggggarty had a decent half, apart from the goal, of course, and he brought down the Great White Shark inside the Town penalty area while whistling a happy tune. His crosses were very well flighted and always caused problems. I shall be kind about the rest of the outfield players. More tea, vicar?

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Work makes chips."
"...and then I realised a vole had made a cave in the packet of Ryvita."
"Is Toner a musclebound Stuart Campbell?"
"He won't be doing wheelies when he gets behind a tractor."

Second half
There were no changes by either team at half time. Town's psychological warfare department came up with the idea that making the opposition listen to the whole of 'Up the Mariners' would demoralise them and inspire us. I think it worked the other way round. "In the Pontoon stand" -there's nobody there: hardly inspiring.

Ah yes, the second half: probably best digested in ten-minute chunks. I'll tell it to you on fast forward, just stopping for the interesting bits... gh~~a[1gdkCrane fhwrqhbeyf974rubbishj>

Cohen had a shot.


After 55 minutes the limping young Mr pink-v-neck-jumper-aren't-northerners-friendly-Slade was replaced by Ashton. This necessitated some kind of structural change, which the management forgot to get planning permission for. Town are a listing building, they should know they need council approval. Francis went to the left wing, Cohen went up front, Ashton wandered about for 10 minutes.


Ah, a Town free kick hoiked into the area, the Morecambe defence slipping out of the disco while the lights were down and catching four Town players offside. Cohen still challenged the keeper, clattering and causing a three-minute hold-up while their physio, Ricky Tomlinson, carried out some minor embroidery.

From the restart Ramsden did the decent thing and passed the ball to Ashton, for the first time today. He ploughed the field and scattered the defence, zipping to the bye-line and dinking a flat cross which hovered at crossbar height. Robinson tangled himself up and clawed the ball into the net. Ashton! Or, as the tannoy announced: "Number 4, Simon Ramsden". Realising his error he re-announced: "Number 8, Paul Ashton". Ashton was number 25. Numbers, names, does it really matter? The existential tannoy announcer: randomness personified. There are no fractions in space.


Let's rewind. At some stage Lewis Carroll pinged a shot from outside the area which Mildenhall hopped across to and flicked over like he was wafting away a particularly pungent aroma. No, no, he uses his real name these days: Dodgson was the kicker.


Town in a tizz; Hegggarty exposed by the big bad wolf, a cross rolled through the centre, legs waddling, Whittle arriving, Mildenhall plucking. Town descended into badness; Gritton's legs moving like a cartoon character, whirling madly on the spot, no lateral movement. Have we used up our quota of yawning?

Fancy a wince pie? Barwick, possibly bored, decided he wanted to go trampolining. Just a yellow card for a two-footed bounce on a Shrimp's shins. Ouch.


With about ten minutes left Chamberlain replaced Hegarty and strolled over to right-back, with Ramsden going on the left; or did Francis go over to the left; or was it the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle: the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true? And would you like sugar with that? Is it worth it? It was just a rumour that was spread around town. Please score, somebody. Please. Anyway, anyhow, anywhere. Somebody help me.

A teenager in a Newcastle United shirt walked along the Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand. He didn't evaporate, despite 500 pairs of eyes concentrated upon his heart.

After about 85 minutes on came the non-League Emile Heskey: Palmer replaced Francis, and Town slipped into those bad old habits: 3-4-3 and lots of lumps. Chamberlain played on the left of a back three and there was a facsimile transmission masquerading as a left wing-back. Palmer was some kind of left-sided striker and frankly, my dear, who gives a damn. There were males in the appropriate colours down in the pitch, movement optional, or perhaps an optical illusion. Palmer and Gritton scurried into the area and managed to dummy themselves several times, lying on the floor six yards out while Morecambe's keeper bemused and amused, calmly picking the ball up as they pretended to be drunken caterpillars.

In one of the five minutes of added time Morecambe finally attacked, dibbling down their left. Crane backed off, watched the ball carefully and studiously ignored the little number 17 as he walked into a big open space in the middle of the area. The ball was duly clipped to him and, to the annoyance of all, young Hunter curled the ball around Mildenhall and around the post.


Extra time: first half
Let's skip over this tedious intrusion and just listen to the selection of popular music cascading down the walls of indifference. The players certainly seemed more interested in the music, playing name that tune. "Playing football in the park, kicking pushbikes after dark... back of the 'ead with a plastic cup." "Reddy, Reddy they've got a crush on you." Ah, great days mate, not 'alf.

Cohen nearly, Palmer almost, twice: that's the condensed soup version. Just after the restart Cohen got around to bursting through, past two markers, with just the keeper to beat. They slid together, the ball bounded away, but both stayed down injured. Another long delay: will this ever end? Palmer twice took the ball across their defence, 25 yards out and cracked right-footed pingers. The first went straight to the keeper, the second forced an excellent plunging parry away from the bottom left corner. So now we see what he does, it's that. Chest, turn, shoot. Everything else was a bit Mansaram-on-stilts though.

Perhaps Morecambe had shots. Perhaps they didn't. Perhaps you'll see when you watch the video of this game. Perhaps you are mad?

Extra time: second half
Do you really want to put yourself through this? Oh, all right. Erm, Barwick had a shot that was quite close, but quite close is as much a goal as being on the last train to Clarksville or a bottle of beetroot beer. C'mon, the chip shop'll be shut soon. Palmer was fouled, Crane quacked upfield to put his full backside behind a whacking great free kick, but Barwick sent him back and toothpicked the ball into the Osmond. My brain rusted up completely, as the next thing anyone can remember is that we had even more footballing adventures: a penalty shoot-out. What value for money, eh!

Now here's a chance to blow your mind, to build up the tension, to rack up the drama. The language shall flower, your heartstring shall be tugged. No, it was boring and predictable. Why waste you time any further? Here are the facts, just the facts.

They scored, with the Mildster going the right way. Ramsden scored. Lloyd walked up like he was expecting a giant snake to eat him and Mildenhall flew to his left and saved easily. Gritton only just scored, then Mildenhall went the wrong way. Toner hit it to his left, then they scored off the post with Mildew going the right way.

And now comes the comedy. Trembling Terry advanced to the sound of one thousand guffaws and a not-so-whispered "he's going to miss". He apologised in advance and tapped it to the keeper's right, at thigh level. Save duly made. Mildew went the right way again for their next penalty, only just missing and the scorer thumped the air wildly, taunting his invisible tormentors in the Pontoon. He may seek help from a counsellor tomorrow. Mr Tony Crane manfully strode forward, placed the ball carefully, took four steps and crumpled the ball towards the top left corner of the Humber Bridge. Mission accomplished?

The end. Our community service completed, we could return to our families and begin to rebuild our lives. I understand that this match will be erased from computer records in three years' time. Hardly anyone tried much, with just the occasional burst of interest if the ball was exactly where they wanted it: not an inch either side would do. Let's hope they were deliberately underachieving or else we've got problems; it won't be a winter wonderland with this lot as back-up, especially the central midfield. They were frequently outmanoeuvred, outpaced and outskilled by a slightly under-strength Conference team.

Where's the shredder?

Nicko's man of the match
Oddly, given the drossicity, there is one. Mildenhall is absolved of everything, by the way. For just surviving two hours of football at the middle-earth age of 96, it's Justin Whittle. He can't pass, but he can stop. And he tried.

Markie's un-man of the match
Tony Crane, for being Tony Crane par excellence. His good interceptions (all three of them) were due to him being too slow and mentally lazy to mark anybody: he was there by accident. Ah well, only a few more months left and then he can join Armthorpe Welfare. We are their feeder club, aren't we?

Official warning
Despite Mr D Drysdale's best efforts, Town still managed to avoid victory. He tried so hard for us too, perhaps intimidated by the crowd, that wall of yawning. He loses points for failing to turn off the tap, the water torture stretching into the wee small hours and beyond. So: md.Q-39. Sorry - I was just thinking of the game there, and dropped off for a second. Oh, er, why not, 6.0001.

Can I have my brain back now?