Do the right thing: Rochdale (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 December 2005

Grimsby Town 4 Rochdale 1

Did you ever see the faces of the children, they get so excited; waking up on Tuesday morning hours before the big Champions League borefest ignited. Desolation row upon row in the upper Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand: I'm sure it would be different if Town were near the top of the league. About 250 to 300 Rochdalians wallowed in the reflected glory of the Osmond Stand, happy to have a roof under which they could practise their close-harmony-barbershop-quartet carousing.

Town lined up in the 4-4ish-Lumpy-Reddy formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, R Jones, Newey, Parkinson, Bolland, Kamudimba Kalala, Reddy and the man himself. The substitutes were probably unhappy, and they were Ramsden, Gritton, Croft, Heggggggggarty and Cohen. Are substitutes always seven steps from Kevin Bacon? Or just seven steps from a bacon sandwich? Town were very lopsided, with Toner nominally on the left somewhere, but mostly in the middle, and Parkinson in a good old-fashioned right winger's slot. So, Town being changed to counter the opposition again; tactical magic with the Johnny Morris of the fourth. Or is fear the key?

As the players warmed up a small boy wandered onto the pitch from the Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus and stood next to Lukic. He then marched up to Cohen and joined in the warm-up, with all the players looking a little perplexed, unwilling to be the big bad wolf. After quarter of an hour he calmly took off his jacket and ran back to join the lads, resplendent in his Town top. Well, he'd warmed up by now so he didn't need his training top. Great left foot, by the way: perfectly weighted passes to Ramsden. And you don't say that about Justin Whittle, do you. The Mighty Mariner was deputed to clear the turf of the unofficial, non-paying mascot and ushered him away like a foam-filled sheepdog.

Then everyone carried on as normal, as if nothing had happened.

Dish of the Day: Ciaran Toner's traditional Irish spaghetti Bolognese, or if using the Official Grimsby English Dictionary (twelvtieth edition), Bolognaise. The advice to Ciaran was quite simple: rid yourself of saturated fats. Perhaps that's a coded warning to not go down Meggies with Tony Crane.

Ah, lovely, they have a Gary Jones too, but theirs is just a shadow. Maybe he needs some saturated fat.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond end in the usual fashion, especially with Newey on the pitch. Not much happened, but but it happened quickly and in relative silence. Both sides popped about in lively fashion, but... oh look, there's Galli. "Coo-ee!"

Hmm, there's cheeky: trying a shot from 25 yards, low towards the bottom left corner. It's so very last season to expect that to go in. The Big M's quilted overcoat snaffles up the icy daggers of winter and weak efforts from little Lancy-Lancy-Lancy-Lancy-Lancyshire lads. And again, another raid down the Town left, defenders left haggling with a gourd seller as Lambert skipped away and flipped a cross towards the edge of the penalty area. Holt thundered across the globe and walloped a header a yard wide. Yes, I did say from the edge of the penalty area. There's cheeky, eh?

Mariners dishevelled: Toner the crease in the Town trousers. What's he doing there (point to your right)? He should be there (point to your left). Now wave your hands in the air like this (pretend to climb a tree like Duncan Norvelle). Oh sorry, the office Christmas party is next week. Someone should tell Town.

Reindeers have hoofs, and so do Town.

Ah, that's better; and who else but Dr John to apply some balm. McDermott always the outlet, the starter for ten; driving forward from the back, applying some rhythm; the Blues backtracking. On and on he rode, deep into their half, tipping Parky free. A hop, step and jump, Parky tickled the ball back to Macca inside the area. His Eminence shivered, shook off an alleged tackle and simmered a drive straight at Gilks from about 15 yards out. A couple of minutes later Rochdale yee-hawed their way down theTown left at pace. Newey quaked, Toner half-baked, the ball rolling across 20 yards out; a shot thumped, Parky clamped, the ball deflected wide for a corner. No worries, ball cleared. You can take another sip of your sherry and muse a while longer.

"Let Newey take it!" A Town free kick, on the right, halfway inside the Rochdale half: prime hoof-to-Jones-the-Stick territory. Oh, all right, I admit it: being in North East Lincolnshire is enough to be within a hoof of Jones the Stick territory. Newey clipped it high to the far post; Jones the Stick rose and nodded, and we all watched the ball have a lovely time with a day trip across the face of goal, bouncing a bit past the keeper's left post. Shall we "oooh", or shall we dance?

Town started to get hold of the ball a bit more and to pass it sometimes. At first a few tentative steps before the whack, but eventually they had confidence to put some socks on and go outside, always down the right. The left was a foreign country, best left to metropolitan sophisticates to wander down, perhaps staying in a family villa near the manager's dugout. The view was absolutely marvellous and the dentists were wonderful; you really must go. Parkinson was having a delightful time, flipping his way past a flapping left-back, causing mild peril (not suitable for children under the age of eight) with crosses bombling free. As the ball skewed off a blue head, Newey slurped a right-footed wobbler a foot high and wide from just outside the area.

Oh yes, football. Macca raiding, Parky typing a short essay on wingplay to hand in to Mr Slade at half time, Bolland backing up. Free inside the area, his first shot blocked, his second fizzing low through the goalmouth, but straight to the keeper. Town were starting to press persistently on the doorbell. C'mon Rochdale, we know you are in, open the door.

Ah, we didn't mean open the door and run out naked into the street singing a medley of Engelbert Humperdinck hits. You can't wait a moment more? I'll tell you quando, quando, quando. Just before the half-hour Whittle cleared the ball upfield as only he can, but it was returned in the air, towards Holt, ten yards inside the Town half. Holt simply noddled the ball on to Sturrock as whittle observed events. Hey diddle-diddle, piggy in the middle. Holt screamed past Whittle on to the pass as McDermott hurtled back and across, forcing the blueman to twiddle on the right corner of the Town area. Holt bazookered our defensive position, bamboozling Lord McMaccness with a turn back upfield, stepover and spin back towards the bye-line. He crossed low towards the far post, where Lambert sprinted in front of Kalala and side-footed into the bottom left corner from six yards out. A simple, well-worked goal. Sighing in the chapel: Pontoon engulfed by a terrible sense of déjà vu.

Town visibly upped their pace after this surprisingly unsurprising event, reverting to the clips-down-the-channels-for-Reddy-to-run-after-and-sometimes-get-but-no-one-is-the-box tactic. But hey, we sometimes get corners so Jones the Stick can glide forward in his popemobile, using cruise control at all times. He headed one straight at the keeper, missed another and generally occupied Rochdale's minds for several seconds. They just knew one time, one time, we wouldn't welly the ball in the air to him. It might even be in this match.

Town got out a spanner and turned a few of the looser bolts on the Rochdale wheel of fortune, the ball hubbling and bubbling about in the centre, just outside the area. Bolland picked a pocket or two, rubbing the ball forward into a space near the penalty spot. Reddy strode across to the right, where a defender slid across, swiping the ball against the head of a stray team-mate. The ball arced slowly towards goal and about a foot wide of the right-hand post. The corner was clipped to the far post, where Jones the Stick, a dozen yards out, headed firmly down and goalwards, but a defender smackerooned it off the line.

Sounds exciting, doesn't it? It didn't feel like it at the time: just random moments of adequacy where the dots joined together, a vague shape almost visible in the fog. And Jones the Lump had a goal disallowed for being offside in 2001.

Still Town pressed forward, with the Dalians sitting pretty waiting for the train that never came. Isolated Dale breaks threatened to appear concerning, but they had no further efforts: the ASBO worked, then; perhaps we should have taken out one earlier. Bolland, the hub around which Town's trolley wheels whirled, flicked Newey free on the left after another Macca/Parkinson raid on the right. One stride, a first-time shimmering skimmer from 20 yards which Gilks plucked from underneath the crossbar. Bolland squirmed free in the box, slapping a scribbler straight at Gilks. All Town, but no clear chances; time drifting away, the crowd becalmed.

With less than ten minutes left to half time McDermott didn't get up after heading the ball. Clutching his leg he was eventually raised from the bottom of the Atlantic, propped up by an inflatable Dave Moore and his little helper. McDermott looked in agony, unable to stand; his boot off and his foot hanging in the air as he was carted away. Croft came on at right-back.

The rest of the half shuffled away like a miserable skunk, passing without incident. Another half over, another game over? Town had moments, but that's all they were: occasional happenings, like a dilatory Lincolnshire hippy. This was fitful finesse wrapped in own-brand budget cling film. Thank heavens for Jones the Stick's extendable legs.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Do vegetarians use Oxo cubes?"
"I didn't notice Galli - has he shrunk?"
"It's not a repeat - it's a cover version."
"Rob Jones is the biggest aspidistra on the pitch."
"How could your wife not remember Tony Ford from school?"

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time, much to the grumblement of the Town fans. Perhaps that's the collective noun for us: a grumblement of Grimsby fans.

Rochdale kicked off and had a whale of a time for quarter of an hour. Town were quite dreadful: the ball rushed forward, in the air, often towards Reddy with Lumpyman watching from afar. Shapeless and clueless, just hoping that Reddy could run faster than Gallimore. It was hit and hopeless.

The Dalians surged, their players merging into one amorphous 'them' down at the Osmond end. A few minutes in, they broke in numbers, at speed, playing one-touch passes around and through the Town defence on the right. The ball was crossed and half cleared towards Toner, 20 yards out in the centre. Toner leaned on one leg, wafted the other and was easily beaten by Clark, who trumbled forward into the box, swishing past a further Townite. Three against one, Town panicking, Clark with a glimpse of Mildenhall's underpants and whamped a shot goalwards from about 15 yards out. Whittle threw himself across and just managed to divert the ball over the Big M; it crawled over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net.

More breaks, more problems, shots from the left, from the right, not troubling the Big Man. A cross from their left, a header looped back, Mildenhall miffed to have to move a foot to catch the ball. A corner from their right headed back towards his own goal by Parkinson, the crowd rousing towards a moan. They wanted another goal; walking over Town, exploiting the holes in this shoddy contraption.

Finally a welly produced results: a throw-in. Some Town pressure at last, the ball hurtling in to their area, out again, back and cleared to Toner, 25 yards out. He looked up, saw Parkinson and Reddy unmarked beyond the far post and lilted a lullaby cross over the final defender. Reddy stumbled and cushioned a header back to the keeper from about four yards out.

A minute later Toner scored, but the offside flag had been raised a few seconds earlier. Don't bother arguing; he was beyond their last defender. Are you still arguing? Calm down, laddie; you'll be turning purple. And so will your children, and your children's children. And, by the way, graded grains make finer flour.

On the hour a change was finally made: the not awful but not terribly convincing Kalalalala being replaced by Cohen, with Toner moving away from not being on the left to being really honestly and properly in the middle. Parkinson swapped to the left and Cohen rubbed his hands in glee as he eyed up the footballer standing in front of him, the one they claim was their left-back. Jones the Lump joined Reddy as a fearsome frontsome twosome.

And now we'll play some football, shall we? Oh yes. The world was now a different place for Mr Rochdale, no longer a stroll in the Park, feeding ducks with a bun: Town came out to groove about.

Gallimore, the former black and white scarecrow everyone knows, stood with a bird on his hat and straw everywhere. Frazzled and dazzled, he started to flap in his own way. Perhaps the Rochdale cowboys and cowgirls couldn't see it from 100 yards away, but the clues were there for the experienced Galli-watchers. His head did no thinking and his legs didn't move as Reddy roamed and Town won a corner on the right. "Let Newey take it."

Newey did, swinging and dipping in; Cohen soared and swooped, glancing the ball goalwards from eight yards out. Reddy and a defender grappled on the line and the ball hit a hand-type limb, bounced down and was cleared. The referee pointed to his chest and gave Rochdale a free kick for handball by Cohen, right in front of the manager's dug out. In frustration Slade kicked an invisible cat and slapped an imaginary mercurial French midfield playmaker, possibly with a garlic baguette.

With about 25 minutes left Rochdale attempted to sneak down the left, but Town whipped the tablecloth from beneath their new dinner plates. Parkinson and Toner exchanged passes, the ball being tripped down the left touchline behind the last defender. Reddy set off in pursuit, hassling the bluesman with some early Bee Gees songs. The lights went out for Warren Goodhind as Reddy's riverdance made him fall at our caravaner's feet. Off away, beautiful bird in the sky flying free down the right; the crowd up as one, roaring on the roaming Reddy. Up to the left of the area, a final defender emerged, but was dismissed with a shake, rattle and roll of the hips, with a smile on the lips. Reddy hit the bye-line, waited for the goalkeeper, then clipped a low cross into the centre of the six-yard box, where Jones the Lump emerged between two defenders to slide the ball into the net.

They kicked off and Town attacked, the game unrecognisable from the muted amble of the first half. Rochdale were no longer confidently stroking the ball around, teasing and pleasing at will. It was all Town, Town, Town, Town, Town. A couple of minutes later another Town attack with Reddy terrorising the Scarecrow into conceding another corner, on the right. "Let Newey take it." He did. Curling and dipping into the middle of the penalty area, the keeper transfixed with fear, watching without appreciation as Cohen stooped and gracefully thumped a header into the centre of the goal from six yards out.

We're on a roll, let's get ready to humble.

Psssssssssssht: deflating Rochdale, elating Town. Their defenders began to squawk, to cluck like chickens; more feathers to be plucked.

Five minutes later Town got a free kick on the left when Gallimore felled Reddy. "Let Newey take it." He did. Clipped to the far post, for once they cleared it, but only a bit. The ball rolled up to the halfway line and Croft immediately passed it back to Toner, unmarked 30 yards out in the centre. He turned and caressed the ball to Cohen, just inside the area with his back to goal, who spun his marker and hit the bye-line. The cross was shinned away from in front of goal to somewhere near the penalty spot. Two defenders washed their hair as Jones the Stick swallowed them whole, like a human python, slimping the ball in to the centre of the net. So that's all we had to do: put our lips together and blow. Well, we're whistling a happy tune now.

After all that excitement let's just have a little lie down. I did use the word 'excitement' there. Eight minutes that shook the world; so out of character, too. Rochdale looked staggered, and so were we. They were almost incapable of standing at times, Gilks coming out of his area and slicing a fly kick sideways as Jones the Lump steamed forward. Fortunately for him, unfortunately for cheap exploitative Christmas stocking filler video makers, it looped straight to his one remaining friend on earth.

The game seemingly over, Town started to play party tricks. Reddy ran around blindfold with a tail in his hand; Parkinson put on some white gloves and a top hat and, joined by his glamorous assistant the lovely Michael Reddy, produced an endless stream of paper flags from his right sock; then he cut the right back in two, the legs still wiggling. Amazing!

Holt had a chance. He kicked it straight at Mildenhall from a narrow angle. They're still here then? Their party's over. Perhaps they'd like to do some washing up?

Ooooh, Parky, dribbling and curling a shot towards the top left corner. Gilks caught it comfortably. Ooooh, Reddy, trying to run from the halfway line, ignoring several free Townites. The game won, time ticked away. The clock said 90… and they played on. The crowd got up and waited to go home, the clock said 90… and they played on. Rochdale suddenly woke up again, really pinning Town back inside the area. The pressure was incessant, Town hanging on desperately with late blocks, last-minute buttock clearances and Jones the Peg with the extra leg stopping shots getting through.

After about five minutes of this apparent added time the Dalesters got a corner on their right from a shot that had been deflected through three pairs of underwear and shimmered a foot wide of the post. Whippled into the centre of the area, heads ducked and the ball zoomed off what looked like a Town head and smashed against the underside of the crossbar, down on the goal line and was smuggled away under some hay in an old cart.

There were to be three minutes of added time. In addition to the five we've just had? The scoreboard is usually slow, not fast. What's going on here, we'll have none of this shouting. Town repelled another Dale attack, the ball cleared out of the area, helped on by Toner towards the halfway line. Reddy sank back into the Town half and flipped the ball over the head of the last defender, racing past him and away down the left touchline. It's like the end of the Derby when he's in full flight, the punters roaring on their hero. When level with the penalty area Reddy cut in towards Gilks, who trembled slightly as the choo-choo man got ever closer. At full pace Reddy dropped his right shoulder, but slinked off to the left, rivelling around the flapping keeper. The ball appeared to be skipping out, but Reddy caught up and casually flicked it in from two yards out and a very narrow angle as Gallimore reprised his glory days at Town, forlornly chasing the ball into the net.

That's it, that's nice; in the end. How did that happen? Er, perhaps having two wingers in a basic 4-4-2 formation? As soon as the loopy, lop-sided, plastic-too-close-to-an-open-fire formation was abandoned, Town overpowered hitherto decent opponents. Rochdale looked good going forward, with intelligent runs pulling Town players away from the centre and much one-touch passing, but were feeble at the back. If only we'd tried that an hour earlier we wouldn't have had to sit through the worry, misery and boredom. Or does it just make a dull life interesting? Town ended up looking a perfectly balanced team. Croft was untroubled, Cohen dynamic, Parkinson fit and dangerous. Reddy only really began to cause problems when Jones the Lump was beside him, and he looked comfortable playing a defined position. Toner was a complete waste until moved into the centre, when he started to be a Dobbinesque figure.

And we all lived happy ever after.

Nicko's man of the match
Bolland was omnipresent in the duller half, with Parky perky too. But for being fit it's Rob Jones, back to his stick-best form. Someone oiled the retractable, expandable secret third leg while he was away. He didn't see a surgeon - he went to a garage just off Pasture Street for a 20,000-mile service.

Official warning
Mr M Thorpe. He was on the pitch. He didn't do anything particularly stupid. He could have given Town a penalty for the ball hitting an ill-defined human on the hand, but he didn't and it wasn't a clear and obvious one. So what are we complaining about? Nothing. He didn't even book Newey. A perfectly adequate performance from the custardian of the rules. Did I hear 7.018? I did, even if you didn't.