Too much of nothing: Wycombe (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

7 October 2005

Grimsby Town 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Blundell Park stuffed full, the rattling mass of calcium no longer shopping in the Saturday Superstore. The moaners and jonahs had returned to the searing crucible of forged iron football, forcing the 200 or so Wycombites to scrunch together in the covered corner of the Osmond Stand. Those extra eight Town fans released into the community could recline in splendour across as many seats as they wished.

The pre-match warm-up was punctuated by wayward Townness. Gritton clobbered Jones the Stick behind the right ear with a crossfield pass; Crane clattered a pot-shot wide, the ball thumping against a young woman's face. Crane leapt over the barriers, ran up the Pontoon steps and consoled his inconsolable victim until the St John's ambulancers eventually arrived and wheeled her away on a stretcher.

Town lined up in the 4-4-Lump-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, R Jones, Newey, Francis, Bolland, Toner, Parkinson, G Jones, Reddy. The substitutes were Crane, Barwick, Ramsden, Gritton and Cohen. Ah, back to that cavalier formation with Jones the Lump: a feast of trotting awaits. A middle-aged man wiped away a tear or two at the sight of Lumpy and the terrible twosome on the left, Hurricane Andrew and Typhoon Tom. Devastation likely, please leave the area, it's for your own safety.

Wycombe were without Tyson and Talia, but old Moonman was there, as was the fabulous contrabulation that was Sergio Torres' hair. Held back by a hair band, the locks spilled over like a newly opened champagne bottle, cascading from his head down to his toes. Well, he's Argentinian you know, via Boots the chemist. Does he, or doesn't he use Harmony hairspray? And they had Anya on the bench. I never liked Clannad - too many wistful pipes and celtic fringes.

Dish of the Day: not Michael Reddy with his "Wensleydale, Parky?" smile, nor even food, but a philosophical meditation on the rights of the individual versus the Public Good. Full fat crisps or vegetables? Is it an allegory for last season? We know Slade has a Pinault allegory; it brings him out in a rash.

It is time for you to stop all of your sobbing. The ceremony is about to begin.

First half
In a packed programme tonight we'll be meeting ladies who like Nicholas Parsons and parsons who like... no, no, in a packed stadium tonight we'll be meeting men who hate Tommy Mooney and Moonie men who hate The Who's Tommy. Stop booing - I can't hear myself tuning up.

Wycombe kicked off towards the Pontoon, passing, passing, pinging towards Betsy. Newey intercepted and launched the ball down the left. Throw-in. Bolland cracked his whip and released Parkinson down the wing, who cut infield and loopled a drive from the edge of the penalty area which gently drifted over the angle of post and bar. Excellent: a positive Town start; a pass, a shot, jolly good.

That's as good as it got for half an hour. The hairboys delivered a short seminar on passing and movement. Town strummed like a cheap guitar, Wycombe plucked their harp, swooshing angelically towards a crescendo. Betsy and Senda on the right, interchanging and interchangeable - let's call them Benda for short - filleted the bloated dogfish that was Town's left. Newey exposed, Parkinson exhumed, a masterclass in wing play followed. Five minutes in, Betsy hurtled down the right touchline, Newey retreating, standing away, allowing him to crash infield, into the penalty area. Besty shuffled on, Newey kept a polite distance, opening the curtains and showing our visitor a clear view of the coast from the bedroom window. Betsy pinged a shot from about a dozen yards out straight at Mildenhall. The pattern was set.

Betsy again, dreaming down the right, Newey and Parkinson bouncing off his thighs, Mooney back-heeling extravagantly, McDermott cleansing this wound with a little rub of TCP. Torres surging down the left, Mooney clucking the ball along, Betsy frightening the chickens. Newey stood back as Betsy tapped a short pass to Oakes, 25 yards out, who shivered a wobbling shot at ankle height towards the near post. Mildenhall waited, watched and clutched the ball as it swung away towards second slip.

Toner passed to them, they ran off, Town defence ran away: crowd silent. After about ten minutes Wycombe attacked down the centre, flickering the ball out to their right. Parky stood off Senda, who rolled the ball further down the line while Betsy pushed Newey into a dead end street. While Tom Tom went roaring down the street Betsy cut back infield to the corner of the penalty area, looked up and counted all the ripples on the sea. He chipped a delicate cross towards the far post. Why should we worry? We've got sixteen tons of solid flesh in defence. Height, width, we've got it. Ah, Whittle was mesmerised by the Legend of the Moonman, forgetting to move with this mythical creature. Mooney, unmarked, six yards out, skipped and nodded sagely into the emptiest of empty nets. There's a crack up in Town's ceiling, and the kitchen sink is leaking.

The goal changed nothing. Wycombe were quicker, smaller, stronger, and more intelligent. Who said you can't pass your way out of this division? Who says you can't have two wingers? Eh up, they're at it again. The Bendaboys like to party, roasting our chestnuts on an open fire, the ball rolled perfectly into the centre of the penalty area and Whittle dozing. Mooney stepped across Mr Whittleofagus and rolled a miskick along the ground straight to Mildenhall. A quarter of an hour gone and we could be four down already.

Now, why was Gorman chosen as manager of the month? What had Town done, apart from make up the numbers? A few hoofs, a few clumps, hardly any tackles. Bolland was a one-man midfield; Reddy strained to flick headers on to no-one: awful. Top of the league? We really are having a laugh. Make that were having a laugh; let's get the tense right.

Scroll on another minute, repeat action. Betsy pickled Newey and the ball returned to Senda who crossed towards Bloomfield, unmarked a dozen yards out, who was too embarrassed to score. Itsy and Bitsy had, by this time, swapped duties, with Jones the Stick marking Mooney and Whittle supposedly picking up the midfield runners. Yes, you've guessed it - Whittle dopeyness again. Perhaps Gritton would have been better clobbering him around the ear?

I have the vaguest of memories of Town getting inside their penalty area, and some kind of scruffly scramble involving Reddy. A Town corner was headed over by Jones the Stick from somewhere near the penalty spot.

The linesman in front of the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand did his best to whip up crowd frenzy when he twice failed to flag for a throw-in as Wycombites dribbled the ball way out of play. With the crowd a-baying, play was halted only when the shelf-stacker's work of art, in ecstasy, crashed to the floor. Or if you like: free kick to Wycombe as Torres crumpled under a McDermott challenge. The hair band was momentarily released in a failed bid for freedom.

The game meandered a bit for ten minutes, with Town still awful offensively, but just about stopping Wycombe getting too close. Bolland, in particular, was throwing himself around, doing the work of two men. It's hard to think what Toner was doing, Kalalalalala-di-da lies lamented in a foreign field. The ball did miss Toner frequently.

Time is as fast as the slowest thing. Ah, Russ's wonderboy, Jones the Lump: why?

Half an hour gone already? At last, Town doing something, turning Wycombe's defence. Putting them under the merest semblance of pressure. They looked like they didn't like it up 'em. Like Yeovil before them, they seem to have a simple strategy of scoring more goals than the opposition, not stopping the opposition from scoring and seeing what happens.

Macca and Reddy swirled down the right, triangulating the ball to Francis, who bullied his way past three, cut infield and, from 20 yards, fizzled a left-footed shot straight at Lonergan. There is life at the bottom of the ocean! What a 30th minute. Newey made a tackle on Betsy, giving them a corner. Town half cleared the corner, the ball went in and went out, and some blue-chested footballer flaked a shot from 25 yards out, on their centre left. Bolland threw himself towards the ball and snicked it off the outside edge of his boot. Mildenhall stood still and joined the Pontoon in watching as the ball arced, swerved, curled, curved and crawled an inch past the right post.

Town cleared the corner properly next time, with them even constructing a move down the right, with Macca overlapping and forcing a corner. Newey clipped it into the centre and Loanee Lonergan, being a gamblin' man, came out and tried to catch it. He failed. The ball bounded about, Reddy's red legs hooked it goalwards, and it was bumbled away from the line by several blue socks and a fair wind from the east. That, I suppose, goes down as a chance. We're a set piece team, remember.

Don't kid yourself into thinking all was now well, that the storm had passed. Wycombe still caused minor peril every time they had the ball; Town were still sitting back watching them play around in front, joining dots we didn't see. The Town centre was a bit better - not much, but just enough to stop shots going in. Blocks were made, desperate hacking at the hedge was enough to ensure Mildenhall didn't have saves to make, just some routine postal collections. Apart from when Mooney turned Whittle and the big man shinned the ball onto the top of the net. A goal kick given, to the silent amusement of 7,000 people.

Wahey, there they go... Betsy rifling down the centre with three Town players backing off, scared to touch this vision in blue as he went 20, 30, then 40 yards. Eventually Jones the Stick swiped and missed the ball and Betsy fell over. The referee flounced a yellow card.

With a couple of minutes left Reddy glided down the left, ushering defenders to him, seducing with his shaking hips. Past one, past two, cutting back into the penalty area with Parkinson unmarked in the centre, Reddy ignored the imploring imperfectionist and smacked a shot against the final defender. What a waste, what a waste, and we do mind.

The referee sealed his fate, booking McDermott! Doesn't he know his UN Resolution 1356: "acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter and recalling all previous resolutions, John McDermott shall never be in receipt of any sanctions from designated officials". Torres raced down the left with Macca in vain pursuit and eventually the ball was quaffed out for a throw-in. The referee indicated that McDermott had been tugging Torres, camped a yellow card out and... gave a throw-in. The half ended amid rancour, with even the Wycombe players arguing with this preening poltroon.

Dream alone, don't sigh, don't groan, somehow it's only 1-0. Thoroughly outplayed, Town still had hope, but only if things were changed. Life is only what you wonder, and the ground was wondering why Slade had reverted to the stodgy gloop formation. Every home game where Jones the Lump had started has been the same, with Town creating nothing, playing like an away team, holding on and hoping to get something on the break. It's big and ugly. The left side was a disaster, while the centre of defence played like ladies who lunch faced with an obstreperous builder.

This was bad.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"My mother tells me it's still popular in Nepal."
"Croft's having a stinker, he should be taken off."
"With three dogs and a bad back no wonder they left the window open."
"Has Souness sent his moustache to scout?"
"Bring your camper stove on Sunday."
"It was like karaoke but with the band."

Second half
Town eventually emerged and neither team made any changes at half time. Why is the Lump still on?

Town started in usual style, drifting the ball over the top and down the flanks for Reddy to harry and hassle quivering, quaver-eating centre backs. It was enough to get the Pontoon on its feet, with a slight roar roused from the pockets of regulars dotted about. The ball fell for Jones the Lump on the halfway line, with Reddy set to overload. All you gotta do is set Reddy free, lumpy Jones, you know you can do it if you try. He failed, hooking the ball directly onto Williamson's toes. The crowd started to grizzle with every missed flick, every misplaced pass, every painful wheezingly slow 'run'. "Why is the Lump still on?" became the chorus of disapproval.

Five minutes in, Francis plundered down the right, bumping off his marker, spinning away from the next little Wycombite, drifting into the area. At the last he tried to take on a fourth defender and was dispossessed. Still, enough to get the noise levels up, with the crowd behind the players, not silently sulking at this exhibition in blue. Town were direct, more urgent, getting closer to the chairistas, forcing them back towards the Pontoon. Crosses flashing in, heads knuckling the ball away.

A throw-in 20 yards out under the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand and Newey waited for movement. Parkinson came towards him, Newey lobbed gently and Parky turned away. Betsy stepped forward and smoothed down their right, attracting what was left of the Town defence, cutting infield and releasing Mooney on the right side of the Town area. Mooney rolled over the ball and caressed a delicate cross into the centre of the penalty area, where Torres stooped and glanced the ball into the bottom left corner. What a fantastic linesmen there is down there; of course it was offside, Officer Dibble.

Back Town raged, booming the ball upfield, tussling and tangling, a free kick to Town 25 yards out on the right, near the Police Box. Chipped to the far post where men wrestled, the ball was hooped out to the centre, right on the edge of the penalty area. Whittle swivelled and hooked a dipping left-footed volley through the bewilderment. Lonergan arced his back, reached for the sky and managed to tip the ball onto the crossbar with the end of his fingers. Another corner to Town: the pressure mounting, constant; Wycombe almost panicking. And Town were doing this with only five players. Poor old Lumpy Jones could yawn and be withdrawn and watch the world go by. What the public gets is not necessarily what the public wants.

Ah, Mooney, a pro. Biding his time, waiting for the ball, so he can fall at the hint of a Town player breathing near him. He knows how to get free kicks. It just gives you 30 seconds respite, matey. Cometh the hour, misseth the man. The ball was tippled down the right, with Reddy spinning past his marker behind the defence, hypnotising three defenders. Reddy backheeled to Francis, who immediately steered a perfect cross towards the centre of goal. Jones the Lump shrugged off a little blue boy and, from six yards out, thumped a downward header a few inches past the keeper's left post. It was harder to miss. The crowd had had enough. Why wasn't Gritton on?

I think Wycombe had a shot around this time. Someone shot straight at Mildenhall. Probably Mooney. It's as good a guess as any. Usual thing: Betsy beat Newey to a pulp and Town were stuck on Fraggle Rock, hoping for salvation.

Ah yes, at last - substitutions. Eh? McDermott replaced by Ramsden with 25 minutes left! Crowd astonished - why is Jones the Lump still on? We still don't know what he was waiting for. Gritton had been warming up since half time, the Lump was still turning down a million dead-end streets. And don't forget the left. Betsy specialised in running 50 yards with two and three Town defenders at his side but no tackling. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes required.

Reddy roamed down the right, racing into the area, past a couple of defenders towards the bye-line. He looked up and rolled the ball to Jones the Lump, eight yards out at the near post, who stumbled and was immediately mugged. More groans thrown out from the crowd.

Town again slashed the Wycombe defence apart. Hit high to the Town right, the ball was headed clear, but immediately looped back over the top. Toner turned his marker and was free, inside the area. He bundled towards the bye-line, rolling off a challenge and bore down upon Lonergan, about six yards out at a narrowish angle. The keeper ducked, Toner opened up his body and shinned a left foot something over Lonergan, over the Lumpster at the far post and over towards the toilets.

A Town free kick from the right was pumped high and long towards the far post. The ball sailed over the Stick, over Whittle and to the unmarked Lump, who glanced the ball very safely wide. Francis steered a header wide too; can't remember when, but it was definitely before he was substituted with 20 minutes left. Cohen came on and at the same time Gritton finally replaced Jones the Lump. There was much audible appreciation for this change. Reddy had been a lonely soul, he had nobody until Marty arrived.

Town abandoned their previous subtlety and pumped the ball higher and longer, but with the added thrill that if the ball fell to Gritton he passed it. Cohen broke from the edge of the Town area, tracked by Oakes, then felled by Oakes near the managers' dug-outs. Seeing the referee waltzing over with the yellow card visible, Oakes decided to roll around on the ground. He stayed put for a minute, despite being an inch from the touchline, the ground booming with boos and indignation. This simply allowed Town to send the Carrot and the Stick up to squeeze the Wycombe juice still further. Corner, corner, throw-in, corner. The pressure was incessant, but always with that fear they'd break away and silently slip the stiletto in our neck. They broke, Town wobbled, the Bendaboys surfing through; Mooney twisting at the near post, shot deflected wide.

Back Town roared, the crowd on their feet, the surround sound on full blast. Parkinson took a throw on the left, lobbing the ball straight to Reddy, whose marker had taken a quick kip. Reddy rolled around the final defender and from a narrow angle, about three yards out, poked the ball over the lunging Lonergan. The ball struck the keeper in the face and ballooned out for a corner.

More pressure, the ball zinging and pinging through their area. Cohen through to the bye-line. Torres dug up both Cohen and ball: another corner. They cleared to Bolland, who was dispossessed near the tunnel. Ooh, matron! Torres zipped away with the ball and with Bolland hanging on to his underpants. Another booking.

After a brief interlude, where Wycombe once again tore little strips of meat off the Town carcass down their right, the game returned to its rightful home: inside the penalty area in front of the Pontoon. Jones the Stick was a permanent presence. With five minutes left Ramsden clipped a free kick deep into the penalty area, towards the far post. There was hibbling and bibbling, legs flailing, the ball squirming out to the edge of the area on the centre left. Bolland took a step and cracked a low shot through the advancing tide of blue, under Lonergan and into the bottom left corner. But no: standing behind the keeper was Mooney. Why was he there? Did he know? The ball hit his shins and bounced up, straight into the keeper's hands.

At some stage, which I will say is about now, because I have just remembered it, Wycombe broke quickly down their right and switched play to the unmarked Mooney, who chipped the ball across Mildenhall and a foot or so wide of the left post. I'm as tired as you of seeing "they broke down their right hand side and...". Betsy, about 15 yards out just wide of goal, thumped a cross-shot which Mildenhall parried out across goal. There was a scramble, an even bigger scramble, then a couple of blocked shots.

The seconds ticked down, the excitement cranked up. What a denouement. A Town player free, behind the defence. Who was it? To tell you the truth, in all this excitement, does it matter? To the bye-line, Lonergan crouching at the near post, Reddy unmarked at the far post just six yards out A perfect cross, Reddy on his haunches, slowly leaning forward, launching himself into a full diving header. The keeper and a defender leapt across to their right; Reddy carefully placed a firm header down to their left. The ball clipped the leaping Lonergan's ankles and spun up. Everyone froze and watched as the ball crawled over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net. Reddy was almost crying with frustration.

Newey clipped the corner to the centre of the goal. Jones the Stick thundered in, massacred the ball goalwards, past the keeper's hands, and the ball hit someone on the back of the head and bounced clear. At this point it crossed our minds that Town weren't going to score tonight.

A Gritton glancing header from a Ramsden cross that looped towards the top right corner and a Jones flick that boomed high over were the last wheeze from the Town bellows. Three minutes of added time were taken up mostly with Wycombe time-wasting in the one remaining empty corner of Blundell Park. The Town players got a standing ovation, unlike Lonergan, who indulged in some teenager taunting. As we rose in acclamation Betsy walked over and applauded the Town support.

Town lost this in the first half, with a timid, tepid non-performance. Out of character? In truth, it was totally consistent with the majority of home performances. Big hoofs towards Reddy with Jones the Lump nowhere to be seen have been the order of the day. It is tempting to say Town have gotten away with it so far, but three home defeats already suggest otherwise, don't they. The fightback was laudable and exciting with Town, in the end, deserving of a draw. But Wycombe were better than Town; they play like we used to.

Isn't it about time Mooney retired?

Nicko's man of the match
No Town player was outstanding. Reddy was his usual whirligig self, but overall Paul Bolland did the work of at least two, so he gets it for sheer persistence and effort.

Markie's un-man of the match
Returning after a month off, there were too many to mention. Jones the Lump was by far the worst player. "But he's been injured," cried the nice people wearing hats. Well, don't pick him then. So it's the man who wasn't manager of the month: Russell Slade, for the wrong selection, wrong tactics, wrong formation, inert management when things were falling apart and a general whiff of fear in dealing with Wycombe. Yes, they were third, but Town were top. If you can't be bold then, when can you be? We shouldn't be playing away at home.

Official warning
Mr Deadman. Is that a name or a prediction? A pedantic pustule who was determined, almost at all costs, to not be influenced by the crowd. He was wilfully contrary and most of his errors were disfavouring Town. I don't think he deserves a score at all. He did not cause the defeat, but he was a bad influence on society. In my day, boys like him used to get expelled, or at least his parents were given a stern lecture. I am, of course, assuming he has parents, which is contrary to the general consensus. Like Town he gets nothing from this game: 0.000.