Who ate all the pasties?: Hereford (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

8 October 2006

Good grief, there are other people here.

Grimsby Town 2 Hereford United 1

It's not Saturday, it's not three o'clock, so it must be a crackerjack football game. We're not clashing with Bill Oddie's newtwatch are we? Amid a profusion of Sunday best suits, the odd Town shirt flapped. Remember we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Oh look - there's Steve Claridge; OK, we're lying face down then.

In honour of the second coming of Sky you got a free fork with every pie. Now there's sophistication - it'll be napkins next. Ah, that reminds me: why did we sign Gary Napkins from Blackburn?

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Fenton, Butler, Croft, Bore, Bolland, Rrrrrrrrrrrricky Rrrrravenhill, Toner, Lump and Thorpe. The substitutes were Beagrie, Boshell, North, Newey and the newly-minted Murray. Butler had got on the bus from Scunny to rescue us in one of our hours of need. Solid and spiky, and that's just his hair, he looked every inch a fourth division bruiser. We doffed our cap to young master Laws: thankyoukindly squire and may we have some extra dripping on our stale bread? Ah, we remember when he used to play with us poor people as if we were equals. You really don't need to be told who stood where, especially if you were watching on telly.

Is it Rrricky or Richard Ravenhill? Are there two of them riding nowhere spending our hard-earned pay?

Hereford turned up in a nice little yellow and blue kit: no frills, and let's hope no thrills either. They have the porkiest team in football and would do a pub team proud. Number 3, or maybe number 4, and number 10 had piled on the gravy. Hey, hey, hey, hang on Snoopy, they've sneaked in a couple of Town rejectors. Wayne Brown - he of the mysterious Danish pastry contract west of Birmingham; and Tim Sills, the man who didn't know where Grimsby was. One presumes he does now, unless they put a bag over his head on the team coach.

The plywood, flywood television studio reappeared on stilts above the toilets 'twixt Pontoon and Frozen Beer Thing Stand. The 'experts' looked bored before it started. Do they want a bag over their head?

What chance have Hereford got against a pie and a fork?

First half
Town kicked off towards a few dozen humans and inflatables in the Osmond stand. Gary Croft's to-do list for the week floated by: number one - measure the shed of 137 Columbia Road; number two - must pass the football to someone with a similar coloured shirt, preferably not someone sat in the Main Stand.

A throw-in a day helps you work, rest and play. One a minute sends you into a coma.
That's coma, not comma, nor Perry Como, though he did send you into a coma.

Seven minutes of slow-motion lumping ended when a chubby chap in yellow kicked the ball at Barnes from inside the Town penalty area. Barnes flopped upon the rolling thing like a pie top upon its rhubarb filling. Sprinkle him with sugar and place in the oven for 20 minutes; he'll come out golden brown.

There was some movement of the black and white things down the left, with Croft emerging from under his cabbage to cross painfully. A large Hereford bull bonked the ball back and he started again. The ball was tippled inside to Toner, who slowly swivelled and sauntered towards the bye-line. Is it really 42 years since Ringo Starr passed his driving test? And all he had to do was act naturally. Ha-ha, the old Ringo reference trick was enough to fool these greenhorns into thinking that there ain't nothing going on, baby. Toner exploded into space, twizzled and crossed into the centre. Thorpe rose and looped a loopy-hoopy header towards goal. It drifted high and wide, dropping a yard or two from the bye-line a few yards wide of goal. From pre-history the leviathan came with a rumble to silence the grumbles. The mists swirled, the lips uncurled and Lumpaldinho emerged with a snap of his fingers and flick of his quiff to volley high into the net from the tightest of tight angles of tightness. How did he do that? Need you ask? It's the return of the Lump.

From the off Connell had a big dipper from 30 yards which drifted nicely wide, with Barnes contemplating this unusually late autumn. You know his clematis are still flowering, though his fuchsia never quite took this year. Football is a short career and you have to think of your fuchsia, don't you. Ithangyou.

We're back to throw-ins again. Ten minutes of nudging and nodding, budging and bodging up and down the touchline. Fascinating stuff. Hereford gradually began to take a grip, in the sense that when they had the ball they generally passed it to each other. Town delighted in mocking these pretensions, lobbing it back with gay abandon. Fleetwood roamed, trundled and bumbled with ne'er a tackle in sight. They got near Barnes; they fiddled but they didn't burn down the house.

It really was very dull. Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void. It is shining: 1-0 to the Mariners.

A Town 'attack' was cleared: we panicked. Off the Bullies bombed, the defence in full retreat, Rolland and Bavenhill Sunday driving, not arriving. Williams free on their left, on the corner of the penalty area carefully lullabied a curling shot over the angle of far post and far bar. More Hereford shivering and shaking around Town's knees, with fleet-foot Fleetwood a pesky kid. Fenton and Butler just about stopped him getting inside the penalty area, shepherding their flock into cages in the corners.

What's going on here then? A Town attack? Shurely shome mishtake. The ball lobbed into the area on the left and nodded down to the unmarked Toner, perhaps 15 yards out. He steered a volley straight at Brown. Nice, neat, nifty and not a goal. While we were rousing ourselves from a collective snooze to indulge in some witty banter that would have shamed the Algonquin round table, Hereford schmoozed forward down their left. A man free, the ball rolling, rolling to him, but Toner straining to stop this train. Toner slid and stood on the ball, which remained stationary on the left, about 15 yards out. A yellow-beaked budgerigar flew and Butler poked. Over went the yellow man as the ball zipped into the Pontoon.

Oh dear, a penalty, and given away by our little Scunny helper. Purdie strode forward and calmly caressed the ball down the centre, under the crossbar as Barnes dived left. Strangely the Pontoon ignored his suggestion to reflect quietly upon the moment. You could see Graham Rodger's dancing eyebrows from the Pontoon, perhaps even from the Dock Tower. They aren't real are they, they're drawn by Terry Gilliam. Now that's what the official site should be running a poll on: what music should they set Graham Rodger's post-match eyebrows to? Anything by Sousa.

Barnes caught a cross, caught a cross, Barnes caught a cross, then dropped one. Now you can moan, Mr Man in mohair coat. Shame Roger Hargreaves died before completing the set: Mr Moan the Mariner. Town got a corner, someone headed, it went near goal then bounced out again. The Main Stand "ooh"-ed, the Hereford fans mooed.

Fleetwood had a shot - it didn't go in. There were moments when Town almost passed the ball. Have you seen Ravenhill recently? I think he's lost down the back of the sofa. Bolland's shins took a heck of a bashing as the ball bounced and bumbled away. Where are we? What are we? Is it possible to have minus viewing figures?

With about five minutes left the ball dropped over Butler down the left touchline. Fleetwood chased and Butler tumbled spectacularly to the ground. This is Blundell Park, not Scunthorpe Baths, but we'll take the free kick anyway.

As the half died, Town came alive. Three passes! Three! Along the ground too! And Ravenhill crackled a shot straight down Brown's nostrils from the edge of the area. Bore had a run at Porky Pig, then a little promenade infield. Nice of him to turn up eventually. Too busy hanging about with his mates down the seafront playing slot machines, eh? Ooh, Bolland had a shot too; this is getting contagious. Ah, sleeky sneaky movement from left to right to left again, Croft and Macca occasionally remembering the good old days; Bore cutting infield, possession retained and Toner, on the edge of the area, Poutoned a shot towards the Memorial Hall.

In added time Connell had a big dipper from 30 yards which drifted nicely wide with Barnes wondering whether to have his hair cut tomorrow. Leave it a few weeks, laddie; your ears will get cold.

Is it time for your medication yet? Yes, medication's what you need with Town. Fitfully adequate, not fully fit in many areas, Town were hinting at winks towards football. Hereford were a bunch of fat lads who could play a bit if you let them, and Town let them until the edge of the area. It's that midfield again. What midfield? Thorpe was a right pest, getting in some excellent positions, but there was rarely any support, rarely any movement. The full-backs whacked it long, as no-one came close enough to demand the ball. When we did pass it something happened. It's déjà vu all over again.

Town were hanging like a gym sock on a shower rod: limp, wet, and not something you'd want your mother to see.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Hereford kicked off in the traditional manner and did the traditional thing, which is to nearly score within a minute. They broke through the centre and Fleetwood flickered around on their right, did the time warp and cut back across Croft to swagger a shot through the area, past Barnes and past the far post. Yeah, yeah, yeah, get over it bully boys, this happens all the time. Like we're shocked or anything.

Another minute, another shot from Fleetwood, blocked by Croft. At some point in the next 40 minutes they had a cross zipping through the six-yard box. Could have been now, could have been later, it's the sort of thing that always happens, so the timing is irrelevant really. Ah, another little bit of bullishness down the middle, with Fleetwood behind the defence, Barnes swiping clear. A minute later, another tickle and paste down the middle with Barnes racing off his line to scoop the ball off the turf. Would reading poetry be any less distressing?

Isn't it about time we brought Bore on? Oh, he's already here: oh yes, boogie-woogieing down the left, zithering infield and slathering a shot straight down Brown's nostrils. The crowd enlivened, Town were gathering momentum. Bore again, back on the right, tormenting Travis the prize bull with a swish of his cape. He swaggered a cross through the area with Brown swooping on the ball as it dissected his six-yard box.

And then the music stopped, with Town playing musical statues as Hereford danced around the maypole to tunes in their iPods. The referee annoyed us, ignoring Hereford hands, but espying Town's. The game stumbled away from the Pontoon, the parents had come home, the party was over. Shoo, shoo; go home, little ones.

On the hour, cometh the man. Town pressed, Macca raided, Hereford repulsed and the ball ponged around in midfield. Thorpe, alone 25 yards out, wandered back as play mooched on further afield. The ball looped back over a stray defender and Thorpe was free, down the centre, and a little startled by this turn of events. A tide of yellow engulfed our little tart as he bumbled into the area. Defenders stood in front as Thorpe waited, waited and rolled the ball aside to Jones, seven or so yards out to the right. The yellow sea swelled east as Lumpaldinho bedraggled a bumbly shot through the flotsam and jetsam, across Brown and into the bottom left corner. There's a brand new dance that's doing the rounds: do the Lump, do the Lump.

From the restart Hereford were given a free kick about 25 yards out on their centre-right. Purdie stood over the ball, the wall coalesced around several points and the shot curled over the wall and over the bar. Nice.

Bore bored down the right, flossing the full-back and zipping a cross through the centre of the box. Jones swished and Thorpe wished he'd set off from home a bit later, as the ball missed everyone. A Macca shot? A Macca cross? Macca was inside the area and the pressure mounted upon these lemonheads. Phwoar it's Bore, rivvelling low to Brown.

We'll be back after the break with more hot action from Blundell Park on super, sizzling Sunday.

My, that was a long advert break. You didn't miss anything, apart from Rrrricky Ravenhill's incredibly slow stepover and reverse pass into the crowd. Like a hippo in a tutu, dainty and delicate he ain't. With 20 minutes left Town were not so much cruising as tootling along nicely doing the speed limit, and not an inch faster. Never mind those boy racers peeping their horns and shaking their heads. Hereford - they wake: tip-tap-toeing through the middle with Town all a tizz. Purdie was brushed through on the centre-right, behind the defence and, from a dozen yards out, placed the ball low to Barnes's left. The ball disappeared behind bodies and emerged near the touchline. Post or foot, it matters not, for look at the scoreboard you Hereforders. Oh, you can't can you. I'll help you then - 2-1 to the Mariners.

The Bullies continued in their, quite frankly, irritating and ungrateful pursuit of further happiness. Isn't it enough for them to visit this shrine of football? Aren't they bowing before our architectural beauty and the deafening throb of the home support? Whatever happened to manners. Don't they teach social etiquette at schools anymore? Big Beckwith steered a free header wide from a corner, or it may have been a free kick.

Wahey, at last, a bad decision in our favour - a corner after Bolland battled and kicked the ball out. Butler thundered into the centre of the area and bumped a firm header against his marker's head, the ball drooping onto the roof of the goal. Goal kick given, of course: normal poor service has been resumed. You know, the referee's shorts were too tight.

With just over ten minutes left Hereford made some substitutions, finally bring on silly Sills. We're above booing his sort, or maybe we'd just not paid attention. Here's a thing: shouldn't we moo, rather than boo Hereford?

Whoops, they nearly scored again, Mkandawire heading a free kick over Barnes and an inch over the bar. The minutes were ticking down, Town visibly slowing. You there - stifle that hollow laugh. It is possible for them to get slower; Thorpe was almost unable to move, but still on the pitch. Jones wonderfully rolling and falling and punching the ball out underneath the Pontoon, in an old man slapstick routine. Or perhaps he was after £50 from You've Been Framed to top up his goal bonus.

With five minutes left Hereford pierced Town again, raiding down their right, crossing into the area. Connell rose and thumped the ball into the net from half a dozen yards out. Get in there son! The clues are there: I said 'thumped'. Connell was booked for doing a rubbish Maradona impression. Wrong hair, wrong size and he got the voice completely wrong. I didn't think Maradona spoke like David Prowse. Darth Vader did though. That's a fact!

As Hereford searched for their Kendal mintcake Town sneaked into their tent and had a little rummage. As the Bullies prettied themselves near their own goal Ravenhill steamed up and harassed a midfielder, sending the ball back towards the penalty area, then charged down the fly-hack from their big Mak. He got up as the ball spun and stopped inside the area. Brown retreated and Rrrrricky was alone, a dozen yards out with the whole world rushing up to join him in joy. As you read this Ravenhill is still trying to drag the ball on to his right foot. Mmm, swept away he was, and Town got a corner, which was wasted.

A minute later Town suddenly flipped and tripped their way quickly down the right, with Bore probably being involved; it's as good a guess as any. Ping-pong, the cross was clipped to the near post and cushioned by Thorpe to Jones, eight yards out. He carefully opened up his body and stumbled a low shot to the bottom left corner. Brown was unsighted but flew down and, at the last, his arm fell on the ball.

There were two minutes of added time which lasted what felt like several more. Hereford bombed at Town, flinging crosses and bodies at everything. Fenton steered clear, Butler shook his head and Croft blocked at least one cross. Rose was briefly free inside the area, but steered away by Toner. Another cross, a half clearance, a stumble, a shot blocked by Bolland. And the ball was etch-a-sketched towards the Pontoon. Do you hear that? That there? It's the whistle, it's over. Those three points are ours.

Hmm, well, we won. We weren't totally embarrassing; we even passed the ball a few times. Thorpe is useful to have around and Jones is playing better now with a footballer who can read where the ball is likely to go, control it when it gets there and pass to him when he is free. Fenton and Butler look decent together and Barnes had one of his calmer games: he plays much better the further away he is from the Town fans. When we say we're behind him it's a threat. The rest were a bit of a ragbag of old rope and mismatched shoes; there's bound to be something that will come in useful one day. The central midfielders too often merged into one, standing on the same spot watching the opposition pass through, round, over and under them. Oh, why go on: the usual worries were there, but with a little more fight and determination thrown into the mix.

We didn't outplay them, but we beat them. That's all that's important now: enough of these nightmare dystopian visions. It's Blundell Park, not Blade Runner, although Ricky Ravenhill may be a replicant.

Now, if only Boston would get thrown out of the Football League, everybody would be happy.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
He scored the goals, he came back from the dud, but he isn't topman. Whoever could it be? Barnes the better-than-normal keeper? No. Butler the spiky Scunthorpian with the inability to give the ball away? No. Thorpe the tireless little flea up front? No. Nick Fenton seemed very calm, and that spread to several of his team-mates. He was steady and solid and that's enough.

Official Warning
Pfft. Mr L Mason went through a spell of deliberate crowd-baiting with inconsistent application of basic laws and judgement, but you can't really say he got the penalty wrong, darn it. He was a minor inconvenience in the end, a speck of dust to be flicked off your collar. His shorts were way too tight, so he gets 6.43333331. That's just the way it is, I'm afraid.

The Others
An amusing blend of larger-than-life characters, they were the chunkiest chaps in the chip shop. They didn't hoof it and were capable of playing very nice football through the midfield. They look like a top Conference team, being blokes not quite fit enough for higher leagues, but with a certain je ne sais quoi if allowed to twirl their tassles in public. Fleetwood was a workaholic and excellent throughout, if a little lonely, and they hardly got inside the Town penalty area. What am I saying? They can't shoot and get a bit giddy when in the final third. They are better than Barnet were last year and on a par with Bury this year.