Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

1 December 2013

Coalville Town 1 Grimsby Town 1

Start spreading the news, we're in Coalville today. Coalville… Coalville, so much mud I've named it twice. Coalville: a beguilingly mysterious name on a motorway sign; it's not quite Ashby-de-la-Zouch, but then what is? Let's roll on down the highway and hope Town are takin' care of business.

Three hundred humanoids vaguely connected with Grimsby stood in a field in the heart of England. You've never been to Coalville Town? Baby, you ain't seen nothing yet, unless you've been to Brigg. Portaloos and a burger bar, muddy promenades and squelching boulevards: it's like a country fair. Who's in the ducking stool today, John? No, I've only had an orange juice. I said ducking stool. Stand that high-powered legal team down.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Bignot, McDonald, Doig, Hatton, Rodman, Thanoj, McLaughlin, Neilson, Cook and Southwell. Sat next to Grandmaster Hurst were the furious five substitutes: Walker, Disley, Colbeck, Hannah and Winfarrah. Hatton was at left-back, Thanoj and McLaughlin formed a formidably fearsome midfield and nothing can go wrong now. Never mind the quality, feel the depth of Town's squad.

Oh dear, it's a rugby pitch. The grass is long and tufty, the penalty spot marked by a black hole. Town's infamous prawn tiki-taka masala passing game will have to be abandoned. Thanguverymuch ladeezandgennelmen, you've been a wonderful audience. It's the way I tell 'em.

There's more.

Bounding out to the Rocky theme came some troubadours and balladeers of country rock. I can see Country Joe Colbeck, but there's something fishy going on. Those monochromes look a bit skew-whiff. A-ha, Town are in red, it's the Coalville Collective in black and white.

What a beautiful salmon sky, it's gonna be a three sock night. Mamma told me not to come.

First half: The mask of the read dearth

Ah, distinctly I remember we're nearly in bleak December. Once upon a mid-afternoon dreary the Ravens kicked off with a sneaky bit of tippy-tappy forward passing. How amateur they are, don't they know that professionals do things professionally. Professionals hoof it hopelessly out for a throw-in, not artfully craft a throw-in out of an old apple core. It's not what you do but the way that you do it, that's what gets results.

Tip, tap, pass, pass, flicks and tricks, that's the way to play football on an over-grassed pitch like that. We're so used to monochrome mesmerics, oh yes. Doh! They're the stripes, aren't they. I keep forgetting. Lucky that they can't cross.

Cook and Southwell as strikers? Remember it's Coalville, not Doleville. Get your braziers out for the lads.

Neilson floated, Cook bloated a volley crawlingly over the crossbar. Thanoj snapped from afar, for life is a cabaret, old chum. Bowles stooped to scoop without losing his bowler hat. Dishy Dayle dribbled dreamily down the left and scrumpled agin the outside of the near post. That's the pick of the flops, pop-pickers. Two Neilson drifters and a Rodman cross that may have gone near a Town striker if we'd had a Town striker at all. You have to butter your parsnips. Go roast some hoary old chestnuts over the likes of your Mickey Mouse tinpot open ire. Town were duds in the mud. Half-paced amblers, incoherent scramblers, devoid of a method and just plain unable to adjust to an imperfect pitch.

Only the crumbliest, flakiest Town side wastes possession like a Town side never wasted before

And the silken, sad uncertain rustling of each red curtain filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before. And only the crumbliest, flakiest Town side wastes possession like a Town side never wasted before. Confused? Strange how the Coalmen could pass and move, harry and hassle and... control the football.

But the fact is Town were napping, and so gently the Ravens came rapping, and so faintly the Ravens came tapping, tapping at McKeown's flaws.

A chip and chase, McKeown raced and had a red face as he flattened a little scuttler just outside the penalty area. The free kick coiled lowly, an unattended blackfoot stretched, McKeown spilled and slapped away from more intruders for a corner. Looped and scooped from the right, Jamie Mack fumble-flapped inside the six-yard box. The ball dropped at the foot of a red sock who swiped away. Those were moments. Those were the moments you'll remember, but these memories will lose their meaning over time.

This game is a drain, something the pitch lacks.

And upon the half-time dreary, while Town ponced about weakly and wearily, Hempenstall shuffled free, free and free down the right. Bounding like a puppy into the penalty area, pursued by two large diggers, the eyes in his head saw the world spinning round. He took frit of his right foot and wouldn't shoot. Hoof, hoof, he let the Doig in. And the men on the hill just watched the sun going down.

There was no overtime, added time, extra time or injury time. Or if there was those are memories that have lost their meaning. Memories? My feet are cold, Town aren't bold, some of them should be sold, this game's a secret never to be told. Town were battling bravely with the odds to bring 'em all back home for a money-spinning replay.

Only this, and nothing more.

Second half: The pit and the ponderous

Neither team made any changes at half time.

And Town started like a steam train, all huff and puff and bellowing stinky smoke from a fiery furnace. Oh, stuff the duvet and the hyperbole – they played at the normal pace and intensity of your average and dull Conference match.

It was all too much for the scuttling Coalmen. Town simply overpowered them by playing a little bit quicker and standing a bit closer. Cook flicked, Neilson thrashed across the keeper and rippled the nettage. Up went a flag for offside. A minute later head headed unto head inside the homesters' penalty area. Cook to Southwell to Rodman, who nodded in from a yard out. Up went Pavlov's flag. Darn these lower league hepcats in black, they can't be trusted to get every decision wrong. And what are the odds of two correct decisions in a row? They've obviously been tapped up by a sinister Singaporean in the local Brewers Fayre. Or maybe a malevolent Malaysian, perhaps a jaundiced journeyman. The evidence before the court of the crimson king is incontrovertible.

Just a minute later, without repetition, deviation or hesitation, nor without challenge, the ball worked its wonderful way towards the silky swinging pants of A-Rod the Drainman. Swaying left, right and swishing infield, Rodman cranked a cracker into the top left corner from the edge of the penalty area. You could hear David Coleman up on the scaffolding. "Rodman. One-nil."

Job done, no need for any further exertions. With half an hour left the anagrammatically challenged Caine Winfarrah replaced Mr Quiff on the left. Neilson sauntered off to the Snibston sauna shop. It could have been the sandwich shop. Sound just died in the crisping air.

Winfarrah was no less effective than some of the Coalvillers, though he was rarely offered the opportunity to twinkle toes. Town rested upon their inherent superiority and let nature take its course. They joined us supporters in simply standing in a field in the middle of England waiting for the end, nameless heads on frameless walls.

Hatton had a big dipper which dropped onto the roof of the net. And, err, and, err… scribbling nonsense here and there, the occasional shot charged down, the occasional cross nowhere near the occasional strikers. Occasionally we had occasion to observe the seven sneaky shadows on the hills dodging the pests in the hi-vis vests to get a free view of the Biggest Game Ever! The sky turned from salmon to peach to a starry-starry night. Catch the breeze and the winter chills, in this game there are no frills.

Hempenstall scampered, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before swishing lowly below McKeown

Nothing was happening anywhere, but that anywhere was far, far away in front of the drummers and hummers in the home end. They punted and pressed, with their number 7 an anti-social ankle snapper and ref sniper. McKeown slapped and flapped a deeply dunked cross at the far post. The ball eventually rolled beyond the penalty spot to the unremarkable unmarked number ten. The net was bare of red heads but the little lad slipped and slurped generations wide of the open goal.

Other things happened down there. Crosses and stuff. I can't give you distillations of the infiltrations. I'm not a chemist, though Town are alchemists in reverse, they can turn a lead into mouldy old dough.

Sometime during the afternoon as the lights of Leicester glittered in the distance a Town throw-in nowhere much on the right was headed back into the gloom. Deep into that darkness peering long, Bignot stood there wondering, fearing. A Raven flew between Bignot and Thanoj, turned and tapped behind McDonald beyond Doig. Hempenstall scampered, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before swishing lowly below McKeown.

The silence was broken, and the darkness gave no token, and the only Town word there spoken was the whispered word: "Typical."

What a lovely sky. ASBO boy eventually got booked for legging up loopily and they kicked the ball forward, Town lumped it back. They kicked the ball forward again, and Town humped it back again. Again, again and again. The referee blew his whistle and a firework extravaganza exploded above the home end. Big booming balls of colour, in honour of Town tactics, no doubt. Off we trudged through the dark mud passages onwards to infinity and beyond.

Grimsby Town played adequate, acceptable football between half time and the moment they scored. Cook and Southwell remained on the pitch and in the coal scuttle while McLaughlin and Thanoj were largely swept aside. Hurst needs to do some plumbing in the depths of his squad. Coalville deserved better. Town didn't.

There you are. That it is, and nothing more.