And now for something completely similar: Mansfield (a, FLT)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

31 October 2006

Just when you think you're out they pull you back in.

Mansfield Town 3 Grimsby Town 0

One hundred and thirty-three and three eighths Town supporters shivered themselves into terminal ennui behind some wood and netting in beautiful downtown Mansfield. Sit down at the back. It's for your own good: if you stand you could actually see the game. That will not do.

Town lined up in the melting egg-timer 4-3-1-2 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Croft, Fenton, Butler, Toner, Boshell, Rrrrrrrrrrrricky Rrrrravenhill, Rankin, James, Bore. The substitutes were Whittle, North, Murray, Hegggggarty and the Napkin. Newey was seen running up and down in his pyjama bottoms, so it was either a late fitness test or he was off to a student party dressed as Ali Baba. If he'd paid an extra 50p he could have had the moustache and gone as Ali Bongo. Rankin played in the Lump role and everyone else was where you'd correctly interpret them to be. If you haven't then you'd be incorrect, obviously.

Town played in white socks and other clothing; after all, it was, like Kevin James, a bit nippy. And semi-nude male football is not one of Sepp Blatter's ideas to make football sexy again. Thankfully.

Right. I've drunk my hot chocolate, let's get this over with. The milky bars are not on me.

First half
Peterborough kicked off towards the Town support. No, that was last Saturday, wasn't it. Mansfield, yes, that's them, they kicked off towards the Town support. Town were magnificently untroubled for the whole 90 seconds it took for the ball to arrive at Butler's feet. They tipped and tapped the ball with loving care around the back four, and then the Bunnyboiler from Scunny dissected Town's midfield shield with a perfectly weighted pass to Michael Boulding, 35 yards out. Boulding did what he always does: scurry this way and that way and, from an angle a dozen yards out, drag a low shot across the face of goal, which Butler managed to scrape away for a corner.

A couple of minuets later Fenton decided Boulding was... minutes, not minuets, though he did bow courteously when Staggers passed by. Oh, Boulding wiggled a bit and whipped a low cross-shot through the six-yard box and a few inches wide. Another minute, another Mansfield dance routine through the non-existent heart of the Town defence, with Boulding passing low to Beardsley, whose shot was blocked by the retreating Fenton.

I'm bored with this already.

Fireworks to the left: a constant stream of reds and greens, exploding into crescents of shimmering yellows engulfing the darkness, spreading joy to young boys. Ah, that was just Mansfield attacking again.

McDermott sprugled a Boulding header away from near the line after a corner and the lights all went out in Massachusetts. This day Town kept leaving Boulding standing on his own.

Have you got it yet? What? A light boy? Your mojo working? Or that normal service has been resumed. The ball was sent long and high and returned quickly and low. Who's worse: Butler or Ravenfail?

At last, two Town passes hanging on a wall. A free kick to Town near the left corner flag was curled by Toner into the centre. Fenton rose unmolested and nodded firmly, but fairly, wide of the left post. For five minutes Town took control, pinning Mansfield back in their own half, and even indulging in some of that strange fruit known as passing. Yes, we were passing fruits. On the quarter-hour mark Town did something excellent, marvellous, even perhaps purrsome. One, two, three first-time passes isolated Mansfield's left-back in the Blidworth triangle. Rankin was patted free and crossed deeply to the unmarked Toner, on the right corner of their penalty area. Toner laid a first-time pass into the path of the onrushing Ravenhill, who swiped a left-footed half volley across the face of goal.

Apart from a Toner shot blocked away for a corner, just two Earth minutes later, that is all you need to know about Town's pulsating attacking. Town throbbed like a thumb hit by a spanner.

Mansfield broke away, Beardsley clobbered the ball over. Mansfield broke away, Beardsley clobbered the ball against Fenton. Mansfield broke away and Boulding thwacked a shot across goal, Butler thighing it aside for a corner. Have you got it yet? Croft had, as he berated Butler for being dozy, allowing Boulding to run behind on to a lofted punt. Butler didn't like being told what to do by someone older and better. Or maybe they were arguing about which fish and chip shop they should stop at on the way home.

Through all this dross one man shone: Boshell - stood in the centre, arms wide, straining every sinew in keeping the temple walls upright. And he was the only one who managed to pass to a team-mate. Rankin? He was sat three seats below me in the stand, just to the right, wasn't he? Another icon lost down the Kingsley Black hole: Isaiah was the clueless piggy in the middle.

After half an hour Boshell was swiped to the floor and the referee allowed play to continue, seeing no evil. After a couple of minutes of treatment the Mighty Bosh limped back onto the pitch, but could barely move. There was now a hole in the Town centre, through which Mansfield strolled.

Oh, look - another Staggers shot, another scrambly panic inside the Town area, and another Mansfield corner. Hamshaw curled it in low from their left; Boulding rose at the near post and missed. On the ball travelled to where Boshell and Butler stood in front of Beardsley on the six-yard line. Bong! Ping-pong, it's all gone wrong, as the ball bumbled off Butler's head into the centre of the goal.

Shall we watch the fireworks instead?

Nothing else happened, apart from maybe a few more Mansfield attacks. But the fireworks were lovely. The tweenagers amused themselves with amateur steward taunting; it's something to do, I suppose.

You still here? It was half time ages ago. I'm off for a sausage roll. No, that isn't a euphemism, though Andy Butler is.

Second half
North replaced Bore at half time. North ran around a bit, which kept him warm. He is David Soames with a wig on, isn't he.

Some Mansfield bloke had a shot. It didn't go in. Barnes didn't save it. There you are - the bare details; the facts, if you will. How near was he? Left-footed, right-footed? A volley? Did it go over or wide, and by how much? I admit my educational past here: I went to college and got a CBA, and I CBA-ed to tell you any more about it.

After a couple more minutes of rambling Sid Rumpo impressions by the Town strolling players, Boulding was alone behind the defence. Barnes came out and slathered himself across the turf to block making-us-sick Mick's shot. For once the linesman didn't give offside simply because Butler put his hand in the air.

Two minutes of adequacy! North twiggled free and totally mis-hit a shot from a dozen yards which dribbled like a teething baby straight to their keeper. Town kept up this 'pressure' with Croft marauding down the left. He waited for someone to move, to support, to pass to, and saw nothing but the Easter Island statues, so he carried on towards the corner of the penalty area and whipped a dipping, dripping cross to the near post. James hurled himself forward and grazed a diving header past the far post.

Wait, there's more. Further Town pressure resulted in a corner on the left. As Toner trotted over, Boshell sprinted to the corner of the area and received the corner in oodles of spoodles of space. The Bosh drifted away from a defender and curled a shot straight at the keeper.

Come back in about ten minutes. You'll find that Hegggggarty has come on for James, with Town moving to a 4-4-2 formation. Moving? Why is that word in that sentence? Strike it out, expunge it from the page, delete it from your fanciful thoughts. And delete Rankin's goal, for the linesman had flagged ages ago.

Hegggarty was booked for being ginger.

Mansfield did things, they had shots, the ball was at the other end in front of a sea of yellow plastic populated only by their mournful mascot, who wandered up and down the steps looking for love. Rory Boulding came on and swiped a low shot towards the bottom left corner. Barnes saved really quite well. Very well indeed.

With less than 20 minutes left Napkin came on for the hobbling Croft, who'd played quite well, easily the best of the bad bunch at the back. With less than 20 seconds on the pitch Napkin was booked for clobbering a Staggy and throwing the ball away. With Napkin on, Toner went to left-back and Boshell to the right wing. The centre of Town's midfield no longer existed. Oh, I know you think it did, but NASA sent a rocket up Rrrrrrricky's backside and you really don't want to know what they found. There is no evidence that sentient life exists in this black and white hole.

Rodger was asked to give the Town fans a wave. He clapped. Pffft, can't follow simple instructions.

Boulding had another shot. Michael that is, not Rory. I think Barnes saved it by moving his body to one side and catching the ball as it passed. I tend to call that sort of thing a save, but hey, what do I know, I'm not in the game or a professional paid journalist. A couple of minutes later Boulding had a shot. Rory, that is, not Michael. Hooked from close in, Barnes again moved his body to the right, or perhaps the left, and parried the ball aside. Left, right; it is so relative, just like Mansfield's strike force. And our defence: we've got the Chuckle Brothers back after a couple of years away doing panto in Skeggy.

Ten minutes left, another goal, another bit of rotten defending. Mansfield hoiked the ball high over the top of the Town defence, down their centre-right. Beardsley ran on but Butler didn't, preferring to stand and glare at the linesman. Beardsley slid and sloped the ball over and across Barnes into the left corner of the net. Just plain rubbish all round.

A few minutes after this Town had another attack, which was really nice of them. After all we hadn't come all this way just to freeze in Field Mill. Actually, that's what the players did, but enough digression. Napkin bumbled through a challenge on the right, crossed towards the far post and Heggggggggggggggggarty threw himself in front of a defender and glanced the ball across the face of goal, with North watching at the far post.

C'mon lads, we can still do this! Yes, we can: there's plenty of time left to lose 3-0. Is that becoming par then? Town are just a dog-leg to the left, par three; mind the Boshell bunkers and you'll be fine. With five minutes left the Boulding formerly known as Quick slippered a pass straight through the middle of the Town defence. Butler watched and waited, Toner looked puzzled, Barnes came out and joined in this hokey-cokey. Beardsley's knees bent, his arms stretched and ra-ra-ra, he poked the ball past this trio of trembling Townites into the emptiest of empty nets.
Safely in for their par, Mansfield could enjoy their G&T in the clubhouse. Shall we go now?

This was the inverse of Saturday's performance. Do Town have to be Newtonian? If you got this far I admire your fortitude: you've put in more mental effort than most of the Town players.

The dream is over.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
It's Danny Boshell. He was our elastoplast, and when he was injured or moved away from centre stage Town bled to death.

Markie's un-man of the match
A close-run thing between several. Rankin was awful until he went up front, then he redeemed himself with a couple of excellent Rankinesque rolls and turns, and he hasn't played for a while so let's let him off. Ravenfail is like an unskilled Bolland on a very bad day. What is the point of Rrrricky? He's the softest psycho in British football. But one man stood around and wasted everyone's time. You really are one of Laws' revenging angels, aren't you, Andy Butler: shocking.

Official Warning
Mr N Miller is a fool. Give him a large hat with rings and things to make it look good, with 3.453 written in large type on the front.

The Others
Man for man they were smaller than us, but out-jumped us. Man for man they were better footballers than us. They passed it and they moved: they were superior in every way. Even their kit was better. And they merely rose to the levels of below average, for that was all that was needed to grind Town into the dirt.