The time of the season: Notts County (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

31 March 2007

I see Adolf Hitler won their raffle, just after he bombed the Nawab Tandoori. It's all in Pie News.

Notts County 2 Grimsby Town 0

Around 800 or 900 travelling Townites conquered the obstacle course of inflatable stewards and greasy chip butties to behold the future: four walls of empty plastic. And a man in a kangaroo costume, of course.

Town lined up in the abnormally normal 4-5-1 formation as follows: Barnes, Maccadermott, Whittle, Fenton, Newey, Till, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Toner, Jones the Lump. The substitutes were Murray, Bloomer, Croft, that man North and that boy Taylor. Up front, with just a stylish titfer and whip, it's Indiana Lump in the Temple of Gloom. Before us was a splattering of morose midlanders; perhaps that's the collective noun for Notts County supporters. In which case we must have a spluttering of Pontoonites, a cavity of Main Standers and a confusion of Frozen Beer people. Is it time for my chocolate doughnut yet?

The pitch was bare and crumbling, full of divots and strange markings. Has Erich von Daniken been here lately? Oh, they play rugby here: aliens have landed then.

Someone spent £25 sponsoring Andy Parkinson's boots and socks. The local constabulary are continuing their enquiries: it's bound to be a money laundering scheme, there's no other rational explanation.

That may explain the kangaroo, too.

First half
Town kicked off towards the home support, Bolland confounding all with a neat turn and run goalwards before Fenton delicately chipped the ball into Pilkington's arms. Is it going to be like last week, an exhibition of precision wheelbarrows before the monster truckfest churns up the lawn? Yes it is.

Tippy-tappy, happy-clappy Town, passing horizontally, left and right and left again. Yoo-hoo, peek-a-boo. Hello boys! County were just cobbling buffoons, incapable of anything resembling football. When the ball went near they kicked it high and hard, straight down the middle, never deviating by one degree. They didn't even attempt such subtleties as hitting hard and high a little bit to the left, or a little bit to the right. The focus of all their hopes? Just Jason Lee, who barged around like a badly wired android. Yes, he was asked the question "W.H.Y?" and his circuits blew, just like Steve McClaren in Barcelona.

Did I tell you it was a bit windy? Well, it was a bit windy, blowing down the pitch from Town end to Trent end.

There was a moment, just a few minutes in, when the man they had standing vaguely upfield, vaguely on their right, Michael Jackson's sister N'Toya, had the ball at his feet, 20 yards out. I think it's important to be balanced and tell you their good points. Oh, I see - you thought something interesting happened. No, the local elections are coming up shortly and it's the law - you have to be fair to all sides. County did, once, have the ball almost under control inside the Town half.

I told you it was like last week, with knobs on - a live band in the corner playing cover versions in the style of Mud, a buffet lunch followed by a sit-down meal (with vegan alternative) and a free bar up to four o'clock. C'mon, let's get on the dancefloor and swing those pants. Toner to Newey, come in Tom Newey. Sorry, static on the line - the cross flew into the Trent. Macca to Boshell, spreading play like it was a peanut butter sandwich. With Toner free, Boshell was upended by County's best player: the pitch. Hunt scrunched and Bolland imperiously swept up the muck with his curling broom.

Wave upon wave of Town waves lapped gently against the County foreshore. Pilkington waved back as he had no need to get out of his deckchair and take the sports section of the Daily Mirror off his head, unless he wanted to see the free exhibition of Town tai chi, just outside the donkey paddock.

Finally, after 20 minutes of paddling in the pool, a shot from old Lumpy. Macca raided down the right, linking with trembling Till. An elongated Reesian backheel from Jones released Macca inside the area; there was bumblage, some lumberage and the ball flumped off Pilkington's chest for a corner. The patterns were pretty, mind.

You don't believe how carefree Town were, how just darn easy life was. Even Justin Whittle was surging through challenges and curling searching passes to feet. Bag up the evidence, sergeant, and dust for fingerprints.

Town, Town, Town, just have a little daydream. A Till corner nodded goalwards by Fenton, humped off the line by some Countyite; another corner, nodded goalwards, panicked away from in front of the line by one of their big, bald bruisers. It's all so easy, like stealing candy from a baby.

Hey, they had a break! Ross crossed and Hunt ambled away with no Magpie near, unfussed, untroubled and without a care in the world. It's money for old rope.

Dum-di-dum, la-la: I'll name that tune in three. Shall we play I-spy? Can you hear the grass grow? Ooh, Jones stooping and glancing wide after Toner and Newey tiptoed through their tulips. With ten minutes to half time Town, finally, made Pilkington make a save. A period of pressure resulted in corners and crosses and corners. Old Lumpy rose ten yards out to glance a Till corner towards the top centre of the goal. Pilkington twisted and sprung, raising a hand and tipping the ball spectacularly over the bar. C'mon you curmudgeon, that's worth an "ooooooh".

Around this time County got a free kick on the halfway line, wellied it upfield and implemented their training ground plans. It's called American football. Big men wrestled and blocked off anyone likely to challenge Lee; thus defenders fell like skittles and Lee had a free header. Minor moments of concern passed with the crisp packets as they flew off towards Leicester.

There's no point in repeating things - think of ten minutes of vintage burgundy sat in a decanter waiting to be poured.

Notts County were pathetic, but Town didn't have the heart to put the dumb animal down. Yeah, just like last week.

Second half
At half time they brought on Andy Parkinson for the Jackson sister. No-one noticed and, when they did, no-one cared.

Yeah, like last week, Town were dopey at the restart. County bombed into tackles, closing down the back players, forcing rather more hurried clearances in the air. It just allowed them to pile pressure upon Town with hoofs and humps towards Jason Elbows. Town couldn't get out of their half, County couldn't believe their luck. A couple of minutes in Smith walloped a loose clearance straight at Barnes from 20 yards, who parried aside for a corner. You can guess what happened next: big men bundling and Town not clearing.

I don't know about you but I'm bored already. We know where this is heading and it's not to be Town leading. I'll tell it to you slowly. Tell you what? Do you really want to know, it's the time of the season for losing? Town nearly relieved the siege, but Lumpy gave away a daft free kick, allowing them to dump another dreary cannonball into the middle of the Town area. In, out, in, out, back again and Lee trundling behind his alleged marker, Mr Lump, to volley across the face of goal.

Ah, that's better - Barnes caught a cross.

Ah, that's rubbish - Barnes threw the ball straight to a Countyite and normal service was resumed. They bumbled down their left, with Parkinson pestering himself into a corner. He was allowed to turn and tap the ball to his full-back, on the touchline, 20 or so yards out. The cross was looped into the near post and Dudfield grazed the ball on. So far, so totally dull. No County player was within ten yards of the ball and there was a vat of burgundy sloshing around in the penalty area. Newey, on the six-yard line in the centre, stretched and swiped a brilliant right-footed volley in to the top right corner of the goal. A fantastic finish and Town had deservedly scored after their first-half dominance. Oh, wrong goal.

Forget the rest of the game. I can't be bothered to go on, there's no point, and Dr Who is on in 19 minutes. Here we go: unmarked Lee had a shot which went wide, unmarked Lee had a shot well saved, unmarked Lee had a header well saved, Smith shot wide, Ross shot wider, unmarked Lee headed wide, unmarked Dudfield scraped a shot which Barnes saved beautifully, and there were many, many more stories of nonsense which I am not allowed to report as Town's lawyers obtained an injunction in a special sitting of the High Court of Justice.

For the sake of completeness, here's the chicken coup de grâce.

Newey launched a free kick far beyond the sea of Town players waiting inside the penalty area. Beyond and behind. With all bar McDermott inside the County area, the ball was wellied down the touchline. Macca and Parky ran after it, but Parkinson got there first, turned near the corner of the Town box and laid a pass into the centre. Smith, unmarked, steamed down the centre and, on the penalty spot, placed the ball to Barnes' left. Phil's big left boot diverted the ball... straight back to Smith, who tippled it over the prostrate Barnes and into the net.

Anything else? The stupid linesmen kept giving bizarre foul throws and some bags chased each other down the pitch, but didn't wrap themselves around Jason Lee and make him disappear. Oh yes, substitutions - after 66 minutes they brought Andy Parkinson on again. Oh no, it was Gary Silk. Town had replaced the invisible Till with North to go to 4-4-2 a couple of minutes earlier and ten minutes later limping Fenton was replaced by Bloomer, and terrible Toner by Taylor, with Town going to 4-3-3, which has never, ever, ever, ever, worked. Bloomer did well against Lee, and Taylor was... enthusiastic. He almost had a shot.

You still reading? I told you to forget it. The second half was infuriatingly poor from Town, letting a bunch of gridiron enthusiasts impose themselves upon the day. Town had a few moments of potential danger, but a combination of weak refereeing and Whittle's knobbly head nodding an inch or so over left us with nothing but scuffed shoes from kicking the back of the seats.

Sorry, got to go. The phone's ringing. At least nothing really matters - we're still in next year's pre-season.

I hear the music... I'm off.

Nicko's unofficial man of the match
Oh, I don't know - Phil Barnes. That shook yer! He didn't do anything wrong and made quite a few good saves.

Official Warning
Mr C Penton was a fussy fool, overly lenient, and oddly determined to book anyone who tackled in the last ten minutes. 5.000.

The Others
They don't play football. They are miserable functionalists, without any redeeming qualities. I don't like rugby, ergo I do not like Steve Thompson's version of Notts County. It's horrible to watch, it must be horrible to play. And Ciaran Toner wants to go there? They had nothing to commend them. Teams like this are the death of football. There's no joy in watching them. You may as well follow them on Ceefax.