In the bleak midwinter: Accrington (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

26 December 2007

Grimsby Town 0 rugby league 1

It didn't snow, it didn't rain, it just was. Another day in Cleethorpes: no more, no less. We've also got a handful of songs to sing you. But not today, eh? Lets do mordant post-Christmas misery.

Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Hird, Bennett, Fenton, Newey, Heggggggarty, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Butler and Sir Lumpalot. The substitutes were Montgomery, Clarke, North, Atkinson and Bore. Ah, Butler and Jones - together at last! They are so compatible. Well, they both like soup.

Accrington warmed up with little figure of eight and high five slappings followed by a big game of tiggy. My, they looked keen. Town ambled in clumps like a bunch of ungrateful nephews. Do say thankyou to your Uncle John, and what about the orange dear?

Shall we count them all in? One Accrington fan, two Accrington fans, three Accrington fans. Where are they all? Aren't they excited by local derbies? Can't they be bothered to get out of their armchairs and drive all night to witness the most beautiful sight in football - the sun setting over the Frozen Beer Stand with the whole town lit up in front of them like a great shoe? Twinkle, twinkle little star, how you wonder if you can find your car.

At 2:55 the whole Accrington squad was still warming up, practising huntin', shootin' and fishin' before their coach load of fans. They really are keen.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon as the crowd slowly trickled, and trickled slowly, through the hallowed gates of enchantment. No, no, sorry, through the hollow gates of disenchantment. For those who arrived late you missed the ball being in the air with men jumping near it. Some had red shirts on, some had black and white shirts on. The referee had a whistle and he was gonna use it whenever something nearly happened near a goal.

There was the disappointed air of disengaged duty hanging over those present. Ah, presents: that explains the furry hats.

Lump it, hump it, dump it long and bump it hard: Mullin bullied Fenton and D'Sane sullied Bennett's glamorous duvet to twist and twizzle on to a flick. Six yards out on their right the Emperor Roscoe spun some platters and swiped a low shot across Barnes, across the face of goal; a warning shot across the bows of the old Humber tramp steamer. Wake up Town: the turkey is behind you, not in your shorts.

What's on telly? Ah, It's a Christmas Knockout with Dunkickin' Duncatchin' Dunbavin. A back-pass rolled gently towards the world's smallest keeper who skew-whiffed a sloppy slicey swipe out for a corner and then started a flapathon as Boshell curled the corner gently towards the far post. Whoah-ho-ho, he's our kind of keeper.

After about five minutes Town constructed what archaeologists would claim to be 'a chance'. Hegggarty crossed, then crossed again, with Hird careering in at the far post to head the ball across the face of goal. Hegggarty followed in and, from a narrow angle, side-footed into the side netting. Through nothing more cunning than striking the ball towards the Pontoon, Town had exposed the Stanley defence to ridicule. Can't kick, can't head, what can they do? Their centre-backs were like ducks on roller skates, careering out of control, wobbling left and right, with a lot of flapping and quacking.

And off came the wheels, with feathers and fun to follow. Town hurled a throw-in from underneath the Police Box, with the ball grazing off a head and a nose, and across the face of the penalty area. Heggggarty, on the centre-left, chested the ball down and bedraggled a right-foot shot goalwards. Dunbavin dived low to his right and paddle-flipped the ball into the right side netting. Oh, yes, Heggggarty had scored and he was joined by the whole Town team as he raced to the front of the Pontoon. The Mighty Mariner saved him from a booking by obstructing his path as the fussy little fusspot ref lurked.

Now that's better than a satsuma in a colourful sock.

Right, let's get ready for some festive fun. Ah, I don't mean this type. Long ball, flick on, D'Sane rolled Bennett and rolled a shot across Barnes, across the face of goal; another warning shot across the bows of the listing liner.

Town stopped playing and the referee started playing up. Foul throws followed foul throws, free kicks were given to Stanley for unseen things. Butler challenged Dunbavin as he sliced upfield and the referee had his back turned as Dunbavin slipped. The linesman shrugged, the referee gave a free kick and a stern finger wagging. He did not see, he guessed. Oh dear. Mullin shoulder-barged Newey, then D'Sane clobbered Newey, who was off twice for treatment. No free kicks were given to Town for aerial assault by Accrington's Zeppelins and Stukas.

Long ball, flick on, D'Sane slipped over. Long ball, flick on, Mullin stumbled. Long ball flick on. Oh flick off Accy, you're boring.

Long ball flick on, Miles sneaked past Hird and crossed into the centre. Mullin rose half a dozen yards out and plonked a free header over the bar. You'd have thought Town would have got the drift by now: they kick it long and high, they fight for their right and cross it towards the big man. Simple stuff.

Ah, that's better. If we have the ball they don't. Town remembered that the Accy-boys don't like it up 'em, around 'em, behind 'em and below 'em. Lumpy and Bumpy had the beating of their defence... for pace. Yes, miracles do happen at Christmas. Boshell flighted a series of corners which resulted in nothing but fading memories. Dunbavin flapped away, Roberts sneezed away, old Lumpy grazed loopily across the face of goal and Fenton softly noodled down to the keeper. Roberts passed back but straight to Jones, half a dozen yards out. Dunbavin slid out as Jonesy twirled. Legs collided; the ball squirmed sideways and trickled out for a corner.

They really are funny.

But why aren't we laughing? Ah yes, because Town joined them down the drain of dreadfulness. Where's the passing? Where's the love Jimmy? Ooh, the Accies crossed through the area. If we're not careful we'll lose this.

Are you bored? Mmm, so were we. The roof is too low for this kind of football.

That's better. Bolland scrunched D'Sane on the edge of the Town area and passes were passed. Suddenly Butler was free but was suddenly tackled and Town had a throw-in, which Lumpy took quickly. Bumpy Butler was free and suddenly the referee decided it was a foul throw. Again. Number four of the afternoon, and all against Town, whenever they took one quickly.

Jump to the next chapter on the DVD, it's only a bit of scene-shifting and space-filling for the next ten minutes. No plot development and certainly no action. I suggest you select chapter 9, "when things almost happened but didn't".

Butler had a shot. He ran after the ball down the left, shrugged off the sleepy bear marking him, ran towards the goal and shot low and raggedly to Dunbo's right while old Lumpy waited unmarked at the far post. Those are the basic facts; can you show me where it hurt them? At least he was trying.

As the half leaked towards half time like an old copper pipe, D'Sane fell over in a mad hatter's tea party scramble inside the Town area. Hird was out of position; Miles passed into the centre from the bye-line and who knows which is which and who is who when men fall in the distance. Someone kicked the ball away from near the bottom left post. It was all a hotch-potch helter-skelter of activity. Frankly, who cares.

Ah, now here's something to whip yourself into a leather sofa for. Butler chased after a dink, wobbled some lump of old coal aside and hurtled down the centre towards goal. The old lump of coal fell forward and tried to rise from his grave, succeeding only in upending Bumpy on the edge of the area. The Pontoon rose as Butler tumbled; the referee ignored everything and play continued.

What next? Despite two long, long stoppages for Newey's recovery from attempted assassination one minute was added to the first half, during which Dunbavin punched a free kick to Hird who shot a couple of yards wide of the left post from 35 yards out. The referee blew his whistle after Hird's shot had travelled 17 yards. That just about sums it all up - if something had happened it wouldn't have counted.

Apart from the goal, this half had no redeeming features. Town were awful, Accrington were horrible and the referee was useless. Everything, yes everything, was rubbish and that's official.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time. Everything and everyone was still horrible and rubbish.

As the final novelty chocolate reindeers were eaten there was a sigh of disappointment, possibly because Heggggarty was given offside as he burst through into the penalty area, or maybe because of the realisation that there was no sweet caramel centre, just a hollow shell, a thin veneer of chocolate that dissolved in seconds. Just like Town, eh, promising so many delights, delivering so very few. The idea of Town is much more exciting than the reality, and it was always better when you were young.

A minute or two in, as shepherds swatched their flock wallpaper, Accrington lobbed the ball down their right and Newey slabbered it away for a throw-in near the Police Box. Mullin waited with Fenton behind him. The throw-in was thrown to Mr Mullin, Wackford Heggggggarty wandered back, and Mr Mullin simply passed the ball back to the thrower, Mr Richardson. Shall we join the Town team in a post-prandial snooze? Richardson crossed; Mullin blundered to the near post and thumped a header into the net from three or four yards out. A Town player moved... in the sponsors' lounge.

Somehow the crowd got quieter, in a sort of anti-noise.

Town responded with a series of free kicks floated and bloated towards the general area where the comedy keeper was potentially encamped. At the third attempt Hird crossed deeply and swingingly from the right. The ball swirled between keeper and onrushing elephants. Dunbavin panicked as he heard somebody scream and kicked the ball straight at Lumpy, who was momentarily pole-axed, but then stab-punted the ball weakly goalwards, straight at the retreating, flapping nonsense they called a goalkeeper. There may even have been a shot from a Town player around then. Maybe, who knows? Was it on News at Ten?

Near the hour, with nothing going on, Accrington had some sort of nonsense over on their right. Or left. Or maybe in the middle. The ball ended up out of play with a throw-in to them on the Frozen Beer Stand side. Town stood back and admired their own beautiful plumage as the Stanners moved forward, bumbling and stumbling; a shot was half charged down and the ball squirtled sidewards. A half tackle, a half block, the ball ricocheted and rebounded, but always forward, always closer and closer to Barnes. Where's the Town defence? They've gone fishin' instead of just a-wishin'. Bah-boo-baby-bah-boo-bah-bay-mmm-bo-bay. Oh yeah! The ball skipped into D'Sane's path a few yards out on their left. Town players moved towards him; he swung his boots and across the face of goal went the ball straight to Proctor who, from a narrow angle, slaughtered a shot back across goal. Hird slid along the goal-line but only diverted the ball into the left side net. We'll let Proctor have this one.

At this Bore replaced Boshell and North replaced the waning Jones, with Town reverting to 4-4-2. Bore touched the ball twice; more than that one cannot say.

The introduction of North pepped up Town, for now there was movement, whereas previously there had been a Vulcan mind-meld. A throw, a spin, a pass, and Butler whooshed forward to crack a first-time, slidey volley straight at Dunbavin. A minute later Heggggarty dispossessed a little Accy, swayed infield and, from the centre circle, levered a swirling pass with the outside of his left boot. The ball curled beautifully through the non-existent defence for Butler, who had curved a run along the defence. Butler was free, belting down the left wing, pursued by bears. He stepped inside a challenge and clipped a flighted pass to North, right in the middle of the D, who chested the ball down to Hunt. He nobbled past a flailing boot, composed himself and flavvered a half-volley across the keeper towards the bottom left corner. Dunbavin done saving for once, superbly skating across the turf and flapping the shot aside for a corner. Butler headed straight at Dunbavin and Town had dunattackin'. There were twenty-tree minutes left, and that's shallot.

The rest is a Brussels sprout cocktail topped by a slice of old cheese. North lost possession on the edge of their penalty area and chased his tormentor up the wing, over the halfway line, past Buckley, past Watkiss, past the ghost of Tommy Widdrington and the distant, deeply buried memories of Mick Saxby's hair. As the Town penalty area approached the little Accy dived forward after the merest of touch of North's forelock, and our little Danny boy was booked. And then Butler was booked. And then Hegggarty was booked for saying something rude. Then Hunt wasn't booked for a two-footed Violet Elizabeth Bott tantrummy jump-tackle. And all the while the Accies had avoided visits to the referee's naughty step.

This game's gone, it's history, it's baloney without the mayo. Accrington amused all with their slapstick comic routines whenever the ball went out of play, and their miraculous recoveries after ten minutes of sponging. This Pontoon rage, this empty anger, flowing over the top and running down the gutters of life. All this wasted energy by the crowd. And D'Sane shot after another long-ball flick-on twist-and-turn session; Hunt and Hird decided to go west as he went east and scoopled a shot wide of the far post. You might as well know that. Just to dot the Ts and cross the eyes. Town played with cross-eyes.

As Brereton Avenue cleared of traffic North chased Richardson down their right after possession was lost. On they raced. And on. And on. As Richardson reached the penalty area he spectacularly dived, as if struck by a herring. The referee waved play on as Town cleared to the halfway line and started to break, then he decided to stop play and talk to North. Town were given a drop kick in that highly advantageous position of the left corner of their own area. Richardson was smiled at, the referee was snarled at, and there were three minutes of added time. Ten would have been short-changing us but prolonging the torture. These roundabouts do swing like a pendulum do.

Free kicks, time wasting, more free kicks, more long balls, lots of jumping up and falling down. And in the end there was nothing, nothing at all. It's finished, I've finished, you've finished, it's all finished.

Well, Christmas is the time for giving, and Town did give three points away tied up in a little bow. Town did not play football, but attempted to match Accrington's rugby league with a cheap copy, bought off the market half an hour before the game started. So little effort, so little reward. Everything drop-kicked long and high, with Barnes throwing the ball out just twice, and once straight to them.

This was not a football match: this was suicide.