Pictures at an exhibition: Hereford (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

29 September 2007

Did you see that black helicopter buzz Cleethorpes?

Grimsby Town 2 Hereford United 1

A blustery, blubbery day in Slumberland with some Herefordians yodelling in the Osmond Stand. Then some more turned up, doubling their war party to a few and a bit, though I'm sure two of them were stuffed dummies on poles. Or was that their central defenders warming up? Let's be very British: mustn't grumble, it's a long, long way from Herefordy, it's a long way to go to sit in a rickety hut by the sea, wrapped up in cotton and wool. Ah, it's the woolly Bullies!

Town lined up in the 4-5-1 winter duvet formation as follows: Barnes, Spikey Mulligan, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Till, Bolland, Clarke, Boshell, Toner and Rankin. The substitutes were Montgomery, The Lump, Master Bennett, Tip-toe-tiny-Taylor and the Humber getting Bored. Clarke was, thankfully, nowhere near right-back, but was ordered to shuffle across the gnomeland in front of the Town back four like a pair of comfortable hush puppies.

Hereford hurtled around in a frenetic, energetic warm-up like you see proper teams do on that television. Is it the appliance of science, or copycat milling? They looked a bit nippy, just like their fans. Wrap up warm, ziderfolk.

Has the Mighty Mariner been on the Jarman diet? He's less stubby, moving more quickly around the pitch and with definition in his foam-filled cheeks. His skin is certainly thinner, so maybe he's on the Fentydiet, in preparation for the Fentydome.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon, with the usual Newey high punt from left to right, avoiding Till and going out for a throw-in. Hang on, haven't I said that before? And before? And before? Someone kick the old jukebox please; we're stuck in a groove.

The wind blew and the ball skewered backwards towards the Osmond Stand. Trevor told Justin about things he saw - he had two big horns and a woolly jaw. Benjamin ruffled feathers and hairstyles with some barundling barges, pressing Town and thumbing his collected noses towards the aesthetes in stripes. Unable to clear, unable to pass, Town were momentarily out of action, temporarily out of gas. Bigman Diagouraga glanced a near post header across the face of goal from a corner on their left. Let's pretend it didn't happen and just get on with our internal natterings.

Hereford kicked and rushed towards Barnes; Benjamin shot and the ball skipped off Mulligan's shins, and Barnes brilliantly changed direction and parry-pushed the ball aside from the bottom left corner. That's it; they won't be back for half an hour. They'll return in chapter three with a little vignette on their chips. The yellow and blue rumblers ran quickly, especially Lionel Ainsworth, who sounds like he should be a tap dancer from Tring. Newey knows how to deal with tap dancers from Tring: you just have to give them a withering look and their egos shrivel.

Boshell was felled and dragged off the pitch for a couple of minutes.

Ah, lovely, lovely, lovely. Town: the grandfather clock of the fourth division, taller by half than the old man himself, we were always his treasure and pride. The pendulum swung from left to right, to left again. On and on it groaned, mesmerising the Woolly Bullies into a catatonic state. They watched, they never tackled, they marvelled at the precision passing and occasional movement. Clarke swept up the detritus and carefully lobbed it in to the bin. Passes were rolled to Rankin's feet and he became The Wall off which the world bounced. He didn't have to move, for these passes were perfect. Boshell and Bolland started to infiltrate the enemy lines; Till began to swirly disco infield, Toner to photocopy some leaflets, and Newey to swagger. Newey, magnificently crushing all before him with twits and turns and scoopy-poopy passes. You could have hung Town in the Louvre. I said Louvre; do listen carefully, I shall say it only once.

In the midst of these brushstrokes, after 10 minutes and 38 seconds, perhaps hypnotised with happiness, Mr Purple smiled as little Hans Voleman on his left was moved by this art to scream: "We're playing in black and white!" Indeed we are, and have been for some time. A throw-in was thrown and a tumbleweed blew through the upper reaches of the Frozen Beer Stand. Any more pie?

Rankin shuffled and scuffled a shot; Mulligan dropped a whoopsy Betty, as Brown knelt before the altar of the Pontoon and pleaded for forgiveness.

Please feel free to swoon when you wish. Newey! Newey-Newey! Newey-Newey-Newey! He gotta go far. He brushed Lionel aside and majestically pomped forward, swaying with the rhythm of the tambourines. Past one, two and a third defender with outrageous feints from the centre; 20 yards out, he swithered a right-footed shot straight at Brown's throat. Brown gargled with some mouthwash and cleared his throat, clutching the ball at the very tip of his nose.

Hereford, bedazzled and bewildered by this magic roundabout played out in footballing form, rather forgot about Ciaran the snail. Rankin harried and won a throw-in, in the deadzone between Frozen Beer Stand and Pontoon. Newey lobbed to Bolland, who underhit his tippy-tap back. Rose, who by any other name would be a defender, tried to welly the ball out of Lincolnshire. He just clobbered it against Twisting Tom's face and it rebounded infield. Newey puffed out his chest, rose from the waves, parted the clashing rocks and cracked a dripping low volley-cross through the six-yard area. With Brown immobile and the defence incontinent, Boshell slid forward at the far post and side-footed the ball in to the empty net. They blinked, we scored.

And the game carried on exactly as before: Town casting the line out into the gentle stream, with Clarke the chief angler and Rankin the wiggling bait. The waves lapped up on the riverbank, imperceptibly eroding the ground upon which the grazing cattle stood. Town pulled Hereford apart like an old vest, with Till erroneously penalised for a non-existent handball as he charged down a clearance a dozen yards out. Silly linesman.

A-ha. Them! They're here, they're all around us! The occasional foray on the break hadn't resulted in anything but extra cream on his post-match tart for Tornado Tom Newey. He's superbly adjusted Ainsworth's britches. Have I told you that Ainsworth was quick? Very muchly was he sire, but Newey defended intelligently and was concentrating wonderfully. On the half-hour, finally, eventually and at last, Hereford managed to do something. Whittle slipped; Easton tripped down the left and levered a dipping cross into the near post. The ball swooned over brother Justin and right on to Benjamin's bonce, six yards out. He ducked but Barnes didn't even need to dive, for it disturbed nay but a dozing steward. Let's not get too cocky, eh? They are capable of doing something nasty in the woodshed if we let them.

Boshell started to roam and Clarke to hone his passing skills. The Rankin Wall was solidly built and impossible to dismantle as the moments came and Town passed. It looked beautiful, but the final shot or pass failed to penetrate. Town were almost excellent. With ten minutes left Boshell sashayed through two challenges and was upended by the third with a manful plunge over a fallen branch. Clarke and Newey stood over the ball, 25 yards out just off centre. Who would just fail this time? Clarke stepped up and coiled the ball over the wall and six inches over the left angle of post and bar. Brown was happily knitting some socks as Madame Guillotine failed to behead the carrot.

More of the same, by the way, for a full five minutes. Town in total and utter control of everything. Hereford were made to look pretty basic, but lurking beneath the waves was a deadly shark. This ecosystem needed careful management. Quick breaks were mostly handled, sometimes manhandled, and finally the referee gave them a free kick, way out on their right. Floated high and long, Benjamin straddled Whittle and guided a header goalwards. After much binding in the marsh Barnes decided to plop upon the shimmering simmer in a most p-peculiar way.

Normal service was resumed, with Clarke beating the drum and everyone rowing in unison. Till crossed; Toner shouldered the ball straight at Brown from six yards. "Ooh", and perhaps an "ah". A minute later Clarke tickled the ball towards Rankin, who brilliantly knotted Broadhurst into a paper tiger. Brown shuffled out; Rankin took a touch away from goal and, six yards out, pulled his foot back to shoot, then crumpled as a defender etch-a-sketched his own plastic boots towards the ball. Penalty! Not given.

And the half ended on a poetic note, as Boshell gracefully turned and nut-megged the Giant Diagouraga bird. A free kick, a booking, and a nice cup of tea for all.

Hereford were made to look ordinary for large chunks of the half. They were big, they were strong, they were fast and there was always an undercurrent of danger when they had the ball. But they didn't have it often. Town just had a little picnic in the Hereford half and lovely it was too. It would have been nice to have more shots, but dominance'll do fine when we're winning, won't it?

Carry on camping chaps.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time, though Hereford did that fashionable losing at half time thing of coming out early and running around some cones.

And when they kicked off they did that fashionable thing of running around a lot. Mulligan was caught unawares; pressure, of sorts, but nothing memorable to report. Doodle on baby, it's a doddle.

After five or so minutes of brass rubbing and ice cream tubbing Town flitted around the left edge of the Hereford area. Boshell calmly chested the ball into the penalty area and a big yellow taxi pulled up in his parking lot. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! After a couple of minutes of discreet Moore massaging he gingerly rose as Newey stood over the ball, right on the corner of the penalty area. Now it seems all kind of things upset the applecart. Fenton played British bulldog over at the far post; Mulligan stroked his hair and a train shuttled by. Newey curled a flat shot through the invisible wall, Brown plopped and the ball snuggled in the bottom left corner of the net. After a few moments the crowd realised we'd scored, and cheered up no end.

Shall we let our hair down now and boogie on through the night? Ooh, let's. Where's the Babycham?

From the off Town were more interested in the cheesy dips than the cheeky chips down the centre from the Bullboys. Mullligan chased a dink and headed back towards Barnes. Well, if Barnes had been stood five yards outside the penalty area. Mulligan and Fenton tried to shield the ball into the area, hoping that Barnes would sweep them off their feet in a fairytale romance. There was dithering and dathering and Benjamin mugged them all, forcing Barnes to throw himself in the vague direction of six feet and a round white thing. As worlds collided the ball squirmed off to the left, straight to Guinan, who side-footed towards the empty net. Off Fenton's thigh and the inside of the post, the ball looped and spun slowly towards goal, resting on the line. Mulligan walked back, picked up some litter and calmly chuntered away to himself about the peculiar origin of the kiwi fruit before clearing the ball.

A small boy leaned over the advertising boards and fell head first, leaving just his two little legs wiggling towards the Pontoon. He was happy.

A couple of minutes later repeat that dither with added wither from the Pontoon. Town allowed Hereford to pass the ball to each other where they wanted, when they wanted. Thus the ball moved to their left where a cross was dozed low across the six-yard box. After you, Mr Whittle. No, no, no, after you my fine friend, Dr Fenton. I couldn't possibly, sir; Professor Newey may wish to consult us on this strange conbobulation of perfunctory idleness. There is only one thing worse than hoofing the ball clear from inside your six-yard box, and that is not hoofing the ball clear from inside your six-yard box. Benjamin whacked the ball on from six or so yards out, unmarked, an open goal. Pathetic defending from all, who were too busy preening themselves in the mirror.

At least this woke Town up a bit. We're passing, we're passing, we're shooting, they're blocking. At this Bolland was replaced by little Taylor and Town moved to 4-4-2, even before anyone had remembered to moan about how negative 4-5-1 is. An hour gone, and so was the rather ineffective Bolland.

Town perked up even more, with Taylor running very quickly after the ball, which upset their chunky centre-backs. They'd appreciated the Cumberland wrestling with Rankin, even if they kept losing, for they didn't have to move much. And now they did and they could not keep up with the youth of today. Town remembered to pass and Rankin grazed a flick beyond the defence. Taylor was free with just Brown to beat. Brown lay down to his right, surrendering to the void, but Tiny-tot flicked the ball against the keeper's legs; it ricocheted back to Mulligan, just outside the area. His shot was barged away but Town retained possession, calmly shuffling the ball to the left. Toner to Clarke to Newey: ooooooh so close, as Newey pelted into the box and belted the ball just over the angle of post and bar.

We're back, we're still passing, with Clarke the hub and Boshell rubbing the brass. Rankin rolled and trolled a pass to Toner, who wheeled and whirled in from the left. Toner drew two yellowbullies, ignored two unmarked stripeys and almost beheaded the corner flag.

The game was open, flowing this way and that, end to end, side to side, with moments of nearlyness for both teams. The referee began to curdle and Benjamin fell to win a free kick. Hoisted high beyond the far post, Town ignored their little Taylor who, two yards out, bombled the ball off his shins and hoiked a shot beyond the sea.

And then they took off their slowest coach, Guinan, and brought on the red-booted Robinson; within 30 seconds he'd flown away behind the defence. Don't worry, be happy, he was offside. A minute later he was stickled free behind Newey and cracked a shot into the bottom right corner. Don't worry, be happy, he was offside again. He's easy to spot with those red shoes.

Our Taylor tried a shoulder-flick and volley, but dribbled it scoopily straight at Brown as the game settled down for a few moments, just as a light airplane buzzed Blundell Park. Is it World of Sport? Is Kent Walton live at the Pier for some wrestling? Cliff diving from acapulco? No, that's Red Robbo plunging to earth at the slightest hiccough. While Hereford were making a cup of tea during the advert break Rankin was replaced by the Lump, to a tumult. They'd never seen anything like it, never seen anything like it in their life. Apart from last year, of course, when they were victims of The Lumpaldinho at his most Lumpaldinho-est.

He's back to his dainty best, gliding blissfully across the turf, rising like a proud stallion to neigh at the hamsters at his ankles. Old Lumpy won every header, flicked every flick and set Taylor free. The ball returned and Lumpy wallied it. His shot blocked, Clarke tried once and tried twice, each shot bazooka-ing off firm West Country bones. Mulligan's turn next. Boing, the flesh wobbled. It's Lump again! He ghosted in to space in the centre of the pitch and chested down a beautifully flighted cross-pass from Mulligan. One shimmer, one shake, then a booming drive which flew straight, but flew a yard wide. Brown dropped the ball just because Lumpy was on the pitch, but the ref gave a free kick. And with that Town stopped attacking.

With about ten minutes left Hereford hit their turbo button. What is finesse to them but a shipping area off Ireland? Benjamin flicked a high punt and Ainsworth za-zimmered across the face of the Town area past one, two, three defenders then levered a left-footed shot back across goal. Barnes watched, waited for his moment and flew to his left, brilliantly parrying the ball away from the foot of the post. Red Robbo ran in and crinkled a shot into the side netting, picked up the ball and lobbed it at Barnes's head. Ooh you are awful.

With Town's floorboards creaking the Bosh was replaced by Bennett, who went to right-back; Mulligan moved to right midfield, Till to the left and Toner into the centre. This helped a lot, for Bennett added height and elegance, completely nullifying the threat from their left. Ah, but Lionel was doing his soft-shoe shuffles, ra-ta-ta-ta! Red Robbo turned Fenton and crossed deeply; Benjamin rose above Whittle and softly winked a header to Barnes's left, but Barnes fell upon the ball to calm the gathering throng behind him.

What were Town up to? This and that and sometimes the other. Mulligan superbly flicked an overhead pass to Taylor, unmarked on the halfway line. You know, he actually meant it. He can't defend, but he can pass. Off Taylor zoomed, with Newey in support, whose shot was blocked and Taylor's follow up too. And then Clarke wiped the smile off Rose with a hooking Poutonesque tackle, in a seek-and-destroy one-way suicide mission.

And then Bennett was booked for taking a couple of seconds too long to take a throw-in. Now that was just petty.

With no time left, and no added time known, Hereford bulldozed their way through the Town barricades. Town could not clear and started to panic, with aimless, hopeful thwacks in the vague direction of the halfway line. Possession was simply handed back and wave upon wave of yellow folded over the defence, like thick custard, and we were the tarts. Benjamin swiggled clear and Fenton blocked a goalbound shot with the ball sluicing like a drunk through the penalty area. Barnes came out, Barnes stayed put, the defence wheezed like an asthmatic plasterer and Hereford sensed blood. One last chance, one last go. Here it is. Hoiked, hoisted, whacked, whirled, curled and a pearl of a chance as the ball went down the middle, was flicked on and Red Robbo sniggled free behind the defence. A dozen yards out, the ball bouncing, Barnes bounding out, and an equaliser imminent; Barnes inflated himself and bumped forward like a giant bouncy castle. Robinson's toe-poke crackled against the keeper's shins and squirmed out to the side. We were safe.

With a little luck Town made the whole darn thing work out. Can't you feel the town exploding? Maybe not, but at least we aren't imploding.

Overall Town dominated with the 4-5-1 formation, where Clarke was exceptional, like a passing version of Hunt, with Bolland and especially Boshell breaking forward to support Rankin, who acts more and more like that old Welshman with the moustache. Toner and Till had weak games offensively, and Mulligan is presently nothing more than a mostly adequate right-back. When Town reverted to 4-4-2 things were more exciting, but hairy. We don't like hairy round here, not when we see it. But Town won, so the imperfections are merely soothing to note, not to fret about; it's hardly new, is it. The good bits were good, and Barnes was excellent when required to mop up the occasional accidental spillage. Town imposed themselves on a confident and attack-minded team. Feeling good now?

See what a little patience brings: three points and a happy sleep.

Nicko's Unsponsored Man of the Match
The game was won in the centre of midfield, where Town's triumvirate were triumphant: Boshell was silky smooth, but Clarke schmoozed like a cultured Hunt, tackling firmly, with the passing deep and crisp and even. Rankin was an excellent tin foil for the chicken and Barnes made some magnifico saves. But where are you being led? Like Hereford, a merry dance by Tornado Tom Newey. He's spent two years thinking he's better than the rest, now he shows it. Is anyone worried when he gets the ball now? Exactly. The Crown rests, m'lud.

Official Warning
Mr Ray Lee is sure to make someone fume and fury, but it won't be me unless his lack of consistent idiocy is enough to rile into apoplexy. He started off penalising appropriately but had a bad patch towards half time and beyond when his whistle wouldn't stop whistling. He was dreadfully alright, appallingly OK. The velvet balls in the plastic bag say 6.738. It's enough to make you seethe.

The Others
Whereas last year's vintage was just a creaky version of an olde Town, this year's veers towards Sladian functionality. They just seem to have forgotten to defend and have put all their eggs in the one attacking basket. Ainsworth was exceptionally quick and tricky but exceedingly flimsy; Newey's pocket was an ample and respectable receptacle. Benjamin was a bustler, while Red Robbo was a hustler, and elsewhere they were not overly impressive. Why? They had an off day or Town subdued them? Obviously the latter if you're wearing black and white spectacles.

It's was easy to see how they'd obliterated opponents away from home, for they are designed to counterattack. But, on this showing, they lack subtlety. Their season looks like it will probably be like a teenager's hair - a little dodgy around the fringe of promotion.