Banana, nirvana, mañana: Lincoln (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

29 December 2007

Grimsby Town 1 Lincoln City 0

With a broom still drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of Wednesday's match, a blistering, blustery wind blew into the faces of the 900 Impytypes snuggling together inside their cardigans of despair. Somewhere a Town fan was still weeping: B&Q have run out of guttering.

Town lined up in a festive fun 5-3-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Hird, Atkinson, Bennett, Newey, Heggggggarty, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Butler, North. The substitutes were Montgomery, Whittle, Taylor, Jones and Till. The Blond Bob was restored to add elegant blondness to the centre of central defence, while old Lumpy paid the price for immobility and a previously unknown aversion to leek and potato soup. Taylor and Till had returned from the Boxing Day sales at Binns with a new pair of king-sized sheets and surprisingly cheap male grooming kits and they still had change from a £10 note. Bargain!

Lincoln lined up in a big blokes/small blokes/moderately-sized young blokes formation in their traditional away kit. Just what is their formation? Have they got one or are they just sheltering from the wicked wind behind big Bencherif, the man with the tightest shirt in football and a Crane-sized derrière. Actually make that XXCrane++. Did they go to a specialist outfitters to get his kit?

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon and against the wind. The ball blew this way and that, banana-ing and ballooning towards and away from the Yellow Imps. All bananas playin' in the bright warm sun.

Swirly disco football: aimless, roofless, hit and hopeless; we cannae control it Cap'n. Bobbling and hobbling, rumbling and grumbling: no-one had control of anything. Lincoln lumped it high and high and high and high and Barnes dropped a catch. The referee gave a free kick and all was well with the world. Barnes miskicked dreadfully and an Impite fell over. Four minutes that would have been better spent boiling an egg.

After a mini scramble, Heg...gggarty ran away down the left wing and carried on. And on. And on. Big Brown ran backwards in Gallimoresque fashion, retreating and finally blocking the cross for a corner. Boshell floated it high, Smith flapped and Bolland retrieved, with Brown clearing the cross. Mmm, interesting keeping by little Mr Flappy. Lincoln, well, just failed, with Town easily picking their pockets to start another attack. Again through Heggggarty, who rumbled down the wing, tempting, teasing and squeezing a fine swooning cross low through the middle of the six-yard box. With Hird and Butler lurking, Beeeeeeevers sliced the ball over the crossbar.

The Pontoon rose in anticipation, lips-a-licking, and Boshell miserably chipped the corner onto a defender's head. The Pontoon sat down again, then stood back up as Boshell curled the ball back into the centre of an amorphous clump. Atkinson rose a dozen yards out and powerfully flicked a header down towards the bottom right corner. Smith brilliantly slid across the turf, reached out and fingertipped the ball away for another corner. Boshell took another corner, flighted to the far post, where Bennett glided above his marker and firmly noodled a skiddy header a few inches wide of the left post.

Well, that was nice, wasn't it.

Shall we just replay the basic plot point a few times? Hegggarty crossed, Hegggarty crossed, Heggggarty crossed, Hegggarty crossed. Feel the rhythm, let's add some triangles and a sweeping melody shall we? Let's sing. He's makin' up a mess of fun, makin' up a mess of fun. Lots of fun for everyone!

Tra la la, la la-la la. Ah, here we are again, happy as can be. Heggggarty roved, roamed and did other things beginning with the letter 'r' before dribbling a sneaky cross through the middle of the penalty area, dissecting all humans and Lincoln defenders. Flippin' like a pancake, popping like a cork, the Lincoln defence of Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper an' Snork were scattered among the sand dunes as Hird revved forward and thwangled a shot back into the lemon meringue. The law of probability kicked in and the ball finally hit Bingo Bencherif on the knee and skew-whiffed over the bar from about six yards out. Nothing further to report, come back in three minutes.

In the 20th minute Lincoln not only managed to get into the Town half but also had a shot. Dodds, 20 yards out, spun around and hook-volleyed a couple of yards over the bar. There then followed five minutes of Lincoln pseudo-pressure during which one of their floppy-haired youngsters managed to get to the bye-line and flip a cross over Barnes. Big Phil held up one hand and flapped the ball like a lime slice into his cocktail shaker. That was as frightening as it got: Barnes had to do the shake 'n' vac and Bennett did a stretchy tackle when J-Lew almost, nearly and potentially could have broken free.

To enliven proceedings there was the obligatory daft decision from the linesman. The ball rolled along the touchline under the Frozen Beer Stand, where Newey watched and waited for it to go out of play, picked it up and threw the ball quickly to Atkinson. The referee gave a free kick for handball. At least it warmed the crowd up and noise was emitted from beneath layers of wool and a miasma of polycotton prefabrications.

Ah, you're back after the commercial break. I'll recap the story so far: Hegggarty crossed, everyone missed. And yep, here it is again. Hegggarty crossed, Moses led his people to temporary sanctuary by slashing wildly and slapping the ball into the Pontoon, Atkinson loopily headed softly towards the top right corner. Smith caught easily and we all sat down again.

The game started to drift like tumbleweed on the breeze as North was sent free from the halfway line with just the bulging shirt of Bencherif and Hegggarty for company. Hegggarty raced alongside screaming for a pass. North slowed down and waited and waited and delicately weighted an underhit pass such that the outsized Algerian dug out a trench and scoopled the ball away. There was audible displeasure within DN35, aimed towards diffident Danny. A minute later the audible displeasure was aimed at the referee as Hegggarty spun slowly on the right side of their penalty box. Beevers lumbered across, poked out his boot and clipped the back of Hegggarty's ankles as he turned, then fell. The chance to cross was lost, the ball was cleared and Captain Kerr tried to get Hegggarty booked for being fouled. All in all, not the outcome demanded by all right-thinking peoples.

Ah now, just for a change Town attacked down the left. Hegggarty did three plodding stepovers, like he'd only just opened his secret Santa present from the management: The Alan Pouton Book of Stepovers and Reckless Challenges, available from all good bookshops and car boot sales. Brown was transfixed and transformed into a yogic flyover, which is probably better than a yogic combover. Hegggarty whippled a devilish low cross through the six-yard box, the ball missing all as it waved hello and said goodbye to a number of socks. Hird again steamrollered up from the back and levered the ball back from a narrow angle beyond the far post. North didn't hear the music and stopped as Smith crashed onto the goalposts and the ball rolled by; Bencherif thundered across the dark moors to rescue the damsels in distress, whipping out his rapier and slashing away hopefully. The ball disappeared into the upper reaches of the Pontoon, where only beagles dare.

And then we just doodled away until half time, letting Lincoln feel their trip to the seaside had been worthwhile. We let them dig for bait. We know it's illegal but we know they won't catch anything. Bencherif did a spectacular overhead kick from outside the penalty area which went spectacularly wide as the east midlands rumbled. A scientist in Leicester became mildly intrigued as his seismograph twitched and a franking machine fell off a table in Ashby de la Zouch.

Oh, what's this? A chance for Lincoln, perhaps. A flick and spin and suddenly the ball was bombling free a few yards wide of the Town goal. Forrester frolicked and foraged as Barnes wandered across and from a narrow angle the shotty-crossy thing hit Barnes' shins and went out for a corner. Shall we be condescendingly nice to our county cousins and call that a shot on target? They hadn't had any others.

Say, what time is it cuckoo? It's time to take out the trash Drooper. It's half time and we're halfway up the stairs. Lincoln were a hologram, Town were Hegggarty.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Within a minute or so of the restart Lincoln had created a moment of danger. J-Lew bundled down their left, drove on into the penalty area and crossed low and hard into the centre. As Wright wriggled, Hegggarty stepped across and volleyed away for a corner. Their corners were useless, so don't bother yourself with worrisome thoughts of what never was.

So typically Town, forgetting the second half.

Ah, not so fast, my fine feathered friend, the parrot or paranoia. Stay in the cage, keep your squawks to yourself and eat some humble millet pie. Heeeeeeeeeerrrrrre's Heggy. Little Nick bounded unmolested down the wing, tying Brown in to a poodle-shaped balloon. He crossed, and the ball dabbled in witchcraft as it dissected frogs and bounced beyond the far post. Hird raced up, hesitated, stooped to head then waited for the ball to drop before lashing a ginger beer of a shot goalwards. Two defenders flew towards him and the ball hit one of them perhaps on the hand, maybe on the chin, but it slapped out sideways and penalty appeals were ignored, denied and generally not given.

And again. Hegggarty on the right corner of their area flicked the ball infield for Bolland, who rode one challenge, shinned past another and hit the bye-line. He looked up, espied the unmarked Butler and very precisely passed to a defender. The ball was instantly whacked upfield and Lincoln had four attackers, with just the three centre-backs to obstruct their passage to a new world. The ball was flipped out to Wright, on their left, who steamed into the area and lifted a cross into the near post, eight yards out. Freaky Frecklington leaped and leant back as the ball was slightly behind him, steering a header a foot wide of the right post.

Now that was a chance.

Nah, fuggedaboudit. Town hurtled back, down the left of course, with Hegggarty and Butler interchanging, interweaving and getting into the Impy box. Butler swayed to his right and dinked a lovely cross towards the far post. Smith raced across his line, Hird va-voomed and wrenched the ball back from the bye-line towards the unmarked Hunt. Ah, but alas, the ball was behind Hunt and Smith ran around the chuntering punter to pick the ball up as if nothing untoward had happened. If it existed it was all Town. A minute later Boshell curled a free kick from the right bye-line deep, deep into the heart of the Lincoln penalty area, Atkinson outjumped his invisible marker and rolled the ball over the bar and onto the roof of the net.

And then it all went quiet; we all had a little rest.

Follow the seagull, follow the balloons. A man with a luminous hat was sat in the Frozen Beer Stand. Perhaps it's a bio-luminescent hat, increasing in brightness as his head gets hotter. If only Mr Purple had one we could grade his fury by the second.

Kerr had some kind of forgettable shot. I've forgotten it already. What was it? Forrester broke on their left and, with J-Lew unmarked on the centre-right, a pass was splayed straight to toes. The ball stumbled under his boot and out for a throw-in. Ah yes, throw-ins. They kept throwing their throw-ins out. That's handy, Andy.

A Lincoln hump was easily cleared towards the dark underbelly of the Frozen Beer Stand. Bolland chucked some coal in his belly and the old steam engine huffed and puffed towards the rolling ball. As Bolly arrived so did a traction engine: Kerr depositing Bolland onto the mud. Bolland only got up when he saw the yellow card in the referee's hand. Then he was OK, and so were we.

The game was sinking further into the quicksand; we needed a rope and a tractor. Ah, salvation: North was replaced by Sir Lumpalot with 25 minutes left, just as the tannoy started to hiss and wheeze strange ethereal, yet guttural sounds. It was a code - Buckley's half-time team talk had been slowed down and played backwards; it was a subliminal message from beyond this world.

Town started to reassert some pressure with flicks and tricks from Lumpaldinho and driving runs from Boshell, who began to tap out some accurate passing from wing to wing. And then Lincoln broke, straight down the middle. Dodds approached the edge of the penalty area, where Bennett slid across and upended the floppy fopster who spun and spun and spun until the free kick was won. Bennett was... booked. Frecklington and Kerr stood over the ball as the wall heaved left and right and was dragged back and back by the referee as Barnes crouched nervously on his line. Jones stood aside organising, instructing, ordering another brick in the wall and then applied the mortar himself. Frecklington curled the ball into the very spot that Jones had ordered Butler to occupy. Danger over, job done, let's go sailing.

The sign for the burger bar blew over in the wind, startling several children and two men who had turned their hearing aids up to 11. No arrests were made.

At this both teams made a substitution. Butler was replaced by Andy Pandy Taylor and the Impites replaced the flowing locks of Dodds with the unflowing stubble of Ollie Ryan. Not that we care one jot about their ineffectual substitutions. Taylor perked things up such that there were at least three moments of almostness. He runs quickly, he tries hard, and he's a right pest; he did all the things North failed to do.

Oh look - Wright wobbled wide. Wonderful.

Town pressed forward, winning free kicks and corners, but nothing was happening, just some amateur wrestling and a spot of pitch and putt. Jones was free, but then he wasn't. Taylor nearly chased down a drop kick, Taylor almost set up Jones. But... but... there was always a but.

How are we going to end this?

With about five minutes left, Newey joined Hegggarty in some frolics down the left wing. Played inside, Newey stretched past an Imp and was clobbered about 25 yards out and wide of the penalty area. Boshell waited for the hip young gunslingers to trundle up from the back and curled a high kick towards the far post. The ball drifted and drifted towards the top corner with the keeper waiting underneath and no-one approaching. The crowd started to sink back into a wearied groan, but the ball hung in the breeze and Smith slung it away as he stumbled backwards. Jones purred, stooped, and whooped a header into the empty net from a couple of yards out. Gold, frankincense and purrrrrr.

Hee-hee, ho-ho, ha-ha. Lincoln would have been a spent force, if a force they'd ever been. It was only a question of how Town could avoid victory this time, but no-one asked. Lincoln never got near, and Town should have scored again. A ball was dompled high towards Lumpy on the left edge of the Lincoln area. He stopped and shrugged; the defender stopped too and Hird sprinted after the ball. He caught up with it on the bye-line, edged along and rolled a pass back towards Boshell, whose shot hit Bencherif and went out for a corner.

The rest of the game was spent in the corner betwixt Frozen Beer and Osmond stand, with Town successfully whiling away their days with some ecological corner flag hugging. Boshell and Jones kept flicking the ball between them, expertly avoiding Lincoln boots and retaining possession. Kerr ended that little game, and his game too, with a wild lunge at Boshell's lovely ankles. Off went Captain Kerr, accompanied by a merry song from the Pontoon.

In the third and last minute of added time Lincoln were given a free kick inside their own half. Time for one last big boomer! They boomed it big, straight down the middle. The ball hung in the breeze, holding up and swirling, dropping vertically towards the gathering yellow mist. Barnes crept off his line, leapt high and caught the ball on the edge of the area, after a little bit of juggling for comedic effect.

And then it was over.

This looked like a drifting, scoreless, guileless game; a frustrating 'if only' sort of match where Town, or rather Hegggarty, had created numerous opportunities for someone to do something, but all were watching, reacting to events. And then Sir Lumpy arrived and Smith's timbers were shivered by his mere presence. It wasn't great - it was barely good at times - but Town were the better and more deserving of the poor. After all, Christmas is a time for the deserving poor to be handed treats.

Only one team played any cohesive football, and mostly down the left. Parts of the Town team were dysfunctional, but that's families for you: nobody's perfect. Lincoln only threatened by accident, with just one opportunity created - Barnes had no saves to make - and were exactly the sort of opposition the doctor ordered.

Never mind the quality: feel the width of the gap between us and them. Winning is all at the moment. Things aren't as bad as they could be.