April fools

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

4 April 2016

Cheltenham Town 3 Grimsby Town 1

A becalmed spring evening with around a trillion Townites sampling the sophistication and therapeutic pheromones in the beautiful sparkly spa waters of Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire.

Town lined up in blue in a proper 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Nsiala, Pearson, Gowling, Horwood, Arnold, Nolan, Disley, Monkhouse, Amond and Hoban. The substitutes were Tait, Clay, Stewart, Pittman and Bogle. Well, here we are again, back to square none: Toto at right-back. Nah, we're not scared of 'em. We're Town and we don't change for anybody! Oh, sorry, that's a bit of interference from Radio Spatown breaking through. Toto at right-back. I said Toto at right-back. His story at right-back is an historical fact, an hysterical fact for some.

Good teams, well-managed teams, successful teams play to their own strengths. They don't weaken themselves to the strengths of others.

Halfway up the away stand with an empty flask of tea, a smoke bomb descends and takes away the visibility. Yet in this Helen Keller state, we'd still quite like to know: why is Harry Pell alive, and getting paid as well? I also wonder if they'll ever bring back the Watney Cup.

Well, well said the rocking chair. Pell and Parslow: not good enough for us, but the backbone of the Bananarama Big Boys and, boy, are they big. The Rabid Robins are bigger than Forest Green, bigger than Bros, perhaps even bigger than Elvis. They are enormous galumphing elephants honking towards the Football League. Are they scared of mice? Ah, Toto at right-back, that's not nice.

First half: Butterflies crushed on a wheel

They kicked towards the Town fans. Kick, kick, free kick, free kick, kick, kick, free kick, free kick. Sample that and you have the hi-nrg drum beat that beats all comers. Don't touch these wilting West Country giants: they totter and tumble at the slightest whiff of wind.

Whack, welly, waft and waffle. Head tennis, head poker, heads, tails, heads, toes and tails. A corner headed wide, Jamie Mack flipped a low poker through the jungle and Gowling swiped away.

Wright shoved Pearson and the blue hands of Cod punched the ball away. A free kick to Town, not a penalty. What a magnificent decision. All is well – we have a strong, sensible referee who isn't going to fall for their falling, flailing and wailing.


Free kicks and free kicks and free kicks on demand on the red-and-white button. Dayton coiled and Jamie Mack parried away from the top right corner.

Is there nothing to this but a red panic? A single moment of almostness as Nolan flicked, Amond ticked and Disley volley-dipped into the braying horses. A single moment of possibilities, a single moment of vaguely floor-based advances into the Cheltenham half.

Bigballing humps and headers and headers and headers and headers and stop me if you're as bored as me. And headers and headers and headers and Toto timidly tiptoed on the halfway line. Pell poked to pick a pickled pocket and drove through the divots, straight down the middle. Pearson wafted a boot and Mad Harry accepted the invitation to fall over the foot that wasn't there. The referee booked Pearson and marched the wall back ten large steps, and Dayton daintily coiled over the faraway shrubbery and into the top right corner.

We've been pruned.

And headers and headers and headers and headers and Amond scored. Eh, what? And Amond was offside.

And free kicks and headers and kickers and snickers and knickers and nockers and free headers and free, free, set me free as a bird, sweet bird of paradise city where the football's pretty. I hate rugby, in all its forms.

One of them went off and was replaced by a hobgoblin. Like I care?

And so, in added time Town finally exerted some control, some pressure and almost a moment. Hoban arose amongst the tall poppies and grazed across the face of goal. There we are: a Disley shot, Amond was offside, and Hoban cleared one of Town's crosses. The rest was simply playground bullies teasing the timid. Such are promises, all lies and jest.

Overrun and trampled underfoot.

Second half: Stamp collecting

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Err, oh yeah, in between the nonsense of arcing wellies and parking violations policed by an over-zealous meter maid, there was the semblance of a contest between near equals. Nothing was happening anywhere near the goalkeepers and the ball was occasionally glimpsed below the floodlights.

And all the time the Gloucester Old Spots were wasting time, needling away, even releasing a bag o' balls to stop a Town throw-in.

Whenever it was it happened. Ten minutes in, ten hours later, ten year after? Ssssh! Nolan floaty-boated a dinky corner and muddling, huddling and mud-wrestling inside the farmyard. Was that a Hoban head? Was that a positive vibration? Monkhouse slapped to tickle our fancy notions of promotion being automatic for the Pontoon people.

Huh-huh, they've been hoist by their own petanque. The Rabid Robins couldn't cope with lobbed balls.

Here they come again. Biff-bang, wallop, tumble, stumble and some crying in the chapel. McKeown burst the net at some near-post kerfuffling and we settled back into the routine of bigballing headers and headers and headers and free kicks and free kicks and free kicks and urrrrrrrrrrgh.

A free kick wangled for who knows what and why, wellied diagonally beyond the farest post. Gowling arrived at the ball, then curiously stumbled as Wright manhandled his prisoner. A simple pass swept across the face of goal as McKeown slithered to swamp and Pell swiped into the empty net. Cue a commotion as the Red Roasters ostentatiously over-celebrated and Jamie Mack confronted some tall troglodyte for a faraway, unseen slight. Wait… breaking news… from our correspondent watching at home… that's an 'accidental' stamp by Wright.

So, so far away, was it all a dream? What more can I say?

Town unkept their shape, desperately banging their heads against some mad mugger's wall

Town had a go. Things almost, nearly happened, but crossing the ball towards defenders who are taller than your strikers is unlikely to be successful, isn't it. They are taller. They are built to blast these loose cannons away. Hello Mr Hoban. A cross and Amond plunged under a Parslow point. On the ball bumbled and Hoban's dribbler drifted across the face of goal from a narrow angle.

We're back to niggles and giggles from the time-wasting termites. You can look, but you better not touch these rogues in rouge. Holman clipped a clop mildly near as Jamie Mack's fingers fluttered. Perhaps they had moments, perhaps they didn't. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps there was a Flatt's flap, perhaps you need some new taps?

Boring, boring Georgians. Where's the smelling salts? A rooster plunged to earth and Pell wallied a free kick lowly. McKeown simply kicked it away. They can't stand up for falling down. They really are charmless, but far from harmless.

And Town unkept their shape, desperately banging their heads against some mad mugger's wall. On the break, as Toto tottered, Holman zipperdee-doo-dah-ed down the wing. Some kind of something bumbled about and the cross moodled beyond the far post. Horwood stood off his man, awaiting an invitation to a garden fete, and a dink was dunked into the centre. Wright arose over blue, bethunked down and Town were out.

What's the point in going on, eh? Town won't get a point and we are way past the Parslow Point.

Bogle immediately replaced Arnold and Town pummelled Parslow's forehead for quarter of an hour. They had another shot, Tait replaced Horwood, and Hoban was freed, six yards out. Oh well, it's Hoppalong Hoban, what do you think happened next? Holman squirtled away on the counter-attack and squiggled inches wide. Town punts, no point. The end, in oh so many ways. What's that vanishing in the haze?

The bigger, better-organised, more committed team won. Utterly horrible to watch, devastatingly destructively effective, and definitely not football as we know it, Jim. Town could not cope collectively, or individually, with berserkers.

After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same. Beaten by boxers. Come March, come Town aimlessly drifting, formless, shapeless and hopeless.