That sinking feeling: Northampton (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

2 April 2010

Grimsby Town 1 Northampton and the Nit 2

So what's so good about Friday football?

With three stands ram-jammed with Town fans, around 150 Cobblepeople held a pagan moot in the Osmond Stand, brilliging their slivey toves. I'm sorry, but it's been a long cold lonely winter.

Grimsby hung around on a piece of ground in our home town in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Oxley, Bore, Lancashire, Atkinson, Widdowson, Devitt, Leary, Sweeney, Coulson, Peacock, Ak-Ak. The substitutes were Stirling, Wood, Stockdale, Hegggarty, Hudson, Forbes and Proudlock. Oh dear, Leary in midfield. Oh dear. Oh no, Forbes on the bench. Oh no. At least the Humber Bridge wasn't closed to high-falutin' reserves and we do have a goalkeeper. So that bridge has a use after all. He'd never have got here in time if he'd had to go via Goole, you know.

Nobody gets anywhere if they have to go via Goole. It's a dark place of unspeakable things, much like the Town boardroom and the hot chocolate. Have even the burgerflippergirls given up? Are there no such things as quality standards now?

First half: The final countdown
Northampton had a little sky-blue huggle before kicking off towards the packed Pontoon. Huggling is, like, you know, so last week.

Town! All Town, Town about the Town. Our Town, not their Town. Wowser. Ak-Ak swept and swayed and a bluebell laid down. Devitt's corner was drooped away, Sweeney whacked back and some murky midlander hacked away from near the goal-line. Ak-Ak spun and was flung to the ground. The crime went unpunished. Ak-Ak hoovered up the touchline and was shovelled into the snack store. No charge for the barge. Devitt flicker-flicker-flicked wide; Coulson quaffed elvishly over and this was beautiful. Town flowed like a mountain stream, flicking and tricking down the left despite the rhubarb and custard wrestling. They just cannae hold us Cap'n.

Ah, Peacock's hair. Bleach blond beach dude, ready to surf on the Humber Bore.

Ak-Ak was fouled and fouled and fouled again. And then they got into Town's half, which was lovely for them. A tiny tot spurtled through the centre-right and winked at Akinfenwa, who beefily spun. Yoiks! Davis was alone and alone he remained as the ball was carefully tapped into his flightpath. A touch, a touch again, a low shot across Oxley into the bottom left corner and Davis had scored with their first attack. On seventeen minutes we learned the truth of this Friday night charade of youth.

Now that's a bit annoying.

After a momentary grumble by those with ravaged faces, perhaps lacking in the social graces, the crowd tried to roister Town on with some of what you English call support. Lancashire missed a punt and little Billy McKay wibbled a stretchy, pokey bumbler a few feet wide. Some smalltown eeyores murmured vague obscenities.

Goodo! Town passed, Town moved and Sweeney crossed over Ak-Ak. Town passed, Town moved, Lancashire didn't shoot, but someone did. Blocks and flocks of wallpaper covered the Cobbling goal. And then everyone ran away as Davis ran straight down the middle and thriddled pleasingly wide. It's always pleasing to see someone thriddle, and especially the first thriddle of summer. Didn't Vaughn Williams compose that?

The drizzled mizzled on and the game meandered towards the swampy half time delta. And lo, Town did bake some baguettes. Ak-Ak magnificently swingled 50 yards through five levels of Donkey Defence Kong, and still the referee refused to see the world as it is, not as he wanted it to be. Devitt poked wide, Coulson roamed and Leary managed to pass to a team-mate. Could things get any better than that?

Ak-Ak gallicly galloped again down the left, tipping aside to Devitt, who continued the rolling maul before oozing a pass to the scurrying Tyke. Coulson turned once, twice, thrice in the 'D' to lever a low shot into the right side of the net as the keeper sighed. The ground bounced as the lime leaper flounced.

Town were a revved-up turbo-charged dragster burning down the track. Bore didn't wallow in the mire as Sweeney lit his fire with a tickle and tease. SPB vapourised the full-back, flashing infield, flicking behind the defence, and Ak-Ak swung his rubber legs in a slidey sweep. Steele superbly fingertipped away from the bottom of his left post.

Phwoar, yeah! C'mon Town, we're cooking now! Oh, it's half time.

What a strange spam sandwich this half was. Town started and finished in the stratosphere but spent much of the middle in a muddle. It was the sublime and the sub-standard. Apart from Town's existential angst, the only worries were about Davis and the ref. Oxley hadn't made a save.

Victory? Challenging, but very achievable.

Second half: Nothing can go right now
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Peacock glanced a Lancashire free kick softly at Steele, the rather camply attired and styled keeper as Town hustled and harried from the off. Then the Cobblingers harried and hustled Town with swift one-touch passing. Their little gnome man, Gilligan, was an island 25 yards out as he plumped a volley 25 feet high and wide.

Town's invisible midfield managed to disappear as the Northampton hasslers scampered twixt Town statues. Philosophers still ponder the logical conundrum known as Leary's Conjecture: "How does something that doesn't exist disappear?" There'll probably be a Nobel prize for the person who solves it by getting Town promoted back to the Football League. And while thoughtful teeth were being sucked high up in the Findus, Davis was snickled free and everyone waited for that microsecond of deathly silence. After an in-depth study of the microclimate caused by the enclosure of the Osmond stand (1729-2009), Davis decided to widdle a shot across Oxley. The ball walloped against the post, bounded back and let's just say a Cobbler was eased away from satisfaction through the use of argument and a hip. Isn't everyone doing that brand new craze, the Bump? What do you mean it isn't 1974? Have you seen the trousers in the Pontoon lately?

And then it happened; the thing that always happens: official madness that ruins everything. The ball was hit down the touchline in front of the Findus. Lancashire and McKay chased, stretched and the ball went out of play. McKay fell. The linesman made no move whatsoever and the players turned to move into position for a throw-in. All seemed normal, no-one seemed fussed about anything. The referee sprinted 30 yards and flung his red card into Lancashire's face, who had to be restrained by his fellows from doing unto the referee what six thousand onlookers demanded.

Bizarre, appalling, unfathomable and unseen. What? Why? Perhaps super-duper slow-motion replays and some 3-D digital animation can find some reason for the referee seeing what no-one else on earth saw. The crowd was so flabbergasted it could barely register a heckle.

At this Stirling came on for Devitt and Town moved to a 4-3-2 formation.

The remaining Townites were fired up and roused by this injustice and the continuing injustices of blatant gropings and fondlings of Ak-Ak, especially, being unpunished. Sweeney brilliantly spun and coiled a dipper from the left corner of the area a few inches past the top right corner. Stirling hurled loopy Delaps into the shivering heart of the wobblers' defence. Ak-Ak humbled the bumblers with chesty spins and rubbery roams. Town attacked with frenzy as the Blueboys held on to the door frame and hoped the wind would stop.

And it did.

They broke the spell and camped inside the Town half. Stirling's head, Bore's bonce and, magnificently, Atkinson's heart halted the juggernaut as our pools of sorrow turned into waves of midland joy. Finally, finally, they yanked defenders our of position with some crosstown traffic as they slowed it down to try to get on the other side of Town. From right to left and back to right, Town were concertinaed. Guttridge was freed to dink beyond the far post where the unmarked Akinfenwa dumped a diving header in from a few yards out.

There was a little bit of audible sadness in the DN32 postcode.

Town tried and tried and tried. Outnumbered 12 to10, sheer willpower drove them on. Attack! Attack! Attack-attack-attack! A dozen yards out Ak-Ak glanced a header goalwards from a free kick. The ball rolled across a blue hand and plopped softly to the keeper. Nothing seen by the custardian of morals. Ak-Ak rolled around the last defender on the bye-line and tumbled after a touch. Ak-Ak brilliantly spun on the edge of the area and Steele hurled himself low to his left to grapple with his dignity.

And then all hope ended: with 15 minutes left Coulson was replaced by Adrian Forbes.

Northampton managed to have another shot. They played Town's accordion again and the ball was swept in from their right. Stirling waited for Oxley to come and get it while Oxley waited for his taxi back to Hull. Guinan shinned it pathetically wide, unlike 2006 when he shinned perplexingly in at Cardiff.

And still Town came back. Bore threw his windows open, went off to see the Wizard and swung a chortling drifter a yard or so over and wide. Town pressed incessantly. Corners and Stirling chucklers were hurled and curled into the Cobblers' area. Forbes dreadfully underhit a cross and woefully launched a shot into Ramsden's car park. Something stirred and someone tried and no-one closed their eyes as the ball ba-boombled around inside the clattering box, dropping to Bore four yards out and four yards to the right of goal. Steele was frozen, the crowd expectant and Bore alone: destiny and immortality beckoned. Bore slashed dreadfully into the back of the Pontoon. The boy Bore is very mortal.

There were four minutes added, during which they had a shot. Then normal service was resumed. Town pumped the ball forward and corner followed throw-in. Bore was elbowed to the ground on the edge of the area and a mere yellow card appeared. Sweeney sized up the situation and wafted against the wall and out for a corner.

This is the last moment, the last hope. Sweeney curled, the defence half cleared, Town half knocked back and back again and again, the ball being clipped to the far post. Bore and a fellow stripey rose together six yards out and grazed a free header inches over the angle of post and bar. We have no more time. That is, and was, it. That was, and is, the end.

And it really felt like this was the game that finally put the old dog down. The grimly inevitable conclusion for a season, a decade, a century of misfortune and mistakes. This game was evenly poised, with Town equal to their foes until the referee decided to intervene. He saw something that no-one else did and his mind sealed our tin of tears.

Only an over-emotional idiot would accuse the players of not caring or trying - some seemed on the verge of tears at the end - and in the circumstances they were almost heroic at times. This was just a single game, but a defining game in the life of Grimsby Town Football Club. Cruel hope is the only holey lifeboat. Go back to your constituencies and prepare for Altrincham.