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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

8 October 2017

Port Vale 1 Grimsby Town 2

At last, we're back in the big time, back in beautiful downtown Burslem with 500 or so travelling Townites living in a white bread world. Well, as long as anyone with hot blood can.

I can see it, very clearly, that nothing's really changed since we last came, when nothing had really changed since the last time we came before that. And before that and on and on and back to our roots in the hazy, crazy days of our footballing summer, when small bald men with chips on both shoulders ruled our roosts. Glory days, they pass you by in the wink of an eye.

Sladeball Town lined up in the rusting 4-4-2 formation as follows McKeown, Davies, Clarke, Collins, Dixon, Dembele, Summerfield, Berrett, Woolford, Jones and Vernon. The substitutes were Killip, Mills, K Osborne, Rose, DJ Jinky, Matt and Hooper. The usual suspects playing the usual way. Let's get ready to mumble about some miserable midland meanderings.

Ah, the Burslem Boys, laced up boots and not much noise. He who would a Valiant be 'gainst all disaster? Out with the new, in with the old. There'll be no fudging now they've got John Rudge in. And if you have a headache take an Aspin. Ah, Tireless Lee Nogan too, who won't stop until you get enough points. It's like 1998 all over again. Perhaps we may even pass the ball too? Go on Town, give it a try.

He-he, they're still picking Gavin Gunning.

Oh, the rain is falling. Ooh, the rain is really falling. Oo-ooh the rain is really, really falling. Will it wash away the locals' tears?

First half: Soul sacrifice

Someone kicked off towards somewhere, blah-di-blah, meh, urgh, and Gavin Gunning. A personal mental disintegration or Port Vale's defence. You, the jury, decide.

Rain. Sheets of rain, sheets of pain in a dystopian present. I'd rather be watching a dyslexic pheasant. You wish to have some geographical accuracy, some precision and context for you to visualise the narrative. The Burslem Boys nominally attacked the end at which we band of mothers, brothers and non-specific others huddled as the wind whipped in from Wales. Picture this, all we want is a seat with a view, a sight worth seeing, some vision in blue.

Hah, yes, Town played in electrical blue. There's a fact for you.

Shall we recreate Tommy Watson's goal from 1992? Let's all go and stand behind the wall to shelter from the pain, no I mean rain.

I have no wish to be cruel but it's just spluttering spools of gruel. Summerfield headed back and away from Jamie Mack for a corner. Gunning headed softy and unmarkedly into faintly orange arms. Summerfield spongebob squarepassed and pesky Whitfield slubbered straight at McKeown. Some general running down the wings and Whitfield spun between two full-backs and shanked into the side netting. Grimsby Town football team? Yes, in theory. Dixon crossed. The crowd cowed and ducked.

Oi mate, stand up will yer or I'll call the stewards. I can see the pitch if you sit down and I'd rather not.
Port Vale pressure. Well, I say pressure, it's just desperate men scurrying about between some old lumps of wood. A cross shot smothered by Davies then wellied low and diverted wide. Pope prodded and McKeown mowed the lawn. Loopy hooping drooping crosses, Jamie Mack punching, prodding and carrying hods.
Football is structured chaos. The iron law of probabilities is that anything can happen at any time. And so it came to pass that one pass was made and Dembele dribbled and wibbled from afar. Roos mimed the ball aside. Ooh, Town, it's not very sporting to fire on an unarmed opponent, is it.

What, again? That's pushing our luck. A Dixon dibbly-dobbler was wibbled away by Roos which fluffled to nothing via a Woolford wallop and Jones jive. Pugh bedriggled wide. How and why and when is an irrelevance, the general fact is enough for you to get a flavour of the fun. No fun, no fun, feeling that same old way, hanging around waiting for them to score.

A Valiant chuck-in on their left, with Town absent physically and mentally. Gunning looped an up'n'under. Vertical bombing, terminal velocity. The ball dropped and McKeown flopped and Pope popped up to poke in to the emptied net.

What? What do you think happened next? Nothing but muttering and mithering and a mass exit to the toilet. Now that's a metaphor for you. One minute was added and the toilets got busier.

An utterly wretched 45 minutes of intolerable inertness. Town simply stood on the pitch, and eventually Vale failed to miss. Port Vale are hopeless, Town aspired to that level of greatness. We need more rain to erase the pain of this leaden pall. I, for one, feel spartan and monastic. I'd rather creosote my fence. C'mon get the bongos out. Let's do the Woodstock rain chant.

Second half: You're going on after Crispy Ambulance

I met a man who chose Burslem rather than Lithuania for his weekend treat. At least Port Vale is nearer to be annoyed at. And cheaper.

No changes were made by either team at half time.

There was a something or other down in the distance. Frantic antics, flinging and clinging, a mess and muddle in a puddle that ended in a cuddle. No charge.

All Town, our Town, like a sort of Town of old, -ish. Persistence, pressure, passing the ball to each other. Weird. In-out, in-out, wheezing and pleasing Dembele crossed and Vernon side-footed wide at the near post.
One-touch flicks, Dembele tricks and Woolford fell over the ball. Waves of blue and you could see the Valiants turn green. Dembele by the corner flag jinked and jived, rolled his feet over the ball with a reverse step-over and swerve past one, two and three, to be smothered at the near post. A corner, let's call the coroner. Woolford coiled to the near post and Jones arose with a flicker of his forehead across Roos and into the far corner of heaven. No-one went to the toilets.

Ah, that's beautiful. Under the vaguest of stares the white right-back slapped a back-pass from the halfway line, 30 yards wide of Roos. Who is their right back, why it's their funky Gibbons. I'm sure that's what the Valiants were chuntering. The corner was airily aired and we all stared at Collins being strangled by Gunning. You know, last season that'd be a straight red card, but Gunning has set the bar much higher than that for psychobilly silliness.

Wahey, what's this? This is a moment.

A delightful dink dropped into the heart of the six-yard box and Dembele ghosted and glided between two non-marking markers and hung out his leg to dry. The merest of smooches and the ball slinked on across the face of goal. Kelle Roos? Kelle Roos? He did the fandango to flip spectacularly aside.

And still the blue man group rocked. Slowly, slowly the tourniquet gripped. Dembele, Dembele, Dembele if you want to find your dream home of football. And Dembele slipped Vernon behind the alleged Valiant defence. From a narrow angle with only Woolford huffing in the next galaxy, the Vernonator crackled lowly across the plunging Roos. The Derby Dutchman's fingers flicked aside, delaying our delight for up to fifteen earth seconds. Blocks were blocked, clearances were reduced and who said it was easier for Summerfield to pass through the eye of the needle than a student to go surfing in Devon? Dembele sneaked behind the static caravans, awaited Roos and rolled around the polder to walk the ball into the net.

Feel the love baby, feel the love.

Our poor hosts? Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it. That's what it is to live as a Vale fan these days. We've been there, we understand your future. We've seen things you people wouldn't believe. We've watched full-backs glitter in the dark at Gateshead, we can see your tears through the rain. There's no way out of here.

And Town immediately hid inside their tortoise shell. Fortunately Port Vale looked down to see a tortoise crawling towards them but were confused. What is a tortoise?

Big booming balls into the silence from homesters. A free header wide, over and into the arms of Mary McKeown. Unremarkably unmarked but unable to make any mark. Poor old Vale. They were playing against an old wooden fence and didn't have the strength to knock it down, or nous to simply walk around it. Ah, a Town break. Supersonic Scott Vernon va-va-voomed down the right, slowed down, looked up and espied a gaping hole at the far post. A dishy dink and Woolford was old, eight yards out. He's missing his former life as much as he missed the ball.

Minutes and minutes of mithering muddles. Them, balls, boxes, hoiks, hoofs and Slade decided to impose his own imprint on the Town DNA. He wants his own Parslow Point. Off came Vernon and Jones, on came Matt and Rose. Nothing, absolutely nothing of nothing of nothing. Matt alone, others stood around waiting. Jamille Matt – a man outjumped by a man six inches smaller who wasn't actually jumping. He makes the impossible possible: what a genius.

Them. Balls, balls, balls, balls. Town inviting them to dinner, to tea, to sleep over, now to move in rent free, please take everything, do as you want. We'll just stand here and watch. Free headers, free falling, free Nelson Mandela. Hey Russ, are you so blind that you cannot see? It's rather cruel to keep so many old men out there in the rain. I don't want this recipe again.

Ah, the relief of Mafeking. Summerfield felled way out right and the free kick was coiled deeply. Clarke headed down into the middle of the middle of the six-yard box. Matt stooped and brilliantly cleared the ball four yards wide of the open net.

McKeown missed a cross, Davies blocked and Kay flamblasted over from near Dixon's socks. This may be one incident, two or three, it may be all and everything; it's just Port vale banging their heads against some mad Slade-built wall. Town congealed into a jelly inside their own penalty area. Valiants stood around and lofted artlessly, aimlessly ad infinitum, like an MC Esher drawing round and round and round it went in a loop, never ending, a cycle unbroken with no point. 

Their attack was defending better than our defenders.

With a minute left Mills replaced the prone and alone Dembele, adding to Town's tactical confusion. No-one knew whether to stand and stare or to rock and roll. Betwixt and between, hey diddle-diddle, piggies in the middle, balls bigging forever and ever and ever and ever.

Four minutes were added. Scrambles and scrumbles. A long shot fliggered through and bumped off McKeown back into the centre, and we played the Haxey Hood again. Summerfield, the Chief Boggin, emerged with the leather tube and everyone danced around the Maypole. More balls, more missing and hissing from the homestands as this farcical football match ended.

I know you know what you know but you should know by now that you're not going to get rose tinting. Facts, just the facts. Town were atrociously timid for the first half and after they took the lead. They played football for fifteen minutes. Poor old Poor Vale, that's all it took to beat them.

Two bits of football, two goals, three points.