Shades of mediocrity: Newport (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

19 November 2011

Grimsby Town 2 Newport County 2

November: grey, mucky, murky and miserable. Blundell Park: grey, mucky, murky and miserable. It's that kind of time, it's that kind of town. About 50 Newportains turned up in body, about the same number of Townites who turned up in mind. The old hometown just looks the same, like a derelict man who died out of shame.

Town lined up in the empirically gormless 4-3-3 as follows: McKeown, Wood, Kempson, I'Anson, Townsend, Panther, Disley, Thanoj, Makofo, Duffy, Hearn. The substitutes were Pearson, Artus, Eagle, Elding, and Green. That formation. Death.

Some walk like they own the place, while others creep in fear. Will Manny Panther's game match his name? Everyone really wanted Manny to walk like a panther.

The hot chocolate could do with another spoonful of powder. Weak and unappetising. Everything is a metaphor these days.

First half: Drive nail A into coffin lid B
Town kicked off towards the Osmond. Newport headed back down the left, Townsend shielded the ball and let it go out of play for a throw-in. But it didn't go out of play and the little boy that Nicky Barmby forgot was tossed aside. Panic. Someone, somehow, squirtled the ball away for a throw-in to them, under the Police Box.


Big slow men in goldy-yellow chuntered up towards the Town goal. They were big, Town were not. They knew where to stand, Town did not. Hurled vaguely long, noodled on by a big man near Kempson and tubby Hatswell moved in front of a non-moving Bradley Wood to stoop and sloop low to McKeown's left. Not one person behind that goal was the least bit surprised.

There were males in black and white striped shirts standing on Blundell Park. Look, I'm trying hard to be positive here.

Serge surged and skipped a delightfully weighted pass behind the full-back. Townsend soared and didn't score as Potter rested upon his left knee and slapped away from above his head. A pass; a shot; some movement. Something.

That was the one thing, there was no more, there was no hope, there was no Town, just memories of the glory days of last season. Who now can believe we were so tantalisingly close to being on the cusp of the top ten?

Matthews was a slightly mobile pest, seemingly invisible to his markers, untouchable and unforgettable. They had throw-ins and corners and headers and crosses and maybe even shots. McKeown plucked a soft free header from under the crossbar. Other things almost happened, not involving the monochrome mashers.

Minutes ticked by and a small boy claimed he'd seen a Grimsby Town player. Ah, the boy who cried panther, one day he'll be right. Time flies by when you're the driver of a train, but not when you watch Town. A long diagonal raker shivered Townsend's timbers. The boy simply cannot defend. The space he occupied did not trouble his opponent and the ball was worked simply to an unmarked player a dozen yards out, who passed to another unmarked player in the centre. Jarvis steered simply below McKeown. Townsend, Kempson and I'Anson: all culpable. Only one of them is capable of defending.

It is accurate to assume that there was little audible joy swishing down from the rows of empty plastic. The Boston bashers hauled off Thanoj and I'Anson, replacing them with Eagle and Pearson. They could have taken any of the outfield players off and should have taken Townsend and Kempson off.

The change worked, to an extent, as Eagle started to do things, where no-one had done anything previously. He crossed deeply towards Duffy, who ran after the referee claiming a handball. Eagle passed cunningly and Makofo screwballed across the face of goal. Shall we just overlook Panther's uber-Poutonian slice into the Constitutional Club beer garden? We shall.

Oh look, Eagle again, striking elegantly into the path of Hearn. Disley carefully steered way-way over after the occasional hitman had his cushions plumped. If Town did anything it involved Eagle. Town didn't do much. You have been informed of absolutely every last micro-matter, for this barrel has no bottom, so scraped hath it been.

And at the end of the half they had a shot, another shot and another shot; they could have scored another three, with McKeown lunging left left and up to parry and punch aside. I do not wish to destroy any more of my brain cells by dredging up the pitiful details.

The nesbits of the internet are fond of proclaiming every non-victory as the worst Town team/performance ever. Like the small boy who cried panther, eventually they won't be wrong. Today was that day.

Beyond hideous.

Second half: Please look away until the 78th minute to avoid psychological damage
Neither side made any changes at half time.

Why waste words?

That space between then and now was a void, a black hole which consumed all light and all hope. A blank.

Pearson headed a Disley free kick firmly down, Potter plunged and scraped away with his forearm. In 20 minutes of inaction that was the Chesney Hawkes moment: the one and only.

Halfway through the half Duffy was replaced by Elding. We waited for anything to happen. No planes flew by, no ships sailed on, no trains clattered along the rickety rails and no paper bags drifted aimlessly across the pitch. There was no need. The humans were doing that for themselves.

Between two magnificent crossfield passes to arbitrary dozers in the lower reaches of the Findus Stand, Manny the Panther managed to mangle-wurzle himself into a tizz, laying off a perfect pass for some yellow chap to sweep majestically through our Easter Island statues. The chap chopped his sticks and the ball went somewhere over the rainbow.

Kempson missed something, Pearson dizzied, and their number 10 surged, swept and scraped wide.

And Town? A big Wood dipper dipped a yard over the bar. At least he had a shot. Kent Walton, Dickie Davies' eyes, fat men in leotards and jumpers for goalposts. Eagle was wrestled behind the goal as he tried to get back on the pitch. Technically that's a penalty, sirs!

When there's something strange in the neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Serge Makofo? You gotta be crazy, you gotta have a real need to believe in the Serganator. After some knocking and kneeing, possibly involving Manny the Panther, Disley barundled down the centre through a quivering, quavering quacksman and tickled behind the retreating defence. The invisible man returned and Makofo bustled and bristled to crinkle low in to the bottom right corner.

A switch was flicked.

Suddenly the crowd awoke. The lions had been sleeping and now they roared. Newport panicked and Town players pumped chests, arms and legs with irrational belief reborn. Where before we simperingly awaited the third gaol, we now expected the equaliser. And, with a couple of minutes left, in our hour of darkness a hero arrived to point the way. The ball jiggered out to the edge of the penalty area. Makofo, with his back to goal, jingled and jangled, careering the ball up off his arm and out of the area.

Of course that is a penalty.

The Newportians manhandled the ref and took it in turns to sledge the designated penalty taker as he stood staring at the netting, envisaging a plump little goal bonus. Potter danced like a dervish and flew right as Elding stroked to the keeper's left. Yes. Elding.

Listen lads, we could still lose this. A lot of hubble and bubble produced nothing but trouble as, in the fifth of the three minutes of added time, the black and white sea parted for Foley. He strode on as McKeown strode out and lay before him. Foley prodded and the ball gently squinted off his boots and apologised wide.

Managerial errors compounded by multiple player failure. Newport only have themselves to blame for avoiding a stonking, humiliating victory. If you weren't there you will never ever get near knowing how bad this was and how lucky Town were.