Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

27 December 2018

Port Vale 0 Grimsby Town 1

A still, warm and flat afternoon in an old friend's home with 425 walking into silence in the Ice House Stand. It's like being at home, with that sudden chill swilling around ankles and knees. Hey kids, wear a cat. No, I mean a coat. When it's cold enough for coats, it's cool for coats. It's not like that on TV, is it?

Town lined up in the now new norm of a 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: McKeown, Hall-Johnson, Davis, Whitmore, Fox, Cardwell, Hessenthaler, Clifton, Pringle, Embleton and Thomas. The substitutes were Russell, Pollock, Welsh, Woolford, M Rose, Buckley and A Rose. Yep, just like last Saturday, Big Harry was widely right with Embleton in the Kingsley Black Hole. We're running out of players to run out. 

Port Vale? See the danger? Always danger in two lumpy lads up front for the Vailants. Tom Nasty and their own, their very own, Mr Dirk McQuigley, were going to be rootling and pootling down double-back alleys.

Strap yourself in – it's going to be a lumpy ride.

First half: Let it rot

C'mon, c'mon, we haven't got all day, it's nearly five past three already.

Ah, finally, Vale kicked off towards the Ice House Stand by kicking back to their keeper. Brown slipped and sliced and I'm afraid there's nothing to entice you to keep awake for the next half an hour. Have another mince pie and a little snooze.

Since when was boxing day kabaddi a tradition?

Burslem big balls. Dirk McQuigley dived heroically, just to give us a laugh. Football, with feet and balls. We used to love it; they did too. Old times. Let's do the l'amour perdu cha-cha-cha.

The Hess got in the way. The Hess got in the way. The Hess got in the way. That's the way we were. It's the laughter we'll remember.

A-ha, ha-ha. Dirk McQuigley controlled the ball inside the Town penalty area and Town got a throw-in on the halfway line. This is the application of the scientific method, this is the evidence before the court – it's cause and effect. It's Poor Vale.

Passing, kicking. Shooting, dribbling. Tackling, heading. And ball control. Soccer superstars, we know where you are. Not here.

Running, dribbling, kicking, missing and goal kicks. Tesco superstore, we know where you are. Hannant shimmied past Hall-Johnson and bedraggled across McKeown, past the far post. Pass the port would you, get out that old 78 and stick it on the gramophone. Which one? You know, young Dirk and old Tom, the Fabulous Bingo Brothers, with 'Once We Had A Donkey'.

Conlon falling on a faraway flank, now a bore is declared as Pope looped a header over the angle of post and bar. Meltdown expected. This gruel is going thin, but Town's engines don't stop running, so there's nothing to fear.

A nick, a knock and Little Harry was legged up by Kay, not Legge. They have no poetry, do they?

Town: now there were moments when there were moments when they could have had a moment, you know what I'm saying? A droopy cross, Cardwell arose and softly loopy-looped a loopy header that looped. Look, that sentence is stretching more than Brown had to as it sailed towards Jodrell Bank.

Another winkle, another header from Pope heading down, heading west, waiting for an alibi.

McKeown dived left as McQ passed the other way. A red wall suddenly slammed, the ball diverting off the flying Hall-Johnson and inches past the right post

At last Vale suddenly realised that Town had no pace and very little heft on the left. Wave upon wave of ripples rolled on their right. Cross, cross, block, block, cross. Vale breaking, Town flaking. A dink to the central Pope, a cushioned lick and McQuigly waddled into the vacancy, dead centre, alone, unmolested and the goal a-gaping. McKeown dived left as McQ passed the other way. A red wall suddenly slammed, the ball diverting off the flying Hall-Johnson and inches past the right post.

The corner drooped and dropped. Flapping, slapping, slipping, and yipping as McKeown was surrounded by white. Anyone for head tennis? Wouldn't that be nice. Someone, somewhere head-chested off the line. Out, half out, quarter out, Oyeleke slashed lowly, the ball heading towards the emptiness. A dozen red toes stretched and Little Harry stretched the stretchiest to toenail away. He's a small man, but he is in shape.

Another corner, another mugging on and off the line, their fun ended by whistling.

One minute was added.

And then there were none.

They kicked it long, Town kicked it back. They headed for their biggest heads, Town headed it away. Port Vale. Rudimentary ruggerballers and rather rude hosts. Whoever loses this is going to be mighty annoyed.

What a bunch of balls.

Second half: Get up and go

Port Vale replaced Conlon with Whitfield; Town remained the same.

Mmm, football. Town passing rather than thrashing clearances. Ticking, tocking, tipping and zipping through the gaps in Port Vale's teeth. Cardwell cart-horsed at the near post and circled away from the wagons. Embleton wiggled, wiggled again, and wiggled for a giggle to shoot straight at Brown's nose.

Home boom-balling, Town brick-walling. Oyeleke slashed and burned as heads were turned. A little nick, a lottle knock and Thomas was tickled down their right, cutting in and smothered by Brown by the bye-line.

Throw-ins, mostly foul, as Town advanced up the touchline. Hall-Johnson chuckled and chinkled to the bye-line, Cardwell flicked at the near post and Brown, well, Brown waited for the daisies to grow. Hall-Johnson lay down, rolling his fingers in the universal sign of someone who wants be in the Detroit Spinners. Or be substituted.

Dave Moore approached. Hall-Johnson limped off, Mitch Rose stripped off and then Dave Moore's laser eyes fixed the problem. Mitch sat down, Hall-Johnson returned as he realised what was best for him. He wouldn't dare go off when he still has two workable legs.

And all the while Vale were banging their heads against the wailing wall. Whitfield meandered across the Mariners' defence and screwballed lowly, safely into McKeown's awaiting arms. Zimmering, shimmering and Kay thwacked longly straight at Jamie Macc. Hello to Mr Tickle. Whitfield spun around red and McKeown star-jump slapped the little lob. Whitfield retrieved, Whitfield ran across Fox and friends to shiver against the outside of the far right post.

Waiting in line, they're wasting their time. They missed again, woa-woah, I think they missed again, oh, oh.
Left, right, into red bodies, against red socks with a header high, a header grazed and infiltrations and excitations. Pope arose before yellow gloves and glanced a corner. A cross, a flight, and the lovely sight of home heads hanging as a pan was flashed over at the far post. Which far post? One of them, perhaps both of them. A miss is a miss.

Near the corner of the penalty area Thomas suddenly crackled an arrow-straight vertical wobbler into the top left corner as Mr Brown lay down and wore a most becoming frown

This is the captain of your ship, a goal is calling. This and that, to-ing and fro-ing. Whitmore intercepted a tickle, spun around and pinged a pass into the distance, into the night, into a void. Wandering Wes drifted down the left, wiggling out then in. Near the corner of the penalty area Thomas suddenly crackled an arrow-straight vertical wobbler into the top left corner as Mr Brown lay down and wore a most becoming frown.

Ha, you have to laugh. We did.

Waves of whiteness, binging and bonging. A white wave repulsed, Town broke, but Thomas tottered. Whitfield, always Whitfield, za-zoomed straight towards Town's penalty area. Tickled into the nether regions twixt Fox and friends, McQuigley tapped through Whitmore's legs and bore down upon McKeown. Whitmore slid, McQuigley kissed mud and McKeown picked the ball up. Nothing to see here, please move on.

Aspin tired of the ineffective lump-of-lard approach and finally castled, replacing McQuigley with Dodds. Jolley countered the Aspin Gambit with the olde Englishe defence – Woolford for Pringle. The prawns required more protection.

Town sat back and waited. And waited. And waited. Thomas flew away and crinkled lowly, the cross was swiped away inside the six-yard box as three redsters lurked.

Town sat back and waited. And waited. And waited. Biffing and banging, barging and sailing over land and over sea. Hoiks and hoofs, scrambles blocked and blocked again. Oyeleke wafted way-way wide. A short long throw boompled and Pope turned to welly way-way over sea and over land.

Ahkeeeem Rose replaced Thomas, immediately zipping a neat flick and searing run down the left, swiping lowly through the six-yard box, where the left-back swiped away under the crossbar as The Hess lurked. Rose sneaked again and Hall-Johnson's pass-shot was diverted halfway to paradise. Moments, mere moments.

Get yer tin hats on. Big. Booming. Balls. Davis ducked and a white boot smacked into his head. One… two… three... four… five… six... seven… eight… nine and Davis was counted out. Er, who have we got left?

Ah yes, that's right, that's so obvious – Mitch Rose came on as right-back with Hall-Johnson at centre-back. Nothing can go wrong now. Wibbles were wobbled, solutions were cobbled and Port Vale performed their traditional pantomime: carry on cobblers.

Five minutes were added. Get out yer gas masks.

In, out, in, out. Crossing, ducking, diving and colliding. A slap-shot arrowing towards the right corner; Cardwell nodded to deflect. An up 'n' under, Jamie Mack surrounded by angry locals with pitchforks. A half slap-punch away, headed back, dropping, plopping near the line, swiped away, slammed back against white shirts and out for a goal kick.

A-wooo-wah, awooo-wah. All clear, the air is clean, if a little blue over there in the home stands.

Objectively, Poor Vale deserved the scoreless draw far more than Town. But this is simply karma for Cambridge. It's not our problem if they can't shoot and decided to play oafball for the first half.

Town turned up, ran around, got in the way and hung on to what they got. Enough is sometimes enough. No need to overindulge at Christmas.