Braintree salad surgery: Braintree (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

17 November 2012

Grimsby Town 3 Braintree 0

A dead still afternoon in the home of the hard-boiled harrumph, with 19 Brainiacs soaking up the sun in the Osmond Stand. No, sorry, there's a shadow hanging over one of them. Oh, I believe there's 18 Brainees.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton, S Pearson, Pond, Thomas, Marshall, Disley, Thanoj, Neilson, Cook and Hannah. The substitutes were Miller, Ford, Niven, G Pearson and Southwell. Woe, woe and thrice woe, without Anthony Eldding what will we do? We've lost our dead fox in the box, what will we do when opportunity knocks? Remember folks, clapping Elding was just for fun. Nobody meant it, did they?

Helloo Braintree: orange and proud. There's a little too much pork and jelly inside their blessed polycotton socks. Alan Devonshire looks too much like Lennie Lawrence's second cousin, once removed. It must be in those cockernee genes.

Away with such fripperies, on with the show.

First Half: looking up from the gutter

The Tangomen kicked off towards the Pontoon and there was joy, there was fun, has this game really begun? Wandering and dreaming, these words have different meaning when applied to the first ten minutes of this game. It all passed by in a sedate Viennese whirl of afternoon tea at Gran's bungalow off North Sea Lane. The digital grandfather clock above the Osmond ticked, and these men we call footballers kicked.

It wasn't bad, just a bit dull. Nothing was happening, quite slowly.

Isolated moments of nonsense, here and there. The Brainiacs copied Woking's ways and tickled down their right. Almost something, but not quite. Ooh, Hatton missed a cross and the not so bright Sparkes mis-kicked a dozen yards out. Wahay, way-ho, woo-hoo, no boo-hoo this time. The ball arrived atop the Pontoon and a local man's glasses fell off. It's all about technique and anticipation: keeps you hands high and soft.

Ooh, what is this? It is football, sir. Neilson, Cook and Hannah rat-a-tat-tatted to the unmarked Marshall, who sliced into an unmarked seat way wide and high. Orangemen's bowler hats fell off with just a little bit of pace added to Town's pur-ritty passing. Let's get back to the village fete tug- of-war. We all know that sometimes the big lads will drag the little boys down the lane and into the duck pond for a soaking. It's going to happen, it's the appliance of science.

A Hatton free-kick was flapadoddled weirdly by Naisbitt in a bit of goalkeeping nesbitry. Another Hatton free-kick from way, way out wafted through the penalty area. Hey diddle-diddle, the flap and the riddle as Pond leapt over the ball. Naisbitt pondered Pond's perambulation, and nodded as the ball plodded inches past his left post.

If you are waiting for Braintree facts and Braintree figures, come back another Braintree day. Holman almost went past Pearson once, using an unseen Reddyian hand-flick, and Davis hit a free-kick into the wall. That's their first half lot.

Ah, now that's better. Thanoj slinked a snick through the thinnest of airspace, releasing the hound that is Hannah. An Essex leg hooked and bumped the ball off Hannah's shins and loopily up to Naisbitt's awaiting clutches. A huge punt, a defensive runt of a header and Hannah was free again. With Naisbitt a nowhere man, Hannah began making plans for this nobody. The ball bounced on the left, Hannah wormed his left foot and lobbed feebly wide. He should have taken his time and not worried.

A hoiky hooky cross dropped in from the right and Cook arose to head ploppingly wide of the keeper's right-hand post. That sentence was too long, that detail unremarkable. Much like the game. You know too much of nothing, and nothing comes of nothing. If you want tactical talk then Neilson was irritatingly absent from the flank, forever squeezing the middle, and we all know how much the squeezed middle is hurting these days.

Ah. And now the games shall begin.

A corner dropped in from the left, Pearson swayed to the rhythm, hugging his partner closely as they danced the night away, and nudging the ball back across the face of goal. Pond jumped for joy, but this was one for sorrow not for joy as Pearson's paso doble was deemed technically flawed. Much to the crowd's dismay.

And Town visibly upped the intensity, gnashing down upon orangers, sprinting rather than hinting at pace in their passing and movement. Braintree crumpled slightly, being permanently encamped in their own half. There was a certain inevitability in the events that ended the half. Town pressed and squeezed, clapped and slapped, pumped and dumped crosses as the tourniquet tightened. A corner coiled in, with much flappage and hackage in the marsh. Neilson retrieved and set off on a carousing jaunt across the face of the penalty area, flipping to Thanoj, whose shot bumpled off a Braintree backside, squirtling and spinning slowly away on their right towards the bye-line. Pond trotted, the ball slowed and the fleet-footed Fleetwooder swivelled and licked a flat cross into the centre. Hannah cheeked in front of an orange shirt to glide a grazing glance into the right side of the goal.

And finally Cyril, Hatton walloped from the West Marsh and Naisbitt flapadoodle-dooed again.

Well, all very pleasant. Nothing to worry about, as long as Town stay awake.

Second Half: reach for the stars

It is written in the wind that Braintree made a change of personnel at half time. Did anyone notice? The spirit of the east wind says their left back was replaced by a double-barrel, or possibly a man with a double-barrel surname. The way things turned out, I think it probably was a double-barrel that came on.

From the off Town kept up that elusive, exclusive pace and intensity. A subtle caress through the air (aka a big hoik) was allowed to bounce unmolested by keeper and his designated defenders. Hannah pursued, controlled, passed and Marshall's cross was flapped again with much nuzzling and noodling. The ball finally fell to Neilson who didn't Zlatan it home.

Another minute another moment. Town constructed a cat's cradle and Neilson reversed his polarity to thrust the ball through for Marshall, who very carefully and weakly curled straight at Niasbitt., who still managed to flap-slap dreadfully, but to his own player.

Waves of monochrome, lapping gently against the sandy shore. A foul on someone near the right corner of the penalty area. Neislon awaited as Disley stood alone on the six-yard line, way offside. The defence retreated, Disley strolled along the line and ducked as Neilson's firm swack flicked off his temple, the keeper rolling backwards nowhere. A thoroughly professional goal.

The Mightiest Mariner embarked on a series of towel-based adventures. Naisbitt will need to wash his towel.

Well, well, would you believe it. They had a shot on target. Just the one, and this was it. A shot. By a man. In orange. Going towards the Grimsby goal and requiring Jamie Mack to intercept its trajectory. It happened one night.

They had other shots too. Neilson showed off like a silly-billy down by the corner flag, allowing the faux cockney frolickers to have a shot deflected slightly wide. The corner bedoozled off a dawdling Town back and rolled gently into the path of the bearded Wells, perhaps eight yards out in the dead centre of goal. It's on a plate. Woah, that's a hacks dreary cliché, what is that doing here? No sir, it landed on a plate of sandwiches in Manchester Street, rudely disturbing an old man's tea.

And then the goal of the season. A magnificently constructed pass and move-fest bringing back memories of things that were memorable, often involving little men with moustaches. A Town free-kick inside their own half, next to the managers' dug outs. What excitement could possibly flow from such mundanity? Hatton ticked to Disley, who tocked back. A careful chipolata landed perfectly upon the head of Cook, who cushioned back to the on-gliding Disley and then grandly spun around to accept an invitation to treat. The Cookie Monster surged into the "D", feinted and rolled and scooped the ball behind the defence in one movement. Neilson beat Hannah to the ball and, with keeper surrendering meekly, studded the ball weakly into the ground and straight into the keeper's midriff.

OK, it would have been a goal if it had gone in. It's definitely going to win the official nearly goal of the season award.

Another free-kick whistled down the wind and through everybody. Town attacked freely, efforts wasted by greed and over-indulgent nonsense. Disley back-heeled Marshall free, who back-heeled back. Thanoj didn't release Hannah, others did other things imperfectly. It was all a little too easy.

Marshall meandered mesmerizingly and without any suggestion that he had the ball or his own legs under control. The flagging florists got themselves in a tizz and one of their socks passed straight to the unmarked Hannah lurking to the left. One touch, one low shot, one more Hannah-rific goal.

It really was too easy now.

Town slacked off, loosening their tie, undoing their shoelaces and having a little sherry before dinner. A Brainiac slapshot skiffed inches wide, McKeown scampered to scuttle-scoop at his near post as a break was broken. They had another shot and another. Wide, high, off monochrome limbs. Not on target. I told you, they'd had their one for the day.

Cook this, Cook that, winning headers and gathering his own flicks, rampaging down the right, crossing low near three looming Townites at near post. And again, nice.

And then the teenagers, those with no memory of Town being anything but a rotting corpse, congaed around the Pontoon as Southwell replaced Neilson. They probably weren't doing a conga to celebrate the arrival of dishy Dayle.

Ah, here we go again. A Town corner from the right, flapped again by Naisbitt. The ball ballooned to the right-hand post, Pond leapt like a spacehopper, nubbing back across the keeperless goal. Disley waited and glanced onto the inside of the right post and Southwell passed the rebound against orange socks. This was getting far too exciting: G Pearson came on for Cook, and Niven for Disley. That stopped that.

There were three minutes of added time which lasted five minutes. They nearly scored too. Hatton's twisty body diverted a snapshot from going just a bit wide to going wider.

This is all very strange. Very.