Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
4 January 2003
Grimsby Town 2 Burnley 2
A cold, cloudy afternoon with about 1,000 Burnleyites gathered in shivering groups to keep warm. And sing, which is a lot more than the Towns fans did. Silence in the court of King Georges? Absolutely. About three fans bothered to cheer when the Town players were announced and it took 57 minutes for the Town supporters to raise anything other than the old favourite, the Grimsby Grumble (six teenagers singing "6-5" twice doesn't count). No atmosphere, no magic in this cup. Vast swathes of the ground were bereft of humanity, it had the aura of a particularly dull pre-season friendly. It was as if those Town fans that were present resented being there.
The pitch was a complex pattern of green and dark brown, especially under the Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus, where a tractor was on standby to pull out any unwarily parked motor cars. The players warmed up gingerly, with two Town players espied wearing gloves, messrs Ford and Mansaram. The rest just looked cold, with many a shirt sleeve pulled down over purpling wrists. All in all, it looked like Sunday morning down at the Bradley pitches.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Ford, Santos, Gallimore, Cooke, Coldicott, Groves, Campbell, Mansaram and Soames. The substitutes were Allaway, Chettle, Rowan, Thompson and Ward. No trick line ups or formations today, everyone was in the recognised, bone fide and proper positions, But only if you think Groves should be in midfield, Santos at centre back and Campbell on the left.
The only comic relief was provided by the linesman with the yellow flag, who was surely Dave Boleyn's less attractive, shorter and dumpier brother. Burnley had a starting XI in which no player had a shirt number under 12.
Burnley kicked off towards the Pontoon, retaining possession and absolutely refusing to kick it out of play. They started as they had done in "that" game in October, brightly, with a lot of fluid movement off the ball when attacking. Unfortunately, even after 30 seconds, it was clear that Town were intent on defending exactly like they had done in "that" game, particularly down the left, where Santos and Gallimore took it in turns to watch Blake run away.
Ironically, the first worthwhile effort on goal was from Town. The ball was played up the left to Soames' feet. Little Digger Boy quickly turned infield, drifted across the defence and played the ball into space on the left edge of the Burnley penalty area. Cooke, unmarked and perhaps licking his lips, hit a first time right footed half volley which started inaccurately then swung higher and wider, just passing under the far end of the Scoreboard. Ah, the Scoreboard, back working today, with no messages in code, so it was a waste of time bringing that enigma deciphering machine in, wasn't it.
Burnley attacked, Town panicked. That's the story of the next 20 minutes. Burnley confused Town by passing, then moving, which was not what certain Town defenders wanted to see. So they stopped looking. Within a couple of minutes, Moore had easily turned past Santos on the left edge of the Town penalty area. Santos was barely present, and even he would not attempt to claim his movements constituted a challenge, let alone a tackle. Moore continued on, to be met by Grendel in the shape of Gallimore. Grendel? Well, it is an ancient myth, much like our left back today. Galli was as close and as aggressive as Santos had been two seconds earlier. The programme sellers were more challenging opponents. Moore cut the ball back to a dark haired, moderately built team mate somewhere just beyond the penalty spot. The first time shot was kicked off the line by McDermott, but not completely cleared as the ball kept being passed to Burnley players inside the Town penalty area. Flapping, scrapping, hacking and cackling laughter the Pontoon, let alone kind words of encouragement.
The wails of woe continued as Town descended from a particularly low level of achievement. Coyne's kicking got worse, and the Town midfield were clearly unable to cope with the forward runs of Burnley players. On a heavy bog, neither Groves nor Coldicott had sufficient speed to keep up with fleet footed scamperers. Now there's a surprise. The rest of the half was absolutely terrible, for Burnley stopped. That's the only way to describe it. If they wanted to humiliate Town they could have, as there was no co-ordination or, in some cases, will to succeed in their monochrome opponents. Back passes were under-hit, shoulders shrugged, players left unmarked, runs not made. Stagnant, sour and shocking, this was a poor advertisement for non-league football. Santos, in particular, just didn't look like he wanted to be playing, epitomised by his early back pass to Coyne, dreadfully casual, awfully weak. Santos turned his back and jogged upfield as Coyne sprinted off his line to hack clear. He had a "so what" aura, conforming to a negative view of the Gallic temperament. There were occasional attacks, with Soames turning on the left edge of the Burnley penalty area, passing sideways to Groves, who swiped a low cross shot to Beresford. Well, it was on target, that's something, I suppose. There were other efforts from Town. Mansaram had a couple of long shots (one drawing a contemptuous cheer from the Burnley fans, as it was dragged so far wide of the goal), Groves another, and that was it. Burnley attacked sporadically, but I can't recall any shots. Really, that was it.
Apart from the obligatory daft refereeing. The high point of farce was surely the awarding of a free kick to Burnley near the police box. The referee indicated it was for a push by Santos. Rubbish. Santos had kicked him up the backside, which is the strangest push I've ever seen. Burnley were confused too as the referee insisted they took it five yards closer to goal than even they thought was the proper position. There were two minutes of added time, which were booed by the crowd as we just wanted it over with. We wanted to go home. Now.
To attempt to deconstruct this half is an exercise in futility. Town didn't even deserve the 0, perhaps Burnley 2 Grimsby -2 would have been a fairer scoreline. Our opponents didn't have to try, and they certainly stopped that after the 18th minute, much to the annoyance of their bellowing manager. It was one of those days when the players should have been paying us to watch them.
And there was still 45 minutes of this trash left. Why can't we have a power failure?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Campbell's back to his rest now that Oster's gone."
"Like a fox in a fridge you can't tell your metaphors from your similes."
"There are two ways Town can win this - a goal and another goal, errr, and another."
"I'd have seen more football at the bingo."
"What's our record home defeat?"
No changes were made by either team at half time. And it showed as the game continued in the same tremendous tunnel of tat. Burnley seemed to be playing out time, happy in the knowledge that Town were never going to score; Town to ensure that the defeat didn't reach epic proportions. There was an air of a winter afternoon in Wonderland, nothing better to do, not that interested in what your doing, simply a way of spending some time away from relatives. Joyless fun, and boy was the afternoon joyless.
After a period of time which cannot be quantified, due to terminal ennui having set in, Santos limped off clutching his left hamstring, to be replaced by Chettle, who at least looked eager to please. This was probably after about 10 minutes, but if you want to put your anorak on please look elsewhere for these minor details of history. Not one moment of football occurred in those first minutes of the second half. Players moved about in front of us, the ball sometimes went in the same direction as the humans. The crowd began to realise how cold it was and the shivering and shaking began. Then, the arguments, as parts of the crowd began to take out their frustrations on individual players, then each other. Just as the crowd mood was about to explode into a horrid torrent of abuse directed at the players, the referee's random decision generator came up with the jackpot. I couldn't see the ref's eyes spinning, but I assume they were.
Town had a half break away down the left, with the ball being switched to Groves in the centre. The Man for All Seasons passed sideways to McDermott, which brought forth a rumbling roar of frustrated angst from the "get into them" brigade. McDermott duly continued the patient build up by passing to Cooke, underneath the police box. Cooke cut inside and dinked a left cross into the penalty area towards Campbell ("Hello Mr Campbell!"), who was standing on the penalty spot. McGregor challenged Campbell who fell rather feebly as he tried to turn. The ball rolled to another Burnley defender and they cleared. Play stopped, the referee's arm was horizontal and pointing towards the penalty spot. After a second or so the crowd realised it was, in fact, in reality, honestly, a penalty. Wahey! we hadn't even asked for it either. As the crowd settled, the players lined up along the edge of the penalty area. Who would take it? Yes, who? No-one appeared to know, last of all the team. Then the red sea parted and a little man strode forward, ball under his left arm, waddling towards the penalty spot. Cooke! As he put the ball down Gallimore walked forward with the air of a man in charge. He stopped suddenly, mouth open, aghast that someone had taken his toys away. COOKE trundled forward and cracked the ball into the bottom right hand corner as the 'keeper dived left. The crowd chuckled at such fortune.
Burnley continued to treat the match as a done deal, often getting into exceptionally dangerous positions, but lackadaisically wasting the opportunities, mainly by miss-hitting shots straight to Coyne. The only moment when they remotely looked like scoring again was when a long shot, miss-hit, straight at Coyne, hit a big divot in the box (no, Santos had departed by then) and bounced up weirdly, but slowly, allowing Coyne time to re-adjust and clutch. Apart from a cross to the near post in injury time, wellied clear by Groves, that was the extent of the Burnley attacks. Promises, but no kisses, just misses.
It may be tempting to assume that Town roared forward, the momentum with them, and excitement followed. But it wasn't like that at all. Town had some opportunities, but they were isolated moments of clear air in a sewer. Town tried, they clearly never gave up, but there was little cohesion and no football played. Soon after the goal Town should have scored again. Gallimore swung in a deep cross from the left. Groves, just outside the penalty area, at the near post, flicked the ball on. And now was the hour for Cooke to score a goal. Unmarked, in the centre, 18 yards out, Cooke hit a first time volley straight at Beresford, who parried the ball out to Groves, just inside the penalty area. Groves drilled his shot a few inches wide of the right hand post as defenders converged on him, an open goal briefly glimpsed through the claret. With about 20 minutes to go, Soames was replaced by Thompson, last seen about this time last year. Thompson did little but drift around and tumble, like a slimline Ashcroft; all swishes, sways, flicks and falls. But he was involved in the next opportunity. Thompson dribbled down the left touchline, knocking the ball briefly out of play. The linesman didn't flag, so Thompson continued, cut inside and threw himself at two defenders. The result was a free kick to Town about 20 yards out near the corner of the penalty area. Cooke or Campbell took it (who cares ultimately eh?) and Chettle, at the near post, flicked it on. Groves steamed in and, from about seven yards out, headed firmly towards goal. For the merest of microseconds the ball seemed to have a clear path to goal, but Cox's mighty chest intervened and the ball bounced off for a corner. Cooke swung the corner away from goal and Thompson, eight yards out, beat his marker and flicked a header a few inches wide of the near post.
Other than that, there were crosses which always seemed to result in a scuffed clearance that went straight to a Burnley player. Thompson was an ephemeral presence, intent on showing off his silky smooth skills, with flicks with the outside of his boot, spins and overhead kicks. He reminded many of those players who looked magnificent playing for Hereford against Torquay, live on BBC1, in the second round of the FA Cup. Campbell was at least observed in the second half, though his contribution was such that even he was beating the ground in frustration at his ineptitude. With about five minutes left McDermott was replaced by Rowan - another forgotten son, with Town playing in a 3-4 3 formation. A forward line of Thompson, Rowan and Mansaram was an interesting experiment during a reserve game, I am sure, but not one which filled the departing moaners with any hope. The game was gone, lost, awful, shocking, dreadful, dinners were on tables when Town won a throw in, under the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand. Gallimore lobbed it to Mansaram, about 20 yards out in a big muddy bog. Mansaram turned infield and meandered across the face of the box. He beat one player, came to another and beat him, all the time going laterally. The crowd were beginning to grizzle, expecting a shot or at least a pass out to Cooke. By this time Mansaram had gone beyond the other corner of the penalty area. Instead of passing, he came back. Oh, here we go, a Keystone Cop ramshackle journey across the pitch, to a land that time forget. Woooah! MANSARAM lifted his left leg, and whacked a supreme shot low into the bottom left hand corner. A foot like a traction engine. Bang, bang it's in. What a shocker, what a stinker for Burnley.
Not much else happened in the three minutes of added time, except the smiles came back to the Town fans faces. Lucky, very lucky. An almost indescribably bad performance, collectively and individually, but undefeated. Burnley have only themselves to blame for not winning 8-0, for without seeming to reach the heights of "good" they had the beating of Town. Mere adequacy was sufficient to outclass the men who wore black and white, who should not be described as a team. More a disparate, desperate rag tag and bobtail outfit of losers and boozers.
Town got away with it, we would all do well to forget about the performance.
NickO's Man of the Match
Of all the players in all the world there's one that stood out for his consistency. Mention in dispatches to Mansaram who never gave in and did save Groves from an aural bashing with his unexpected late delight. However, throughout his 85 minutes on the pitch, John McDermott was back to his old self. The moment that sealed the accolade was in the second half when he tracked back during a breakaway and flipped the ball away from an attacker as he was about to shoot. We shouldn't take him for granted.
What an odd man. Or was he an android with a random decision programme? Didn't book anyone, or at least didn't appear to book anyone and gave a very nice home penalty. He gets a 6 for being a homer. We've finally bagged us a homer. Let's hope he's an awayer at Turf Moor.