Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
15 November 2003
Grimsby Town 1 Stockport County 1
A real flat old day in sunny old Cleethorpes, with around a couple of hundred Stockportians barely visible within the confines of the Osmond Stand. It was bright but dull, still but with a breeze, chill but temperate. Neither one thing nor the other really. The only sound was the occasional boo for Challinor, warming up with the yellow perils far, far away.
There was very little to divert the diverted mind, with only the fine range of hattery to amuse and sometimes bemuse. One particularly fine example caused minor mayhem in the Pontoon, for the club didn't print "restricted view" on the tickets of those around him. Opinion was divided on whether he played blues guitar every other Thursday at the Spider's Web, or he was an Indian tracker, seeking the long-lost trail of Phil Jevons' career.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, McDermott, Crane, Edwards, Young, Campbell, Crowe, Hamilton, Anderson, Boulding and Onuora. The substitutes were Parker, Groves, Mansaram, Cas and Jevons. So it was to be Young at left-back, replacing the podgy poodler. If the crowd could have been bothered, there would have been a murmur of concern. That non-existent concern was assuaged by the sight of Davison, towel on shoulders, stalking the edge of the penalty area, glaring and glowering towards the Stockport players. Ah, the towel - the puzzle solved. It's those hour-long pre-match Vicks Vaporub sessions, isn't it - head over a bucket, flu gone.
The Stockport players were in the distance, murky, mysterious and of mild interest. They all appeared tall and spindly, apart from a very, very small left-back, like a slimline Ben Chapman.
Town kicked off, with Crowe carefully curling a pass down the touchline for Onuora to look at with a perplexed expression. Only 10 yards in front of him as it sailed out into the Main Stand. A team finally at ease with its second division status - aimless punting comes naturally now.
And what a deceptively interesting start it was, with Stockport looking satisfyingly chaotic in defence and a little feeble in attack. Remember, I did say deceptively. Within a minute Boulding had surged down the right, chasing a chipped channel ball (as men in overcoats like to shout on Sunday mornings). He twisted, turned and pushed the central defender away using both hands. Down went the defender, up went Boulding's dander, and fluff went the shot, from about eight yards out, dragged, scuffed and rolling to the keeper with a sheepish look.
A minute or so later Town drove forward through Hamilton, who passed directly to a defender, who gave it back again before the music stopped. Deso pushed his chest forward, his shoulders back, lovely boy, and blasted his way through the defence. Into the area, on the right, about 10 yards out, goalkeeper standing in an indefinite fashion in an indeterminate position. Hamilton totally mis-hit the shot, as it rolled, rolled, and rolled to Spencer, who shined his shoes, flicked stray hairs away from his left eye and then picked the ball up as he arranged a dinner party with his defenders.
Stockport had a break away, on their right with a big bruiser thwacking a shot from 20 yards about three yards wide of Davison's left post. The Pontoon jeered and conveniently overlooked the dreadful defending that allowed them to shoot, with Crane and Crowe standing, staring and shrugging while Stockportians moved.
But what do we care? Town are ace, Town are surging, surging, surging, flicking, tricking, swanning up the right, space to be filled only by those in stripes. McDermott and Campbell exchanging passes, crossing towards Onuora, whose head touched the ball. On to Anderson at the far post, a dozen yards out, a jink, a junk shot, dribbling to Spencer. Ooh Betty.
Again, repeat Macca move, with Campbell releasing Methuselah behind the defence, near the corner flag. A low, zipping cross to the near post was headed out for a corner by Clare, who was himself headed away for a corner by Onuora.
Isn't this fun - eight minutes of sauntering; it's only a matter of time before all our wrongs are righted. Yeah, of course, this is New Town, who seem to believe that 10 minutes of dominance will be enough for the heathens to wilt, bow before their greatness and hand over all their belongings in deference.
Town zapped Stockport with their sirens, and the boats did part for a while, but the supposed inferiors didn't worship at the altar of Anderson. Stockport had started to break away with some organisation, using Wilbraham as a mobile menace, a wall to bounce off, and Young had, twice, to make sweeping Lever-like tackles on Gibb. He made up in tackling what he didn't have in positioning, though let's skirt over the time he almost stood on the ball inside the penalty area as Gibb harried at the far post.
After about 10 minutes, the game fell apart. Whistle, whistle, hack, harry. The ball was in the air all the time, the referee stopping play when players asked for free kicks, and the crowd were so bored, so unenthused, that one could almost hear a collective sigh. Stockport pressed, pressurised and almost scored, should have scored. A series of crosses and flicks ended with Young clearing for a corner on their right. A Town fan shouted "Challinor" and some Pontoonites began to boo, not realising he wasn't on the pitch, being just a substitute. Oh what a wheeze.
The corner was chipped to the near post and a big bloke grazed the ball over Davison, arcing across the face of goal and into a huge, huge gap. In rushed Clare and three Town defenders. All lunged, feet and heads disappearing into a mess of manhood, and the ball hit something and gently bounced off the face of the crossbar, and away from goal. The consensus was that Clare had headed the ball and had been distracted by Edwards' big feet.
Stockport continued to hassle the Town midfielders and to attack, cheeky pups that they are. Dull, dull, dull for us Townites, watching a turgid mess unfold in front of us. Town didn't help themselves with a pathological desire to launch Boulding behind the Stockport defence at every opportunity. Onuora was completely immobile, like Livvo without the psychosis.
And Town's defenders started to make dreadful errors. Crane stood on the ball on the edge of the penalty area, effectively passing it to Wilbraham, who was, fortunately, dilatory. Edwards zoomed over, safety guaranteed. A minute or so later Crane cushioned a header to Edwards just inside the penalty area. The ball reared up and struck Edwards on the right hand. Silent Pontoon, looks askance towards the green men, play carried on.
More County pressure, more rubbish defending by Town. Crane, under no pressure, headed directly to Wilbraham inside the penalty area and the ball was worked sideways. Crowe knocked the ball to Hamilton, who promptly passed it to a Stockport player, straight in front of goal. Frustration mounting, groaning audible, and that was just from Davison.
Eventually a Stockport player fell 30 yards out on the left, towards the corner of the penalty area. The free kick was taken from where the player landed, so that was 25 yards out. Town lined up in an approximation of a wall, with holes everywhere, and disagreement about who goes where. The free kick was curled low towards the near post, with Campbell's ankles diverting the ball into the side netting for a corner.
The game got worse, with not even some silly nonsense to liven it up, and I am referring to Daly, who gave Davison a little back-heel after the once and future king of the goalmouth caught a cross. Stockport started to fall over badly, irking the duffel-coated Pontoonites into shouting "cheat" and "rubbish". Put them together and you get an accurate description - they were rubbish cheats.
The linesmen were incredibly weak, with the one in front of the Main Stand not raising his flag until the referee had pointed, leading to several moments of them standing and staring at each other. Town got a couple of throw-ins simply because Onuora was the first man to the ball, claiming the ball for Grimsby by sticking a little fish-faced flag on top. Hah, the Norwegians didn't get here first! A disintegrating lump of nonsense was unfolding before us. Ah, but what was it? You have three options to chose from: was it (a) the match as a whole; (b) Des Hamilton; or (c) a copy of the GET onto which tea had been spilled?
What was that? A Town attack? Yes! Another, what felt like one whole week after the last one. In other words, around the half-hour mark. A long high ball towards Onuora reached its target. A flick on and Anderson, on the edge of the area to the centre left, tipped the ball behind the defence and slapped a left-footed thwacker a foot or so over the angle of bar and near post. A few minutes later a cross from the Town right sailed over all to Anderson, about a dozen yards out. He sidled back to his right foot, twisted and curled another shot over the angle of bar and far post.
Isolated moments in a sea of drudgery, for the ball was either in the air, or on the toe end of a Stockport player. Oh, one very tiny fact: the Stockport goalkeeper was replaced after about 35 minutes. He shook his hands in pain and limped off. I think he fell awkwardly when catching a useless cross from some Town player or other. The replacement goalkeeper was Colgan, who looked suspiciously like the Colgan Town had on loan years ago. It must be the same one, as he appeared very comfortable sitting on the bench at Blundell Park.
With about 10 minutes to go before this turgid dross ground to a halt, Town re-enacted an early Mack Sennet short, when Stockport simply punted the ball over the top towards the left edge of the Town area. Young trotted, then sprinted; Edwards gracefully glided across the turf; and Davison came off his line and out of his area. Oh dear - Gibb got there first as the Town players looked at each other, giving nods and winks but no clues as to who would actually deal with danger. Luckily Gibb's cross (there was at least one striker unmarked on the edge of the area in front of a very open goal) was blocked by a combination of Edwards' feet, Davison's shins and Young's hope against hope.
A couple of minutes later more awful defending by Town allowed a cross to sweep through the area from their right to a little lad on the left. Welsh, about a dozen yards out and about the same again wide of goal, let fly with a zinging shot which Davison tipped over the bar. Fortunately the shot had gone straight at him.
Wahey, Town again. Nice of them to drop in and say hello, wasn't it. Crane ambled forward, looked up and saw no movement. Only one thing to do in those circumstances: lump it long. From about 40 yards out on the Town right, he hit an excellent diagonal pass over the defence. Boulding sneaked behind his marker and was free about half a dozen yards out just beyond the far post. The goalkeeper was espied flapping on his line as the defender fell. Boulding carefully steered a left-footed volley just past the Ron Ramsden's advert. In other words, the ball ended up wider of the goal than when it started its crazy journey of discovery.
Any more? Not from Town. Just more time for Town to collapse in defence, allowing a throw on their right to be played back to the full-back, who curled a teasing, tantalising cross through the six-yard box. Davison took one step forward, one step back (a bit like Town's season) and the central defenders hesitated. Daly strode forward and the combined personalities of Edwards and Crane squished Daly. A-tishoo, a-tishoo, they all fell down, and Edwards eventually got up and strolled off with the ball.
There were three minutes of added time and thankfully it ended. Wake me up before you go-go. Have I missed anything out? A lot of rubbish, quite frankly. And that penalty appeal in the 3First minute. A deep cross into the Town area, beyond the far post. Crane, Wilbraham and McDermott jumped. Up went Crane's hand, away went the ball. "Handball!" shouted a confused Pontoonite. He was quickly silenced by means of the "usual methods". He won't wear a cagoule again. Town were very fortunate to be level, having defended like four Ashley Ficklings on an ice rink. Only Wilbraham's insistence on taking two touches allowed International Rescue, in the form of Edwards, to arrive.
To sum up, it filled Blundell Park with inertia.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"We should decommission Hamilton now."
"There's a stuffed puffin in Town's trophy cabinet."
"Stockport have done very well not to score."
"Is that ordnance or your soup?"
"Nice to see the crowds back."
No changes were made by either team at half time. Nothing changed. Stockport were still faster, stronger, higher than Town. Even their little number three, Jackman, who had made the condescenders eat dirt with a towering performance, in all senses of the word. Campbell had been invisible for most of the first half, easily robbed and shepherded away from danger. And the same again for the next instalment, with Campbell trying, but failing. Nearly, but never. And as Town's main point of attack is always the right, that rather explains why Town continued to be moribund as an attacking force.
A couple of minutes into the half a long ball over the top down the Town right saw Boulding free. The spindlier of their centre halves, Heath, ran across and obstructed the scamp. Town were given a free kick just outside the penalty area, about 15 yards out. Expectations rose, the crowd starting to tap out a rhythm of support. The referee took eight steps back and allowed the wall to stand a couple of yards in front of him. Hamilton stood over the ball, sized up the situation, and decided on a cunning plan. He rolled the ball slowly into the penalty area, straight to a defender stood about eight yards away. Well done Des, another winner.
After about five minutes Stockport excited their own supporters and worried those Town fans who remained conscious. A deep cross from their right travelled lightly through the air and deep beneath lay only Stockport players. The ball fell and Welsh, way out towards the edge of the area, perhaps a dozen yards out, hit a half volley across the face of goal. Davison scrambled across his line, a striker lurked, and the ball went a foot or so past the left post.
Things happened in the next ten minutes, probably in the shops down Cleethorpe Road. I have a vague recollection of a Stockport striker heading the ball over from the middle of the penalty area. Well, when I say headed over, Edwards headed the ball onto the striker's bonce, and over the bar it flew. Elsewhere seagulls twittered around, choosing their next target on the Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus; large ships floated by, glinting in the twilight; a train trundled by; Groves furiously waved his arms around and the Pontoon tried to get the players going. But even in the Pontoon there wasn't a belief or any enthusiasm in the chanting.
I forgot - there was just one Town attack, and beauteous it was in its nostalgic construction. McDermott roamed, passes were exchanged, a wall was created and flicks were made, sending McDermott behind the defence. He got inside the penalty area and smacked a low cross into the near post. Onuora lunged; a defender swiped clear.
Here we go again, another deep cross, this time from the left, and Wilbraham, unmarked beyond the far post about a dozen yards out, volleyed across goal. Davison watched, the crowd stared, the ball bombled along and missed the right post by a foot or so. That was after an hour of earth time, but several mental years for the spectators.
With the crowd beginning to stir, especially at the sight of Cas running up and down the touchline, Town made a change. Off came the immobile soup kitchen and on came the human octopus. Or Mansaram for Onuora, if you must have it that way.
Within a minute disaster, oh disaster. Stockport got a free kick a few yards inside the Town half, on the centre right. It was wellied in a straight line deep into the penalty area. Mansaram back-pedalled while a big bloke ran in from the wing, rose above the floundering Townite and headed across goal. Missed at the near post, the ball continued along the six-yard box and hit the unmarked Clare, rolling gently into the centre of the goal as Davison sipped some cough linctus.
Not a surprise, as Town had been woeful, while Stockport had at least had some shots. Some very close shots. At this, Campbell was replaced by Cas, which brought forth some baffling booing from the Pontoon. Any one of the midfielders could have been taken off, as they'd all been ineffective, with Hamilton perhaps the luckiest to remain on the pitch. No, that's not fair to the others - take "perhaps" out of that sentence. Campbell had been sewn up like a handbag by his marker, though. [The boo-boys must've wanted Onuora subbed off twice - Ed.]
Town woke up a bit, raising the pace of their game. Or would that be panicking slightly? Mansaram received the ball with his back to goal near the left corner of their penalty area. With four defenders around he twisted, turned, started to dance to that eastern beat, mesmerising with his hands and legs, a whirl, a swirl, a pot pourri of limbs. With the defenders under his spell, he whacked a shot which appeared to be deflected a few inches over and wide of the top right corner. No corner, no appeal by Mansaram for a corner either.
Town pressed, zipping in crosses, winning corners, threatening no-one. Boulding? No, a cross from the left lurched over the final defender and Boulding, eight yards out at the far post, headed down, softly, with the ball plumping up nicely into Colgan's midriff. Young? Hello! Coming forward at last he surged down the wing and hit a tempting cross into the near post. Great cross, shame about the strikers, neither of whom bothered to make that all-important near post run. Another corner, from the right, an almost moment as the ball fell at the far post. Edwards turned and twisted to shoot from about five yards out. A defender threw himself across and the ball was blocked away for another corner.
Frustration mounting, the inevitable silly defeat looming, then from those mighty jaws leapt a saviour. A corner on the Town right was hit to the edge of the penalty area at the far post. Crowe raced in and steered a left-footed half volley way wide of goal. The ball hit Boulding (I think), ricocheting off his shins and out to a Stockport defender standing 20 yards out, right in the centre. A wild, swinging swish and the ball arced up sideways. Crowe, about 25 yards out, leapt up and did a spectacular bicycle kick. The ball looped towards goal. The whole defence rushed out, leaving just one man, the man of the hour. Mansaram stuttered, twisted his body and flicked the ball just to the left of Colgan, who had wandered back on to his line and flapped. Mansaram ran back upfield, dodging his ecstatic team-mates in a big game of tiggy.
For a few brief moments it felt like Town could pull a remarkable rabbit out of an unremarkable hat. Cas crossed into the crowd, then into Colgan's waiting hands at the near post, just in front of Mansaram. Stockport's defence rocked a little as Town players started to do things like passing to each other and running at them. You know, those things that professional footballers do when you see them on telly. Who says television isn't educational?
With about 10 minutes left, Cas hurled a long throw-in into the area from underneath the police box. Mansaram flicked the ball on and it bounced free on the edge of the area, in the centre. Anderson twisted and shot all in one movement, but weakly. The ball just rumbled along the ground, gathering moss; the players turned and ambled upfield; and Colgan decided to lay down for a while, taking a quick nap after his exertions. After all, he'd played for nearly an hour. When he awoke the ball was still rolling across the penalty area, eventually stumbling against the foot of the right post and bouncing out for a goal kick.
Five minutes later a Town break, Mansaram with an excellent quick low ball releasing Boulding on the centre left. Boulding waited for the defender and drifted in, then out, hitting a low shot from near the corner of the six-yard box. The ball went slightly to Colgan's left. He bent down and the ball careered away to his right, spinning across, then back towards goal, forcing him to leap around like a concerned rabbit. Colgan plucked the ball off the line as the Pontoon awaited the latest gift from goalkeeping heaven.
For Town that was it. But don't ever get the impression they bossed the last quarter of an hour, for Stockpot were dangerous on the break, only thwarted by their own striking inabilities. That's two-touch Wilbraham to you and me.
Errors continued in the Town defence and midfield, especially from our resident Des, who had people hiding underneath their seats in horror whenever he went near the ball. For he did get near the ball, but never to it. He went left as the ball went right, he went up as everyone else went down. Anderson drifted past two players and rolled the ball into Hamilton 35 yards out, unmarked. A wonderful position, ready for a Des drive. Hamilton stopped, jumped up as though someone had just switched on the electricity and cringed when a Stockport player ran 10 yards to nick the ball away. Having said that, he did win a free kick in the 85th minute by falling over, so it wasn't an entirely wasted afternoon.
Sometime towards the end, Stockport had another of those cross-shot volleys, which went a few inches wide of the post. It was either from the left or right, of that one can be sure. There were quite a few moments of danger which required Crane's big boots or Edwards' big brain to smother. And then there was Davison's dribble and defence-splitting pass across the face of goal as a striker harried.
As the game entered the three minutes of added time Jevons came on for Anderson and touched the ball just the once. The match ended with a moment that summed up the day. Town rolled forward, urged on by the now roaring Pontoon. Hamilton received the ball near the halfway line, on the right, weighed up all options and hoofed the ball out of play, almost knocking a steward's socks off. The crowd groaned, the whistle blew, we all went home.
A very, very bad team performance, with the midfield absent, the defence occasionally dozy and the attack almost non-existent. Stockport were able to dictate the game, and so it was bitty, broken, frustrating and a waste of time and money for all Grimbarians. A Scrappy Doo rather than Scooby Doo day. Stockport should have won; Town could have nicked it. In the context of the game, a point gained really. It was the polar opposite of last Saturday and probably the worst league performance of the season. And yes, that does include the game that dare not speak its name.
There you are, gone, over, finished. Like a bit of tummy turmoil after a suspicious sandwich. No need to think about this game again.
Nicko's man of the match
No-one excelled, with all making a faux pas at some stage. Young tackled well and was very determined, so a big mention in despatches to the once-Wednesday whacker. However, after the use of a very fine tooth comb, Mike Edwards gets the nod for some late blocks and sweeps. He also got a bonus point for the surreptitious use of his right hand inside the Town penalty area.
Markie's un-man of the match
So bad they named him twice, Des-Des Hamilton. A staggeringly inept performance, with only a couple of things he can look back on with any satisfaction, and one of those was remembering to lock his car boot before the game. Was he still in British Summer Time? What is his function? Des, why? It was embarrassing.
Apparently referees judge themselves on whether they appear to be in control of the game. Well, this may explain M Atkinson's resort to whistling Dixie every few seconds: you can't lose control of a game if you never let it start. Hardly a mucky game, hardly any tough tackles, but a game with no flow. Curiously, he didn't give free kicks when Stockport went through a phase of diving badly. In the great scheme of things he was just a bit annoying, though he had habit of getting in the way of Campbell (in particular). He should have booked himself for persistent obstruction. Nowhere near Clattenburgian in his monstrosity. So, a generous 5.572.