Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
20 January 2004
Grimsby Town 1 Wrexham 3
A horrible, murky night with sheets of mizzly rain draping across Sleepy Hollow, into the faces of the dentists and opticians gathered behind the managers' benches. The dwindling diehards hunched together in conspiratorial knots, with the Burberry-capped ones hollering for change; the majority silent. A rancid atmosphere? Not really. The vocal fury was limited, isolated, with the singing ringing tree corner drowning out the "sack everyone" brigade with a lusty chant of "Paul Groves' black and white army". Cue internal bickering in the Pontoon, not within the singers themselves, though I wouldn't rule it out, they looked very tortured.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, McDermott, Ford, Edwards, Young, Jevons, Daws, Crowe, Anderson, Onuora and Boulding. The substitutes were Groves, Hockless, Rowan, Mansaram and Hamilton. Ah, Crowe restored to what he considers his rightful position, central midfield, with Young at left-back. Jevons started on the right and Anderson on the left, completing the latest bit of pack shufflage, or deckchair arranging, whatever is your metaphor of choice.
Wrexham had a couple of porky big boys at the back, and lined up with wing-backs. Some chuckled at their right wing-back, Carlos Edwards, sporting some seriously funky 'bass player in a Brummie disco band from 1975' hair, complete with invisible tank top, but that was the last time they chuckled at him.
Town kicked off towards the 70 or so dark dots in the Osmond Stand, with the ball worked slowly to McDermott, who punted up the line, and Town got a throw-in. Isn't it far simpler just to welly it out from the kick off? Within a minute, Town managed to mess things up, with Young underhitting a pass back to Edwards, setting Wrexham up on a chase down their right. Our Edwards managed to smack the ball out for a throw-in near the police box. Hairy moments in the Wonderland Zoo.
Wrexham were playing some neat one-touch football, breaking quickly down their flanks, with Ferguson tapping out a tempo. Though no chances were being created, there was danger. Cross after cross zoomed in, with Ford and our Edwards hacking the ball away from the centre of the penalty area. Town wobbled, rocked, staggered and just about got away with it. Young was increasingly isolated and flapping, with Anderson not helping him. Things weren't much better on the right, with McDermott shrinking by the game these days, left to fend for himself as Jevons was content with some showy flicks and tricks further upfield.
Occasionally, Town passes went to Town players. I stress the word 'occasionally'. Town were devoid of pattern, confidence, personality, a collection of timid individuals getting wet. But lo, a shot. Well, ish. Jevons backflipped the ball down the right touchline, setting someone on a raid down the wing. Sorry, can't remember who, it may have been Boulding. Whoever it was scampered to the bye-line, passed to Onuora at the near post, who turned, shielded the ball, and rolled it just behind the onrushing Boulding. A little stutter, stumble, turn and shot straight at Officer Dibble.
Around the same time Jevons drifted across the face of the penalty area and did what is fashionably called a reverse pass into a gap between centre-backs and left-back. Onuora gathered up his knitting, the Leviathan stirred. Iffy rolled past Carey, a man with serial killer hair, if not kaleidoscope eyes, and slowly creaked towards goal. Dibble didn't so much race off his line as arrive through osmosis to collect the ball.
Wrexham had a couple of dribbly shots from outside the area which forced Davison to bend his back to pick it up off the mud. Davison could have nipped home for a quick shower if he wanted to, and the shots would still be trundling towards the Pontoon. Nothing shots, but dangerous moments, as Wrexham's tactic of simply dribbling forward at the Town centre-backs was a worrying development. After about a quarter of an hour, they simply ran quickly towards the Town goal, and Thomas, 20 yards out in the centre, dinked the ball out from between his feet towards the top right corner. Davison flew across his goal and just managed to palm the ball away for a corner. An excellent save.
Nineteen minutes gone, no goals. The season's improving already! Some nothingness in midfield, the ball played up towards the halfway line. Wrexham's lanky centre back, Lawrence, stepped forward and intercepted, knocking the ball to one his fellow crimson pirates. And on he rushed towards the penalty area. A-ha, we thought, Wrexham are going to punt a long cross to the far post. A-ha, they did. So, so obvious, so, so predictable that Town players allowed the cross to be made. Culprit? In this case Anderson, already the target for oral abuse by some Pontoon Stentors.
The ball was played to Carlos Edwards midway inside the Town half, on their right. He miscontrolled it and hesitated, and Anderson stood a couple of yards away hopping like an excited chicken. Seeing no challenge, Edwards looked up and selected which team-mate to cross to. In went the ball and Llewellyn, about 12 yards out, level with the far post, headed firmly across Davison and into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Most of the crowd have gone way past the anger stage and just stared at the floor. Those roused to fury vented spleen at Anderson. He had a terrible, terrible first half where everything he did was wrong. You could almost see him getting fainter and fainter, receding into a small blur of black and white, a greying ghost. Or was that the rain?
A couple of minutes later Armstrong mis-hit a shot straight at Davison from outside the area and Town, er, Town what? Won some throw-ins? Three or four minutes after disaster number 345 this season, disaster number 346 arrived. Carlos Edwards stripped a few more layers of skin off Young, with Anderson absent, Crowe who knows where. Level with the penalty area he clipped a low cross seemingly behind the onrushing Wrexham players. Thomas took a couple of strides and caressed a first-time right-footed shot towards goal. The ball delicately made its way through a bunch of players, ducking and diving to avoid heads and shoulders. It continued in a perfect parabola towards the top right hand corner, drifting, slowly drifting away from Davison's desperate dive.
The Pontoon silent, the only sounds were the ball rolling down the net, the water cascading off the nylon onto the sodden turf, followed by Davison's slapping onto the ground, and a groan as he saw it go in. A few Town fans got up and went to the toilet, some bought a Kit-Kat, some called for the chairman's assets, others tried a defiant rallying call behind the team.
Things nearly got worse very quickly. An underhit back-pass from Young forced Davison to race out of his area and dribble past Armstrong. A through ball, Armstrong free, speeding towards Davison, drifting towards the police box. Inside the area, a shot, Edwards screeching across the turf deflected the ball towards the near post, whereupon Davison hurled himself to his left and parried the ball away for a corner. Spaces opening up everywhere, Town caving in, specially down the flanks. Why? Jevons and Anderson kept rushing to the centre, hiding in the huddle. Tactically, Town had been Tangoed.
Anderson, poor, poor Anderson, the heckling adding to his inner turmoil, barely capable of running, backing off, frightened, a shot from 30 yards out, skipping seven yards past the post. Why bother? Why? Young, left alone to fend for himself as Carlos the Jackal hunted his prey. Ford, finally Ford dissolving, with Groves apoplectic as the man on a mission from Mars backed off, and off, and off. Bring back Galli! Daws swiped away the danger.
There were Town attacks, in the sense that Town players were inside the Wrexham penalty area, the ba