Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
20 July 2004
Brigg Town 2 Grimsby Town 3
A potted history of a potty game
A rotten old monsoon day settled into a dry, overcast evening as the massed ranks of the curious Mariners tootled along the A18 to watch some passing and movement form the boys in black and white. But what would Russell Slade's beige and maroon summer collection of models and make-up artists do? Yep, 'our boys' turned up in last year's away kit, complete with JARVIS plastered across the front.
As fans sauntered past the pie stand some stopped by an iron gate, stroking a collective chin, scratching a collective head. Who are these guys? Running around on a piece of ground in Brigg Town, men in a Grimsby-type kit warmed up behind the stand as fans stared in wide-eyed wonder. We recognised Stacy, and Hockless. The one with the big backside must be Crane. The rest? Shrug those shoulders, ask the physio. That one there with the straw boater, he must be Lafors, right?
Town lined up in a 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Ramsden, Young, Crowe, Coldicott, Fleming, Bull (a majority verdict came to that conclusion), Parkinson, a huge hulking number 9, and a tall, skinnier bloke wearing number 11. The substitutes were a group of men in similar sportswear sat around near Graham Rodger. Whittle played on the right of the back three with Ramsden in the middle as the libero playmaker. The midfield is easy to work out, while up front Parkinson played predominantly on the right and Mr Big was mostly in the centre (although these two did swap around sometimes).
Town kicked off and wouldn't give the ball to Grimsby. They tipped, they tapped, they buzzed, they beed, finally dinking a longish ball over the top, down the left. Young raced after a striker, nudged him, nurdled him and looked aghast as the referee gave Brigg a free kick a couple of yards outside the penalty area, about level with the penalty spot. The Brigg players bamboozled the men representing Grimsby by running round in circles, it fair made 'em dizzy.
The ball was curled into the middle of the penalty area. All Grimsby defenders watched, Williams hopped on his line, the ball bumbled along the ground. A Brigg player, inside the six-yard box, near the far post, stretched. Williams flapped like Clara Bow and the ball apologised into the bottom left-hand corner. Less than two minutes gone and if anyone could have recognised a Town defender they would have moaned. Some blamed Simon Ford, just for old times' sake.
The start of the game wasn't very edifying for fans of free-flowing football, for those who expect professionals to be head and shoulders above amateurs. No, that's not right. Town players were head and shoulders above the amateurs, for many of these new men were massive. Such as Whittle. He is massive in a Crane way, lumbering across the turf like a stegosaurus on mogadon, turning like a Chinese dragon manned by tipsy typists. Let's be kind and say he's obviously had a really good summer; his legs may move more quickly when things matter. His distribution was rubbish, but he generally stood in the right places.
Ramsden looked superb when he decided to advance upfield, dribbling past the Briggadoons at speed, but he looked no more than adequate defensively. This may have been due to them being still in that 'getting to know you, getting to know one another' phase. Young tackled well, and also played a couple of decent through balls. We'll skate over the time he got dispossessed just outside the penalty area, where a Briggadier could have scored, but didn't even shoot. That was Coldicott's fault, for playing a daft pass. Ah, Stacy... 'subdued' is the best way to describe him, for there were no crunching, man-eating tackles. Perhaps he woke up that morning with the yard-dog blues?
Brigg didn't have another shot in the first half. There were a few dangerous moments, with the ball trundling through across the face of goal, but Williams wasn't required to do anything but fluff a couple of drop kicks, drop a couple of crosses. He was reminiscent of Pettinger at Notts County: someone who looks like he's about to make a mistake. He did not like coming off his line, except when Town had a corner, when he was seen issuing instructions from just inside the Town half.
But you're not interested in a goalie we aren't going to keep; what about them upfield. Fleming? Top man on this showing. No psychosis revealed so far: firm tackling, intelligent moving and neat passing. And he scored. A Town corner from the left, or possibly a free kick, was cleared out to him, about 25 yards out in the centre. Fleming leant to his left and thwacked a fizzing zoomer through the advancing forest of defenders, the ball smacking into the bottom right-hand corner. That woke us up.
Town fitfully attacked. There were a lot of longish passes down the flanks, attempting to release Parkinson and the mysterious number 11. Most failed. Bull had started well on the left, making two or three excellent surges forward, but his crossing was... actually, I can't remember him crossing the ball. His defending left a bit to be desired, as he twice allowed himself to be turned easily by the Brigg number 6 after lunging forwards. Bull receded as the half progressed, making more and more errors.
Let's get back to the mystery machine on the left. Looked very interesting, Mr Bond. Pacy, pacy, very, very pacy, he's very pacy. We hoped it was Kamanam and as one of the players eventually shouted "Yannick!" at him, we were led to conclude that this was the case. Unless Slade had unearthed another triallist and forgotten to tell anyone, then this was Kamanam. Oooh, he did a great run down the left, swinging, swaying away past two defenders then curling an excellent low pass through the middle of the six-yard box.
The big number 9 hulked towards the far post, just a handful of yards out. An open goal in front of him, joy awaited, but the goalkeeper flung himself across the turf and the Incredible Bulk sidefooted softly into the goalkeeper's midriff. Big number 9 also headed against the bar after another Kamanam cross, the ball bouncing off the pitch onto the underside of the bar and away. Big number 9 was big, and that's about it.
Haven't mentioned Parkinson yet, have I. He started very indifferently, looking a bit fey, easily brushed off the ball, but as the game wore on he got better, making a couple of long, pacy dribbles down the right, first shooting at the goalkeeper and secondly, well, scoring. Someone, Ramsden perhaps, dinked a pass over the last defender, down the right. Parkinson finagled himself in front of the defender and ran off towards goal with a striped local snapping at his ankles. Parkinson got into the area, advanced to within half a dozen yards of goal, held off the defender, awaited the goalkeeper's dive and, from a narrow angle, carefully dimpled in off the right-hand post. Parkinson looked a pesky pest; he could be a crowd pleaser.
I haven't mentioned Crowe. There is no point; he did nothing good, nothing bad. He existed for 45 minutes.
And then it was half time. The Town substitutes warmed up on the pitch, with only Crane and McDermott recognised. The rest were subject to many requests from the dancefloor. "Hey mate, who are you?" After considerable thought one told us, while pretending to pot a simple red into the middle pocket. "Alex Higgins."
Right, here goes. Are you reading carefully? I shall write this only once. Macca replaced Crowe, a taller but less muscular man wearing number 20 replaced the hulking number 9, a slender Portuguese-looking bloke with no number replaced the man we think was Kamanam. Portuguese-looking? Hmmm, let's look at the evidence; that means he was probably that Angolan from Walsall. Not a sentence encountered too often in the annals of English literature. But then again, we are now at the annals of the Football League.
A big foreign-looking chap wearing number 15 replaced Young. No idea who this was, but he looked like Santos-lite, and played like Santos-lite too. If Ludovic Dje was there last night it may have been him; I do hope it was Dr Dje, for if it wasn't I've run out of guesses.
Bull was replaced by another person, who wore number 18. Now this player clearly knew Ramsden, so he must have played with him before. So, that means he probably came from Notts County. So it's either Paul Riley or Kevin Nicholson. He didn't respond to being called Paul whenever he took a throw-in, so it must be Nicholson. And it was.
And he was a very, very good crosser. The ball dipped and spun dangerously, with the slender un-numbered bloke's free header, nodded wide from eight yards out, being the best chance created from these dinkers. We liked Kev, and Kev liked us, or at least the teenagers who kept calling his name every time he got the ball. Parkinson was replaced by Hockless. There, that one was easy.
Exhausted after that? So were we. And there was more as Coldicott and Fleming and maybe Whittle (quite frankly there was too much information out there to take in, like a novelty Christmas cardigan) went off to be replaced by Higgins, an even bigger centre forward (number 19) and Crane.
Town still had the majority of attacking, with the man I will call Carlos having a couple of chances spinning inside the middle of the penalty area and cracking a left-footed shot a couple of feet wide. Then he missed a header after Ramsden performed a lovely surge down the right and crossed to the far post. Hockless hit a long-range dipper straight at the keeper. Hockless spun past a defender and tippled the ball straight at the keeper. Hockless dribbled another long shot straight at the keeper. Hockless was posing but producing little. Trying just a little too hard to impress the new boss, perhaps?
Macca was Macca, bringing more verve and fluidity to attacking down the right. Where Crowe looked, Macca flicked and tricked with Hockless. Impetus, momentum, danger. Nicholson continued to prod and probe down the left, with a succession of crosses causing cooing in the cognoscenti. The middle was safe in the hands of Terry and Stacy. What a lovely couple they make. Let's hope we're happy ever after.
Brigg had a couple of dangerous breaks when the ball was pumped into the penalty area. Williams stayed on his line and the ball bounded into the box, but no shots came in, just a low dribbling cross through the six-yard area, which was missed at the far post.
The game meandered along, and Town made those substitutions, ending up with a central midfield of Higgins and Hockless. Higgins is barely taller than Hockless and was very, very rusty. He seems to be a scrabbly scrapper, but his limbs didn't move as he wished, though his face did. He does a good gurn when tackling, like he's got something inside that wants to get out, or maybe a particularly irritating bit of chicken stuck in his back teeth. Floss, baby, floss!
The largest bear in the woods came on and sources close to the pitch claim that number 19 was called Darren at least once. He's big, he's not very good. He missed one glorious chance near the end when he was given the ball six yards out with no-one near. He took an age to control the ball, crank his legs around and smack it against a Brigg defender's bottom. He did provide some smilesome moments, for three defenders literally bounced off him as he shielded the ball on the edge of the penalty area. But then he fell over as he tried to pass the ball.
The number 20 was better than the number 9 in general play but less of a threat to goal. He must be a continental type, for when he fell over claiming a free kick he put his hands together and did that praying movement that all top Italians do.
It was all very confusing, with scraps of evidence used to attempt to identify these strangers on the right, and left. [No change from last season, then - Ed.] At least one person was convinced Gaughan was on the pitch because Macca had shouted "Go on!" a couple of times as a previously unseen player received the ball. Similarly, some thought the number 11 was called Erm, as that was the sound Town players made when they shouted at him to pass the ball.
Near the end the fussy ref awarded Brigg a free kick about 20 or so yards out in the centre. A Brigg player with blond highlights curled the ball over the wall and into the toppish right-hand corner. Straight over Williams, who was stood in that very spot. And a couple of minutes from time Town attacked down the right; a cross was flung over by someone, and someone else scored a rather spectacular left-footed volley from a dozen yards out at the far post. This someone else was the man with no name, or number, Carlos the Jackal. He scored but otherwise looked a bit weak.
And then it was over, but only after Crane had miscued one clearance and made another using his big fat thighs.
Overall, judgment must be reserved, for this was little more than a trialists' practice match. The new formation will need many more games until the players, whoever they are, are comfortable with their roles. Some of the new players looked fine, some didn't. Some of the new players looked fit, some didn't. At least we haven't got any expectations this year, so we cannot fail to meet them.
NickO's man of the match
Terry Fleming, for being Coldicott and Pouton. A good start in his new school.