Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
18 September 2004
Grimsby Town 2 Leyton Orient 0
A bright, warm afternoon with a toupée-toppling west wind winnowing from behind the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand. Around 300 or so Cockernee types appeared down sarf in the Osmond Stand, though with Donny Barnard only on the bench we were spared a tidal wave of excitable ladies of a certain age when they heard that Donny was in the Osmond. Boom, boom. And there we have Orient's footballing style summed up for you too. Oops, nearly gave away the plot.
Town lined up in the now usual, now expected, 3-4-3 formation as follows: A Williams, Whittle, Forbes, Gordon, McDermott, Fleming, Pinault, Crowe, Sestanovich, Parkinson and Reddy. The substitutes were C Williams, young Young, Paul Robinson (mark II), Bull and Coldicott. Forbes started in the centre of the back three and received a polite reception. Muted, but not hostile. He isn't very tall.
Leyton Orient players waddled about in front of their fans, practising kicking the ball a long way.
The cover picture on the front of the programme was of Reddy, dancing like the woman out of the Thompson Twins, with hair hovering above, looking like it was preparing to land. Reddy's bandage was above his knee today. Do you think it's a fashion accessory? A leg bandana, available in the club shop, £2 off with a token from the GET. Or is it that you get £2 off the GET when you wear a leg bandana?
Dish of the Day: Greg Young's sausage, chips and beans. Should we worry about Greg Young's sausages? Shake your chips once or twice. They should be crisp und brown; no soggy chips.
Town ran out and what's that? That very faint noise? It's a chugging guitar... a penny whistle... "In the Pontoon Stand we're the greatest in the land..." Fantastic. Well, it would have been if they'd pumped up the volume; only household pets could hear that sub-sonic invasion of the senses. The cats in Blundell Avenue were groovin'.
Orient kicked off towards the Pontoon. They lined up on their left, lamped it left and... it didn't go out of play. Confusion all around. Eight, nine, ten seconds and still the ball was in play. Finally, an offside was given and our hearts could rest. I blame Reddy: he had ample opportunity to glance a header out of play but oh no, he had to head it back, didn't he.
Minutes were ticking by, the crowd were unenthused, Leyton were unsubtle. Oof, hoof, on the roof. Town were doing their usual first-half nonsense of far too many long and high balls, especially towards big ears Parky, who continually failed to beat a man eight foot taller than him in the air. Professor Pinault was trying: dinking, winking and linking but up front when he tried to get through there was nobody home. Hang on, this could be interesting. Harrison raced out of his area and fly-kicked awfully. The ball flew to Pinault, who tried, from about 40 yards out on the left, to volley into the net. He didn't: wide and high, no danger.
How long has gone? Only five minutes? How's about this then? Suddenly Sestanovich awoke from his slumbering, lumbering bumbling to ooze past his marker down the right, bully his way into the area, along the bye-line and jink back infield. He cracked the ball low towards goal, it hit something and rebounded out towards the penalty spot. Fleming leapt into action, volleying the ball as it dropped. Oooh, aahh. Indeed, a defender winded by the blow, the ball blocked and momentary excitement gone.
A couple of minutes later Town linked as many as two passes together with the ball rebounding into space about 965 yards out on the centre right. Pinault put his Renault Clio into fifth, va-va-voomed forward and hit a terrific flying half-volley. Going straight it was, straight as an arrow towards the net. It went straight to Harrison, who plucked the ball from underneath the crossbar.
Forgive me, I sneezed and must have missed the time Orient players passed the ball to each other.
Orient whacked the ball downfield, down the channels, forcing Town to give away throw-ins galore. A-ha, that's the secret of their success. Big blokes and long throws. The long throws were uniformly rubbish, the Town centre backs nodding-away at will. Or perhaps nodding off at will, bored by this basic, dire, dismal tactic.
We began to feel sorry for the Orient supporters if they had to watch this every week. Guileless, as stylish as Brentford Nylons; what joy would one get from paying to watch it? It's cheaper to watch it on Ceefax, and just as entertaining. Shall we be magnanimous and think that this was a special tactic just for us; it can't be the 'real' Leyton Os, can it?
Hang on, don't get too cocky about these Cockneys. After a bout of head tennis and general boxing inside the Town area Whittle managed to clear the ball against Macca's bottom for a corner. Orient curled the ball slowly towards a bunch of big blokes; one of them headed it and the ball bumbled slowly a few feet wide of Williams' right post. No threat whatsoever. A loud "pfft" sound was emitted by the Pontoon.
So far, so easy in defence, with Gordon and Forbes looking exceedingly excellent. Gordon was like a police roadblock, politely pointing their strikers the way out of town, his telescoping legs poking the ball and wheedling away danger, while Forbes was like an aggressive (and awake) Simon Ford. You know, Simon Ford before he had that space cadet glow. And Whittle was heading the ball to his heart's content. Town attacking? Erm, well, hmmm, some nice passing in midfield, with Pinault pulling the strings, but Parkinson kept drifting offside. Sestanovich was on the pitch, occupying several feet of grassland, munching his way through several bales of hay.
After about a quarter of an hour Town got a free kick on the centre left of the Orient penalty area after three, count them, three quick passes the ball flipped up to Parkinson. Sestanovich and Gordon stood over the ball. Stan the Rented Van or Golden Gordon? Unfortunately, the Transit van with the dodgy suspension took it, lifting the ball against the head of the last man in the wall. Out for a throw-in; sit down again and watch the ships go into Immingham.
Is this the spark plug? Parkinson tapped the ball down the left behind the defence. Reddy raced after it, Harrison wandered out of goal. Harrison lunged, White stretched, Reddy flicked the ball past. Reddy caught the ball up near the edge of the penalty area and, at a very tight angle, knocked it goalwards. The ball rolled along and a defender calmly collected up his belongings, picked up some crisp packets that were fluttering across the goalmouth, and strolled off towards the car park. No Town player was within 10 yards of the penalty area, let alone inside it.
Around the 20th minute two things happened. Orient had a shot, which was nice for their supporters, and nice for Williams too. And Pinault was crocked by Alexander (who was booked). He slid in manfully to win the ball and received a stud in the knee and a boot in his ménage a trois. After some cold water was applied to the Dordogne he went off to the dressing room for three minutes.
Unusually, Town didn't concede when temporarily down to ten men. Orient really hadn't done their homework, had they? They couldn't score a quick one while he's away. Or perhaps Town's temporary two centre-backs were very good?
The game became even more fractured and fractious as it meandered towards half time. The Orient number 11, Scott, was an annoying little pimple on the backside of football. He dived poorly, then moaned when the referee didn't give him free kicks. He was utterly imbecilic when Town were awarded a throw-in next to the Police Box. Scott trotted up behind Crowe and knocked the ball away as the throw-in was about to be taken. Stupid boy. And let's not overlook his elbow towards Sestanovich when Orient were preparing to take a free kick about 40 yards out. Stood on the edge of the Town penalty area he clearly threw his arm at Sestan's face. Missing, fortunately.
The ref, unfortunately, missed it, but was alerted to something happening by a lone cry from the Pontoon. He had a little word with both, telling them to stop whatever they'd done. Presumably in Sestan's case it was: "Stop poncing about on the wing doing nothing."
Footballers eh? You can tell them once, you can tell them twice, but they never listen to any advice. Sestan was terrible, succeeding only in failing, matched only by Parkinson in his ineffectiveness. Poor old Parky, like someone was riding on his head with a furry donkey. He tried and tried and tried and tried, but he was carried along only by the momentum of his own incompetence today. Shame really.
Don't expect any stories of derring-do. Town had one other effort in the first half, just before half time when Reddy nodded softly into the arms of Mary, sorry, Harrison, from a Pinault cross. There were allegations that Macca and Parkinson had shots, but the Town Prosecution Service refused to take this to court through lack of evidence.
Not that the game was totally bereft of... I'm lying - it was. They had some shots, they weren't very good. Williams wasn't forced to touch the ball. The Orient fans finally pierced the silence with a song - "one ball, you've only got one ball" - as a slack steward took ages to retrieve the ball from the empty seating 'twixt Osmond and Smiths/Stones/Findus. The secret of great comedy is timing, supposedly. As they sang a second ball was thrown on the pitch, so the comic wind was taken out of their cosmic sails.
Not that the Town fans had read the runes or the tealeaves either. They attempted some half-baked attempt at inter-communal needling of their own. "Can you hear the Leyton sing?" they asked, two seconds after the Leyton fans had sung. Are we deaf or stupid? We are here, waiting for half time.
At last, half time, we can do something else with our lives.
The first half was rotten really. Leyton Orient had been awful, the worst team we've encountered so far this season. Town were lethargic in attack, but untroubled in defence. Pinault was crocked, Sestanovich was cracked. Town's plan B was to tipple the ball over the top and rely on Reddy. Not a totally daft idea given that Orient's keeper had a mad desire to skip gaily out of his area and pretend to be a road sweeper, whistling happy tunes with a cheery, beery smile.
Not now Arthur.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"We've got a good defence now they're all injured."
"I find it difficult to get into Stacy's head."
"I can believe one of these teams is fourth from bottom."
"Stand further back, I can't get your feet in."
"Pretend this sandwich is the ball."
No changes were made by either team at half time. Oh look, they have a courgette at centre-back.
La-di-da-di-da. Seen any good films lately?
McDermott, that echo of a distant time, billowed down the right and on to a pass from Reddy, to the bye-line, a cross, deep, curling, curving... onto a defender's chest. None of the Town 'strikers' bothered to run into the heart of the area. Still, dynamism, a pass, and some movement. A minute later Macca chased a one-two with Sestanovich but was forearmed away from the ball. Macca was too polite to harangue the ref. We weren't.
Urgency following Orient's half-time natter. A shot, spooned wide and high, dropping yards beyond Williams' left post. I only mention it to waste a few more precious seconds of your life. You have to feel what we felt watching it. Expectant but disappointed, feeling a little fury at false promise of something interesting being revealed. A bit like a Sestanovich dribble. He did another one of them, you know. Was it four or five defenders this time? He dithered so long that one of them came back and whisked the ball away. To pass, to shoot, perchance to dream of something happening.
So have you seen any films lately then? You haven't answered my question.
Macca again, whizzing away behind the defence, about 15 yards out, just outside the penalty area. He crossed, he crumpled, flattened by a lunge. A momentary advantage allowed, the cross too deep, the referee awarding Town a free kick. Darn fine decision, that. Pinault waved everyone away and stood imperiously over the ball. The referee insisted the wall backed away at least eight yards. What are we getting excited about? Town never score from these situations.
Pinault curled a super low cross into the heart of the penalty area. Crowe zipped in and, six yards out in the very centre, headed firmly down past the goalkeeper's right toe and into the net. How ironic: the Mark Smith of the noughties had scored totally against the run of his own play. Still, it made us happy a couple of minutes before the hour.
Orient then decided to up the pace of their attacking. When I say up the pace I really mean they did some. A minute or so after the goal they did three passes, all of which went to their own players, none of which were in the air. This was enough to send the Town defenders spinning away in paroxysms of mirth, as one of their bald-headed strikers, just outside the right-hand corner of the Town area, span around and clipped a shot just wide of the far post.
Town's response was to pass the ball to Sestanovich. He drifted past three defenders and, from about 25 yards out, walloped a shot to Harrison's left. A good, though routine, save followed. If it'd gone in the goalie would have cried, but it was just enough to bring some applause.
Orient realised plan A wasn't working so they reverted to plan A+, which is 'hit it in the air to a different big bloke'. On came a couple of substitutes and they were a bit perkier up front. They did pile on pressure, playing boom-boom percentage football. 'Bang it up, bang it in, see what happens' stuff. And those long throws as well, from one of which there was a scramblette inside the Town area, no Royals involved.
Ah, but all this new-found attacking intent just opened up the spaced for the three amigos. Well, in theory. The practice was awful. Moments of danger were created and wasted by some appalling passes. Parkinson, twisting free, belting down the middle, a defender in front, Sestanovich alongside. He passed to the defender. Later Sestan was freed on the halfway line. On he went, just one defender in front of him, Reddy unmarked to his left. Sestanovich passed directly to the last defender, who was motionless in front of him, legs akimbo. The home fans were a little disappointed.
What were the Os up to? Still piling the ball forward, barging and bunching, winning more throw-ins. Yes, I'm as bored as you by those words. A shot excited the away fans, but not us. From outside the area it went two yards wide. You'd have to be sat in the Main Stand to get worried by that. Then again, they 'd get worried by the rising price of Windowlene.
Orient did lots of crosses, the Town defence did lots of headers, and Williams even came off his line to catch it a few times. Reddy had a bit of a second wind in the last 15 minutes; perhaps he'd had Greg Young's pre-match meal. Reddy rolled around the left a bit, surging past the leaden-footed defenders, getting into the box, seeing no support and falling over. And again, another Reddy break. Along the bye-line, towards goal, infield, down he went, up went the Town fans. Penalty? No, it was Parkinson who tripped him. The ref wasn't that bad.
I'll just take this lull in proceedings to mention Macca again. Several raids down the right, persistent crossing and the perennial problem of lack of strikers in the area. And let's have a go at the linesman. With Macca set free behind the defence, the linesman flagged for offside when McD was at least three yards onside. Macca had run from behind the linesman, who was level with the last defender. A dreadful decision, for which the crowd made a suitable noise.
In the last few minutes Orient were camped out in the Town half, bombarding the goal with high crosses. Williams flapped one behind for a corner, and a whole series of corners and throw-ins followed. The Town defence looked solid, unflappable and unbreachable. I wrote too soon. A ludicrous decision by the referee gave Orient a free kick on their left just outside the penalty area near the bye-line. It was awarded against McDermott when Scott had tried to flick the ball past McD. Doesn't the referee know who he is? It's Macca: he never fouls, he is fragrant.
The free kick was zoomed beyond the far post. Williams shuffled across to catch it but one of the big bruisers barged into him. A free kick, surely? No, a corner given and from the corner Williams made a brilliant save, pushing away a near post header low to his left.
The loose ball was wellied upfield to Reddy on the halfway line, on the left. Reddy fought off a defender, outsprinted him and raced goalwards. Onwards into the area and a whole lotta shakin' going on around Harrison's knees. Simpson hared back and stood between Reddy and goal about 10 yards out, just wide of goal. Reddy tapped the ball past Simpson and ran into the outstretched knee. Penalty!
Who to take it? Gordon, of course, he'd said so after the Wycombe debacle, hadn't he. Err, oooh, Pinault picked up the ball and strode across to the penalty spot. Gordon marched after him. They then had a furious argument with both tapping their own chests and pointing at the ball. It was hilarious really, with Pinault gallicly shrugging Gordon, the mild-mannered janitor, away. What were they saying? Perhaps the £50 goal bonus was really vital to them. Maybe it's Pinault's mother's birthday and he needs it to buy her a present. Perhaps one of them is taking a lady out to a sophisticated local restaurant, one where the bread and butter isn't included in the price. Or maybe Pinault couldn't stand the thought of being joint top scorer with Crowe.
Pinault took two steps and curled the ball inside the right side netting as Harrison lunged left. Game over, except for the two minutes of piddling about waiting for the referee to officially end this so-called football match.
There you are, a far from vintage performance, but it was a bit better than against Rochdale, in that at least three players had some gumption going forward. The opposition was similarly lacking in wit, similarly basic and limited in both ambition and individual skill. Fortunately for Town, Orient's only decent-looking player, Carlisle, was taken off with 25 minutes left.
The best Town players were the defenders. Don't kid yourselves into thinking that this must mean Orient were impressive; it is merely that they didn't have any particular threat because of the competence of the Town players. Don't kid yourselves that Town's front three were anything to write home about. Sestanovich looked like a heavyweight boxer trying to foxtrot, while Parkinson had a day where everything went wrong. If it was 1978 I'd say it was his biorhythms out of sync.
Still, a win is a win, and winning while not playing well is better than humiliating teams and losing. All one could say about this game is that both teams were in false positions at the start of play.
Nicko's man of the match
Three candidates, all from the back line. Forbes was most assured, Mr Cool at the back, with simple but effective distribution. He lamped it long when needed, passed when required. McDermott was superb, the only Town threat in attack with his metronomic marauding, and his old self in defence - defending without tackling, the lost art. But, and only just (we had to have six recounts) Mr Dean Gordon was exemplary again. He stopped them and started us. His crossfield passing was magnificent and in some ways it is embarrassing that he's playing fourth division football. He even trod on the ball with glamorous grace.
Mr K Wright seemed to take agin the moaning bargers of old London Town, though not enough to flash his cards. He really should have done something about their number 11 in particular. There were a few bizarre decisions, but nothing that hurt us too much, so how to score? Distinctly average, so 5.0293. And why not?