Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
27 September 2005
Grimsby Town 4 Notts County 0
On this day: infamy. Meatloaf was born.
A hint of autumn in the still air as around 400 Piemen in the Osmond Stand discussed how to fix their wheelbarrow. That wheel keeps falling off. Perhaps they should buy a new one. The Town fans were swelling in numbers and pride, that weird feeling of undiscontentment seeping out from every pore. Yes matey, there are seats in the Pontoon now. And a roof.
Town lined up in a full-blown, good old-fashioned meat and two veg with gravy, don't eat your peas with a knife 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Croft, Francis, Do-re-mi-fa-so-Kalala-ti, Bolland, Parkinson, Gritton, Reddy. The substitutes were Cohen, Barwick, Ramsden, Toner and Newey. Francis, sturdy and tall, was on the right of midfield with Parkinson on the left. The rest of the motion speaks for itself - I urge you to vote in favour.
The County mascots, Mr and Mrs Magpie, rolled into town with the cultural impact and sexual frisson of Arthur Mullard and Hilda Baker. It's one way of getting in free, I suppose.
Dish of the Day: Paul Bolland's chicken tikka rogan josh with pilau rice and naan bread - quicker to eat than say. Be careful though: it may irritate the bowel, and watch out for puddles of fat. Eh? Tony Crane isn't even on the bench.
Notts County played in a fading pale blue kit and seemed to have an awful lot of strikers, none of whom were called Jermaine. How can we treat them seriously?
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon, immediately signalling the change of tactic - bang it in the air to Big Francis, who towered over the County full-back. Nice to see such a change from banging it in the air to the centre-forward. Big Francis: wasn't he in the Pixies, or was that Cilla Black?
Oh dear, they can run quickly. County fizzing around in their magic swirling ship, Town's centre-backs have been stripped; but don't worry, Mildenhall's hands didn't fail to grip when the ball arrived near. You don't be-lieeeeeeeeeve me? The first ten minutes were quite worrying: County dominated, causing Town terrible ethical dilemmas with their movement and pace. To clobber or to clatter?
A minute gone, a chance gone for County. A free kick on their right was clipped low to some young chap at the far post, perhaps a dozen yards out, who stepped inside his marker and cushion-volleyed the ball back to a chum. Said chum sliced wide. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens: Town fans said things very unlike their favourite things.
Ooo, yep, there they go again. Tipping, tapping, snapping away at Town, all pace and prettiness; Whittle wobbling, Jones extending his ladders when required and cleaning the highest of windows with gay abandon. A cross was snaggled away without daintiness; a corner muscled clear by Big Town. Town focused upon Francis' head, the game devoid of Town interest.
Hold on, hold on, here we go: near the Police Box, Francis collected the ball on his chest and powered at Ullathorne. Bolland supported and the ball was dimpled into the area for him to run on to. He raised his spinnaker and sailed over a blue sock, joining the optimistic and unsighted in claiming a penalty. The referee took pity and didn't book him for a rubbish dive, falling over a foot that wasn't there.
A couple of minutes later the ball was played to Francis just inside the County half. He waited, facing the dug-outs, and flicked the ball infield as Ullathorne arrived a little bit late for his wedding, spinning wildly and spectacularly, inducing a free kick and a yellow card. Nothing happened of any consequence from the free kick.
From being permanently inside the Town half, the game started to relax into comfortable middle age, wearing slippers in the centre circle. Francis started to get the ball, and Reddy and Gritton knitted some interesting bobble hats around the County centre-backs. But it was Bolland who took charge, wrestling County crocodiles bare-chested and without the aid of electric forks, the flying roofer fixing a hole where the rain gets, "They Shall Not Pass" tattooed on his forehead.
Finally, a Town attack, though it was a godawful small affair. Gritton tried a looper-drooper volley from about 30 yards on the centre-left. Bouncing once, the ball almost bumbled over Pilkington, but he failed to fail. Still, a Town shot: there is life on Mars. Town were starting to press, Francis prominent, crosses hurled in, corners won. A bimble, a bumble and Gritton hooking, the ball squirmed through gaps in the fence and squiffed away from near the line as legs thrashed and heads bashed. Another Town cross from deep, nodded on by Jones, just rolling behind Gritton and Reddy inside the six-yard box. Town were seeping into this game.
Kalala-di-da, midfield huffling and puffling, County breaking quickly, a blur of blue and corner to you, Mr Pie. Clipped from their right, the ball zoomed to an unmarked Countyite, perhaps a dozen yards out, who steered it towards the bottom right corner of the goal. A nod, a wink, and Macca gracefully ushered the ball off the line with a three iron down the fairway. This isn't going to plan, is it. Town were producing little with the Magpies pecking at their nest.
After about 20 minutes the worm turned and Town started to press against the County door. Was it locked? Go on, you try, give it a push. Try the handle. Overstaffed on their left, the Nottinghamshire folk got away with it as Town sent four players into the same space, Bolland shinning the ball out for a goal kick while the blueboys were phoning their agents. Another minute, another Town attack: Reddy rocking, Parky flitting, Gritton bundling defenders aside. County creaking.
Let's get their last attack of the half out of the way. They had an attack, they were offside, then one of their abstract attackers placed the ball around Mildenhall into the bottom right corner. So it didn't count. Happy? They weren't, we were.
Near the half hour the Town cats started to purr, with Gritton the fulcrum around which the world pivoted. The Gritster rolled, Reddy reeled, Parkinson pestered the life out of the full-back. A cross was blocked and a corner to Town; the Pontoon reared and roared its head as Whittle and Jones lumbered upfield. Parkinson's cross was half cleared and McDermott sprinted forward to retrieve possession midway inside the half, passing the ball back to Parkinson on the wing. The Scouse scamp took one touch, cut back and chippled a cross into the centre of the penalty area. Jones rose above mankind and pummelled a header down low to Pilkington's right and into the net as the keeper grappled with basic ballistics. Oh yes, the doors are open: welcome to the party, leave your six-pack of Double Diamond in the kitchen.
A minute later Town were at it again, throttling the flimsy lacemakers. A Town corner was cleared to the centre circle and hoiked back again with Jones flickering the ball on. Reddy, five yards offside, stood in the centre with arms in the air. Gritton, on the left, shuffled forward unmarked and powered into the penalty area. One stride, one touch and a precisely placed finish over and across Pilkington into the left hand side of the goal. The crowd rose, County players sank, then a couple made mild complaints to the referee. Why? The linesman hadn't put his flag up, at all, ever, ever. Ever.
After a while the referee decided to walk over to the linesman. Both stroked their chins, scratched their cheeks, shook their heads and... disallowed the goal for offside. The Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus was vacated as its inhabitants leapt up in fury. Five minutes later the linesman put his flag up, but not where the crowd demanded.
The crowd whipped itself into an indignant frenzy, imploring Town on. The players responded with 20 minutes of sublime power and passing, grinding feeble County, with Bolland the pestle. Francis mesmerised Ullathorne, flicking, tricking and brushing aside with disdain. You can see why Warnock signed him: muscular, athletic and determined. But you can also see why Warnock doesn't play him: he tries to pass the ball. Football rather than rollerball.
Ah, beautiful, a spinning back-heel setting Reddy free, then a powerful surge, flicking tacklers away like specks of muck on his wellies. A corner to Town, Pilkington glued to his line, flapping his arms like a demented duck as his defenders disappeared at the sight of Jones turning and smathering a shot a foot over the bar. Ooo. OOOOOO-ducky! The referee gave a corner, seeing what no-one else saw: that the keeper tipped the ball over the bar with his wide-eyed gaze. Parky slippered the corner over from the left; the ball was cleared back to him and another cross hung suggestively in the still air. Francis hoovered up yards and hovered above a defender to flick the ball a couple of feet wide of the left post.
"This one's for Becky," cried Edwards as he watched the last defender fall when Francis pummelled forward. County were obliterated, Town rampant; Uncle Albert Kamudimba mugged a little man in midfield. Gritton dribbled and four Town players piled forward in support. Defenders were squeezeboxed, not knowing what to do. Twenty yards out in the centre, Gritton checked on to his left foot and cuddled a low shot through the bundle of bodies in front of him. Pilkington zithered to his left, at full stretch, and just managed to claw the ball aside as Reddy lurked.
County croaking, gasping for oxygen; they need air, they need help. Mariners magnificent: one-touch passing, Reesian backheels from Parkinson sending Reddy free. Marvellous. Macca raiding: the County cardigan unravelling before our very eyes. Francis, quickly adjusting his feet as the ball boombled off a defender, steered a side-footed shot just over the bar.
As the half ended Town attacked again, an incessant orgy of wonderfulness brought to a thrilling climax. Parky perked on the left, forcing a corner. His corner was returned to him; he cut infield and, from near the corner of the penalty area, attempted to curl the ball towards the far post. The ball was deflected and looped loopily, lazily towards the far post, arching over Gritton and a defender, falling upon Reddy's boot a few yards out. Pilkington and a defender scrumbled the ball away from the line, but it hooped upwards, back into the centre. Gritton, eight yards out, stooped and headed in to the centre of the net and walked over towards the linesman, cheekily raising a thumb and a comically quizzical look.
Oh yes: shining like the sun, smiling, having fun, feeling like a number one. What a twenty minutes. Town simply walked over the Piemen, burying them with testosterone and skill. They were quicker than us, but that's all. Defensively exceedingly frail, they imploded when Town breathed on them. What? Have we got bad breath?
What a shame it had to end.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"It's got a red button and a wooden handle, you can't miss it."
"Do you think we can swap Francis for Glen Downey?"
"My balti pie was harder than them."
"All we had to do was play louder."
"They have a player who sounds like a sausage."
Neither team made any changes at half time. Town emerged several minutes late, perhaps relaxing in the executive suite with champagne and caviar, watching the Spurs game again.
They kicked off, Town kicked it back and got a throw-in on the left, inside the County half. Town played triangles around these stodgy meat pies and the ball was chipped towards Gritton. A County head intervened, a County boot flailed and missed, the ball rolled gently in open space. Kalala casually ambled towards the ball, drew back his right foot and, from about 25 yards out, slabbered a stonking shot high over Pilkington and in off the underside of the crossbar. Shocked and stunned for a second, the fantastic flat bazooka made the crowd explode with joy.
From the kick off Bolland pestered McMahon, riding piggyback and admiring the tailoring in his shirt at the same time. After riding this see-saw for ten yards, the referee blew for a free kick, just as McMahon swung his left arm back and smacked Bolland in the mouth. Bolland fell; County players ran after Bolland; Gritton protected the bloodied warrior; and the referee pulled out a red card. Bolland was taken off, leaving both teams with ten men.
The free kick came to nought and the ball was hurled upfield, with Reddy, just inside the County half, rocking past Pipe, who grappled and groped like a floozie in Gulliver's. Reddy shrugged off his unwarranted admirer and Pipe fell, clutching his back. After a few minutes the stretcher came out and he was hauled off. Finally Toner replaced Bolland and County made a substitution as well. When was this? In the 47th minute. In fact everything was in the 47th minute according to the scoreboard. The 47th minute lasted 47 minutes: a strange nether world, where time stood still yet moved on apace.
After this action-packed 47th minute the game went a bit flat. It was strollathon time. Town allowed County to play around, like in a very modern marriage. Both teams had their own personal space and could do what they liked where they wanted, as long as it didn't hurt either party and wasn't done in front of the children. A teenage mutant conga party started in the front of the Pontoon, snaking along behind the goal, entertaining Mr Mildenhall in the duller moments. Some people forgot to heckle Justin Whittle, so relaxed were they.
Ah, you see, wrong Magpies. Bring on the Geordies, we want some competition. All very well, but Town were beginning to let some darkness in upon our magic. County continued to press forward, dominating possession, causing flibbles. Mildenhall was forced to race off his line and slide at the feet of McGoldrick, as Whittle was momentarily nonplussed and outpaced. Go back to your daydreaming - nothing else will happen for ten minutes or so...
...oh, you're back? This is all so easy. What shall Rob Jones wear to the ball, Cinderella? Jones, 25 yards out, sauntered back and shinned the ball about three yards, Berry racing off towards the Pontoon. Mildenhall advanced and Berry shuffled infield, leaving the Big M in a trolley outside Ramsden's. The goal beckoned: open, inviting. From the mists of time the Leviathan rose. Jones slid across and raked the ball off Berry's toe, a certain goal saved. Perhaps Jones was bored and just wanted something to do to keep himself fresh for future village fetes. Or maybe he was showing off. A showcase for his improvement: last year and this year in five seconds. You can spot the difference.
Bom-di-do, lo-laa-la-li, yav-nava hak-ha. Have I written a Eurovision song yet? Francis received the ball on the halfway line, facing Macca. A turn, a bump, his marker dispatched from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, two more Magpies shot down as he surged forward, stopped only by Edwards on the edge of the area. Aye, that Edwards, from the dark ages. A small moment of interest in the flotation tank that was the second half.
With 20 minutes left Reddy was replaced with Cohen, who immediately did something or other involving his big chest. Not his little chest, his big one. It got us up off our feet, whatever it was. Sorry, do you come here often? We're the ones in stripes. Cohen had a header, it went over, a footnote in history. We only stand up for goals now.
County rolling sideways again, Town in knots. Berry wiggled, wriggled and flavoured a sharp little clip goalwards through a banana of bodies. Mildenhall was positioned perfectly and plucked plumply. Milders chomped the ball from the sky all night long, an impassable barrier, the mere sight of which caused Magpies to flee in fear.
Town were playing out time, content to play chess. With just over ten minutes left Newey replaced Parkinson, just after Parky had dribbled past a defender, rather than try and run through him. Town won a throw ten yards inside their half, with Gritton receiving the ball, spinning and caressing a curious pass inside the full-back and down the wing. Newey hared off past his putative marker, hit the bye-line and smacked a low cross towards the near post. Cohen got his motor runnin', stepped inside and nonchalantly steered the ball high into the net from about eight yards out. No messin', no fussin', nowhere for County to hide. Their fans staunch, their players a collective paunch.
Ah yes, the conga again, and way past their bedtime too. No need to roar, the team soaring, let's save some energy, just like they are. Olé football, with a thousand and one Arabian passes to everyone. Jones and Whittle forced the centre-forward into some piggy-in-the-middle before Jones hit a brilliant 976-yard pass down the wing for Newey, who headed it out of play for a goal kick. In the last minute Berry shivered free, turning Whittle into a pumpkin before cutting infield and lashing a shot goalwards from the left side of the penalty area. Mildenhall swayed to his left and parried the ball away, with McGoldrick handling the ball as he followed up.
Three minutes of added time were added, as they often are. That'd be 30 seconds for each minute Pipe was injured, and after taking all that time away for the sending-off. Do we care, do we mind? Of course not; let's return to our constituencies and prepare for government. During this added time Croft had a run and shot, by the way, hitting the back of a defender. That's all.
Well, there we have it. For 20 minutes this was like every home game this season: Town stodgy porridge, opponents outmanoeuvring, outpassing and nearly scoring. But after the first goal the 'Pies crumbled. Town were sumptuous, confident, irrepressible and above all a joy to watch. The half time score flattered County and the game was over by the famous never-ending 47th minute.
The performance wasn't perfect, for there were a few funny turns. Croft's legs don't move quickly; Jones and Whittle made a few mistakes; but elsewhere there are only plaudits. Francis, in particular, stamped some personality on the game, striking up a telepathic relationship with Macca. The right-hand side was defensively sound and a constant threat to County. He looked far too good for this division. The front two - yes, a proper, full-blown two up front - pulled their defence apart, creating gaps for others to move into, with Gritton a pumped-up workaholic, never shirking a challenge.
Just look at the score: this performance doesn't need any treacle. We're top, we're scoring goals, and we're playing football. Yes! We're halfway to safety already.
Nicko's man of the match
Until his close encounter of the elbow kind Bolland was a shoo-in for his thrusting, manly, bullying (with skill) of his former team-mates. It was he who held the team together in the first ten minutes. Who could it be then? The girl at centre-half in the half-time five-a-side game? Cool, calm and collected, she was the female Futcher. No, not on the pitch long enough. Macca was Maccaful, only needing to make one tackle, in the 83rd minute. Jones was mostly excellent, though his dreadful back-pass rules him out. Francis was exceptional, though tired after half time. So for an all-round go-get-'em performance combining brawn and brain, it's Martin Gritton: he made things happen, and exploded into space.
Please, Mr C W Oliver, sir, can I have some more. Sorry, wrong one. Generally all right, I suppose. A bit unwilling to play advantage, and that Gritton goal needs some explaining, though we could blame his linesman for that. Would you complain if he got 6.999? You would? Tough, I'm in charge here.