A day in the life: Accrington (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

25 November 2006

They're Alan Buckley's passing and movement band, they hope you will enjoy the show.

Grimsby Town 2 Accrington Stanley 0

One hundred Lancashire lads and lasses hid in the Osmond. I'm sure it's wonderful to be here, it's certainly a thrill for them. With more flags than fans, the Stanners' 'Ultras' were in attendance - all three of them. Ultra what? Ultra-bright white underpants? Let's hope they didn't put their nylon Y-fronts in the hot wash. Perhaps they were being ironic in adopting Latin fascist iconography.

Town lined up in a strict Buckleyan 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Croft, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Till, Pulis, Bolland, Hegggarty, Lump, Paterson. The substitutes were Murray, Rankin, North, Boshell and McDermott. Till and Heggggarty were the joyriders zooming around the country byways with Bolland and Pulis patrolling the city centre in their panda car. You want to know what the new boys looked like? They looked young, though Paterson was shaven-haired. Neither tall, nor small, thin nor thick, the new players were Buckley-sized, fitting into the mould he brought with him from the old plastic factory. He knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. We want him to be an al-che-mist. Has Buckley found his devils?

What a shame Francois Doobidoo isn't in goal for them anymore. Little did he know a loan move was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away in Southport.

I suppose you want those fiddly details of history, like what they wore and looked like. Accrington played in red shirts, white shorts and blue socks with a load of large-ish blokes, some without hair and some with bouncy bouffant locks. I bet Proctor uses harmony hairspray, though probably less than Michael Reddy, a Grimsby Town employee used to sell beds and mugs.

You know there's a low hum of expectation, a throb of hope, pulsating through the stands. If you look around the whole Town's coming together now. Can you feel it?

First half
Stanley kicked off towards the Pontoon as Buckley stood on the halfway line, rubbing his hands in anticipation. The weekend starts here.

Big Stan bundled and trundled forward, winning a free kick when Fenton sneezed near McGivern, rousing the Pontoon into full ref-grumble mode within a minute. From their right the ball was swung through the middle of the penalty area, dissecting several frogs and rolling safely a few yards past the far post. Mmm.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, Town's watch, handmade by craftsmen in a garden shed in Waltham, started to beat out a rhythm. Pulis and Bolland yapping and snapping, Hegggarty and Till hugging the touchline like particularly clingy koalas and the full-backs edging ever upfield. There was movement, there was passing and then there was Paterson. After four minutes of scene setting the plot started to reveal itself. Till and Paterson flicked, tricked and picked Stan apart down the right, with a one-two sending Till hurtling goalwards. His cross was blocked away for a corner and Town pressed on, retaining possession, winding the watch up slowly, methodically.

Jones and Till whirled, Paterson fizzed, sprung, spun and tickled a pass between centre-back and left-back. Jones glided through, ten yards wide of goal, and thwacked a drive towards the near post, which Dunbavin spectacularly flipped aside for a corner. The crowd murmured in appreciation, the whole ground nodded as one: that's football. Let's have some more of the same.

A couple of minutes later Paterson and Till again mesmerised their markers with fun-filled frippery on the right. Croft joined them in the paddling pool and they all splished and splashed down the wing, laughing and waving to their mums. Till teased and Croft wafted past a red mist, cutting a pass back from the bye-line to the unmarked Paterson, who, a dozen yards out at the near post, sidestepped Robbie Williams and cracked a shot towards the top left corner. Dunbavin guessed right, going left and plucking the ball from danger: that's more football. Let's have even more of the same.

We were dreaming of the past and our hearts were beating fast. Then Town began to lose control as Jones, then Newey, underhit passes in midfield. Town flapped as Stanley tried to bully through. The ball dropped towards Proctor a dozen yards out on the left of the penalty area. Newey sprinted, stretched and took a huge swipe at the ball. He missed. Proctor prodded and received a whack on the knee, falling as the ball rolled out. The referee's left arm immediately extended out and he pointed towards goal. A goal kick. Care to join the Pontoon in the guilty pleasure of a jaunty rendition of 'I was Kaiser Bill's Batman'?

Till and Paterson, engulfing Jacobson in the triangle of death, carried on passing and moving, moving and passing like conjoined twins. A winger winging, a striker striking. What next - a football team playing football?

After about ten minutes Town realised the watch was working perfectly and took it out of their waistcoat pocket to hypnotise the unsuspecting rubes in red. Bolland surged down the centre and placed a pinpoint pass behind the left-back. Croft swept majestically forward and, on the corner of the penalty area, feigned a cross but stepped infield and curled a left-footed shot towards the top right corner. Dunbavin flew to his right and grew six inches to brilliantly parry the shot aside. Jones the reducing Lump lurked a couple of yards out, stretching to volley the ball back across the face of goal, straight to Paterson, who tapped the ball into the openest of open goals. There was joy, there was fun - maybe this season's just begun.

Down the left, down the right Town roamed freely. Till terrifying, Hegggarty hustling, and then there was Paterson. Oh little Martin Paterson was a perpetual motion machine - fast, furious, skilful, determined and with a huge smile of his face, visible from space and possibly even Sheffield. Stanley cannae handle the pressure, there'll be steam coming out of their ears soon.

Are we poultry-enumerating again?

Town faffed about as the Stanners messed around on the left corner of the penalty area. Mannix shuffled past a tackle and flipped a low shot through a thicket of legs, across the flailing Barnes and against the right post. The ball bounced back out to the unmarked Todd, five yards out, who promptly plonked it into the back of the net. We asked for offside, we got an offside: the goal was ruled out for offside. Care to join the Pontoon in the even guiltier pleasure of whistling a medley of Petula Clark's greatest hits?

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you, for there's no finer place when Town pass the ball. Till tempting with a sultry cross. Paterson looping a header into Dunbavin's arms. Newey exchanged passes with Heggggarty but his surge was blocked by the Hulk: Acridtown Stanley had to resort to fantasy figures to stem the tide. Croft wove a lovely rug down the right and Till tickled Jacobson's armpits before lashing a shot at Dunbavin from the edge of the area. Is that enough? No, there's more.

Oh such sumptuous swerving as Croft and Till unpicked Stanley's locks; they're gonna send Jacobsen back in a cardboard box. Till again free after swamping Stanley's levées on their left. From the bye-line he rolled a cross into the centre and Paterson, unmarked ten yards out, stroked the ball across Dunbavin, who saved with his outstretched right boot. Is that enough? No, there's much more: there's the greatest goal that was never scored.

Who didn't touch the ball as it swished and swayed upfield? From right to left and back to the right, Town schmoozed themselves forward, their bow tie unravelled, top button undone, tuxedo immaculately dishevelled and with a little Dean Martin in the background. Till surged on from the touchline, dibbling towards Jones, who dummied as Paterson, the Lancashire peeler, rolled around the back. Paterson turned his amplifier up to 11 and za-za-zoomed towards the penalty area. Please stand behind the yellow lines when the Paterson 125 is passing through stationary defenders: he's cut the journey time from pass to shot down from four years to four seconds. He's still going! He's still going! He's behind the defence! Dunbavin raced out and just managed to get an elbow in the way as the shot squirtled towards the right of the goal.

Do you mind if I have a bit of a sit down for a moment? It's very tiring getting excited and happy and all that sort of thing.

Sometime during all this Townness, Mullin sliced a shot 23 yards wide. One must be fair to them: they did venture Barnesward now and again. Whalley, their left winger, dribbled dangerously, but was snuffled back into his rocking chair by the smothering presence of a quartet of Mariners. He just ran into them.

That's them out of the way: this is all about us. More pressure, more Town corners and crosses, with both flanks frying. Hegggarty's corner from the right cleared to Croft, who lobbed the ball back. Little Nick chased and volleyed a cross high into the centre. The ball bounced once and Pulis, unmarked, nodded the ball over Dunbavin and over the bar from somewhere near the penalty spot.

Town were blood and thunder as Bolland and Pulis patrolled the pitch 30 yards out, blazing Stanleymen aside with swipes and sweeps. Pulis should keep his elbows down though: he leaps with left arm high above his head, a sending-off waiting to happen. Bolland was back to last year's model; perhaps the new mechanic has put in replacement spark plugs. You think it's over? Thrusting down the left, Newey and Hegggarty were briefly stymied by stammering Stanley. The ball broke loose and Pulis carefully, confidently and cleverly stroked a pass behind the defence to Hegggarty, just inside the area on the centre-left. Dunbavin got on his electric milk cart and glided out, blocking the shot. The ball fizzed out further to the left and another Town player cracked a shot goalwards. Only a desperate diving defender wailed the ball away from the open goal. Gold Top, no cream!

Down in the Osmond where the wind blows cold, the Stanley fans sat stiff and old as the Pontoon trilled about football coming home. Yes, that's right: football, at home. It was beautiful and brilliant: such brio, such zest in attacking. The three new players were more than simply adequate. Stanley were reduced to ice hockey off-the-ball shoulder-barges to stop Till's raiding. They couldn't cope with whirlyman Paterson, and Pulis was a calm presence blocking them and playing sensible passes to fellow monochromers. They looked like they were enjoying it as much as we were.

For the older Mariner the memories came flooding back of Buckley's Town Mark I, where only the purest honey pumped through our footballing veins. We'll gloss over the defending negatives for now. There's always a second half.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time, though Town did make the Stanners stand around for ages.

From the off Town tore into them, mainly down the left; Hegggarty and Newey pounding down their wing like a horde of wildebeest trampling all those in their path. The passing was crisp and brown - no soggy chips today. After a minute Newey had thunder in his heart, swaddling a dipping, swirling cross through the area, a foot in front of the lurching Till at the far post. Till chased, Stanley couldn't clear and Paterson chased the lady, harrying the centre-backs into mistakes. Town returned with Bolland roistering the ball away to Heggggarty. Newey raced up the touchline and Little Nick waited, feinted to pass, but dragged himself infield, drifting a flat, quick cross into the middle of the penalty area. Whittle, yes, Whittle roared forward and bazooka-ed a barnstorming header goalwards. Dunbavin pressed a little red button on his hip and two large springs boinged him up, up and away to superbly fingertip the ball over the crossbar.

The Town's dander was up, the whole ground up on its feet, singing and dancing, exhorting, nay, demanding another goal. Hegggarty curled a low corner out from the right and Jones flicked the ball on into the centre, forcing a big bald bloke to wallop a clearance from a couple of yards out. What's the point in sitting down when you'll only have to stand up again in a few seconds?

Oh dear. Bolland tackled firmly under the Police Box and got up gingerly, clutching his leg. He hobbled and Town wobbled for a minute or so. After less than ten minutes of the half Bolland was replaced by Boshell. At the same time they took off their roasted and toasted peanut left-back and another bloke. We barely noticed: this was all about us.

Town wrapped themselves around Stanley like a python, squeezing the last breath out of them before swallowing them whole. Passing, passing, and yet more passing as Town slid from left to right with Paterson a nimble nuisance, the smiling assassin. Till shot, a blue sock diverted the ball away and off they went down their left.

How did that happen? They should have scored. Their substitute left-back carried on running, drivelled past a couple and dimpled a low cross into the centre, between defence and Barnes. On the ball carried towards Newey, who dithered as Todd sauntered in front and steered a volley just wide of the right post. They are still here then? I thought they'd drunk their bottle of cider and gone home early. Who invited them to our party anyway?

Ah, that's better. Town banged the ball downfield, with Jones flicking and Till rolling down the right. The ball bombled loose and Jones, under the Police Box, began a crazy, hazy, mazy run towards the corner of the area. He rolled past one, nutmegged another and a third hare impeded the tortoise. The ball rolled to Pulis, 25 yards out, who immediately clipped a low pass to Paterson, on the edge of the area in the Tony Rees position. A bit of arm wrestling, shove ha'penny and bar billiards later and Jones trundled into the path of the ball as it emerged from this indoor league. A quick soft shoe shuffle sent two defenders to earth and Jones the Lump magnificently steered the ball with the outside of his right boot arcing around Dunbavin into the bottom corner. An old-fashioned finish from an old-fashioned footballer.

Shall we get the posh plates out now and have a party?

Woah, hold that metaphor in midstream. And don't forget that you should never change a metaphor mid-stream; if you watch it you'll only fall off and never boil. Town turned off for 20 minutes and were stretched out like an old rubber glove in a mad dog's gnashers. Newey did dilly-dally-Galli, retreating fully 20 yards as Todd advanced to the edge of the area and bedraggled a shot just past the far post. Proctor did the same on the other flank, then Todd again, roving and reeling in from their right wing, strangling a right-footed shot wide.

A cross, a corner, a breakaway, an oop 'n' oonder: Town were being clobbered, retreating further and further away from the forwards. A big whacking free kick was lobbed high into the Town area; Barnes crept off his line and Whittle waited for the keeper. In between these two dilatory dawdlers Mullin rose and headed wide from around the penalty spot. A corner dropped and Mannix flopped the ball into the red void behind goal. The Pontoon was relaxed, for the Mighty Mariner's spinning head and Pinocchio posturing just added to the party mood.

Ah, we've remembered how to play. Town broke away down the left after Pulis tapped Hegggarty free. Boshell scootered down the wing in support and Newey took a microlite from left-back; Heggggarty waited and feigned interest in Boshell before stroking a pass through the centre for the on-rushing Newey. Dunbavin hurtled out and blocked Newey's attempted tipple. What is it with Town left-backs and tipples?

The Accies just wouldn't give up: Mannix hit a first-time shot from 30 yards, which one of their bald strikers flicked on, but Barnes plunged to his right to save comfortably. Todd volleyed wide, Mangan swiped high. Didn't they realise they'd lost?

With ten minutes left Town purred again, Newey nearly chipped through the centre; Boshell raced past the forward and was almost released from the halfway line; Paterson rolled and rolled and rolled and all the while Pulis became more prominent. Town started to ooze again, flicking, tricking and taking the micking with one-touch passing through the defence and midfield. Olé! Luxuriously lashing the ball from side to side, Town's jewel-encrusted strikers twinkled one more time. Till shivered infield past two to swish a rising drive towards the top left corner but Dunbavin got on his jet pack to clutch the ball.

That's it: Dunbavin's dunsavin' for today.

The Stanners had a free kick, which they curled over the wall and away from the foot of Barnes's right post. You have to hand it to them: they had a go after being thoroughly outplayed for most of the first hour. Yes, well done, plucky little Lancastrians.

Paterson held the back of his leg and started to hobble. Buckley immediately sent Rankin out to warm up and closely observed the movements of our loan star. One more twinge and Buckley sent McDermott out to get Rankin back. As Rankin slowly took off his many layers of thermal underwear, Paterson set off on one last run. Receiving the ball deep inside the Town half on the touchline, he spun around and ran fully 50 yards at full speed, chasing the ball back to the keeper and forcing an error. His work done, he smiled and waved as the crowd roared its appreciation.

Isaiah, you're a big man, but you're not in shape. It was like having two bouncy castles as our strike force. Rankin did one fantastic turn, which the referee managed to convince himself was a foul, and anticipated a dimple over the top, but missed the ball as Dunbavin stood in front of him. He was involved and standing in the right place for Buckleyball.

In added time Whalley did a little foxtrot in the Town penalty before falling over as his wig blew off in the wind. He was booked for diving.

It's nearly December and the tables are starting to turn - are we talkin' 'bout a revolution? You bet your sweet bippy. He saw, he changed, we succeeded. Three excellent loan signings with an instant impact, for they slotted in perfectly. The team purred as it swept forward. Opulence unbound: such fluidity, such vim, verve and vivacity unseen for nearly a decade. Town defended a bit ropily and were ultimately fortunate not to concede, but why be churlish? We've waited years for Town to be Town again. Over the top? Clutching at straws? You had to be there. We who were know. Four thousand smiles in Grimsby, Lincolnshire: now you know how many smiles it takes to fill the Memorial Hall. Town really turned it on.

"One swallow doesn't make a summer" goes the cliché. Maybe not, but this was a big gulp towards the suntan of self-respect. Get the shades on, rub in the lotion. After five seasons of implosion, Town are back in motion.

A taste of honey is better than none at all.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
All were fine, but some were even finer than others. Bolland was back to being Bolland and Croft linked excellently with Till. The three new players were varying degrees of outstanding for large parts of the game. Till is a flying winger who tracks back and had a great telepathic understanding with Martin Paterson. Roadrunner never stopped moving at 1,000 mph. For once even the sponsors got it right.

Official Warning
Mr P Joslin got in the way of a Town attack once and was far too fussy and inconsistent. He helped and hindered both teams with irritatingly precise demands on where to take free kicks, but only sometimes. He should have given them a penalty and it was always a toss up which way he'd swing his decision pants. A number? 4.334.

The Others
Their goalie was tiny but terrific - a shot-stopping colossus. He was the only thing between defeat and humiliation. Without him they'd be… OK, I've dunravin' about Dunbavin. They were a bit clunky and one-dimensional, like a medium-sized oil tanker: capable of creating a lot of damage if left to sail the seas without being guided away from the rocks. Their defence was flappy and could not cope with fast tricky footballers, but not many can. Stanley are designed to survive and they shoot enough to win a few games. Slightly less threatening than Hereford, with a wobblier defence. A standard lower mid-table offering who will flirt with relegation. Pass me that black kettle, will you.