Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
28 March 2009
Grimsby Town 1 Aldershoot Town 0
A clear day, a sunny day, a raging, howling, sleety day. Spring has sprung a leak, with a rotten wizening wind swirling sheets of rain into the faces of 300 or so redtops and redcaps on their annual charabanc trip.
Town lined up in the 4-4-2 formation as follows: Henderson, Stickdale, Atkinson, Bennett, Widdowson, Llewellyn, Hunt, Sweeney, Heggggarty, Conlon, Ak Ak. The substitutes were Lund (no relation, wet Hollyoaks hair), Heywood, Proudlock, F-f-f-f-forbes and Bore. Same as last week, so need to worry about a thing. And no need for any amplification; we shall let their motions speak for themselves.
I beg your pardon. Aldershot: what do we know about them, apart from they have a rose garden behind a goal? Who are these strange men we see before us? Who is that unidentified footballing object on their left? Ah, Commander Straker. Who's the man with the flan in defence? Surely not that pirate Blackburn, with a black beard, cutlass and parrot. And... and... and... it can't be! It is! Ooh-ooh Mr Peevely, it's Anthony Charles, Barnet's chief hairbear from their bad hair days.
Fetch... the cushions!
Remember the wind.
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon, with Hunt punting into the freezing hands of the frozen people on the back row of the Frozen Beer Stand.
Tip-tap-whoops. Robinson spun and Hudson bounded free down their right, bristling a low shot across the face of goal, perfectly bisecting Grant's lunge and the far post. The Shottypeople passed the ball, to each other, on the ground, quickly and ran after it. How dare they be trying! That's just not cricket.
Henderson kicked the ball straight down the middle and it hit an old man on the knee in the Lower Frozen Beer Stand. Henderson tried to wallop the ball down the centre and it sailed up, up, up and back, back, back whence it came, like tumbleweed chasing an old joke outta Town.
It rained, it stopped raining. Cockrane plopped a mortar round from 30 yards and Henderson brilliantly flew to his right, flung out a hand and tipped over the bar. Robinson twisted, Robinson turned, Robinson fizzed a turning twister over the bar. Who is this Robinson? We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files. Aldershot controlled the ball and controlled the game; Town could not get out of their own half. Every time it went in the air it blew backwards or at right angles. I told you to remember the wind.
Sweeney tricked but there was no treat with his cross. Sweeney caroused Hegggarty free, but the cross was diverted to another number. No message was left. Stockdale slid and swiped clear when last man, remaining prostrate for minutes. Aldershot never stopped. They tickled to their front men, who flicked and flocked forward. Tasty. Winfield got testy when Conlon headed his shoulder to win a free kick.
The Shotters shot on sight. Aldershoot! Davies snagged and blagged a corner, pulling the ball back to the unmarked Cochrane, dead centre, 25 yards out. Remember Morecambe... remember the Alamo, Justin. The ball slivered off his shins and shivered a yard inside the corner flag. Remember you're a womble.
And Town began to hang on to their toupees. Sweeney hung a free kick high into their penalty area. The wind swirled, the ball curled up like butter and Ak-Ak nodded across the face of goal. Conlon lurked and tumbled as Winfield tried to swap shirts without permission. The dice rolled... no. The sausages will need to roll.
Sweeney and Hegggggarty played pooh sticks with Cap'n Ahab before Sweeney flipped a flat cross towards the far post. A red head flicked on as Conlon waited and Lulu baited. Slowly, slowly Town were easing into this game. Sweeney hit a teasing free kick from the right, coiling it way beyond the far post. Ak-Ak limboed to spin and shin a shot inches from the top left corner. Magnificent skill. Ak-Ak purred after a punt, swishing and swaying past three before bedraggling straight at Jaimez-Ruiz, their South American shot stopper, wearing short shorts and lycra tights. Three were free, but Ak-Ak only had eyes for Ruiz.
Under pressure, pushing down on Jaimez, kicking straight to Thin Barry, who fed the Heg, who crossed to Sweeney, who steered to J-R. And we're back where we started. Don't break the ring cycle and don't fear the reaper, but that's another story for another game.
And Town's door was open and the wind appeared. The Shooties' candles blew and then disappeared. Hudson broke through, racing onto a flick after some tickled triangles. Henderson got on his moped, his hazard warning lights blinking, then halted. Hendo stared at Hudso, crouched and raised his right arm as the ball was casually lifted over him, elegantly and easily patting away for a corner. Henderson won the blinking competition. I don't mention their corners because Town were unflustered by all their variations on a theme. The curtains flew and then he appeared: Conlon has a big bald head and they were attracted to it.
Stockdale winked a dinker across and behind the tremulous trotters and Heggggarty stretched and stretched and missed a dozen yards out. Ak-Ak fumed and Hegggarty plumed a low, flat cross onto Lulu's head, on the edge of the area. The ball dropped, Sweeney plopped towards the top left corner and J-R plucked the lemon from the tree of shinny hope and sucked it dry.
The Alders shot from distance; Town drowned much closer to shore.
With about ten minutes to half time Bore replaced the hobbling Lulu. This was greeted with the façade of politeness. Within a couple of minutes Bore pleasingly twiddled a pass between two toadstools and into the path of the Huntsmobile deep inside their area. A moment of almostness, followed by a corner. Followed by a shimmering shot on the turn from Robinson, followed by Hegggarty thissing and Hegggarty thatting prompted by The Sweeney.
Grant shot wide from 25 yards. Shooting on sight translates from the Hampshire dialect as missing on site. I couldn't agree more.
Sweeney clipped a corner, Atkinson headed over. Hegggarty shot simperingly at J-R, who caught a cross, who watched Straker block, who watched Winfield head clear, who watched Bore watching you watching me watching Henderson flash a kick forward to the halfway line. The ball loopily looped back and out for a corner. Remember the wind. Remember the sausage rolls. It's half time.
That'll do. Do not underestimate the wind: at times it was impossible for the ball to move forward, such was its strength. This was blow football with only one straw, affixed in the corner between Pontoon and Frozen Beer Stand. Equality was good.
The cushions did not hurt them, for all the stuffing was up one end. Bring on the comfy chair.
Neither team made any changes at half time as the sun shone for 38 seconds, followed by torrents of driving rain. Then sunshine, then hail. I told you to remember the hail.
Aldershot kicked off again towards the Pontoon, with Davies punting into the freezing hands of the frozen people on the back row of the Frozen Beer Stand.
Tip-tap-whoops. Robinson spun and Hudson bounded free down their left, chasing a flick into the penalty area. Henderson raced out to his right, but the ball was retrieved before the touchline and before he arrived. Stranded. Two Shooters standing alone and Henderson the piggy in the middle. Hudson passed to Grant, eight yards out, who carefully stroked the ball goalwards and straight at Atkinson, who'd plonked himself on the line by the post. There was a degree of audible pleasure enunciated. Seven thousand men and women redefined happiness at that point of the day.
Hegggarty and Sweeney continued to roast the woeful Straker's chestnuts on an open fire, with the Scottish troubadour caressing his lute and singing a whipping, dipping Gaelic lament into the centre. J-R rose, Bore rose higher and headed over the opened goal from six or seven yards out. Sweeney croaked a corner and Bennett stumblingly headed wide beyond the far post as the Merida madman wandered and wondered why he'd swapped the Andes for the Hampies. That's Caracas!
Will you please pay attention, otherwise they'll be off again doing their Buckleyan wall passing and movement. And Buckleyan missing too. In a bound they were free down the Town left. Grant flicked and Robinson zimmered to the bye-line, levering a low shot across Henderson from a very narrow angle. The ball zipped and flicked off a Town boot on the line and arced between far post and the waiting, wailing Hudson. The lights are going out all over Aldershot; we shall not see their likes again for another half an hour.
J-R was incapable of batting the ball beyond the halfway line, or even keeping it in play. Remember the wind? It's now our friend. Sweeney surged, Sweeney was blocked, Hegggggarty crossed, the ball sailed over, through and beyond. Bore shrank and shivered underneath the FBS, the mumbling turned to grumbling, then growling and grizzling, then, as the grizzles were turning into a drizzle of derision... bekawapumpa! Thirty yards out Bore unleashed his dog of war, the ball wobbling and wibbling, up, around and over J-R, smacking the crossbar with a big, wet kiss and scuttling over for a goal kick. On the hour came the power. The crowd stopped its glower and he stopped his cower. He started to tackle, to track and to chase with pace.
It was all Town, all action, all hands on deck to stop the old ship capsizing in the wind. Sure, sure Atkinson was booked for legging up a fleeing Shotty right under Re-Newell's nose, but let's ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive, elim-my-nate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Sweeney in-between. Ak-Ak surged, Sweeney purged and fell inside the penalty area. A rubbish fall.
Widdowson waffled a right-footer waftingly wide by a couple of feet; Bennett headed a corner over or was it wide? Hunt and Sweeney razed Aldershot's midfield to the ground and fliggled a cross into the centre. The ball bounced on and on and Ak-Ak chased after it, levering a shot towards the emptied net. The whole ground leapt and hollered, causing an ornamental garden pond in Tuvalu to ripple unexpectedly. No handball given and the voluptuous Venezuelan fell to earth.
Who shot J-R?
And still Town turned the tourniquet. Shots were charged down by the Shots, crosses noodled for corners, corners nurdled for burgers. Sweeney, 20 or so yards out to the centre-left, massacred a free kick through their ghost wall and J-R fumbulated away as two fighter bombers, Ak-Ak and Conlon, converged on his air space. Hegggarty surged away after a tricycle of trick shots and juggling by Conlon and Sweeney. As team-mates queued up unmarked to his right, Heggggarty toe-poked an awful shot into the top left corner of the Osmond stand, managing to hit one of the few unmanned seats in Blundell Park.
With about a quarter of an hour left the change it had come, but we didn't know all along that Proudlock would replace Ak-Ak rather than the ponderous and occasionally indulgent Conlon. Proudlock makes a difference.
Crosses flew left, flew right, with the wind shearing sheep. C'mon weather, we need a squall. The ball caught on the wind and swung in from the left, arcing across the penalty area. Conlon pursued, and Charles cruised. Perhaps Hairbearboy was dreaming of the past? His heart was beating fast and he began to lose control. He began to lose control, grappling with Conlon, raising an arm and the ball hit something, somebody. Conlon fell, Hairboy fell and the crowd yelled. The linesman raised his flag and the seventh cavalry arrived in the form of a penalty.
Well, well, Mr Charles. May I call you Chucky? You do keep chucking the game away for your employers. I don't mean to hurt you, I'm sorry, but you make us cry with laughter. Conlon and Proudlock ran after the ball, with Conlon filing a claim for squatter's rights, finders keepers, and all the other playground laws of the bungle. As Conlon plonked the ball down on the spot and waited, J-R leapt up and twanged the bar up and down. Conlon waited for the wobbling to subside, waited for J-R to reveal his true intentions and deftly chippled the ball down the centre as the cheeky plucker plunged left. Conlon was deft, J-R was daft and Town were back on the life raft. There was a tsunami in an ornamental garden pond in Tuvalu. No goldfish were harmed.
And now the crowd made some noise. Aldershot were shot, Town rampant, J-R flustered and pining for the Ford dealerships of Caracas. Conlon and Proudlock pestered their back three into rolling passes back and back and back to J-R. Proudlock tippy-toed up behind and nicked the ball away as J-R tried a cocky drag back. The ball rolled to Hegggggarty, who calmly rolled it in to the empty net. A queue of pensioners in Tuvalu were alarmed when their shopping trolleys rolled away and a goldfish was accidentally crushed, as was someone's accumulator as the referee was extremely nice to J-R and disallowed the goal.
The dodgy linesman under the FBS flagged Proudlock offside when he pelted towards J-R; Hegggarty crossed behind Proudlock and Bore and there were four minutes of added time.
And now Aldershot awoke. Conlon tried to be a bit too clever, back-heeling on the halfway line but setting up a counterattack. The Shotties poured forward; Town poured back and Hunt cracked several nuts with one swooping, stamping roar. The ball twizzed to Hilton, who was slain by a Stockdale slide inside the penalty area. Aldershot had seven in the penalty area, then eight, then nine. Town were outnumbered, the ball pinged and ponged and Robinson, a dozen yards out, toe-poked a shot through a thicket of legs. The crowd gulped and Henderson, by his right post, carefully settled down low to his right and very, very deliberately punched the ball to Stickdale to slice clear.
Another game, another clean sheet, another victory. It was hard work, and it was unglamorous persistence rather than the sweeping majesty of innate brilliance that triumphed. Glamour and glitz is for next year. Oh, and a bit of luck for once with the referee.
Seventeen home games, nineteen goals, two wins, lower and lower crowds = panic. Three home games, nine goals, three wins, bigger and bigger crowds = belief. It's not a theory: it's a scientifically proven fact.
We can still do this.