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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Rich Mills

19 October 2015

Torquay Utd 1  Grimsby Town 1

This season I've been to Plainmoor a few more times than might normally be expected of a casual observer. Besides being my local club, Torquay desperately need numbers through the turnstiles to stave off a real possibility of administration and who knows – oblivion too. The visit of Town, then – one of only a few clubs in the Conference with something resembling a travelling support – is a much-needed shot in the arm bucket/till/ledger.

I'd been looking forward to this game since the fixtures were announced. As well as being my nearest Town game by some 100 miles, it fell on my birthday. It was also going to be the first game I've taken my kids to and, while they were born in Torquay, they've yet to be lured in by the Gulls so I can steal them away and show them something better. That's the theory, anyway.

Considering how laid-back Torquay's arrangements are on Tuesday evenings (they even allow passes out to the Boots & Laces boozer next door at half time), it's a surprise that the stewards at the away end are searching everyone as they enter the turnstiles. It amazed some neutral friends of mine (Pat, Tony and Tom) who had never been searched at a ground before. Daughter Jasmine and son Aaron (13 and 10) weren't searched but partner Tracey had to present her bag. She unleashed her best headmistress look of disdain on the poor steward. "No wonder they struggle to get people here if they treat everyone like criminals."

Quite. Only two months ago Town took nearly 1,700 fans to Kidderminster, where the chief steward's approach was little more than "no knives, no guns and you'll have to finish those cans before you go in. Will that shark fit through the turnstile?" Whoever is responsible for the arrangements at Plainmoor should take note.

First half

Town lined up playing 4-4-2 with McKeown; Townsend, Toto, Pearson, Tait; Marshall, Disley, Clay, Arnold; Amond and Bogle. The only change from Tuesday's dismembering of Halifax Town was Marshall in for Monkhouse due to Andy having a pretty bad case of shoulder gyp. Town were also wearing black and white, which was fortunate for me as Jasmine's teenage brain would have struggled to understand why I had given her a home shirt (2006-07) to wear and then Town had turned out in away blue.

We started the half at a decent lick, passing the ball around the park as though Torquay weren't there. But this is a resurgent Gulls team, galvanised over the last few games since the arrival of player-manager Kevin Nicholson, and we would rue the chances squandered in the opening half-hour. Town tried to play, they really tried, but many a Mariner was cut down to size by a push in the back, a dig off the ball; a nudge, a kick, a trip.

Referee Nigel Lugg of somewhere in Surrey ignored most of this. Was he trying to let the game flow or was he transfixed by the ball and ignoring the players/assailants? Who knows what goes through the minds of these lower-league officials, especially the linesman who seemed more guided by the Torquay left-back (coincidentally also their manager) than who might have actually touched a ball last or who may or may not have ventured offside.

It wasn't all Sunday morning muggings on the marshes though. Recently returned Tiger Conor Townsend was making them look quite ordinary as he produced stepovers under pressure and set off at pace to free up Marshall down our left. You don't get many footballing full-backs in the Conference and the Torquay fans especially were given a treat as Townsend reminded us all why we voted him young player of the year back in 2011-12.

The Town fans were in good voice as they taunted the locals with "your ground's too big for you"

McKeown was looking solid once again when called on to resist the Yellows as they ventured forward, and the Town fans were in good voice as they taunted the locals with "your ground's too big for you" before utterly confusing Jasmine with "we want a shrubbery". Jasmine is the rare teenage girl who seems to have grasped the complexities of rugby union – offsides, rucks and mauls – but is baffled by football.

"What's happening now? I don't get it!"

"What is there to get? They can pass forwards or backwards but only with their feet. Both teams want to score goals and that's about it."

With no goals, the away end amused themselves with good-natured songs about Brian Blessed needing a shave, aimed at a particularly hirsute steward who took it all on the chin (of course) with a smile. He's a good bloke, known as Hagrid on the Popside and warns fans that he wants "less of the c-word; it's a family club". Don't we all?

It was well against the run of play that Torquay took the lead (I'm biased, of course, but for balance I can report that my mate Guy who live-blogged the match for the local paper also wrote that). Marsh claimed it but was aided by more than a hint of a handball and also by McKeown falling on his arse.      

Torquay finished the half strongly, buoyed no doubt by some noise from the home support, who had until then been quite happy to spend the game waving at each other from the Popside and Bench.

Half-time talk

Is there any truth in the rumour that the Shop is returning to Blundell Park on loan? I heard it from two people on Saturday but I hope it's not based on this.

There wasn't much more to report really. It had got a bit cloudy but everyone was fairly chipper and enjoying the facilities as best one could given that they resembled the sort of catering you'd find in a B&Q car park.

Half-time music review

Last week, as we discussed whether goal celebration music was needed at matches (it isn't), I was moaning about Tina Turner's anthemic but ultimately awful 'Simply the Best' being played after Town's win over Bournemouth at Wembley back in 1998. But this was surpassed on Saturday.

In a choice of entertainment which the psychological warfare chaps at Guantanamo would have been proud of, Torquay's DJ played Skrillex's 'Bangarang' (thanks, SoundHound app, but I will decline your kind offer of downloading it on iTunes) which over a tinny tannoy is the equivalent of being screamed at by Dr Who's nemesis Davros while sitting in an oil drum.  

Second half

Torquay kicked off the second half like they finished the first – slightly uptempo but with plenty of unnecessary nipping and nagging. As Town got frustrated so they tried to match their opponents with a push here and a nudge there, but that was surely what they wanted. We pressed but were repelled and the Town support got tetchier as decisions as well as passes and shots went wayward.

As Pat commented, if we had been playing swearing bingo we'd have just shouted house. In actual fact I don't think I heard a "motherfucker" during the afternoon but aside from that pretty much the whole gamut of cuss was covered. I'm sorry, Jasmine – my fellow Grimbarians and Meggies get a little upset when we're not winning by a cricket score.

The gaffer shuffled his deck twice. Jack Mackreth came on for Marshall after 65 minutes and then ten minutes later Podge made way for JP. Both players made their presence felt and Town's tempo increased. Mackreth skinned players a couple of times before whipping in crosses and Pittman was not standing for any of the nonsense being dished out by Torquay's nigglers.

How it wasn't a red card I have no idea and neither does Spiess, I would suggest

Town's reward came 11 minutes from the end. When through on goal, Bogle was brought down by Spiess (or "Judy Spiess", as the Mr Shouty next to us bellowed. A local reference is always funnier than simply calling everyone a cunt). Mr Lugg pointed to the spot along with dishing out a yellow card. How it wasn't a red card I have no idea and neither does Spiess, I would suggest. Lucky boy, Fabien. Bogez ignored some blatant gamesmanship from Courtney Richards as he placed the ball on the spot before dispatching it calmly into the corner of the net. 

It's worth noting that following the penalty, Town's fans went suitably bonkers, which led to somebody twatting a steward and being bundled out of the ground. Come on, lads, there's really no need. No matter how heavy-handed the stewarding is, we know that fans will always be seen to be in the wrong, so don't rise to it.

For the rest of the game Town pressed for the win and were unlucky several times. Torquay settled for the point with a display of super-slow substitutions and Spiess delaying a goal kick to roll up a length of ribbon (or was it industrial bog roll?). I reckon Dizza, Mackreth, JP and Pearson will all look back on this game as one where they probably should have scored but all things considered, it's another point away from home, another point nearer the top of the league and another game unbeaten.

I was hoping to include some photos of the game but my mate Tony, who is a keen amateur snapper and who I thought would oblige with some artfully shot monochrome action shots, seems to have totally ignored the events on the pitch, instead documenting a stray teabag in the tub of cutlery by the burger van. I despair.

The team have a week off now before an FA Cup tie against Harrogate and the rumoured Return of The Shop. Or some guy surplus at Scunny. Which would you prefer?