Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
16 January 2017
Grimsby Town 0 Exeter City 3
On a briskly clear day of unsnowing, non-flooding ordinariness, 245 Grecians earned the respect of the sentient for rolling up their sleeves and rolling into beautiful downtown Cleethorpes. The sun was up, the sky was blue, beating Hartlepool was beautiful and nothing can go wrong now.
Oh yes it can.
Town lined up in a 3-5-2 formation as follows: Henderson, Boyce, Collins, Pearson, Davies, Mills, Comley, Disley, Andrew, Yussuf, Bogle. The substitutes were McKeown, Jones, Gunning, McAllister, Vose, Vernon and Bolawinra. Six defenders on the pitch. At home. An even shorter manager with longer tenure was pilloried for such hubris. What's good for Hartlepool is not good for Blundell Park. Brows were furrowed.
Exeter turned up in an ominously luminous kit, with the keeper's apparently green shirt matching perfectly in the sunlight. They didn't look big; they all looked a bit thin, except Reid, who was sufficiently sturdy to attract Pontoon pork pies about his thighs.
A prepared statement was read out, with no mention of Mr Graham Taylor's formative 17 years in Lincolnshire professional football. Not a mention, not a hint, suggestion or inkling. Apparently he was a lower-league footballer somewhere, who only emerged in the real, important world as Watford's manager. That was utterly shameful. A minute's applause? That was rather distasteful.
He played nearly 200 times for Town, and was our captain. Graham Taylor deserved a respectful and sincere collective acknowledgement on that basis alone.
Not a good start to the day.
First half: Solitude standing
Town kick off towards the Osmond. Omar walked along the halfway line and passed beyond Davies and out of play. Town tottered with sideways shuffles towards Henderson, who hooked straight out of play, into the outer extremities of the Dentists' Stand. One hundred seconds of slow ineptness.
Not a good start to the game.
Alas, dear reader, little did we know that these one hundred seconds were the best seconds of our lives, the acme of adequacy, the zenith of zippiness, the A–Z of our alphabet soup. Town were slurpy with the sideways shuffles, playing pass the hot potato along the back three, dicing with disaster as the ball slowly boombled along, among, between and over the divots.
Under-hits, over-hits, never hits, should be hit.
Thrown-ins. Were thrown. Andrew hurled one of his flatly loopy non-long long chucks. Then others. Andrew crossed. Disley ducked and headed well, well over at the near post.
Throw-ins. Were thrown. Inconsequential thisers and thatters and Disley almost almosted again. Or was that Boyce? Or was Boyce the earlier almostness of nothingness? Pearson arose at the near post and headed a corner well, well over.
Well, well, well. Do you see the pattern? Do you see a pattern? Do you see what I see? Do you see a bad moon rising? Do you? Do you? Do you wanna go home now?
Exeter. They broke away and did things quickly. How? Ooh, I dunno. They just did, by moving their legs quickly and having the ability to control the ball when passed towards them by fellow travellers. And while we were all bemoaning the basic badness of Town's colander formation and twizzle stick tactics, a luminescence threatened deep, deep inside the heart of the Town penalty area. Eight or so yards out on the left Collins slid in and passed back towards Henderson, who promptly picked the ball up. Handkerchiefs were wafted and local dignitaries were indignant as the referee awarded an indirect free kick.
Davies flew out from the Mariners' Maginot Line and the ball thunkled off his big personality. Eventually, well, eventually the world will end in a fireball as stars collide somewhere near the dug-outs
The raspberry rapper sprayed a wonky line a yard from goal and Town filled the goal. Davies flew out from the Mariners' Maginot Line and the ball thunkled off his big personality. Eventually, well, eventually the world will end in a fireball as stars collide somewhere near the dug-outs and an Exeterian was booked for hoiking the sinewy Yussuf to the floor.
They had a shot. It went over. They had another shot as well, which did not go over the bar but squiggled narrowly wide. How did we get to this? They passed, they moved, they ran little rings around and through the holey mess. You got the distinct impression they knew what they were supposed to be doing and knew they were capable of doing it.
Town, an occasional visitor to the land of the Osmonds. Yussuf waddled and wiggled and crossed dangerously, excellently to the near post. But there was nobody home. Disley tickled, Yussuf rolled his man and rolled the ball perfectly into the path of Omar, who swept a steer around ankles, around the keeper's fingers and inches from the right post.
That, my fine feathered friends, was the only Mariners moment worth thinking about in the entire game. You can fly away now if horror is not your genre.
Watkins ran round in circles and dived over an invisible leg right in front of the referee. Yellow card for the yellow diver. Some more blinding yellowness, all infiltration and sophistication as Harley slowly slalomed and salsa-ed deep, deep and deeper into the Town area on the right. Many legs stretched, many backsides got wet and finally, on the bye-line, in the lurking shadow of the goalpost Henderson tackled out for a corner. Town all of a tither and Dizzer noodled a bouncing volley away from near the far post, just to be safe.
Ooh, is this a Town attack I see before me? Ooh, it is, it is! Off they broke and Harley slabbered wide off Davies's studs. Corner, pressure, nonsense and naffness in a loop. Some yellow bloke dribbled, several stripes smothered and down plunged the wallflower. A fancy free kick went sideways and the shot deflected off a sliding striper. A corner from their left was dinked into the near centre. Men arose, the ball dropped in a muddle in the middle. Reid swivelled and swept through Henderson from five yards out as the emotionally incontinent wept in the northern transept of the church of the poisoned Pontoon minds.
Well, to be perfectly frank, there really is no point going beyond this point as Town'll never get even a point out of this. It'll only make you angry.
It was rotten from the start and went off from there. The change, it has to come, we'd known it all along.
Second half: Cracking
Gunning replaced Pearson, while Mills and Davies swapped position. The system, the formation, the tactics? That song remained the same. To pin the paucity of passing on Pearson was most harsh. If the engine is broken, changing a lightbulb won't make the car work any better.
Andrew raided, heading on, flicking over and volleying wide. Mills raided, haring on and crossing into the crowd. Gunning gurned forward and Omar spun a flippler wide. Yussuf crawled around and forced a corner. Gunning swept wide off the psychic aura of a falling fluorescent. These mean nothing and yet everything. They tell the tale in vapid vignettes of vimless wanderings. They are worth mentioning only because there is nothing else mentioning of any worth.
Omar. Oh well, better move on. He tried to do everything and ended up doing nothing. Still, well done for passing your driving test. At least something positive came out of your week.
And all the while they picked at the threads of Town's new jumper. Exeter simply sat back and waited for Town to fall apart completely. To panic, or not to panic? That's hardly a question. The question is why Town hardly dented this thinly coated Grecian urn.
The slow, slow, dance of dearth continued with the back three crabbing to each other. Exeterians got close and closer, forcing them further back, and the shins started to shank. As the luminati got closer, the back three stood further and further apart. Collins casually leaned on the bar and rolled out way left to where Gunning would have been if he was. Wheeler intercepted and trotted on into the penalty area, and carefully placed the ball across Henderson and in off the bottom of the right post.
Seats flipped, and some moral fibre fell out. A small surge of storming, fuming occasional visitors trickled into Blundell Avenue.
Everyone just looked very confused about where to stand and what to do. Comley's removal removed the shackles and the first Bignot boos of winter arrived
Yussuf and Comley were replaced by Tombola and Vose. At this Town moved to a 3-4-3 formation. That's three full-backs in midfield with Vose and Tombola sort of, kind of, possibly being either side of Omar, sometimes. Everyone just looked very confused about where to stand and what to do. Comley's removal removed the shackles and the first Bignot boos of winter arrived.
Boyce blocked Reid on the right then promptly passed the ball back. Reid ran off and Henderson simply played a dead bat to the medium-pace off-cutter. Next ball, fast-medium right foot over the thicket of legs. A Town chuck-in was routinely noodled aside and Reid ran off, outpacing and outmuscling the suddenly ancient Davies. There is no defence, just men running backwards. Watkins walloped straight at Henderson, who spectacto-parried.
There is no defence, not even men running backwards. Harley ran straight down the middle unhindered from near box to box. With a smorgasbord of options he chose to lick to Wheeler, who shot straight at Henderson.
Thank you Mr Henderson for keeping the score r-r-r-r-r-respectable.
Tombola did something nearly once, crawling around and winning a corner. Look, he tried, stop mithering. Break! Bogle obstructed Mills, who trolled on to the bye-line, looked up, saw no-one around and crinkled a cross across the face of goal to make everyone slightly cross.
Them, them, them, all them. How many do they want to score? Oh, more than two, how greedy. Flowery fluorescent flippings and Town failed to clear thricely. Possession retained, the Devon divers walked around looking for the open door. They are all open, what are you waiting for, you don't even need to knock. Just come on in anytime you please. Watkins tipped a gentle wall pass on the left edge of Town's area, waltzed through the crowd, walked around Gunning's half-stare, then cranked a dimpler across Henderson into the right corner.
By the time he'd got back to the halfway line, half the crowd had left the stadium. Like us, hate us, you'll never change us, Marcus. This is your life now. The carnival is over.
There were ten minutes left. It could have got worse. It didn't.
Four minutes were added. Town couldn't even boil an egg, for today, Matthew, Town were scrambled eggs on toast.
By a very, very long distance the worst collective and individual performance of the season so far. Exeter had many fewer than six defenders in their team, yet defended better than Town. Management, players, crowd: no-one can look back on this with anything but embarrassment.
Everyone takes a beating sometime, but there are ways of being beaten.