Needle in a haystack

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

11 March 2018

Grimsby 1 Port Vale 1

Welcome to the next new brave new world in a new age of reason that we hope's pleasin'. The ancien regime et mort! Everything must change! Again. Everything must go! Again. But not just yet, we're stuck with the muck and with a lorra lorra luck we can pass the buck of relegation. Passing. I have heard of such a thing.

Snowdrops and daffodils, butterflies and bees. Butterboats and fishermen and Michael Jolley. Let's pass the time with our old muckers from Burslem on a balmy spring afternoon of receding drizzle.

Town lined up in a 3-5-1-1ish formation as follows: McKeown, Suliman, Clarke, Collins, Davies, Fox, Berrett, Rose, Clifton, Dembele and Matt. The substitutes were Killip, Hall-Johnson, Mills, Kelly, DJ Jinky, Cardwell and Hooper. Davies and the flying Fox were the wing backs, with Dembele lurking in the Kingsley Black Hole of Matt's lack of control.
Everything was the same but different. The warming routines were less routine, sharper, quicker and tailored to the needs of the game, not just lacklustre chippings on the pot-holed road to Borehamwood. The crowd was going clackers, a 1,000 paper fans fluttering and cluttering the aisles and earways. Make some noise for the boys? How about shouting rather than waving as we drown?

Port Vale turned up in amberish yellow, Tonge and Pugh in the midfield groove, a boy with a bun and a giant haystack at centre-half.

It's been a long, a long time coming but we know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.

1st half – reality bites

Town kicked off towards the 300 or so Osmond dwelling Burslemites with a Clarkian lump down the middle. Ah, sorry this is the New Age, isn't it. Clarke carefully caressed a chip towards Matt's chest.

Huh, same players, same things happen.

Ooh, what is this I see before me? A swagger? Short passes, triangles, men's legs moving. Wing-backing, squeezing space with wheezes. Football. Yes, football. Oh, why did you have to pass is to Berrett?

Momentum dissipating in the boggy marshland of the missing midfield. Clifton harried, Dembele dallied. A free kick bumbled bomblingly and the Port Vale penalty area is as peaceful as can be. Dembele just drifted into space, spectacularly overhooking up on the roof.

Hello! Seven minutes gone and Mr Rose touched the ball. Wish he hadn't.

Tip-tap, tap-tip, I have a top tip for Townites – stop giving the ball to the old dame Rose Berrett. Leave her to munch pilchard sandwiches and packets of iced gems in the front room. Put the telly on, Tipping Point is on soon. Cuppa tea, dear?

Now where's the packet of bourbons gone? What, did I miss something? Amber ambling, shambling shuffles and Suliman stood off Bunboy Harness on the right corner of the penalty area. The bunnyboy swiveled and rolled to the bye-line with Davies blocking. The ball rolled back and Harness lolipopped an up'n'under to the far post. The lonely urbane Fox was nudged, the ball dropped and Worrall lowly volleyed through the thicket of stripes across the face of goal.

Jolley smiled wryly. Words were mouthed dryly. Some people wished they'd gone to Filey.

Tip-tap, tap-tip, Town tickled around but the ball eventually reached one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Clifton nearly almosted once or twice, Davies and Fox took turns to underhit and overhit free kicks and corners. A striped corner cleared, Fox slipped, Harness hared away and happily for us homesters humpled highly into the pigeon lofts at the back of the Pontoon.

Clifton almosted nearly now and again, Fox and Davies took turns to underhit and overhit crosses. The yellow caused peril with a bit of running and a bit of passing. Worrall on the right sauntered, shimmied and shivered several timbers by bedraggling past Jamie Mack's flailing fingers. Far, far away with their heads up in the clouds, a couple of hundred arose to acclaim their ascent. Alas and alack traveler, the ball clipped the outside of the post, slipped against the inside of the pole holding the net up and rolled along the back of the goal.

Town were a stodge, the bodge job unravelling as the daytrippers shepherded stripes into the Tonge and Pugh stew. Clipperty-clap, it's a scrapyard junkathon of leg-ups and hippy-dippy trips to the local tip. Berrett booked, Dembele sawed in half by Tonge, Clifton almost had a shot. A Foxy corner dropped through the Vale six-yard box with lurking monochromers strong-armed aside. Clarke noodled a free kick softly, safely into Boot's hands.

Town were scraps of batter floating in the fryer.

Yellow, what's this? Rose slacked after a Clifton pass and yellows long distanced a wobbler that was sexily slapped aside by the soaring McKeown. Yellow, yellow, yellow, what's going on here then? Berrett messed and Harness cross lowly from the shadow of the Police Box. Forester snuck behind the old men and, from the penalty spot, swiped towards the top left corner. Behold McKeown the Magnificent. With his body on the way to the Burger Bar he flung up his left hand and flipped the ball over the bar.

Utterly wonderful. And, indeed, we uttered how wonderful it was.

Three minutes were added. Clarke headed a free kick over. A moment of nothingness that, these days, counts as something. And finally the farce, something that, these days, is nothing more than normal. Clifton intercepted and Dembele zoomed along the bye-line and saw stripes a-queuing. He toe-poked towards Davies. Rose stretched out and blocked, striped feet air-swiped and Port Valiants ran away with the spoon.

Same players, and pigs have plugholes.

2nd half – you keep me hangin' on

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Can you read between the lines?

Can you read between Jolley's sighs. Moments. Fragments in space. Fractions of time. There are no fractions in space, just Jamille Matt in space, laying off a perfect clearance into touch with Clifton free and willing five yards away. Jamille Matt wasting space, heading a clearance inside the Town penalty area backwards, to yellow. Clarke threw himself head first into the breach, dear friends.

Dembele surged and greedily mumbled straight at the Boot boy.

After about ten minutes of aimlessness Town took a spoonful of proactive yoghurt. Suliman was replaced by Hall-Johnson and Town moved to 4-4-2.

Nothing changed, save that Town's flanks were a little firmer, holes were filled in space and time.

They run, they try, but they are nothing. Let's apply some science to the problem: same players, same outcome. Alchemy is fantasy. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. The only sound was Potterpeople purring.

On the half way line, under the Frozen HorseBeer Stand, Clifton chested a chip. An amberite intervened and one crinkle chip later Rose ran into the back of roaming pest. The referee pointed spotsward and a dozen of the less staunch homesters got up and headed for the hills. Tonge wandered towards the ball and placed the penalty firmly and lowly towards the bottom left corner. McKeown glided across the mud, stretched out his left hand and scooped the ball aside.

The ground erupted in relief, erupted in belief. There is hope.

Rose was immediately replaced by Cardwell, with Davies in centre midfield.

The ground erupted in relief, erupted in belief. There is hope.

Town began to pass a bit, to press a bit. Just a bit, just enough. A cross in, a clearance out and Clifton skew-whiffed high and wide of the angle of post and bar. Cardwell surged and Davies rubbished the free kick straight into the wall. More surges, more urges, Matt alive, Matt moogling and googling down the left, crossing across the face of the penalty area. Clifton blamped lowly and firmly from 20 yards. The ball arrowed towards the bottom left corner, but Boot's finger's destroyed the beauty of the moment, excellently parrying away for a corner.

Well, at least Town are having a go, having a shot. We remember them, don't we?

With quarter of an hour left the change everyone wanted. Let us be clear for the record m'lud. That's everyone in the Osmond. Kelly replaced Dembele. On he bounded, and off he cantered as a yellow free kick was cleared. The miscreant was booked for the stupidity of legging up Kelly.

And here he is again. He's irrepressible. A monochromer hugged and mugged, and three stripes swarmed. Matt tickled right and Kelly took a touch and was hounded aside for a corner. Elevation! Fox finally elevated and minor peril almost ensued. More corners, more crosses, more, more, more: how do we like it? A little better than normal.

Ah, we seem to have awoken the beast. Valiants va-voomed and Big Bad Barnett swung his pants and swung a volley lowly. McKeown brilliantly adjusted his weight to change direction and block the ball back into the middle of the penalty area. Hall-Johnson pounced to clear, hesitated and Jamie Mack picked the ball up. Oh dear, oh deary me. Town toes were introduced into this never-ending story of woe and a back pass was espied by the eagle-eyed referee. The whole Town team lined up on the goal line with McKeown in front of them. Another dozen of Town's staunchest supporters were in readiness to flounce out. The ball was belted against the flying Fox and Jamie Mack swooped like a Scooby-Doo monster to smother the rebound.

The ground erupted in relief, erupted in belief. There is still hope.

Balls were flung, the keeper clung on to these sleeping satellites. Town kept going, and going, banging their heads against the yellow brick wall. Port Vale took every opportunity to disrupt whatever flow Town had. Nudging, nurdling, tripping, hauling, pulling, feigning and all that jazzery.

And so five minutes were added. The crowd were roaring as Town were not so much pouring as crabbing forward. Matt mis-controlled a chip on the left of their penalty area and a yellowman scriffled scruffily for a throw by the corner flag. Clarke waddled forward for one of his short-long throws. And so short-long throw number 97 duly looped towards the near post. Many heads arose and the ball slipped off a visiting forelock into a little hole of humanity ten or so yards out. A striped toe touched the ball away from yellow boots and, lo, 'twas the boot of Berrett that swivelled and crackled lowly through poking yellow into the bottom left corner.

The ground erupted in relief, erupted in belief. There is still hope. Come on lads, we can still win this!

And the momentum was lost. Enter the Burberry Bozos. A surge of stupidity from the Osmond, swarming over the stewards, eventually mimicked at the end of the Frozen Beer Stand. A pitch invasion, general ebbing and flowing behind the vans and the match was suspended for six or seven minutes with Jamie Mack and Collins, twice, seeking to calm the homefoolery by appealing to reason.

Burberry Bozos, we've all got 'em.

The game resumed, the game petered out into a paddling pool of splashdashery. A draw will do. Things are better already.

It's the same players, there's only so much you can do with a pile old rags. But at least they all tried to the very end and the hints of a future were evident. Time will tell, but there was evidence that the heart is still beating.