Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
29 April 2018
Town 2 Notts County 1
A wet, windy and shuddering afternoon in the Cathedral of Calamity for a day of destiny. Who in the Dentists' Stand wouldn't give all their fame for a pot of ale and safety?
Town lined up the HSE approved 4-1-4-1-ish formation as follows: McKeown, Hall-Johnson, Clarke, Collins, Fox, Rose, Clifton, Summerfield, Woolford, Hooper and Cardwell. The substitutes were Killip, Davies, Osborne, Berrett, DJ Jinky, Matt and Jackson. Town have settled into the new emperor's groove with Rose blooming radiant as the roaming roadsweeper and Cardwell the lonesome roadrunner. Got the radio on for news from the day of the dead over in Lanky-lanky-lanky-lanky-lankyshire?
In a world of toxic masculinity and toxic caterpillars the old County turned up in luminous yellow with loads of Nolan's old mates from the old days of old, when televisions could fit in your living room and potholes were for spelunkers. Didn't they used to work down the dock?
Let's make it very clear, we've got no room left in Blundell Park for cavers or ravers or even Green Shield Stamp savers. It's packed out and pulsating, though the music's still grating.
Town: like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game's afoot; follow your spirit: one more heave lads before some of you leave. One more heave.
1st half – spirit levels
County kicked off towards the Pontoon and away from their 1,500 zipped up anoraks of angst. From the off their ageing Amoeba made a bee-line for our Rose: nudging, needling, narking and seeking to pollinate with petty poison. Old Town heads got out the can of insecticide and sprayed the slow-moving invasive pest.
Into them, into them, Town getting into them. Busy and buzzing with Toblerones for tea. Woolford licked a cross and yellow boots poked away from Hooper's toe dead centre. Scrimps and scrapes and time for Mitch's torpedoes. Ah-ha, even the ball boys have been coached, and with a series of strategically placed towels, Rose's munchy-wunchy long chucks caused minor mayhem and County were nearly toast. Summerfield tapped a covered-corner corner shortly and Little Harry shimmied, shammied and curled a big dripper against the angle of far post and bar.
Countyites rattled into slices, slashes, and slap-dashes of misplaced passes as Townites battled and Nolan prattled on the touchline. Tipping, tapping and Hall-Johnson drooped a looper into the corridor of uncertainty where Hooper lurked, but Duffy grazed away for a throw-in. You know the score, you've seen it all before: towels, Rose, long chucks, Midland moogling and a-googling. And Hooper slashed a volley wayly over.
The yellowmen? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Then a thing. And then another thing, with things getting closer to the thing we call the Town goal. You want precision rather than impressions? A gentle chip from their left and Forte stooped near the penalty spot to flick a flimsy looper sailing slowly, slowly back across the face of goal. McKeown motionless, the ground emotionless as the ball dropped inches over and around the near post.
That was them, shall we get back to the interesting characters in this novella?
Ooh, Town. Yeah, Town. Football. Lovely. Lubby-dubby. Short passes, long passes, passes to each other.
Near the half hour nowhere of interest in the middle of the pitch, Amoeba shrugged and Town got a free kick. McKeown wellied highly and deeply into the waiting humanity. Bimbles were bumbled as the ball meandered off many a sock and thigh to roll around the unmanned penalty spot. Clarke calmly stepped forward to pass the ball around and through the County lines and into the bottom left corner. And then calmly went wild, went wild, went wild in front of the County fans.
Take all your problems and rip 'em apart, then carry them off in a shopping cart. From little acorns squirrels grow.
Awoken from their slumbers by the sound of unsilence in Blundell Park, some Countyites decided to move their legs. Some, not all. Biffing and banging and infiltrations with a yellow overload on the Town right. A pass dissected the penalty area and… roll VT. Let's look at that again, Alan, in super-slow motion.
Hooper stepped in front of Virtue-Thick to prod away from the tumbler and Alessandra wafted wonderfully over from the centre of the penalty area while appealing for a penalty. So, Alan, with your shiny shirt and smug grin (with visible Whittled scar), was that a penalty? Was he entitled to go down?
Not for you, Carl. The gentleman caller from Hull chose regional solidarity and accuracy over the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd.
On they wobbled, like blancmange. Noble Eagled from the half way line. Actually more life a chiffchaff with a naff, underhit lob that Jamie Mack contemptuously slapped down with a withering look and pithy aside. Mitch hitched up his trousers and went for a paddle in his shallow pool of tricks and flicks. Whoopsydaisy, Countyites pounced and Town were all of a tither. Forte's shot squirtled off various socks, ricobounding across the face of goal. Virtueless was virtually alone five yards out, but Fox vitally slid to discombobulate the Liverpool loanee, who died like a louse in a Russian's beard as the ball drumbled slowly out of play for a goal kick.
Confucius wrote: the virtuous man is driven by responsibility. Matthew Virtue-Thick is always diving for a penalty.
The storm remained in its teacup as Town returned to pinging ways. Pass. Move. Move and pass. The wily Fox crossed and Summerfield headed wide. Little Harry harried and Big Harry Cardwell scrimbled lowly into Collin's awaiting arms. Summerfield cheekily chumped a sneaky shallow free kick as Collin concentrated on his apples. Little Harry head-poked straight at Collin after some sly scrumping.
Robbing and roaming, Summerfield rinked a dink on the right and Woolford sizzled in beyond the penalty spot to volley. Collin flew right to block, the ball came straight back into Woolford's flightpath and he stuck out a useful part of his body to poke back towards the emptying net. The ball hit the sliding Hunt and diverted straight into the prostrate Collin's midriff.
Now then, the first question one asks of Jonathan Forte is not going to be "does he have his own hat?" It's only fair to report that Notts County did force McKeown to touch the ball in the first half. In the added minute Forte headed so tamely no chairs were required, let alone a whip.
Time enough I think for a piece of wood.
Well, what a corker. Half a heave, half a heave, half a heave onwards, we're charging towards the light.
2nd half – spirit in the pie
Neither team made any changes at half time.
County snapped and crackled into tackles, slapping balls high and longer deep, deep into the Town half without thinking. The full court press was on.
A big yellow dump deep into the Town area. Head and tails, head and tails, the ball bouncing in a semi-circle of monochrome. Collins booted out and Hooper ran off down the wing, under the shadow of the Frozen Beer Stand. As the last defender approached his shoulder Hooper glided away, cut infield and drifted along the bye-line, seemingly over-poking, losing control. Collin came out but Hooper tippy-toed a prod across the face of goal. Cardwell awaited three yards out, stretched and missed the ball, which rolled and rolled and rolled and may I be as bold as to suggest Town should really have scored the season-deciding second.
Buzz, buzz, buzz, plop, plop, plop. Stead replaced Amoeba.
Town sat back, soaking up the bombardment, launching occasional sorties up field. Summerfield dribbled into a void and hobbling Hall-Johnson was replaced by Davies after being felled from behind. The virtueless Virtue-Thick was replaced by Jorge Grant.
Clang, clang, clang, bang, bang, bang, ding, ding, ding. Here they come…
Pressure bearing down on Town in sub-Allerdycian murderball. Forte scampered down their left and swished a cross across but Stead was happily far too old at the far post. Ups were undered, chucks were hurled. Duffy arose to flick at the near post from an uncovered-corner corner and several Town socks scraped away from the line. Sniggering sneaks and slapping shovels, here they come again. Grant slippered down their right and slappered across the face of goal, shivering off unknowable shins and boombling crazily upwards towards the top left corner. Too high, can't come down. Losin' his head, spinning round and round. McKeown reached behind his right ear and hooked the ball away from under the bar like a card shark. It's the ace of spades.
With a quarter of an hour left, after one last fruitless charge down, Cardwell was replaced by Matt. Big Harry ran around, we appreciated the effort. Thank you for your time Big Harry.
Ooh, it's a corner. How did that happen? Does it matter? Summerfield coiled in a drippy drooper from the left and wibbly Collin punched the ball onto Matt's nose.
Desperation calls for innovation and County abandoned their precious commitment to occasionally kicking the ball to each other. Full on Route One. All hands to the pump as the shells rained in. McKeown caught a cross, Collins shouldered arms to repel a whack with his personality. Hubble, bubble we're in trouble – the ball arced over Jamie Mack to the far post and Davies poked wide from a yard. The corner from the covered corner swished and Duffy knelt to glance a graze across the face of goal. Davies awaited at the foot of the left post and boggered away.
Respite, despite the respite there was no respite. They're here, they're here already. They're all around you. In, out, an up was upped and Grant sneaked behind Fox. McKeown raced out but the swingler swung around and creaked goalwards. The goal was open, the deed was simply to be done. Davies and Clarke hurled themselves feet first as human shields and diverted the ball, both kissing the post as they slid by.
With County demanning their defence, spaces emerged for clearances to land in. Once, twice, three time a laddie in stripes soared. Hooper flickered down the left and Woolford scoopled woefully beyond the stars. Woolford bickered down the centre and slithered a slivey tove to the unmarked Hooper, left of goal. A slap-shot zithered towards the top right corner and Collin sat back, raised one hand and punched the ball up and just out for a corner.
Mmm, that's two, so where's thrice?
Here's the thrice. Another breakaway. Hooper twiddling and widdling and beautifully dinking a flat chip into the path of the rambling Rose, unmarked, alone and za-zooming into the penalty area. Collin stuttered, stopped, and danced like a chicken. Ah, poultry enumeration in progress. Mitch muttered the ball into the netherest regions of the Pontoon. Wild and windblown, that's how it goes with our Ramblin' Rose.
Here they come again. It's pumping piles from County. Boom! Boom! Boom! Everything and everybody in the way of everything. Tin hats, straw hats, hats off to Harry for a final block. Time ticking down. Three minutes… two minutes… one minute…
A last lump, a final big dripper. Wrestling, rumbling and a half turn, half block, poke and stretch and the ball squirmed out towards the bye-line. McKeown chased out left pursuing Jorgeyboy Grant who slipped and spun and hooked a clearance out to the D. O'Connor threw himself at the ball and headed loopily goalwards. The ball hung in the air and time froze as Townites lined up on the goal line. Davies leapt under the ball as it hit the crossbar and fell straight down. Jones slash-volleyed high into the net.
Words. There were none. Men with hollow stares descended the stairs as they couldn't face the final curtain.
Suddenly this world had lost its glory, let's start a brand new story.
Up went the flashing board: five minutes were added and Jackson replaced Little Harry.
A bit of this, a bit of that; Town not sure whether to stick or bust. County walloped, Town cleared aimlessly, fruitlessly, the end is nigh. A chuck in under the Frozen Horsebeer stand and Hooper shuffled past the flailing marker. Jackson jinked to the near post and Hooper delayed the cross long enough for yellow boots to appear and clear into the Pontoon. Summerfield ambled over and drooped the corner dead centre, five yards out Collin flimsily flapped with no defenders for protection as Matt arose to graze into the centre of the goal and gaze into the eyes of the on-rushing Pontoon, smothered in love and humanity. Look upon my work Mighty Mariner and stop despairing. Fox backslid through the human huggings and McKeown overshot the celebrations, ending up in the burger bar. Pandemonium, a paradise regained.
Hang on, how long left? I dunno.
On and on, up and down and out the ball went and the ref blew for a throw-in. They think it's all over. It wasn't. The human spillage was swept off the pitch and on we went into the eigth minute of five. Will this ever end?
A last yellow wallop into the Town penalty area. Pings were ponged and Collins shinned away from inside the six-yard box and then we were free. The crowd spilled out and over as team and fans joined together in perfect harmony, hugging and a kissing, Jamie Mack carried shoulder high, Jolley smothered in a duvet of delight. How did we do that?
There we were, desperately in need of some stranger's hand, in a desperate land, lost in a Mariners wilderness of pain. All the directors were insane, all the Town fans were in pain, just waiting for the summer rain and along came Mikey.
A rocking good game, an absolute cracker. Football espied, commitment observed. The future should be brighter.
We can dress real neat from our hats to our feet and surprise 'em with the victory cry: party on in Brigadoon!