Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
2 January 2020
Grimsby Town 1 Salford City 0
Grey and still, it's a new year and, after decades of decay: positive, positive, gotta be positive. Let's reboot the franchise with a new hope. Let's believe, for believing is seeing in this new world order. I believe that for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows. Someone will come to show the way.
I was walking down Hart Street when I heard footsteps behind me, and there was a little man, chuckling away, laughing all day. Why, it's gnomadic Ian Holloway heading our way. Let's follow the pied piper up the Grimsby Road. Let’s go where his music takes us.
Town lined up in a soon to be forgotten 4-3-3 formation as follows: McKeown, Hendrie, Waterfall, Davis, Gibson, Hessenthaler, Clifton, Robson, Wright, Cook and Vernam. The substitutes were Russell, Hewitt, Pollock, Whitehouse, Cardwell, Ogbu and Rose. Somewhere above a storm the smallest prayer can be misheard: no-one called for Cook to lead us into the future.
Suddenly we see this is what many want it to be. He fills up every corner like he's born in black and white, makes many feel warmer when they're trying to remember what it’s like to support their local club. He cometh, he speaketh, we didn't hear a word of it through the tinny tannoy. The people were enthralled, entranced and bewitched, for they believed in every word they couldn't hear. Remember, it is important simply to believe and we all want to believe. So don't worry about a thing, 'cos everything is gonna be alright now.
Over in the Osmond 138 dedicated followers of the fashionable winners of I'm a Celebrity Vanity Project Get Me Out Of The Conference North looked on in amusement and bemusement. Things look different behind blue eyes. Their dreams aren't as empty as their conscience seems to be.
Let's get ready to grimble grumble. We're not Ollie's Army yet, but it is on its way. Would you rather be anywhere else but here today?
First half: the winds of Winter
Town kicked off towards the empty end with a false start and... And what?
One man's civilisation is another man's jungle, yeah? Bluesmen higher, stronger, faster with stripes simply piggies in the middle. They say revolution's in the air; well, there is something in the air.
Occasional moments of awfulness, infrequent moments of almostness. A cross here, a scrubbed shot there. A poke, a prod, a bumble and a stumble. Let's have a big adventure, amidst the grass, fresh air at last.
Town micro–attacked with the vaguest notion of motion. A big blue bonk back and Gibson cleared into the face of Asante. The tiny tormentor tangoed down their right, passed across the face of goal and Rooney swept widely of the furthest post.
Criss-cross they're making a splosh. Crossfield passes, they're just trying to get to the other side of Town. 90 miles an hour is the speed they drive up Town's left. Jervis jinked and winked flatly beyond the far post, Rooney sauntered through the garden gate, brushed a hair off his lapel and donked downwardly. Jamie Mack calmly swayed left and pushed aside. Whither Davis and Gibson? Still having a drink or two down at the Old Bull and Bush.
Look at the sky, look at the river: isn't it good. A penny for the thoughts of the man with a plan sat in the Upper Horsemeat Stand.
Wait, wait, there's movement. Vernam vernamated down the left. Neal watched and waited and suddenly panicked as the mishit zoomed towards goal. The custardian arose and finger flipped onto the face of the crossbar and Town got a throw-in.
Try to believe me 'cos it could be front page news: throw–ins. It's the story of these blues.
Waterfall waffled and Rooney missed his moment, and the ball, after Asante whipped up a trifle for Gibson. Some people don't like Mondays, I don't like trifles. Reasons? There are no reasons, what reasons do you need to dislike trifles.
On the half hour Cook sat down and Cook was off. Was he ever on? Ogbu replaced the fallen footnote.
Doziness, delightful dreariness. Blue movements and Town unraveled on the left after a Town attack squibbed into a bucket. Some bloke with a name and hairstyle carefully picked his spot and that spot was in another suitcase in another hall. Way high, way wide: that's the way, uh-huh, we like it.
As the siren call of the snack bar queue lured the unwary traveller, Ogbu flicked on a chuck-in from under the Police Box. The Hess bundled on and swanckled firmly over the angle of left post and left bar. The laws of physics do still apply within Blundell Park after all.
Two minutes were added and they just padded out the narrative with tracking shots of plant pots and close- ups of men confused by a double-sided jigsaw.
The normal nothingness of hanging on in quiet desperation, for it is the Grimsby way. And you thought there's more to say?
Second half: A Game of Throw-ins
Neither team made any changes at half time.
Err, and well, there also ahh, and not forgetting umm. Slim Charles cut in from the left and be-dribbled to the foothills of the post of nearness. Roooooooooooney headed nicely wide at a free kick, which was nice of him. And in between there were throw–ins.
A throw-in to us, a throw-in to them. After all they are only ordinary men. A foul throw-in, a not quite so foul throw-in, a long throw, a short throw, a medium throw too. With the wind in your face there's no finer place for messing about at a throw-in.
You know if you give 'em a quick short, sharp, shock they won't do it again. Dig it? Davis dredged Asante, Rooney flicked a corner over at the near post.
With 20 minutes left a light shone down from heaven and the Lord spoke unto Aussie Anth: "Strewth mate, go to 4-4-2". And lo, Rose arrived and Little Harry was sacrificed for the greater good. Yes, yes, dear, dear, perhaps this year? There was a little more pep and a soupcon more verve as Ogbu and Rose gave us reasons to be cheerful. Rose was, at one point, no more than two postcodes away from a Vernam rollerball. We like to savour such moments of ordinariness.
Under the Police Box, that's where they be, as blues chucked foully. Asante wigged and wriggled past Davis, slapping lowly and narrowly. McKeown legged it and Asante caught the rebound when falling. Handy, in every respect.
Town crosses and passes can't find feet or a friendly face in this god-forsaken town. We're living in hope that one day a cross won't fly away.
Asante squealed before plunging, Moses marauded and mumbled to the ground. No free kicks, no income tax, no penalties. It was only a difference of opinion, but really, I mean, good manners don't cost nothing do they, eh?
The people 'round here, we're beaten down, eyes sunk in smoke-dried faces. We're resigned to what our fate is. A long-long welly wibbled through the desert. Two true blue touches and Town's left dissolved. A pass, a cross and Robson stumbled under the slightest of pushes. The unremarkably unmarked Asante collected his thoughts, collated his very best quotes for the post-match press conference and forgot to score, sweeping majestically against the right post from a dozen yards out. We're happy, hope you're happy too.
And then, it happened. Somehow, somewhere and leaving us floating in a most p-peculiar way. On Town's left, how did it get there? No one knows. Vernam shuffled and scuttled by the bye-line, scrumbling lowly, deep, deep into the heart of the penalty area. Rose twizzled a dozen yards out and scrunched a mis-hit bumbler back across the face of goal, the ball bobbling and doddering past a sleeping policeman and surprising itself into the left corner. Rose ran over to the bench and hugged Dave Moore. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. We should all do that when we see him in Tesco's fruit and veg section. But leave him be at the deli counter: a man needs space to choose his cheese.
The golden slumber was over and the crowd awoke, the terrible silence broken by the guttural cries, moans, and unidentifiable noises of Ollie's new model army.
Miffed by their mess up, the bluesmen twanged again. Touray, Touray, Touray, Touray was far too young and clever for Hendrie and little Conway arose above Gibson to bonk safely into the awaiting arms of McKeown. Fear not, gentle reader, for their strings were broken. They were out of time, out of tune and all out of luck.
Cardwell replaced Wright, simply to add height and offer us a tantalising glimpse of what might have been: the minting of the new Parslow Point. Will we never get to solve the Cardwell conundrum? Salford made a change that made no difference, as their sub simply crossed directly out of play, missing out the middlemen and going straight to gaol, not goal. Nice.
Time goes by, as we all know, naturally. People come and people go, naturally. Three minutes were added which Town took up piddling around in the corners. I think I can hear us laughing, I think I can hear the Town fans sing, I know I saw the players try.
Well, well said the man in the rocking chair, what an ideal start to the latest reinvention of the spinning wheel of fortune. The new man in town saw with his own ears and heard with both his eyes what we've been enduring for years, and all without the pain of defeat. The better team lost, mainly because they knew they were better, and aren't we happy about that.
I'm not throwing caution to the wind. Oh no, there is one thing I feel obliged to say: let's just wait and see if the good times roll this way.