Trick or treat?

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

29 October 2002

Grimsby Town 6 Burnley 5

A windless, temperate evening with around 400 Burnleyites gathered together and grooving in the Osmond Stand. An eerie silence matched the weird mood in the ground, partly created by the marketing of the game as a(n almost) Hallowe'en special. Why was there a pile of leaves in the ticket office? Ambience, or someone couldn't be bothered to sweep them up? The Mighty Mariner wore a witch's hat and a cape; two seven-foot grim reapers stalked the referee and linesmen as they warmed up (excellently subtle intimidation) and there was a fancy dress competition for the most frightening appearance, won by Town's number 10. Ho-ho indeed: the first, and last, Livvo joke of the night.

Town have a new warm-up routine, where they all gather in a circle and half a dozen wear bibs pretending to be defenders while the others pass it around. All very well, but there was a lot of standing around looking gormless as Wilkinson tried to explain the intricacies. And that was the pre-match build up, along with suitable music. They played the Monster Mash at least twice, though I didn't hear Steve ‘Dandy' Livingstone's hit Suzanne Beware of the Devil. A trick missed, I feel.

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, Ward. Ford, Raven, Gallimore, Campbell, Pouton, Coldicott, Barnard, Kabba and Livingstone. The substitutes were Allaway, Rowan, Cooke, Mansaram and Parker. Bags of experience on the bench then. The continuing exclusion of Cooke was greeted with dismay, as was the absence of Robinson from the squad. The home fans had turned up, but that was as far as the expectation went.

First half

Town kicked off towards the Pontoon and refused to play the first division game, retaining possession for seconds on end. Before kicking the ball out for a goal kick. The game was uneventful for the first minute, and then Town had an attack, which immediately laid bare the paucity of nous in the Burnley defence. Livvo won a flick on; Kabba ran quickly; Burnley quaked.

From this point on the game became surreal, and it is impossible to recall in what order things really happened; they blended into a seamless procession of strange happenings, barely explainable through the appliance of logic.

After a couple of minutes, Town had some concerted pressure down the left, a pass, a cross, a half clearance, a cross back in from Barnard, about 30 yards out near the touchline. Livingstone, on the centre-left edge of the penalty area, flicked the ball on into the middle of the area. KABBA sprinted forward, rolled past the so-called defender, who fell over, and from the very centre of the box, about a dozen yards out, slashed a right-footed shot across Beresford and into the bottom left corner. Yes, the Burnley defence parted like the purple sea. We laughed.

Burnley were playing with three forwards, which meant spaces everywhere, but also danger, for they don't half move slickly when attacking. A team that places an emphasis on wing play, they tried to utilise the huge Taylor. But Raven was dealing quietly, but effectively, with him - until the 10th minute, when Raven, at a throw in, suddenly sank to his knees. The referee wandered over, had a long conversation and walked off the pitch with Raven, who then slumped on the bench, head in hands. All very odd, and it took a minute to get the substitute on, which resulted in a big old shuffle of the cards. Cooke came on and went to right wing; Campbell went to the left, Barnard to left-back and Gallimore to centre-back. Gallimore stood next to Taylor and we all gulped and pulled some funny faces, for Taylor towered over Tony G.

Burnley helped Town by passing the ball out of play, without passing GO, so there was a spell of nondescript football where virtually nothing happened. The crowd was silent; gazes started to drift to the bright lights in the Humber. Then Burnley started to pass to each other and the Town defence showed itself to be a theoretical entity, visible only in laboratory conditions, to those wearing large plastic goggles and using a Petri dish. Some crosses caused panic and scrambles inside the penalty area, though the only shot to get through the thicket of bodies zipped a yard wide from about 20 yards out. Enough for a feet-warming "ooh" by the Burnleyites but, viewed dispassionately from the Pontoon, we could see it was always going wide, so no worries mate. And Davis sliced a wild shot almost over the roof after a short free kick was tapped to him, 25 yards out in the centre.

Oh, hang on - what's this? A simple chip upfield was flicked on by Livingstone, about 35 yards out, on the centre left, into a big space behind the Burnley defence. Kabba hit warp factor 7 captain, took the ball on into the area and, from about 12 yards out, and seven yards wide of the goal, hammered a left-footed half volley across Beresford and an inch or two wide of the left post. Flippin' 'eck! Livvo was playing like he's supposed to, winning headers and acting as a wall off which bouncy Kabba bounced and terrified Burnley.

Let's skip a few pages, shall we, missing out those humdrum ‘moments of danger'. After about 22 minutes something very annoying occurred. Town broke up a Burnley attack on the left and started a slick counterattack. Barnard, near the halfway line, played a brilliant defence-splitting pass to set up a roving, rampaging midfielder - in claret and blue. With the whole left side of the Town team steaming upfield and out of position, Burnley simply whipped the ball down their right and smacked a high cross beyond the far post, whereupon one of their big players outjumped Ward and headed back across goal. Across goal into a big, big, big space where TAYLOR lurked unattended by cloakroom staff or defenders, and stooped to head the ball into the bottom left corner from about seven or eight yards out.

What happened next? Still more worrying breaks by Burnley, with Pouton appearing like a shopkeeper to swipe the ball away from a Burnley striker as he was about to shoot, seemingly free on goal and inside the penalty area. Or was that later? Who knows, who cares. It happened sometime between 7:45 and 8:30. Coyne saved with his feet after another swirling, twirling counterattack down the Burnley right, with Gallimore and Ford all in a tizz. There were crosses, there were scrambles, there were no more goals for five minutes.

Then it happened: the event that proved we had entered a parallel universe. Town exerted some pressure, with the ball going in and out and in and out of the penalty area like a squeezebox. We "ooh”-ed for the sake of it, but the ball ended up with Barnard, about 30 yards out under the Stones/Smith/Findus Stand. He looked up and carefully clipped a flat cross to the far post, where LIVINGSTONE peeled away from his marker and, from just inside the six-yard box, headed back across the face of goal. The ball slapped off his forehead and arced slowly, slowly, slower, slower still across Beresford and towards the bottom right-hand corner. After the fifth bounce the ball crept over the line and stopped. In the back of the net. Rapture for us; for Burnley it was now apocalypse. As the ball softly, softly went towards goal, someone started to sing "Daisy, Daisy", in the style of a HAL 9000 computer. They finished before the ball got to its final destination. Oh, who cares - a goal; a deserved goal from the ironic icon.

Where are we now? 2-1 to Town. Just three minutes later it wasn't 2-1 anymore. The beginnings of a Town attack were broken up on the Town right (after a loose pass by Cooke, I vaguely recall). The ball was whizzed forward quickly to the halfway line, where a striker appeared to miss/dummy the ball at hip height. The ball went straight past Ward into the ‘channel behind'. Blake (I think) raced away, and Burnley eventually fizzed a low cross towards the near post. I MOORE, with his back to goal, near the edge of the six-yard box, spun past Ford and wellied a low, left footed shot under or through Coyne and into the bottom corner.

Pools of sorrow soon turned to waves of joy in the Pontoon as straight from the kick off Town chipped the ball up to the left edge of the Burnley penalty area - straight onto the chest of their left-back, Branch, who calmly stepped back, chested the ball down, slipped and watched Cooke race forward, nip the ball away and dink a short pass into the centre of the penalty area. KABBA sprang up from behind a human toadstool (Mr Nohair, the Burnley centre-back), took the ball forward and thwacked a low shot across Beresford into the bottom left corner. Half an hour gone - that's all, just half an hour.

Burnley continued to pester Town with crosses, twists, turns and some perceptive interplay around the edge of the Town box, but defending that is best described as dogged kept them at bay. The little Town players were snapping around the ankles of the Burnley strikers, in packs, like terriers. Feet, knees, backsides: everything was placed in the way of shots and crosses. Desperate it was, but hanging on in quiet desperation is the Grimsby way, as we know.

Town attacked with equal verve. Some time around here Kabba burst past Gnohere, past another defender, down the right touchline, into the area and crossed low, behind Livvo and a bit too far in front of Pouton. A few minutes later Town either scored or had a near miss: I can't remember which came first, the chicken or the dog. The goal, probably, so here goes. After about 35 minutes Town shredded the paper-thin Burnley defence on the left, yet again, with a one-two and a flick from Kabba. Twenty yards out, near the touchline, Kabba (I think) turned and passed inside the full-back for Cooke to burst free . He looked up, tricked his way past a defender, looked up again, and curled a brilliant low cross through the six-yard box to the far post, where CAMPBELL, the Phantom Menace, glided in unmarked and touched the ball in from about a yard out, standing right next to the post. A magnificently created goal, like the days of yore; it could have been Childs/Rees/Gilbert (only slightly less podgy and with less facial hair).

And again, memories of magic moments under the miserable manager returned. Town pressure, with a cross, half cleared beyond the far post to Barnard, who, from a narrow angle, spun and whacked a high cross beyond the far post. Cooke, ten yards beyond the goal, and about five from the by-line, waited, wait-wait-waited for the ball to drop, bent his back and volleyed the ball into the ground. It bounced over Beresford towards the far corner, but the keeper leapt and just managed to punch the ball up in the air, towards Coldicott, on the centre-left of the area. His attempted volley bounced up high, off a defender towards Pouton, the king of the mis-hit shots, who mis-hit his attempted volley into the ground. The ball bounced off a defender towards another Town player. Oooh, it was exciting, though probably very exacting for the Burnley fans.

At some point Gnohere was substituted and Burnley reverted to a 3-4-3 formation. That caused problems, big problems, to Town.

As half time approached Livvo laid off the ball to Kabba, who from about 20 yards on the centre left had a shot, which he slightly ‘topped'. The ball still trundled towards the bottom right-hand corner, with Beresford only just managing to slump on the ball. Now if only Town could keep the two-goal lead to half time, everything would be fine and dandy. But Town are Town, aren't they.

Two minutes after the board had flashed up that two minutes of extra time were to be added, the tannoy announced: "Two minutes of added time.” So, four minutes after the board went up, Coyne completely miskicked a simple clearance out of play, 35 yards out into the Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus. Rodger was jumping up and down pointing to his watch a la Ferguson. Burnley took the throw-in quickly and pinged a cross deep and high towards the far post. Ward mistimed his jump and, from the edge of the area, near the centre, headed vertically. The Town defence retreated and allowed a Burnley player to race forward and control the ball. BLAKE wriggled, waggled his bottom, and twisted across the face of the penalty area, drifting to the right, before scraping a firm low shot across Coyne into the bottom right corner. Two seconds after Town restarted, the referee ended perhaps the most bonkers 45 minutes (give or take two or four) seen at Blundell Park this millennium. What was the score again?

After all that I think I'll just go and have a lay down. I suggest you do to. As a bad Irish comic once said, there's more.

Stu's half-time toilet talk

"What would Lionel Bienvenue make of that?"
"Livvo is lively - well, at least alive."
"Campbell is conspicuous by his non-absence today.”
"We'll need seven to win, six to draw, if it carries on like this."
"Does it get covered in fluff in your pocket?"

Second half

I don't think any changes were made at half time.

Burnley came out and were even more direct, with two wingers hugging the touchlines, whipping in cross after cross after cross. After a couple of minutes an A Moore cross to the far post was headed back across goal to I Moore, standing alone four yards out, He headed weakly down, straight at Coyne, who was transfixed on his goal-line, frozen. The linesman's flag was up anyway. But it was an indicator of their method, which they replicated time after time. A deep cross to the far post, headed back across as a striker peels away to the other post. It took the Town defence a long while to counter it, with Ward, in particular, struggling to cope. Burnley seemed to target him, with virtually every attack being aimed, at some point, over his head. Ward played in a highly conventional way, tucking in behind the centre-back when the ball was on the left, and with Cooke also ‘tucking in' to midfield, it meant Alderman Moore had the freedom of Cleethorpes, for just one night.

Perversely, the next goal came down the Town left. A spell of intense pressure from Burnley saw the ball crossed into the heart of the penalty area and continually hacked away by some panicky Town defending. The ball was half cleared to a position about 30 yards out, level with the edge of the penalty area, whereupon their wing-back surged forward and passed to some bloke (could have been a substitute), who spun past the invisible defender. Coldicott was near, Barnard in the same postcode, and Gallimore vaguely around the same continent. The Burnley striker was thus free on the left of the Town area, behind the defence. He surged to the by-line and, from about 10 yards wide of goal, crossed into the middle of the area, about eight yards out. TAYLOR swept the ball through Ford's legs straight at Coyne, the ball slowly rolling past Coyne's right boot. So that's 4-4 now, isn't it? Where is that calculator?

More Burnley pressure with Town barely able to get in their half. More crosses, with both Town full-backs standing off the wingers, allowing them to dink it in at will. Fortunately, they weren't terribly accurate crosses, with Ford and Gallimore often doing just enough to disturb the striker, bundling, rolling and occasionally blocking. Burnley only managed one clear header when Taylor headed firmly over from the middle of the penalty area, being unmarked, of course.

Jump forward seven minutes, Town counterattacking down the left. Campbell fizzed a low, firm pass from near the touchline in to Livingstone, who had made a ‘run' to the near post. Livingstone turned on the largest sixpence in the world, with a diameter of approximately 12 yards, and knocked the ball from the centre towards the bottom right-hand corner of the Burnley penalty area. Amazingly, Livvo beat the centre-back to the ball, turned and crossed. The ball hit the Burnley defender and went out for a corner. No, make that penalty for handball. The ref did. POUTON strolled forward and smashed the penalty straight down the middle as Beresford dived to the left. The crowd? Shall we say happy?

By this stage the crowd had journeyed beyond the incredulous, open mouthed gawp to the nonchalant expectation of a goal every five minutes. A whole ten minutes passed during which the ball didn't go near the goal. Just as a Pontoonite was gruffly complaining about ‘this continuing goal drought', Burnley contrived a fantastic, slapstick miss. The holey Town defence opened up yet again down the centre, with Gallimore (no - not ‘with Gallimore'; that suggests some kind of connection and organisation) allowing Taylor to wander forward into the box as a midfielder almost walked forward up to the end of the area. The ball was gently lifted through to Taylor, who had just Coyne to beat. Fortunately, he waited for the ball to drop, which enabled Ford to race across and slide in, knocking the ball against Taylor's chest. The ball bounced over the now prostrate Coyne down the centre, and rolling, rolling, rolling, rawhide, towards the empty net. Taylor continued to trundle after the ball, Ford got up, again slid in, and both players ended up swooshing their boots at the bouncing ball, about a foot away from the goal-line. Somehow the ball went high in the air back towards Coyne, six yards out. Coyne ran back, tried to punch the ball away while under pressure and missed. The Keystone Cops arrived in the shape of Coldicott to eventually crazily hack the ball away.

Pouton had a lobbed volley, which dipped way over the bar into the third row of seats, Kabba rolled around, through and over the entire Burnley defence when chasing a pass caressed down the touchline by Cooke. Kabba cut inside, cut outside, drifted towards the goal-line and whacked a shot into the side netting from a narrow angle. With just less than 20 minutes left Town won their first, and only, corner of the game. Barnard took it from the left, curled it away from goal, but into the heart of the penalty area. FORD, unmarked and about a dozen yards out, leant back and steered a header down into the ground, across the keeper and over the defender into the top left corner.

The Pontoon contemplated asking Groves what the score was, but thought better of it, as he would have trouble with his digit raising. "Stand up if you're 6-4 up," sang the teenagers. "Oh, you always sing that," came the response of the older, seated woolly hat wearers. An air of disbelieving joviality descended upon the Town fans, masking a deep, deep worry. For Town's defence had been completely ripped apart, with the honourable exception of Ford. As someone shouted, "I think there's goals in this game." A brave prediction.

Anything else happen? Yet again Kabba, Kabba, Kabba sprinting down the left, cut inside, across the area, back across the other way, with four defenders in tow. Finally, he shimmied and cracked a superb left-footed shot, which just dipped over the angle of the right post and bar. There was a clear deflection, but the ref gave a goal kick. Burnley went down the other end and had a series of corners, from which only panic ensued. They threw on another substitute and went for Town, as they were obviously confident of victory. The ball was seemingly stuck inside the Town half, with Livvo frequently seen trotting around inside the Town penalty area. Crosses, scrambles, crosses, scrambles, flying blocks, last-ditch tackles: everything was happening within a ten-yard radius of the Town penalty spot. Hanging on, just hanging on to a slender 6-4 lead.

With about five or so minutes left, one of the substitutes, Mr Papadopoulos, who doesn't own a launderette despite rumours to the contrary, spun away from Coldicott on the left of the Town area, about 16 yards out. The ball squirmed out near Barnard, who reached out with his left foot, allowing the striker to accept the invitation to fall over. Contact was made, though Papadopoulos could have continued if he'd wished. But why would he? Penalty, pandemonium, Town players moaning, crowd in uproar. BLAKE placed the ball on the spot, walked back four paces, waddled up and rolled the penalty to Coyne's right. Coyne went the right way but missed by a couple of inches. Burnley abandoned the caution they never had in the first place, chucking everyone forward. Did anything happen? Well, yes - lots, mostly fleeting moments when Burnley players were about to shoot but Ford, Coldicott or Gallimore just managed to save the day with the merest of touches, or a walloping great scythe.

In one of the four minutes of added time there was the final freaky bit of football fun. Barnard tried to edge down the touchline, right in front of the Town dug-out. Two Burnley players mugged him, one with a hooking tackle from the side. Barnard and the Burnley player started to kick each other, then got up and squared off, as both dug-outs leapt up and started to run around. The whole ground leapt up with them, the referee ran over and manhandled both players (surely he should have been sent off for raising his hands!) and play continued. The ball was free down the Town left, with two Burnley players and no Town ones near. As the fight continued, Papadopoulos swayed past a tackle and swooshed into the penalty area. He managed to get to about eight yards out and tried to pass to an unmarked midfielder. Several monochrome heroes came from all points west to save the day. Bedlam, absolute bedlam, with everyone up on their feet roaring away at, oooh, everything. Just noise, no discernible word, just a primeval scream. The added time was taken up with some time-wasting down in the corners - and the first free kick all night for a foul on Kabba. Kabba took the mickey by rolling his foot across and over the ball down the touchline, sucking in tackles and brushing them aside with his huge biceps. Does he eat cow pie?

Eventually, eventually, after much imploring from the locals the referee ended this mad, mad, mad, mad, whirl. It was football, but not as we know it.

There's no need for analysis, for jokes to embroider the occasion. Let the facts speak for themselves. Unbelievable. Even for those who there. Seeing is sometimes not believing. Wow.

Man of the match

Raven! Ha, fooled you. STEVE KABBA - an awesome, pumping, powerhouse of a footballer. Immense. What a guy!

Official warning

Paul Danson

For someone who sends a player off every 69 minutes, he was remarkably lenient, booking no-one. Though apart from the Barnard fight, there wasn't much in this game for him to do wrong. He did invoke the secret FIFA directive of the disadvantage rule when Town broke away, but he was OK, Seven. A straight 7.