Three Men In A Boat

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

15 January 2005

Leyton Orient 1 Grimsby Town 2

A bright, clear and warm afternoon in the streets of London with around 400 Townites rammed into the northernmost, easternmost corner of the half-ground that is the Matchroom Stadium. One end boarded up like Scunthorpe town centre; one side a skeleton of steel, the sun glinting through its limbs, blinding all.

Town warmed up in a particularly disinterested fashion way off in the distance, in front of the home support, whilst the scattered Os ambled in front of us and the lady in number 52 doing her washing. She was mixing colours with whites. She'll have a pink bra tomorrow.

Is it a griffin? Is it a dragon? Did they nick it from It's A Knockout? They should have kept the bungee rope. Now that would be entertainment - mascots twanging up and down the pitch with a bucket of water.

Town lined up in a 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Forbes, Ramsden, Jones, McDermott, Fleming, Coldicott, Bull, Reddy, Gritton and Parkinson. The substitutes were Young, Pinault, Mansaram, Hockless and part of the sea defences near Chapman's Pond. Is that him, is that really him? A ghost from our terrible past life. It is! It's Mr Snuffleupagus Crane, the official club comedian, although it is never defined whether the players are laughing with or at him. I'm sure he's nice to his dog. Hang on. Ronnie Bull? Hadn't they had to send for some replacement legs on Tuesday so he was "definitely out" of this game? "Definitely out" means something different in footballnewspeak, or perhaps they just can't finish their sentences: "...side waiting to get on the bus" or "...of time with his dress sense". No Pinault; dismay amongst the metropolitan aesthetes in the Town crowd, denied a glimpse of the French snake-charmer. They'll just have to make do with Fleming and Coldicott's amazing cannonball routine instead. The yard dog is back to yap; or snap?

What a programme! 68 pages of smooth paper and colour photographs. Let's hope their secret scouting of Town is as accurate as its contents. They'd have to watch out for Justin Whittle, strangely wearing a Jason Crowe mask at the time. Not a bad effort, same first letter of first name. It's a start. Accuracy? That's a wristwatch, isn't it? And those great odds for the first goalscorer - Dean Gordon at 25/1. That'd be a booming shot from three weeks outside the penalty area, would it? Some nice gurns going on. Check out Daryl McMahon on page 64. It's the infamous Kenneth Williams/Mick Jagger impression: "Mmmma-tron I was born in a cross-fire hurricane." Gurn baby, gurn, whatever colours you have in your mind.

There were a couple of youth team players on their substitutes' bench, but they chose the wrong ones. Surely there's room for Tiffin and Ziepe before the year 2525. And Prince Toku too. Who wouldn't want royalty waiting in the wings. No armbands to be seen.

A special thankyou to the stewards, who saved the world as we know it; civilisation remains intact. Two Town terrorists strung a flag up from the rafters at the back of the stand. Not only was this flag obstructing the view of some corrugated iron but, who knows, the government and/or roof may have collapsed if it'd been allowed to stay there. That's what stewards are for. Perhaps a statutory risk assessment form hadn't been completed three weeks in advance. Rules are rules.

Half a stadium, half a sixpence, it's better than half of nothing. They'll show us what they can do with a load of balls and a snooker cue.

You know, you could pay on the day after all. What a palaver that all was.

First half
Town kicked off towards the end manned by home support, wearing the away kit but with black shorts. So much better than the fey white efforts which made 'em look like a bunch of hockey-girls. The ball didn't go out immediately, nor after several seconds. Or after several more. How odd.

It was all going rather well. Minutes ticked by, with Town retaining possession, snuffling any danger with ease and poise, although you know them as Jones and Ramsden. Coldicott was back strutting, the air of confidence enveloping his luminous being, if not the hair of confidence. He probably uses Colgate toothpaste too. This is all rather relaxing.

Oo, a Town attack, Reddy revving up and hurtling goalwards. The ball diverted for a corner. No Pinault, so who'll take it? McDermott, that's who, wearing le Professeur's silver boots. From the right, clipped low, Ramsden stooped at the near post and a defender humbled the ball away, back out. The ball dropped near the bye-line and His Holiness the Macctif stepped forward, threw some grass cuttings in to the air to judge the wind direction and lofted a sand wedge on to the putting green. Jones barged his way through and slapped a header against the cross bar from about eight or so yards out, in the centre. Now that was Oooworthy.

Back Leyton came, passing, passing, fizzling out 25 yards from Williams. Good linesmanship. We ask for offside, we get offside. He listens, he learns. Five minutes of reclining, not declining, passed. Dozens more Town fans seeped in, blocking the view, but not the sun. "There's plenty of spaces up at the top." Are you talking about this league or this stand? Hang on, they're attacking. Another minute, another break. Steele, fluttering between the Town centre backs, Jones backing off and off and off. Thadoom. Steele belittled the ball goalwards, forcing Williams to dive to his left and parry the ball away from the foot of the post for a corner. We'd better watch out for this Steele laddie, he's lively.

Fleming and Coldicott, those Hounds of Love, swaggered through the centre blocking all routes as effectively as an inappropriately placed pelican crossing. They just hung around the lights and pressed the button for fun. Tum-ti-tum. No, it's not Name that Tune again, we're happy, we're not bored. As easy as a Sunday morning, what fuss, what cares have we? Well, we'd like to score I suppose. So let's do so! Why not, eh? Town chucked a throw in down the right infield, Coldicott passed to Gritton, who laid it back to the Stacemeister General. A man-eating slide returned the ball to Gritton in the centre, about 35 yards out. He turned and zeroed in on the target, haring towards goal, sucking defenders into his slipstream. The defence converged, Parkinson split left, Reddy to the right and Gritton played a perfectly weighted pass inside the full back for Reddy. A couple of strides, hair flicking the defender aside, Reddy looked up and rolled the ball across the face of the goal to Parkinson, alone inside the six yard box, who tapped in with some discomfort. It was too easy, perhaps he was a bit embarrassed. Remember Newcastle's first goal against Yeading? It was a carbon copy. And we were six places below Orient, not six divisions above 'em. Less than 20 minutes gone by the way and we were enjoying the party more than our hosts. It was so good no-one sat on the stairs plucking a guitar to impress the ladies with their thorough knowledge of Right Said Fred's back catalogue. The stewards wouldn't let us though, would they. And for once we'd back the stewards.

Woah, stop being the cocks of the north, there's still over an hour left. Leyton came back with a bit of a surge. None of this long ball rubbish they inflicted upon us at Blundell Park. Neat little one-twos, flicks and tricks, full backs overlapping, midfielders ghosting through, Steele the hub of all good things from them. Yoiks Scooby, a fine flowing move tearing Town to shreds down the centre right. One, two, three, pass and move, Eau de Buckley circa 1991, Steele goalside of Macca, way past Forbes, just eight yards out. He shaped to Thierry Henry it into the far corner, but succeed only in failing, curling the ball softly into Williams' midriff. A very big warning, complacency is the enema of intention, or do I need my ears waxed? Crosses, blocks, Bull stooping, Bull clattering, Bull handballing away. Free kick to Town. Still a great linesman. Fitzgerald allowed to turn 35 yards out, advance and... wallop the ball into the pile of breeze blocks stacked 25 yards behind the goal. High, wide, poor for them, great for us. Another Fitzgerald long shot. Wider still. He'd pot the lot if he wore his goggles.

Parky free, behind the defence! How did that happen? Harrison raced out, jumped and clattered Parkinson on the edge of the area, the ball appearing to be knocked sideways past the 'keeper by Noddy's best friend. Penalty! Sending off! No, a drop ball and treatment for perky Parky. If Tony Crane hadn't been warming up in front of us, more of the Town fans would have seen the incident and made some noise. He could have made himself useful and acted as a sunshield, all he had to do was stand in the building site. You know, there's going to be plenty of room for snooker tables in the new stand. More tables than seats, it's the modern way, cross-fertilisation, like greengrocers who sell antiques.

More long shots from the homesters. New balls please.

Town, Town, lovely Town, breaking quickly, the front three a constant menace, the Leyton defence disorientated, unable to cope with pace and power. And sometimes Parkinson too. Reddy ran 'em ragged down the right, Gritton lampooned them down the left. This is attacking! Bull curled the ball down the left to Gritton on the half way line, who held off his defender and twizzled and fizzled down the touchline. He muscled his marker away, hit the bye-line and clapped a dipping cross to the near post, the ball just avoiding Parkinson and bouncing into the 'keeper's waiting hands. Well, it looked good to us 100 yards away, hidden behind a thick girder, which might have been a lump of old iron or a Town fan in a bobble hat, who can tell in this light?

Orient returned, pinning Town back for minutes on end. Corners, free kicks, crosses just flicked away, Bull from the near post, Ramsden at the far post, Williams off his line, Jones nodding like a donkey. Town were creaking ever so slightly, the sea trying to split the timbers, but the timbers held firm; just don't rock too much. Fitzgerald free after a superb pass curled down their centre right, around Jones and into the forward's flightpath. Momentary panic, fleetingly free, Fitzgerald took a touch too much, allowing Town to manoeuvre themselves into the semblance of a shape. Ramsden glided to the near post and intercepted the cross as strikers lurked behind and Williams watched with mother. Danger over.

Reddy, again, wearing a white cloak and making "wooah, wooah" noises, scaring the locals on his ghost ride down their right. A cross, Parkinson at the near post, a couple of yards out, defenders eating his shorts, Town players baying for a pass. Parky was subsumed by the red masses. Ball cleared. Back they came, another rubbish long shot then another fine flowing move. Town sucked in and blown out, their left back released inside the Town area. He tried a first-time steer towards a nebulous region and succeeded in passing straight to Williams' chest, several yards in front of his team mates. Phew. They've had a lot of shots, but only one save made. And Town never looked that fussed.

Ticking, ticking, tocking, the half ending, the sun setting, the stands emptying, Reddy roving. Receiving a throw from Williams, he rampaged down the right, past one, two, three, four, past everyone twice and a third time, into the area. Reddy pulled back the trigger and BANG! Harrison flew to his left and made an excellent one-hand save, pushing the ball aside for a corner. It was a save that matched Reddy's run in quality.

Two minutes of added time. It ended. We were happy.

Oh yes, we very happy, it was so comfortable. Orient were trying to play football, which is always a mistake against Town. We don't crumble when faced with fourth division teams passing. It's mucky scruffiness we don't do very well. Arggh. It's half time! A twenty minute Sladian soliloquy usually does the trick: we don't do second halves.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"I thought you said Reddy was a podgy dilettante?"
"I see you've brought your own stalker."
"With their wavy hair, Gritton and Reddy look like romantic poets."
"Where breakfast meets lunch."
"Is Pinault as good as Wayne Burnett? Better, but not as good looking."

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time. I forgot, Orient made a substitution in the first half, taking off Scott and bring on Duncan. I can't remember Scott doing anything, so that's why I forgot.

Orient came out and bombarded Town, clearly playing with more urgency, like they'd been told off by the teacher. Town were pegged back with shot after shot after shot after shot... hitting the same Orient fan behind Williams' goal, row P, about seat 64. He must be some loud heckler to rile them so much they aim for his head.

Duncan darting, dodging Macca. Inside, outside, leave him alone, he's old enough to be your great grandfather's second cousin. Into the area, fifteen yards out, a shot, half blocked, bumbling, Fitzgerald turning, hooking goalwards, the ball sailing home again across the sea - off Ramsden it is believed, but not confirmed. The corner curled into the middle of the goal and WiIliams punched to the edge of the area. The Kenneth Williams impersonator leant back and hoiked the ball over the stand, impaling it on the flashing light on top of Canary Wharf. Just how many balls have Leyton got? Yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black. Or is that their away kit? More pressure, more Duncan dares, no chances. Contains mild peril, but still suitable for family viewing.

Gradually Town shoved Orient back, remembering how to pass, using the three amigos upfront to full effect. A corner to Town, nothing happened. Gritton fell, Bull chipped the free kick into the area, the defence stood still, Harrison watched, Ramsden near, the ball skipping gaily through the six yard box. Ooo sometimes these things lead to happiness. Not this time. Just have some patience: you can't have any pudding if you don't eat your meat.

Reddy, on the Town right, swaying past three after receiving the ball inside the Town half. Spinning, winning his race as a central defender came alongside. He refused permission to board, stepping inside and allowing himself to stumble over White's ankles. Oo, cheeky! I bet he's a secret lemonade drinker too. The free kick? Err, nope, can't remember. Must have been rubbish. Ah, but the next one wasn't. From the left, twiddled over to the far post Jones snuck around the back, leant on a little red rooster and headed back across goal. Harrison frozen in position as a couple of Town players lurched forward, catching the ball to his right at head height. Another Town free kick, another Town corner, Jones heading wide, heading back, heading inaccurately.

The storm weathered, well the slight disturbance in the pond caused no lilies to overturn, or frogs to croak. We can float our yachts as we wish. How odd, McDermott is now playing in black boots. Oh look another long shot from Leyton. What are the odds on that? About the same as Dean Gordon scoring. We'd have to admit it's getting better all the time. Well after Tuesday it couldn't get much worse.

Gulp. Duncan jinking on their left after some tippy-tappy interplay, allowed to cross and, well, they should have scored. Some young pup rose above Bull and glanced a header a foot or so wide from about six yards out. It looked harder to miss.

And now you can kick off your shoes, lay back, plump up the cushion, a packet of peanuts by your side to flick into the fire. Put on some easy listening. McDermott pumped the ball high from the right, Gritton flicked an old-fashioned knock down in the area with Reddy clattering a shot against Harrison from about eight yards out. But the linesman had flagged for offside. Ah this is better still. McDermott intercepted, laid a first time pass up to Reddy, who turned and supercharged his way through the illusion that was the Leyton defence. Past three, four, retreating, panicking, they stopped on the edge of the area, squeezed tightly and watched in awe as Reddy toe-poked the ball through to the unmarked Parkinson. Now, Parky's seen them professionals on TV do this. They wait for the ball, decide where to place it, then open up their body and curl it in. A dozen yards out, Harrison upright and uptight, Parkinson lofted the ball six yards wide. The awfulness of the finish matched the excellence of the approach play.

We're off again. McDermott, magnificent Macca, confiscated the ball from one of the second-years, took a stride or two and fizzed a superb cross-field pass on to Parkinson's toenails, about 30 yards out on the centre left. The scampering scouser controlled the ball, outpaced the defender and went for the bye-line. He looked up (hurrah!) and chipped a delicate hanging cross over beyond the far post. The ball sailed over Gritton and the 'keeper and Fleming took flight, floating through the thick London air to volley the ball back across goal. Harrison leapt and just managed to tap the ball away from the unmarked Gritton. One, two, three, four, can we have a little more?

More raiding from Reddy, the defence split asunder. The home fans silently watching a lesson in counter-attacking football. Hasn't he run out of energy yet? Oh sir, no, not at all. With about 20 minutes left McDermott, again, stepped from the crowd to turn Orient upside down. He curled the ball down the right touchline and Reddy sprinted away, bullied the defender, turned up the amp to 11 and headed for the corner flag. A couple of little flies were attracted by the dazzling light, leaving room for Reddy to turn the ball back to Fleming, just outside the penalty area. The Flemster scooped the ball over and behind the advancing defenders and Parkinson scurried after it. From inside the area, a few yards from the bye-line, he wobbled a cross through the 6 yards box, past the flopping 'keeper and straight to the totally unmarked Gritton, who stretched, poked out a leg and let it hit his calf and bomble in. All three forwards again involved, and a similar goal to the first one. If it's played this way, 3 up front looks fantastic. Two goals literally walked in to the net, like a kick-about between the local 10 year olds and their older brothers. One half expected Gritton to stop the ball on the line, get on his knees and nudge it over with his nose.

A couple of minutes later the third goal arrived. Or should have done. Orient defenders hung around on the half way line as the Town forwards played the ball amongst themselves. Parkinson, right in the centre, knocked the ball through the defenders and scurried onwards. Defenders froze, Parkinson alone, running on from the half-way line. Onward, onwards, closer still. Harrison came out, stopped, did a hop, flapped his arms around and Parkinson chipped the ball against the goalkeeper's chin. At no point did Parkinson look like scoring. He could have simply run past the 'keeper, or tapped it either side, but appeared mesmerised by the immovable object in front of him. Ah well, he's only got so many goals in him, why waste one, eh?

What had the Os being doing recently? Nothing. More shots out of the ground and then something to wake us all up. A slick move involving at least four players. One touch, give and goes, from left to right, a midfielder striding forward and free fifteen yards out, no defenders near, the goal demanding attention. He side-footed low to Williams' right. An easy save. Oh look another long shot still curling towards the moon. Sheer poultry in motion, a dozen Town fans jingling all the way, watching Town win away. Count them chickens, Dweezil. If there's no one quite like Grandma, there's no fan quite like a Town fan when it comes to chutzpah.

Tony Crane continued to run up and down in front of the Town fans. He engaged in short, and not particularly sweet, discussion with one of his admirers.

Time speeding on, Pinault coming on, with 12 minutes left, replacing Coldicott. They were both ovated. We have our sexy little French pinaultfore on. A minute or so later McDermott was felled ten or so yards inside the Town half. No foul given. The ball broke loose and Pinault clipped the wings of a Leytonian as the ball was flipped forward. A foul given. A little grumble rumbled up from the belly of the little knot of Mariners as they tried to work out whether the washing lady was now cooking noodles or spaghetti. And just what is the difference? If you can't see the pitch you may as well snoop on the neighbours. Orient sent everyone above 5 foot 6 inches up into the box and the free kick was clobbered high beyond the far post. Jones hung in the air like some wet washing and appeared to head back across goal. Williams was transfixed in awe as the iron chicken clucked overhead. The ball hit the inside of the other post and went in, possibly off Echanomi's head. Several players bundled about in the area, there was some amateur mudwrestling inside the goal and a lot of sound and fury. The home fans started shouting "off, off" and the referee called over Bull and Fitzgerald. After one minute a red card was showed to Bull (joy for lazy headline writers the world over), a further minute and another red card hung over Fitzgeraldo's head. Mmm, interesting. Perhaps that was the only word not used.

I think the washing lady was making a stir fry. Or was that the referee?

Well this changes things, doesn't it? Parkinson spent a few minutes at leftish backish as Greg Young was very slowly prepared for battle, finally arriving with 5 minutes left. Orient abandoned frippery, belted the ball forward and sent everyone south of the river. The rest of the game was played inside the Town area, bodies thrown here and there. Another shot over the bar as the ball dropped on the edge of the area; a cross, flicked from a redhead; long throws hurtling Williamsward, hanging by a chad. Williams dropped a cross, no foul. And another, no foul. They're through, the ball between Jones' legs, behind the defence, on their right. Williams out, striker sliding, Jones hovering, ball deflected wide. Corner, high to the far post, back in, dropping, yellow bricks in the wall, blocking, lunging, falling, calling, shooting. Over! Wide! Over again. Williams booked for time wasting. A scrum in the box, defenders hunting the ball like hungry locusts. They see, they swarm, they consume, they destroy. The earth was scorched in a frenzy, as the scoreboard indicated...four extra minutes.

Repeat above, turn up the tension, add lashings of Grimsby fatalism. Town break, time-wasting in the corner. Fails. Back up field, the planks are splintering, the water is beginning to ooze. All hands on deck, send out a Mayday call. Town break again, Gritton past four, in the area, poked past the 'keeper, Fleming chasing, brief flurry, Orient return. A throw in, booming into the area, grasped away for a corner. A final corner, four minutes gone, this is the end, the last time, the last dance for Ling. The Orient 'keeper came up, threw himself into the scrum, the ball buried in a mass of orange, as red and yellow blurred in a hack-fest inside the Town area.


Finally, the game was over. The Town players soaked up some adoration from the fans, Macca more pleased than most, punching the air, rousing each player in turn. Ten minutes of panic, 80 of purrsome professionalism. Town should have scored four, Orient could have scored two. It was easier than it sounds, a very good all round performance from Town, restricting them to isolated moments of concern. Gritton and especially Reddy led them a merry dance, truly frightening them with their speed of thought and foot. Town played like a team, a solid team, with no-one you could say was a real weakness. The last ten minutes were out of character with the gameĀ…but Town did hold on. The change happened as soon as Coldicott went off, but that was purely coincidental really. Their goal sparked bombardment which had little to do with the middle of the pitch.

Right they've done it once, they can do it again.

Nicko's Man of the Match
There must be a big mention for the Stacemeister. COLDICOTT! Is that big enough? One man stood out, previously the butt of many moans for lack of application. Today he was Mr Motion. He scared them. He is Michael Reddy. Are you?

Official Warning
M S Tanner: He was perfectly fine for 75 minutes, then the silicon chip inside his head switched to overload. Started to become a little firmer on Town than Orient and his booking of Williams for time wasting was a waste of time. No idea on the sendings off: you'll have to freeze frame the video highlights to see what happened. Of course it may show he had no idea on the sendings off either, in which case deduct 3.763 from his score. Overall he gets an extremely average 6.231. The warm glow of victory always chisels away the gripes.