Pin the fig leaf on the donkey

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

7 May 2014

Gateshead 3 Grimsby Town 1

A sneakily warm, still day by the fogless Tyne with oodles of noodling Townites stretching along the open terrace sipping cocktails and living la dolce vita in football's most evocative location – behind the high jump pit in beautiful downtown Gateshead. Bella, bella, ciao!

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton, Boyce, Doig, Thomas, Rodman, Kerr, Disley, Neilson, John-Lewis, Hannah. The bench of despair was filled by Fyfield, McLaughlin, Thanoj, Tounkara and Cook. There is no elaboration required so you won't get it; there's no need to elaborate a point.

Town warmed up dodging the sprinklers and Doig led the starting XI back to the dressing room via a lap of honour in front of the Town support. Cute psychology.

"We're on the track, if Lennie scores." Hah, this collection of misplaced Magpies and Mackems are no match for our untamed wit. Some of the lads said they'd be back next year.

Ooh look, there's a sprinkler coming out of Oster's bottom. Or is that just the accidental angle? What's your angle? Let's get out of the Bermuda triangle.

Let's get on with business.

First half: Diary of a Wimpy Team

Town kicked off away from the trampolining Townites.

Urgh. Watching. Waiting. The static caravans are back. The Heedsters ambled along tippy-tappying with Oster the unmolested fulcrum. I'm going to ignore the Shopping Trolley's pffter from afar. Everyone else did. Neilson bedraggled a scuffler, Bartlett couldn't ignore it, but you can forget about it… now.

Mariner muddling, Mariner mistaking. Holes. Cheese. Cheesy holes. Cheesy pleasing as Chandler whacked from the penalty spot, the ball stuck between McKeown's thighs. Boyce shivered, Boyce shook back to retrieve. Chips and chases, licks and laces, diagonal punts and crossfield crimping – the Heedcases explored the holes behind Hatton, and the holes in his head. There are a lot of holes in the desert.

There are a lot of holes in Town's method. Just what are they doing out there?

A muddle in the middle and Marwood marauded. Aswad arced and scraped, Hatton watched his flocks by night and the marauder scooped and spun to crackle goalwards from outside the area. The ball wibbled and wobbled at head height, arrowing straight into the safe hands of Jamie Mack. Now hands that do dishes can feel as soft as your face, especially when it's glowing bright red. We let out a mild scream and squirmed in our seats as McKeown's gloves squirmed the ball in a tragic narrative arc over his head and over the line.

Town roared back with a squeak. John-Lewis bicycled for the cameras, Neilson double-whacked agin advancing whiteness and Rodman Van Bastened for a throw-in. Slim Pickens, eh.

The referee is touching his own bottom: this can only mean one thing. Red card, red mist, red faces all around

What a waste of time, waiting for the world to end. What do they learn on these FIFA coaching courses? Is there a three-hour session called Chip It To Lennie? Town's modus operandi, the way of the world: welly it vaguely near The Shop.

Timid. Pathetic. Maddison slapped low, forcing a McSave. Disley dithered dreadfully and upended his mugger. The free kicker hit Chandler, his friend, not ours. Is that it? It surely was.

The terrible truth is this that is just a normal performance. Artless, aimless, drifting towards its inevitable denouement, this was a movie no-one wants to see. The director has no vision.

Second half: Anger Mismanagement

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Sit down again. It's only Lennie. A weak roller coaster towards Bartlett, who was unable to avoid stopping this so-called shot. He laughs in the face of your puny English shots.

They had a corner and Kerr hacked it off the line. We're a bunch of hacks against amateur artists.

And suddenly Town played with vim, some verve, some intensity. Thomas bazoomered down the wing. A cross and Lennie lost it. The ball returned and returned again, Neilson cutting in and cutting out, hubbling and bubbling. Neilson touched on, danced over a flickering leg and Baxter wellied clear as the chubby charmer arrived and flipped himself with a double twist and piked somersault. Get up you tart, nothing happened.

Eh? A free kick? Uh-oh, the referee is touching his own bottom: this can only mean one thing. Red card, red mist, red faces all around, some purpling with rage, others vermillion with venom, and many maroon with madness.

Hannah moved to the left, leaving Lennie alone to wreak minor havoc.

They had a goal disallowed for offside. You don't need to know this, let alone more than this: there is nothing from them until a very particular moment in our lives.

And finally the Town roared, John-Lewis possessed by a strange spirit of energised competence, spreading mild terror in the hearts of the locals with manly manliness and persistent persistence. Lennie chased and Bartlett swiped from the bye-line. The ball carooned off Lennie's derriere and spun into the side netting.

Listen lads, we can still do this.

Thomas raided and roamed, a shot blocked, the Town end in fervent ferment, roused to a bouncing defiant splendour. Rodman rolling, the Heedsters panicking slightly.

Here he goes again. They just contain Aswad's advances. Surging past one, riding a swipe, rolling over a clatter, he picked himself up off the dirt and caressed a pass into the heart of the penalty area. Lennie miscontrolled and Disley arrived late but arrived beautifully to pokey-steer into the top of the net.

Bedlam, pandemonium, a harmonium hummed and a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square. For a moment, one brief moment in time, the world was turning our way, the momentum was with us, Town were ascendant.

And slowly the game seeped away, away from the Town end towards McKeown, as Oster began to have more and more space and time. Maddison bedraggled wide. Wahey. They crossed into the sandpits. Wahey.

There were five minutes' added time. We're just waiting for the end. McKeown did a magnificent double save for the showreel, but it meant nothing. Nine against eleven, forget it

Hatton clattered and out came yellow. McKeown flapped and dropped a cross, but blue shirts smothered away. John-Lewis went on a hazy, crazy, mazy run which discombobulated the addling brains of the Heedsters' defense. He's still trying to control the ball as you read this is in the year 2525, if man is still alive.

And then the end arrived, in the year 9595, or with ten minutes to go, depending on which calendar you use. Way out on the bye-line, near the dug-outs, O'Donnell flew and Hatton decided to send him into space using a booster rocket. Out came a second yellow card and off he went, never to be seen again. Idiotic, unprofessional and terminal.

Thanoj and Fyfield replaced Kerr and Hannah as Town moved to a 4-3-1 formation. Yeah, what's the point of carrying on. Gateshead camped outside the Town penalty areas shuffling left and right, Oster the pinnacle, the pivot watching and waiting for legs to fail and bodies to ail. A shot left, a shot right, high and wide, wide and high, Town visibly wilting.

And then it came to pass as Oster passed majestically to their right, where Marwood cut in and coiled a swinging dipper around McKeown into the top right corner.

It's a passing game, a passing-out parade. Doig was replaced by Cook, who may have touched the ball.

There were five minutes' added time.

We're just waiting for the end. McKeown did a magnificent double save for the showreel, but it meant nothing. Nine against eleven, forget it.

Thanoj dallied near the halfway line and was engulfed by a swarm of busy bees. Off they raced, five against none. McKeown raced out of his area, stretched and missed the ball. O'Donnell did not avoid scoring into the empty nettage. Cue pitch invasion by those diehard Mackems and Magpies. Flares and pandemonium. Sod this. Let's go for a pizza.

The sad thing is that this was just a normal performance. You wouldn't willingly watch this Town unless you were afflicted by the curse. Paul Hurst's Grimsby Town: boring and timid, like a non-League version of England. It's the hope that kills your spirit.