The carnival is over: Burton (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

8 May 2010

Burton Ambient 3 Grimsby Down 0

Tom's collapsed, Dick's too short and that just leaves Harry. Hmm, you do remember that in The Great Escape most of them get shot? Beware those Burtonians wishing you good luck, old boy.

A slab grey day of bitter winds and bitter endings in the blandarium at the end of the roundabout. And the great inflatable invasion commenced with haddocks and Mouse, Elvis, hootsmon Scotchmen and variety of Family Guys. The carnival of lost souls had arrived in their town. Did we believe, or was it all a dream?

Town lined up in blue in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Colgan, Bore, Lancashire, Atkinson, Widdowson, Devitt, Hudson, Sinclair, Coulson, Peacock, Ak-Ak. The substitutes were Overton, Wood, Leary, Sweeney, Chambers, Linwood and Wright. Apart from Leapy for Wrong it was the same as most weeks, with Pacman Forbes not even on the bench, to the satisfaction of most.

Every move was cheered as kick-off neared and Mighty Mariner leapt on top of any media ghouls and gargoyles he could find. Colgan was distracted and bemused by Mighty's pole dancing as all the beach balls were punctured one by one by one. Mighty was mighty in his crowd whipping.

Will it be a valediction or an elegy written in a Burton tyre yard?

First half: Stay frosty
Town kicked off towards the Burtonians and Coulson fingled wide as none wanted to control the ball. Shins shinned and knees knocked as opportunity knocked for Hudson. Remember the clap-o-meter is just a bit of fun for the people in the studio audience back in McMenemy's. The ball stayed in the ground and stayed in Town's court as the teams had a crazy game of British bulldogs with lots of added noises, like action men with real hair.

Burton broke, Town wobbled and Ak-Ak went on a mad, mazy meander through the highways and byways of the midlands. Receiving the ball inside the Town half, he spun and swerved, swivelled and swayed up and across and up to the right edge of Burton's penalty area, drawing yellow Bs to his honeytrap. A quick soft-shoe shuffle and Ak-Ak splintered to the bye-line and rinky-dinked a loopy, droopy cross over the scrabbling Poole. The ball dripped against the inside of the post and rolled back in to Poole's arms as Peacock lurked and half the ground erupted with joy at this chimera.

This was a moment.

As everyone trotted back upfield shaking their mop tops and milkshakes, Poole cracked a long punt down the middle. Harrad flicked on. Pearson outpaced Lancashire and, from the left edge of the area, hit a smirking right-foot drive which boomeranged into the top right corner.

Now that was a moment: the moment our music died.

Their first shot, their first goal, and it was unstoppable once Pearson's boot had connected with the ball. A fool emerged from the side and starting taunting the Town fans, pushing Colgan in the chest as a comic aside. The game eventually continued.

And carried on as before: Town pressing, Burton teasing on the counter-attack. Hudson bedraggled inches wide, Harrad was a tiller girl as caretaker Colgan mopped the stage, and Ak-Ak used his Gallic charm to impress zee ladies to purr a cross from the left. Coulson stretched and misvolleyed a dozen yards out as a yeasty head managed to get the merest of glances as it dropped to his foot. Devitt somersaulted after a Bocu scythe near the touchline and was booked for the misuse of a plough in a built-up area. The free kick coiled to the far post where Ak-Ak soared superbly to bonk a firm header towards the top left corner. Poole somehow, from somewhere, shed pounds and years to produce a staggering one-handed save.

That was another moment.

Devitt was a one-armed bandit, with his left arm held across his chest with a wince. The boy carried on through the pain, for you, for me, for victory. Town surged, Devitt licked a corner, a corner, a free kick, and a corner. Peacock rose at the far post to head firmly goalwards. The ball hit one centre-back and rolled back to Peacock, whose shot hit the second centre-back a yard out.

It's one of those days where Burton were going to cut us into little pieces.

Devitt tried to be cute and intercept some back flipping by Burton. He missed his boat and Town were undermanned. Two passes, two fast men and Pearson flabbleled past Widdowson to crush a grape through the six-yard box. Atkinson? Lancashire? Bore? No. Harrad at the far post threw himself to where the ball might be and bumbled it in off his gentleman's particulars from three yards out.

Two shots, two goals.

And still Town poured forwards. Devitt was plugged, then swung in a free kick, then another to Peacock's head six yards out. With Poole behind, the goal was open and the ball sailed imperviously towards Alton Towers. Devitt shot straight at Poole, Devitt this, Devitt that, Ak-Ak forever. As the half drew to its miserable end Burton swarmed over Town like a flashmob at Poundland. Pressure, fear, loathing and Taylor smiggled a shot inches wide. He used to play for Scunthorpe, you know.

Barnet were drawing.

At least Burton hadn't scored again before half time. Listen lads, we can still do this! Where there is a 2-0 deficit there is still hope. Remember Accrington! Remember Burton's collapse against Cheltenham. Remember the Alamo!

Err, maybe not that one, it ended badly. Good luck, old boy.

Second half: Screwby
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Town raged at the moon. Peacock swung a volley for a throw-in, Sinclair stung some yellow socks as Town wrung their nappies and hung their hair nets. Town attacked, Town missed, Town attacked, Town missed. Ak-Ak slinked, Peacock dinked and Coulson creaked a shot over boots, over knees and towards the top corner. Poole rose to finger-flip inches over the crossbar.

And still Town attacked. Ak-Ak chased down a lumpy punt, causing traffic congestion on the A38 (northbound) - it's bumper to bumper out there. Shoot, someone, shoot! Devitt flew through the pack to stroke his trademark Dalglishian drifter towards the top left corner. Poole sailed into the sun, tipping the ball aside for a corner. The save was absolutely brilliant, way beyond the call of fourth division duty.

Poole! Act your flippin' age. Don't you need to go to toilet, or perhaps have a little afternoon nap?

Barnet were still drawing. It was still possible.

Stan and Olly, the Haile and Bull forts of Town's defence, rusted as Pearson sailed his yacht into the mouth of the Humber, completely unmolested, chipping softly straight to Colgan. Then Harrad flapped into the side netting after another whizzy-fast break involving whizzy-fast Taylor. And all the while the lady loves Milk Tray, as Sweeney stood on the touchline waiting to come on. The moment arrived as the board was about to be held aloft, then Devitt waved dismissively. The substitution was not made.

Town mushed their peas as Burton curdled their milk in a tit-for-tat game of country clodhopping. Sinclair retrieved possession 30 yards out, taking the ball from left to right. As he calmly wandered towards the ball Taylor decided to sprint fully 20 yards to dispossess. Sinclair was duly dispossessed and upended the flying Brewer.

Town put up a small wall; the goal looked huge. We could tell exactly what was about to happen. Harrad slurped up and happy-slappy-clappy walloped a distressingly excellent free kick into the top right corner. Unstoppable. And Town's descent was now unstoppable.

One, two, free-fall. The memories of an old club in its old age are the deeds of that club in its prime. You shuffle in the gloom of the chatroom and talk to yourself as we die. Barnet were still drawing...

And at this Sweeney replaced Sinclair, who threw his shirt down in frustration at the end of his Grimsby dream. Yep, Dean, it was just one of those days, in one of those seasons. At this point the linesman got to page 7 in his rule book and found the bit about offside. Pearson had a goal disallowed and Harrad had his hat-trick machinations ruined by meddling kids. They had pace, they were electrifying; Town left space, they were just too trying.

And Town still tried, still attacked. Wave upon wave of Town attacks, thwarted by divots, diverting ankles and practical Poole's magyk alchemy set. Ak-Ak did his thing, Sweeney coiled the corner and Lancashire steel-rimmed a glancing header down to the far post. Boertien ducked and scoop-headed the ball around the post from the goal line.

You know, at about this time, we got the faintest of feelings that perhaps Town were destined not to score on this day of days.

Peacock hooked to the bottom left corner - Poole plunged. Sweeney dripped a free kick to the bottom left corner - Poole plucked. Ak-Ak chased an up and under - Poole came out and missed the ball. Ak-Ak turned in one movement to sweep the ball into the net, but it hit one of the full-backs on the knee. Ak-Ak chased another punt over porky Poole but the ball drifted wide as the Ivorian Engine went off the rails. Somewhere in all this excitement Chambers replaced the ailing, one-armed Devitt. He got the ovation he deserved for his contribution to Grimsby safety. What a nice young man.

Wait, there's more. Ak-Ak fabtastically swung his pants to swipe a bicycle kick down into the ground from a dozen yards out; the ball bounced over defenders and Poole stood still. It bimbled a few inches wide. How many thousand shots have we had so far? And you think that's that? Town camped, Town crossed and crossed and Peacock steered the ball at the near post towards the bottom left corner. Poole was moving right as the ball swerved to his left. He flung out a hand, flipped his body and tipped the ball aside.

It was almost laughable. Barnet were still drawing.

Burton had a couple of breakaways, with Colgan clutching a Taylor swigger and Pearson heading conically wide and high. Coulson dragged wide, Chambers slapped over. Ak-Ak poked wide, Ak-Ak headed wide, Ak-Ak, Ak-Ak, Ak-Ak, Ak-Ak, Ak-Ak!

And then Barnet scored. So it was all a dream after all. Nothing we did, or didn't do, really mattered in the end.

Now the Histon lights were calling, this may be our last goodbye. For three beautiful minutes, the whole Town support rose as one voice defiantly proclaiming that though the carnival is over, we are Grimsby 'til we die. It was a magnificent sight and sound.

And then clumps of cretins got excited in that cowardly way of theirs. Some almost ran on the pitch, some sort of tried to rip the netting, and all the while Ak-Ak attacked on his own: crossing, shooting, shooting, crossing, and shooting again. The man was heroic, for he kept trying beyond the end of reason. His not to make reply, his not to reason why, his but to do and die. Someone had blundered.

And at the very last Ak-Ak swung through three and slung a shot way wide and far into the madding crowd. Whatever you wish to keep you'd better grab it fast, for it's all over now baby blue.

This is an end. Ninety-nine years in League captivity and we have ceased to be. Indulge in a little weep, but remember that the darkest hour is just before the dawn of a new era.

The Town is dead, long live the Town!