Playing bingoball in another land: Alfreton (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

7 January 2012

Alfreton Town 2 Grimsby Town 5

A thousand migrating Mariners in coats of many colours descended upon the home of a particularly active cycling club. We only sing when we're queuing. Two turnstiles and cash in hand on the gate? Just add a hundred or so to the Town support to account for leakage. Let's not mention the toilets, though this was the only place from which you could get an unrestricted view of the pitch. Unless you wanted to permanently queue for a pie. Oh look - as if by magic, Nathan Jarman appeared. He's getting a bit too Nathan Pieman these days. Must be all that fine dining in the Michelin star burger bars.

Town lined up in blue in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Silk, Miller, Garner, Townsend, Coulson, Thanoj, Disley, Artus, Elding, Hearn. The substitutes were Pearson, McCarthy, Hughes-Mason-Dixey line, and Duffy. There were rumours of a fifth man, perhaps being the Serge of Makofo, but the evidence is scant. With a settled secular midfield at least we won't have to put faith in the power of Church. The Hughes-Mason-Hughes Corporation is small, so is unlikely to rock too many big Blue Square boats.

The ground is barely bigger than Brigg or Lincoln United; think a shrunken Gainsborough. Shall we be playing ball bingo? How many will be ejected from the ground? More or less than the number of steps on the terraces?

Boys perched on the walls, legs hanging over the pitch, fans so close we can hear players' heartbeats. Two men stood on a hill watching for free, and another up a tree. And you can smell the Bovril in your cup of tea too.

There's a certain charm in such places. Shall we charm off now?

First half: Motion slickness
Town kicked off towards the empty end; that is, the couple of rows of seats where the Alfretonians didn't gather and groove. It hibbled, they bobbled and Town were nobbled down the left as Arnold cruised down the lane, pestering free. Anthony H Wilson cut in, cut out a coupon for Pringle crisps from the local Tesco and smoggled against McKeown's shins for a corner.

And off Town skipped as Hearn bamdooggled his marker into a seafood snack, wiggling free and croaking lowly to the unmarked Artus, perhaps 15 yards out. Artus leant back upon his experiences of life and levered the ball perhaps 15 inches over the bar as it sailed on down 15 streets. Ball number one was gone, but not forgotten. You were lovely the way you bounced coquettishly off shins and tin shacks.

What is the pattern of this game? Err, like a Pringle jumper. Streete turned Townsend like a duvet, Jarman patted the pillows down for McKeown. Don't hit the snooze button - you'll miss the latest hit from the man Hearn.

I said don't hit the snooze button. You've missed it, just like the Alfreton defence, a walking snooze button. Town had a short break in the Peak District and Townsend boomed a corking crossfield whack on to Hearn's big chesty thing. He who is Hearn turned, he who was Young flung, and the ball hit a red thigh, deflecting past the deflating keeper and crawling like an ambitious, unctuous accountant into the bottom left corner.

Hearn did not celebrate.

Another minute, another Elding FACT! Miller calmed, Coulson cracked and Elding laced daisy chains as he skipped gaily down the centre, singing a song about a roly-poly rabbit. La-la-la-la-la-la-la. The factoid machine poked pathetically straight at the panicking pit pony.

Anthony Elding and the Daisywheel of Passing. A novella. Synopsis: Anthony Elding nearly passed to Disley but didn't. The end. This moment is currently available free with a Kinder egg from your local Aldi.

Hey Arnold, that's another ball gone fishing. Ball number two, an untrustworthy ally in the fight against poverty. Its passing is not mourned.

Frankie Artus and the Open Goal of Fume. Synopsis: Michael Coulson, a man with a pass if not a past, orienteered through the darkness of the wild Amber Valley and Frank Artus fell over at the far post when the goal agaped. All were aghast as he stumble-fumbled over the ball and it rolled like an old, unused cheese into Day's yellow recycling bin (collected every second Tuesday). Film rights are available.

Oh such loveliness, the angel trumpets and devil trombones, hark the herald passing seek. It's touchscreen 4G technology passing and movement. Coulson soared and swayed on to Elding's flatpack fact pass and a red man sidled away from the line as Blueshirts waited behind for the bus.

Oh here we go again, happy as can be. An Artus chipolata to the far post missed all as red and blue collided. Hearn sneaked around the back and smackled across the face of goal, the ball hitting something and morris dancing into the emptied net. The results of DNA samples taken from the scene have just been released by the lack of defence counsel for Alfreton. He who laughs last must have done it. The culprit was Michael Coulson. He did it in the penalty area with his knees.

The rip van Alfiemen awoke and started to finagle and finesse a method. Whacked in, whacked out, whacked back, Garner was schmoozed away by tiny Arnold, who turned and lob-poked poorly into McKeown's portliness from the penalty spot. We may not like it up us.

Miller won the ball with a perfectly perfect pass. Foot hit ball, ball went out of play, that sort of heinous footballing crime. The resultant free kick was chipped simply towards largish men vaguely inside the Town penalty and minor peril was on our touchscreens. Garner was oozed away from a plunging neckline, some eggs were scrambled and Arnold turned to scrape through several socks into the centre-right of the goal. McKeown had legs akimbo and simply rotated his arms in exasperation.

And still they came, but not before ball number three made its excuses, leaving the country via the night train to Brussels to do some missionary work in the Horn of Africa.

Town failed to clear, Pieman reverse swung and Anthony H Wilson swarmed as McKeown crept out. Ball and striker collided with the corner of the six-yard box and Wilson was felled by the cruel and merciless mixture of lime and water. Booked he was. What a rubbish dive in front of a thousand marching Townsmen too.

The Redmen surged on and Silk swiped away at the last with a saving tackle. The ball ribbled into midfield and Thanoj won a game of bar billiards with a double block and scrape. He looked up, saw the early draft of a plan for a new national park in front of him, and coiled a perfect pass into the path of the flying Hearnsman down the left. Day skulked outside of his area, waving an indeterminate leg as the hitman passed by. A simple, single flick of Hearn's right boot sent the ball into the emptiest of nets from a narrow angle as Young slid in parallel.

Hearn did not celebrate.

Feel the rhythm of the night, this is the rhythm of Town's life. Coulson walloped a clearance way out to the left. Hearn chased and chivvied, divvied his marker and za-zoomed directly towards goal leaving four red shadows disintegrating in his jet stream. He swayed and swerved and the ball drimbled wide.

Their keeper has one leg and Alfreton have one less - woah, there goes ball number four. There goes a reason for living, there goes one of our dreams. Ball four, we had so little time together.

They just wanted to get inside and have a cup of tea; Town could have danced all night. A goal kick was humbled back, via Elding's chest, and Hearn rock and rolled and drop-volleyed over the bar. The ball clattered against empty plastic and ran off with the au pair. Ball number five had reached breaking point.

Small things occurred between the big things but no more balls were lost in the making of this sentence.

Town should have been seven up. This is hardly a contest. Is double figures too greedy?

Second half: Motion sickness
Leggy Mountbatten left for a teaching job in Australia and was replaced by Greg Young in goal, with some other bloke coming on at centre-half. That's right, they haven't got a goalkeeper. Nothing can go wrong now. Triple figures here we come!

And Town were terrible, simply terrible, for the entire second half.

The Alfreds fizzed and banged, taunting Town with some ground-based manoeuvres before launching long hops into the dark heart of the six-yard box. From the first assault McKeown flappy-punched backwards and the ball slowly staggered along the white line, surely failing a breathalyser test. Garner waddled back and hoiked off the line before the local constabulary had got off their pushbikes and eaten a dolly mixture.

This did not discourage an aerial-based attack.

Waves of red washed over the limpid Lincolnshire sausages. Nathan Pieman cutely curtsied in front of Silk to lollop a dripper onto Arnold's nodding bonce. The ball didn't go in, just. The Pieman teased, someone prodded into the side netting. The Pieman pied again, someone shot wide, a cross deflected, another grazed away off Miller's sensible haircut. There was moment after moment of almostness, with Town saved by local by-laws or a Silky Miller bandage, as the twittering badinage stepped up.

Who'd have thunk it! Town players moved forward with the ball. Townsend spurtled forward, Hearn roamed and rolled and Townsend stretched and missed. Another attack! Elding factored in Hearn's hat-trick bonus and passed to Coulson. Young scuttled out to pluck off the Toes of Michael Coulson, a supernatural chiller from 1974 starring Alan Alda cast against type as a grapecrusher with a terrible secret shame.

Town got a corner and finally, finally, did the obvious thing of hitting the ball in the air towards Greg Young. Alone, without impediment, Young slapped and the ball tickled to Elding, a dozen yards out. The facts machine transmitted the ball via a red bottom indirectly to Garner half a yard out, who slashed the ball into the net as Young groped around on his backside.

And still Alfredo's Town carried on carrying on as though they could escape to a victory. A volley deflected off some strange part of a strange Townite's anatomy to slither wide as McKeown's legs remianed akimbo, this time with no arm flappage. This little chick was not trying to fly. Crosses, flapping, crosses, flipping, crosses, Miller standing staunchly inside the six-yard box as McKeown pacmanned behind. Whoosh, Jarman volleyed and Jamie Mack plunged and clung low. McKeown brilliantly parried aside as some Alfretter stooped and bonked a firmer header to his left.

They are getting closer... they're heeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeere.

A corner from their left arced and dipped to the far post. McKeown shuffled along his line and Townsend was overcome by the substitute Wilson about two yards out. You can but sigh.

And still they advanced, upping their tempo, mixing and matching their shoes to taste. Head tennis inside the Town six-yard box ended with big Quinn managing to miss. This was utterly ridiculous. Town were just inept at anything that could be considered attacking. There was no attacking, there was no Town, just blue dummies for the locals to practise against. Town were being thrashed with some cold, dry twigs.

Duffy emerged from the dug-out and Elding walked off. This was greeted by indifference. Within a minute the Duffster had cushioned a noodle to Hearn, who hook-volleyed against a red chest. At last, something, nearly. I may as well throw in the Artus free kick at this point. Artus: he hit a free kick against the wall and then kicked it out of play. We must showcase people's positive contributions as well as the negative; it is only fair.

I'm bored. I just can't be bothered any more with this. When will the turgidness end? La-la-la Jarman shot, McKeown clawed away from top left corner. La-la-la them crossing and that. La-la-la them crossing and shooting and all that still. La-la-la Duffy chased down the right, a defender crumbled under the embarrassment of being outpaced by Rob Duffy (CBA), who languidly passed the ball through Young's legs and... it obviously went in at some point because Duffy started to celebrate.

What more? Hughes Mason Hughes replaced Hearn in added time and the ball was kicked out of the ground one more time. Ball number 11 was lost like Atlantis, left in our collective memory as a mythical contribution to civilisation. The other five balls in the second half had no personality whatsoever: they were the jugglers and contortionists at the bottom of the bill. They were merely facts to be recorded. Much like this game.

Town turned up and won. There you are. It was a curiously unsatisfying afternoon in Alfreton.