Going to Walsall in a sieve

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 August 2022

Walsall 1 Grimsby Town 2

Walsall, Walsall, it's a hell of a town, the M6 is up, and the art gallery's down. And now Town's in town on a still day of great warmly airless stillness. Sit back and enjoy a becalmed afternoon of lolling and trolling in the Buckley derby. It's gonna be a feast of footballing fun. Will anyone pass, will anyone move?

Town lined up in a variation on a theme of Hurst's 24th caprice, a 4-5-1 formation in A flat, as follows: Crocombe, Efete, Waterfall, Smith, Amos, Clifton, Holohan, Green, Morris, Glennon and Taylor. The substitutes were Battersby, Pearson, Khouri, Wearne, Maguire-Drew, Pepple and Orsi. The Amos-Glennon drum'n'bass combo on one side, the Efete-Clifton flute and fiddle marching band on the other. Nothing can go wrong now.

When they're down and troubled and they need a helping hand and nothing, no nothing is going right for Walsall, just close your eyes and think of Andy. There's always an Andy. Williams on the bench be he and, ooh look, he's got a friend there too in James-Taylor. And if you had to list 26 former Town players still playing would Brandon Comley be number 27? Oh yeah, him an' all.

All those people, so many people passing through our park life.

Three, five, zero, one, two, five, go!

First half: Going on the turn

The slippery Saddlers kicked off towards 807 Town fans, fizzing, whizzing, all of a whirl as a red mist soon descended upon Crocombe's goal. Was that us or them? Did I say red missed? I surely will. Triangulation through Town's left instigated by Bennett. A slip, a shot, Crocombe parry-punched back and Bennett the blazing saddler chested up and volley-slapped wide.

Ah yes, the absent left, the story of our times. Bennett befuddled the boys in blue by barging up the canal and tipping into the channels. Knowles flew to the bye-line, looked up, and carefully clobbered lowly through the static blueness. Johnson took a step back into an oasis and calmly steer-clipped lowly through a single track, across Crocombe and into the bottom right corner.

You can't always rely on the kindness of strangers.

Forward we cried from the rear of the stands and the front ranks sighed as the blue blancmange dissolved in the heat. They kept us running round and round, you see. Their back three, they're so tall, they're so tall, up and down as Town's backs were against the wall. Monthe! Long home chucks, but not by Cropper's standards, which is the standard we judge these things by these days. These people. Pah, they think that's long?

And now Crocombe's punching and Crocombe's kicking against Johnson and we're all shouting and relying on Knowles' common decency. And what a thoroughly decent chap he is, drop-volleying pifflingly wide with Town all flustered. Red flipping and flapping around blue full-backs. A mish, a mash, everyone getting cross with Amos as he let Knowles drift across the face of the penalty area and unleash his beast. Crocombe's fingers did the talking, flicking the dipping, dripping swerver over from under the toppest left angle of post and bar.

And finally, Cyril, moments beyond the tenth minute Town moved the ball beyond the half way line into a strange new land boldly going where no blue shirt had gone before. Amos droopily, deeply crossed, Clifton arrived fashionably late to steer a header straight to the Walsall goalkeeper who has a name. It is alleged to be Evans.

At least this is what I remember. Whether it actually happened is another thing entirely. I may have had magic mushroom soup for lunch.

Chips and chases and much piddling about with Townites falling over their own laces. Smith scraped, Efete sold Morris a job lot of armless dummies, and a free kick dead central 25 yards from goal. The wall bounced, the ball flounced straight into Crocombe's waiting arms.

Chases and chips, Amos flash-mobbed and Comley's cross-swipe was wiped away by Crocombe's flipping fingers. Distractions, infractions, one pass, one move and Knowles scuttled down the right and slashed into the outliers behind Mad Max's goal, almost disturbing a perturbed pensioner or two.

Town moments, not so magic, it's almost tragically comical. A cross, a block, a block, a cross. What dross. We're all at a loss to understand how professional athletes can be so uncoordinated, individually and collectively. After you, Claude; non, after you, Monsieur Hulot; no, no after you, Mr Bean. Mr Bean is not serene today.

And half way through the half someone switched the plug off. The afternoon just drifted, drifted, drifted as reds stood back and admired their handiwork while blues set up a perfunctory picket at the gates. Moments of occasionalness intruded on the summer holiday. A short red corner pulled back and Comley swept highly. Blue punts into the red zone, Efete stood on the ball, Glennon didn't poke a leg out. These were the things that happened. Just imagine what didn't.

Two minutes were added. The wisest among us used that time to beat the queue for the loo.

Three words: inferior, incoherent, and imbalanced.

I can't lie to you about Town's chances but fortunately the Saddlers had sympathy for the poor people from the North. A muddle in the middle and failing at full-back, the scoreline should be far worse than it is, the performance can't be worse than it is. Can it?

What a shambles.

Second half: Going off alarming

Wearne replaced Green at half time with Clifton pushed into a more central position within the same archaeological time period, probably the middle Stone Age. We could see the beginning of a transition from rudimentary implements using material found by happenstance to rudimentary tools created by the appliance of thought.

The future is bright, but not a bright as Bennett's orange boots.

Snivelling, snuffling, shuffling around here and there. Amos scribbled and Clifton's heels diverted the goalbound drimble. Is there anything else? Not really. Men running around sideways, men jogging about laterally, literally laterally in untypically tropical weather for the West Midlands. Barmily balmy.

A lack of fuss about nothing. Daniels headed wide. No, hang on, I have a vision coming through the haze of fizzy soft drinks and middle age. It was high. Facts are facts.

Town knock-knock-knocking on a party wall. Is there anybody home? We shouldn't care about the length of their hair or the crosses that come off shins. Blue, blue, blue, blue, blue everything was bluetiful in its own way. Little Harry cut in and cut the top off his carrot before he fed it to the local rabbits. He bedraggled past the near post, dear reader, he bedraggled.

And all the Saddlers did was wally away for Johnson to chase. And so a wally down the line coiled out. Hurst ran on the pitch to retrieve and was booked for a professional foul on Johnson to much merriment among the players and officials. We all laughed along with that.

Wearne wandered weakly through and across the red wall. A red boot poked and Earing crinkled to a waiting Walsallian, a lurking local. Smith slipped and Knowles surfed through alone, going to places where local youngsters shouldn't go. As the old-fashioned ex-Glover boy scootled closer and closer Crocombe stood tall, stood straight and looked Knowles in the eye. Knowles blinked and bumbled straight at the yellow custardian. A red corner, wafted and wasted. Wonderful.

Doig had words. And pointy fingers. You have to learn from your mistakes. He's told you once, he'll tell you twice, but if you don't listen to his advice there's not going to be a third time. Make that the last time, young man.

A lot of fuss about nothing. Taylor and Wearne chased down Monthe and his mates deep, deep down by the left corner flag. Deflections and blocks, a cross and a block. The Town crowd roused, the players energised by the impressive press. Free kicks and fumbles, Efete tumbled a bicycle kick clearance for them, straight to them, setting up a breakaway for them. Thems the breaks. Hey, don't you worry, take your time, don't hurry back from the pie stall. Somebody, somewhere lent Michee a hand and cleared up the mess.

Ah Michee, the heffalump in the room today. There he is floating in this tin can of a stadium, far, far above the hurly-burl, Michee's playing in blue and there's nothing we can do to wake him up.

Do you hear that? There's a fire alarm going off somewhere. Clear the ground, call it off, think of the children! Or is it a bell tolling for thee, Mickey Flynn? On comes Bim for Amos and Little Harry moved to the leftist of wings as Town moved to 4-4-2.

With quarter of an hour left they made a change that's too good to be true. Yes, here he comes, here comes Andy Williams, a man whose passes are so square they can be divided by four.

They were sure, they felt secure, until this game took a detour. It happened, suddenly it just happened as their world fell apart.

Hassling and hustling, Taylor tussling and tickling by the dug outs. The Bim with vim va-voomed up the right wing. Ah, yes, Pepple pleased and Clifton eased the ball past Dame Edith Evans with a flick of his foot.

Harrumphing and galumphing from the Saddlemen. From beyond the galaxy an unidentified rolling object from an unidentified red object skipped goalwards. Crocombe flew low and left to finger-flip aside for a couple of long forgotten corners as Orsi arrived, replacing Taylor. 

Town nicked, Holohan flicked, Orsi flickered to the overlapping Glennon. Ringo raced on and passed into the middle of the six-yard box. Pepple popped, Orsi was blocked and Clifton took a touch and passed low into the bottom left corner from near enough to sniff the herbs growing in the back of the net.

Look now, look all around, there's no sign of home life. Voices, another sound, can you hear us now?

Triple home subbing, balls very much in the box, balls very much towards the space occupied by Efete. Five minutes were added.

Johnson's desultory dive near Glennon brought derision from the ref. More balls in the box. Monthe! Michee's triple Salkow with twist confused everyone as he missed the ball, stood on the ball and then accidentally collided with the ball to haphazardly divert attention and the ball. It's all about the ball.

Finally, a silly free kick to them and a silly free kick by them. As the population of Walsall stood patiently waiting in ascending order of shoe size a schoolboy dink blubbered straight to Crocombe and for Walsall there's no cookies, not now, not ever!

It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it, that's what gets results. Town were terrible for 20 minutes and utterly toothless for the next hour. But two subs to make two strikers, a little bit of Harry on their right and we did what we do, eventually. That's just what we do these days.

Sensational subbing papered over the slacks. We won't get away with it every week, although we do seem to be playing the same game every week. What a strange division this is.