When the evening sun goes down

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

11 December 2022

We had all the accessories required for that big match atmosphere: the crowd and the dugout and the floodlights too. And all they brought to Grimsby was an aquamarine away kit.

A crisp, clear and still December day where tedious people hunkered down with a frown and didn't come to town. No wind, no people: has there been an outbreak of Vitus Gerulaitis?

Town lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation as follows: Crocombe, Efete, Waterfall, Amos, Clifton, Green, Holohan, Kiernan, McAtee and Khan. The substitutes were Smith, Morris, Khouri, Hunt, Maguire-Drew, Simmonds and Orsi. We have full-backs! Michee and Danny, you complete us.

Tranmere Rovers. Yes, Tranmere Rovers. Oh no, it's Tranmere Rovers. We can see you sneaking in. You are us, we are you, and we are all together in perfect mid-table, mid-season harmony, drifting down like leaves from an old oak tree, unseen and ignored by the world. It's been two long years since they last played Grimsby and not many of them got on the bus.

Life is different now the plague has gone.

1st half – Paintball's Coming Home
Town kicked off towards the 241 lads and lasses from the Wirral on a voyage to the bottom of the fourth tier.

Huffling and shuffling and Clifton's shinner was shinned behind blue eyes. Khan drooped the corner farly, Waterfall plopped a gentle noodle and Doohan flip-flapped when the ball was drizzling wide. Another corner and just a minor scamblette of no lasting consequence for the planet. No orchids died, no lizards lounged.

Jade jauntings ended in Town tauntings. Tips and taps, scrimps and scrapes in the shadows of the Frozen Horsebeer Stand. Their Morris stood on the penalty spot and magically swiped a bedraggler wide of the leftist post and bewailed and bemoaned as no corner was awarded. Be gone with you.

Ready? Steady? Go! Ping-pong passing and Efete's pinpointless cross sailed above the leaping McAtee. Ping-pong pass from Crocombe to Khan, stood by the dug-outs, brought forth the poetry of Pontoon grumbles. Green charmed and chipped, McAtee chased and hassled a minty heffalump into a slapstick tickle. Big John retrieved, recalibrated and crinkled cutely into the vast void that was and still remains the centre of the Tranmere penalty area. Kiernan sneaked in front of a polycotten scarecrow and glanced the delicious dripper into the bottom left corner as Doohan and Bristow stared into each other's sad red eyes.

The weekend starts here.

Ping pongs and pom-poms, hustling and hassling from Holohan, Khan carooned deeply and Gav O'Groves slid in at the far post to slide into the net. Sit down, there's a flag fluttering.

Olé, olé, olé, show that boat! Swinging, swaying, swaggering stripes. Ooh la la. A Town free kick halfly cleared and Amos’s slap-shot pinged off a jadester. One of them, who I shall arbitrarily claim to be Mr Lewis, ran off straight down the middle and tickled Hemmings the Lemming free. As if by magic Clifton appeared, magnificently disrobing the unable Kane as a green boot was pulled back for the coup de grace.

Chip and chase in haste. Beware the green monsters thou doth mock! A mass Trannerbreak halted by McAtee, the last man standing. Another swept away as Michee stepped out. Look and dry your eyes, Efete he's so fine. A lull, it's getting dull, stop watching the gulls. Crocombe rabbit punched off a lurking green head. A Tranmere free kick or two. Merrie crispness everyone? Anyone? Was there one? Pancake flat and drearily dismal, there is nothing to see here. Time for parties and celebrations.

McAtee's spun-chipped volley sailing over the bar, Efete almost burstled through but Doohan came out to poop the party. Clifton mugged many a muckler and McAtee chipped the keeper from the chippy down the road. Salt and vinegar? A Town corner was clevered deeply and McAtee back-flip-heeled a trinkler across face of the post and near striped boots that curiously didn't bark in the night.

Is there anything going on?

A hint at this, suggestion of that, moments of almostness on the cusp of distracting the crowd from their chattering and nattering. Have you been promoted? That looks like new hair. Sorry, I missed that, did those trees just move? A breakdance down their right and Lewis toe-poked at the near post as Kiernan covered for the marauding Efete. More of this, less of that, a barely cleared free kick belted off Efete's aura and slithered across the left angle of post and bar.

Two minutes were added, time enough for Holohan to scrooble wide and heads to be clutched in sorrow and then anger.

A frantic start, a frenetic finish and mushrooms grew in the dark in between. Both sides are very good at not scoring. It's almost an art form.

2nd half – Hocus Pocus Fishbones Chokus
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Ah yes, this is better. Tranmerely shaken, Town stirred. A triangle, a rhombus and a dodecahedron. McAtee floated free down the right and swingled to the near post. A corner, Prenton panics, scrambles, no eggs on no faces.

Mugging, shrugging and Town bugging the day trippers. Lacerations on the left, rotations on the right, passing and indeed movement. Amos big-boomed a crossfield hurricane, leaving their full-back howling in pain. Big Bren bundled, Efete rumbled, McAtee did a bossa nova and Khan failed to grow three inches and missed the pass across the face of goal.

Traffic flows one way in a one-way street. Nearly here, nearly there, nearly everywhere. Amos crossed, Kiernan waited, alone, eight yards out. The ball sailed perfectly over the last green head and Big Bren stooped down, lurched upwards and headed backwards. You have to say that's magnificent defending.

Here we come again, leftly, rightly, leftly again. Clifton tickled his fancy and was felled by a passing spoon narrowly beyond the penalty area. As infiltrators seeped between the static sheets of green Khan coiled into the near post, Maher glanced gently and the ball scootled through a corridor of unhumanity into the bottom left corner. He finished with a plumb.

One question: apart from Gary Croft's commentary, where else on earth can you hear the word 'aplomb' being used? At the back of the Pontoon after this.

Bring on the dancing horses! Free-flowing fantasy football a-go-go. On your marks. Get set, go! He wants to ride a bicycle. McAtee Muzzy Izzeting, more missy than Messi. Bring on the new messiah wherever he may roam.

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow. The greatest goal ever wasn't scored here, today, now. Flicks and tricks, one-touch passing with non-stop movement. Michee rolled in, rolled past and rolled over Beethoven as he swept through the living detritus of Tranmere's defence. One, two, three rolls and into the six-yard box. Michee, Michee, Michee all you had to do was kick the ball with your left foot. The ball simply rolled on pifflingly across the face of goal and straight out of play.

Half way through the half and half way up the pitch Khan lost possession. A green lump and Waterfall nodded to Maher. So much time, so many choices. Maher lobbed back to Crocombe. So much time, so many choices. Mad Max decided to fly kick and Town were nearly gone for a Burton. The ball hit the standing stone and flew straight in. They'd scored by accident. Everyone looked suitably embarrassed.

Listen lads, we can still lose this. Wakey, wakey. And Town did awaken. A magnificent sweeping roll pass from McAtee released Kiernan and whatever, nothing much. Scrambles at a Town corner with much flapping in the marsh. It could have been something, it wasn't anything.

A lump, a dump, Doohan hared out of his area and thighed away. Shoot! Clifton flat-chipped from the halfway line and the ball drifted wide of the left post as the keeper scuttled back flapping like a dandy. McAtee, McAtee, Johnnie McAtee triangulated with Kiernan, bundled through some street furniture and Doohan clawed aside. Corner! In, out, dithering by Kiernan and Khan and off went the mintymen. Khan was booked for legging up. And off went Khan with eight minutes left, replaced by Morris.

Fiddling and faddling, and suddenly there is action. Burton's slap-shot snapshot shimmered into Crocombe's arms and stuck. Up and under, here they come. But Luke Waterfall can head the ball. And Luke Waterfall did head the ball.

Orsi came on for McAtee as six minutes were added. Ups were undered and Luke Waterfall headed the ball. Ups were undered and Luke waterfall didn't head the ball as Mumbongo messed up a prod after a nod. Or was that a choke at a poke?

And finally, as Tranmere threw bodies vaguely forward, Orsi chased a lob and broke away from the halfway line. He swayed left, swayed right past the last defender and into the penalty area. And then he was on the floor. What, no penalty? Perhaps Mr Orange was blinded by the floodlights reflecting in Danny Boy's teeth as our calliope crashed to the ground.

And Smith replaced Holohan with no seconds left. There is nothing left to say, it's over, it's over, it's over.

What a curious game. It was sublime, it was ridiculous. It was exacting, it was exciting. It was the perfect embodiment of mid-table fourth tier football.