Requiem for a post-Christmas dream

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

15 January 2023

Floating down through the clouds, memories come rushing up to meet me now of Swindon days of yore: Daryl Clare's cheek, Graham Rodger's elbows and the Jan Age Fjortoft memorial toilet door.

A place to park, enough to eat. Let's shuffle down the street to watch Hurst's heroes. Have you any doubts and fears for tears by bedtime? Well, it's stopped raining, literally if not metaphorically.

Blue Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Crocombe, Efete, Maher, Smith, Amos, Green, Holohan, Clifton, O’Neill and McAtee. The substitutes were Glennon, Pearson, Morris, Hunt, Kiernan, Wearne and Orsi. Hey, there's a new kid on the block: Mikey O'Neill. Hang on, wasn't he a Backstreet Boy? Mikey-Mike's got fourth member boy band hair – he's either the Cute One or the Shy One. You, the jury, decide.

Clang-clang-clang! Town's lacklustre, shambolic warm-up an unco-ordinated meringue of hops, skips and jumps, the rondeaus all perfunctory tips and static taps. Motions were merely gone through. They looked as happy to be here as we, the slowly dwindling amphibious army roaming England.

Hey, we're glad they haven't got Gladwin, their wardrobe, but will we be glad they got their old family car back on the road? Charlie Austin, found rusting underneath some tarpaulin down under and shipped back to Old Blighty for one last antiques road trip. But has he passed the emissions test? Let's hope this sneezin' wheezer doesn't crash to the ground inside the penalty area.

C'mon Town, make us laugh, make them cry, just don't lay down and die.

1st half – Not Now John
Swindon kicked off towards the empty end with the wicked wind beneath their wings. The corner flags were bending backwards as Crocombe cranked forwards and O'Neill tippled perfectly delightfully down the flanks. Khan scampered and teased a crossfield crackle into the dead centre of the Swindon half. Holohan chested on, dippy volleyed and rubbed his hair vigorously as Brynn spectacularly parried over the bar. Has he forgotten the rules? Amos wimped the corner lowly to the near post. Yes, Danny-boy Amos has forgotten to elevate to accumulate.

What a lovely minute that was. We must take our pleasures when and where we can.

Wakey-wakey! Wakeling walked past Amos and Crocombe plucked the truffle from lurking boots. Holes. Space. Absence. Warning lights flashed on our map.

Foul throw! Hutton rolled, their Khan threw a shape and walked around and through a puddle of blue, spinning around and coiling around the flickering fingers of Max. The ball smirked off the inside of the left post, bounced across the line and out.

A miffle, a muffle and McAtee scuffled at Brynn. A moment of clarity, the illusion of parity, we'd hoped for some charity keeping. Another blue corner, McAtee clunked, Green arose and Brynn plopped as Mikey-Mike's boots waggled. A parry from us, a thrust from them, Hepburn-Murphy nibbling at Michee's toes. Niiiiice. Town Towning about here and there with Clifton clipping Holohan free. Touch of a mule! Brennan hopped on the nearest tractor and ploughed a swipe straight into the referee's mush, knocking him flat and knocking him out.

Nine minutes later…

All you need is your own imagination so use it, that's what it's for.

Holohan! Oh, Holohan, no, no, no. Set up in the 'D', the wandering minstrel passed the parcel before the music had stopped. Titter ye not, Town in a tither watching Swindon Carry On up the other end. Their Khan shrugged aside Green, our Khan maintained a respectful distance and Hutton crossed flatly, deeply. Austin took a step back, sneaked behind Smith and nodded sagely back across the static Crocombe into the left side from the right side as we all sighed at the sight of an old man dancing in delight.

Holes. Space. Absence. Town bullied aside, overwhelmed by intensity, the sheer dynamism of their Khan alone.

Green dredged, Amos slippered, McAtee stretched and Brynn claw-pawed aside. A corner, cleared, red shirts smeared all over the pitch and Smith smothered Wakeling as he waltzed. Holes. Space. Absence. Swindon swarming, the home fans warming.

Strung out below us were our banners and flags, and just past the half hour our day lies in tatters and rags. Underneath the Town fans wiffles were waffled and Austin flat-volley passed down the centre, bisecting Maher, dissecting Amos. Danny-boy let the ball roll and ambled back towards Crocombe, dithering dreadfully as Wakeling nipped in front and fell over the perfunctory prod of a northern boot. Red card. Free kick. Piffled into the wall if you really want to know.

Jiggery–pokery required. On came Glennon for Khan and Town moved to a 4-4-1 formation, with McAtee initially on the right of midfield and Clifton on the left. Yeah, whatever. Waves of red rolled over the blue seabed. A volley hit a sand dune, Crocombe stooped, Crocombe scooped, hacks and thwacks, blocks with socks over shins and grins from those in red as they saw the blue wall crumbling. Ailing, failing, our hopes sailing away. Smith knock-kneed, Crocombe brilliantly changed direction to pluck up, up and away from the top left corner.

As a blue cross was ticked and reds poured forward, Mildenhall waved his arms gesticulating to the vastness of the emptiness and the remarkably unmarkedness of several Swindonites and knocked Gunning's hat clean off, sending it spinning, spiralling down the Town right. What's under your hat The Gav? A little chicken? A pencil sharpener? Nope, a severe countenance. Rest easy, for he found his hat and he was happy again.

Waves and waves, and waves and waves and sometimes there wasn't a wave of red. Green plucked a wilting flowerpot. Nine minutes were added. Glennon crackled a coiler, McAtee stretched in front of O'Neill at the front post and prodded wide from six yards. A magnificent miss, geometrically, ballastically, physically harder to avoid scoring. That's why Luton signed him, that's why he's a second division player. He makes the impossible possible, we know that.

And. Again. McAtee driffled straight and slow to Brynn.

Yeah, they had loads of attacks. Austin scoop-coiled wide, something else happened, then something else, blah-blah-blah, Whatever. Time for tea.

For all their dominance and Town's enervated weediness, it was still only 1-0 and Town could still do this if they'd only listen to the lads in the toilet queue. Hey, anything is possible. What is probable is another thing entirely. Single figures would be nice, let's go home with some dignity, eh. Or maybe the lights will fail. You have to have hope.

2nd half – The Gunning's Dream
I opened my eyes and to my surprise neither team made any changes at half time. Holohan was still on the pitch.

A new half, a clean slate, a new hope. Words of wisdom can turn base metal into gold.

No they can't.

H&M snipped and snapped and Austin slapped against the face of the crossbar as Townites back-tracked and backed off. Swindon swarming, Old MacDonald threaded a needle, Williams plucked his banjo and H&M flicked a prod that kissed the post. Now, where was the Town defence in all this? It's always good to ask questions.
Blocks by blue socks. Well, I say blocks, I merely mean the ball hit socks which were blue. Brownian motion and squad rotation, it's the appliance of science. I have a dream, I believe in angles, something good in everything I see. Little Harry had a cross. Marvellous.

Crocombe has lost the art of kicking the football. He's frit of it, and everyone knows it.

On the hour Clifton switched wings after a chat with Deputy Doig, immediately taking out the irrepressible Iandolo with a sliding, swiping exploratory excavation, purely for scientific purposes. Three minutes later Lavinier replaced the limping left back. One minute later Lavinier carefully steered a volley across Crocombe into the farthest, leftist corner after a dangling dingle beyond and over the few boys in blue gathered together in a tent for safety.

Before you could boil any more eggs, or your blood, another jingle-jangle of looseness and physical weakness left Williams free in the centre circle to set Hepburn-Murphy free down their left. Efete dithered, didn't dig a hole and Michee mooched alongside H&M as he sauntered forward, cut in and slashed lowly. Crocombe parried, the ball plumped up nicely and Williams tapped in from dead centre, six yards out, as many blue shorts watched and sighed.

Here they go…one by one seats are tipped and minds are flipped.

And it was at this point that Glennon coiled a lovely corner. Absolutely delightful it was in dripping droopery as Brynn panicked a parry away for another. Green took it quick and tapped it short, McAtee looked up and crossed highly high, behind no-one to nowhere.

And that was all there was to and from Grimsby Town FC.

The game long gone, Green and McAtee were saved for another day as on came Morris and Hunt. Swindon made a triple change. With his first touch Hunt was flicked away like a dozing fly by Khan near the dug-outs. Khan the Conqueror drove diagonally across and up the pitch and espied a raffish looking gentleman lurking on the left. The floppy-haired Mr Darcy dragged a shot into the near post after opening his body and feigning a far-post curler.

Two by two the seats were slammed and off went more die harders.

Balls in the box. Our box, of course. It's incessant and more and more Mariners were becoming incandescent.

With five minutes left Orsi came on for the Backstreet Boy. Dr Teeth mithered about a throw-in. It's something to do to justify your wages, I suppose.

As it finally dawned on us all that Town would not be saved by the poor maintenance of their County Ground electrics, or a sudden cold snap freezing the pitch, Maher tapped back to Smith rather the Crocombe, who passed directly to the static statistic that is Gavan Holohan. Khan pounced, wiggled across and past several blue headstones and blamped highly into the net.

Five minutes were added. They wanted six. Goals that is.

What are we but unset blue jelly. Lavinier megged a nut and Crocombe plucked the ball off the line as his half block rolled behind him. Another anothering of anotherness as Crocombe blocked Hutton then Mr Darcy. In the end they were walking at will through the puddles that constituted Grimsby Town.

And in the end the referee took pity and put the old nag down.

We know what goes on in the fourth division, every once in a while we'll have to take a beating. The way I see, it everybody takes a beating sometime. But not all the time.

And there's the rub – Swindon were very good, Town were tremendously terrible, but the way they were terrible is the alarming thing now we are accumulating data. The pattern, the trend is to collapse. What got Town up was that indefatigable spirit, the determination to never give in, to try and try and try to the very last kick. Where's it gone?

What we need to address is the heart of the matter.