Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
3 March 2023
Brace yourself, this world ain't what it seems.
Everywhere you go the noise, the colours, the sound of the future, and it's all in black and white. We're here, right here, right now. They aren't. Behold the emptiness, a sea of plastic shimmering silently in their expensive expanses. What are our chances?
Dream, dream away, it's the cup so there's magic in the air. We believe, yes we believe. The men from the press? You know, they didn't even give us a chance. McCoist, he knows it ain't easy, he knows how hard it'll be, that's why they put us on ITV(4).
Town lined up in blue in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Crocombe, Emmanuel, Efete, Waterfall, Maher, Glennon, Hunt, Holohan, Clifton, McAtee and Orsi. The substitutes were Battersby, Amos, Pearson, Smith, Morris, Khouri, Dickson-Peters, Khan and Taylor. If it ain't broke don't fix it, so if it's good enough for top of the fourth division, it's definitely good enough for the Belles of St Mary's. That's what we want to see. And for those of you watching in black and white Crocombe is in the all-yellow strip.
The Southampton flock? They disembarked from the 17:45 and no-one spoke and no-one smiled, there were so many spaces in the stands. Hey, hey, they're playing a song, let's listen to the band: Oh when the TOWN go steaming in. Another successful cultural appropriation by the monochrome nation.
What are we doing here? 1939 was so long ago, this is all a dream, but it all seems so very real.
What's past is prologue.
1st half – I can't get you outta my head
Town kicked off towards the blue wall of sound with a lumpy dump and a hundred home shoulders slumped. Tipping, tapping and dervishes whirled. The ball curled out, curled to Crocombe and a hundred more home lips curled.
Well, they ain't scored yet.
White slices out, white plopping headers. Sit down, oh sit down, as Mara fluttered behind blue, far off the flag was fluttering. The ball? Let 'em have it, they're simply playing with their Spirograph. Pretty, pretty patterns going round and round and round, like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream or the ripples from a pebble tossed into a stream.
The metronome keeps on ticking. Orsi nudged and McAtee missed a nurdle. Tick-tick-tick, they're almost getting slick. A flick and we're feeling sick as the Mara swept inside the nearest post. Look to your left side, Luke, the force is with us. The lovely linesman on the left is waving. Coo-ee!
Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song, half-remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong? Holohan chugged and Holohan was mugged in the middle. Squeezing, wheezing and Orsic curled safely wide.
Well, they haven't scored yet.
Maher chucked half longly, hoopla and broo-ha-ha amidst minor pandemonium at the nearest post. Minor moments from minor characters as Mara bedraggled and Mad Max swept off local toes.
Tackles crunching and rich noses scrunching. This is football, but not as they know it. Little Alex was booked for stretchy-wetchy. You needn't take it any further, sir. You've proved to him that all this ultraviolence is wrong, wrong, and terribly wrong. He's learned his lesson, sir.
Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon, like a carousel that's turning running rings around the moon and Djenepo dived over Maher's invisible feet.
Well, well, well, dear Saints, don't ask me what I think of you as I might not give the answer that you want me to. Half time approaching and Orsi-Orsi never stopped, Orsi-Orsi clipperty-clopped and Big Josh crossed. Clifton nicked and Clifton knocked but McCarthy brilliantly blocked. Alas and alack, almost…hang on….
There's something strange, there's something weird, someone's seen things and there's a running commentary in the ref's ears.
You can tell at a glance what a swell night this is for cup romance. Penalty! That's handy.
Oh, no, no, no. no. no, not that, please dear codgod, it's the excruciating hope that kills. Whose turn is it to miss today? Holohan strolled forward, and rolled right as McCarthy rolled left.
And at the moment the local constabulary in the Isle of Wight received a telephone call from a concerned committee member of the WI. You see, they were having their monthly Quiz Night at the Cow Restaurant when they heard a loud noise and the ground beneath their feet begin to crumble. Well, you can imagine, that's not the sort of thing that happens around here.
Well it is now.
Four minutes were added. A homely harrumph and ram raiding on Town's flickering flanks. A corner scuttled, a white boot swished, a white boot missed and the lonely Mara sweetly steered into the shoals beyond.
Oh bliss, bliss and heaven, gravity is all nonsense now. The culture club is beating the lazy gang.
2nd half – Spinning around
Neither team made any changes at half time.
Let's just go with the flow, eh? Let's go where the music takes us. Djenepo wriggled, blue limbs jiggled, and the ball rimpled along the side nettage. What do we know? That Big Luke has a forehead. They know it now too.
Crocombe, manfully battling through his chronic cramp, drop kicked straight down the middle. The ball bounced once and bounced through to McCarthy with Orsi and Caleta-Car pawing at each other off stage. Orsi felt the hand of history on his shoulder and fell to earth as the dim Saint slapped him on the back, failing to understand how the touch of his hand makes Dr Teeth's pulse react.
To the delight of those nearest, the referee pointed spotsward. Hello Mr VAR, we can't get away with it again, can we?
Oh yes we can. Holohan waited, inhaled, exhaled, swept high and right over faintly flapping saintly fingers as a sea of love swept down from the stands beyond. He's done it again, he's done it again! It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious. It's simply unbelievable.
Incoming! It's the blimp, shank! Over, wide, wide and over, up and down, dismal diving, Maher thriving, blocks with socks. How's our Max's lumbago. Ooh, mustn't grumble.
Here comes the cavalry! Ward-Prowse prowling and scowling amidst much home howling. Emmanuel crossed to slightly higher than McAtee's cheekbones. In out, in out, left and right. Can't you stop the cavalry. A corner, another, and another. Ward-Prowse dripped a drooper, Caleta-Car sneaked away from Emmanuel and steered a volley into the net from nearby.
Oh well, it was good while it lasted, eh.
And on that bombshell Taylor replaced Orsi.
Pressure upon pressure as crosses plopped and Town began to pop. Blue tackles raising local hackles already roused by the recurrence of contagious Crocramp. Oh, come on, we're practically amateurs, you know; we can't compete with the gods of the premiership.
Get rid! Hoof. Boom-bang-a-bang everyone knows it's great for the ball to be in Max's arms.
With quarter of an hour left Khan and Morris came on for Clifton and the limping Hunt. Morris lost the ball, won the ball, lost the ball, won the ball, lost his marker, found his mark. There's good and bad in everyone.
McAtee! Befuddled straight to McCarthy. McAtee! Hustling and bustling, disrobing a fallen Saint and waltzing through on goal. Shins and shanks and McCarthy picked up the ball as Big John got the taste of Wembley in his nostrils and sneezed.
Oh I say, it's tough, have we had enough? A home plunge and Ward-Prowse dinked into the wilderness as Waterfall was pointing at the sky. Walcott sprung, his heels spun and passed past Crocombe.
Well, there were are, we knew it would happen. Woah, hold your slow horses. Mysterious Mr VAR is on the case. The players stood around, the crowd hushed, without a sound. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
Oh this is getting better and better and better.
Offside. That WI lady's gonna ring the police again.
The home fans started to disembark, no-one spoke, and no-one smiled, there were so many spaces in their stands.
At this Khouri replaced the woeful McAtee. Face facts pop-pickers, he had a shocker.
Lumping, dumping, swishing, swaying, coiling and spoiling. How long left? How long? Too long. Caleta-Car swept into the Solent, and wept into his boots.
Khan amazed with a mazy run into Saintly shins. Khouri chased and arrested Walker-Peters, Khouri blocked, Khouri rocked!
Six minutes were added. Is that all?
Lumping, dumping, swishing, swaying, Town pulled this way and that. An overloaded left, Walker-Peters stepped in and slapped a whipper-dipper across the face of goal, across the face of the far post and began to face the humiliation of home humbling.
Poor old Max, cramping again. And again.
Are we there yet? There's some fish, they're on the pitch. They think it's all over. It is now. Scenes, limbs, words, noise, colours, love, sheer love and affection for their dedication. Once more with feeling…you know that's what we like.
As Glennon put on his trout mask replica our smiles were stuck. We cannot go back to Frownland now.
Oh what? What...was that? It's unbelievable.
Time to hit the road to dreamland.