Rhyme and Reason

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

12 March 2023

Do we have to?

Oh, oh all right, if we must.

A still, clear afternoon in the home of the secret FA Cup quarter-finalists. Every time I look around I can see it in someone's face. How bizarre, how bizarre. I suppose if you want to see it on telly now you'll have to buy the rights. As Mick Channon said, England need to get the boy Lineacre on the box.

Town lined up in a 3-5-2 formation as follows: Crocombe, Efete, Waterfall, Maher, Emmanuel, Holohan, Green, Khan, Glennon, McAtee and Lloyd. The substitutes were Smith, Hunt, Clifton, O’Neill, Khouri, Taylor and Orsi-Orsi. Mr Green? Yes, Mr Green.

Well, that's no surprise if you can see right through Hurst's pre-match misdirections.

Rochdale turned up in a non-League kit with two old loanee keepers that everyone has forgotten about, probably including them. It was in another life, back when the grass was green, a long time ago when we weren't fab. It's a whole new world now, shining, shimmering and sometimes splendid. No-one can tell us no (apart from Toby), or where to go, or say we're only dreaming.

Did you know we're in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup?

Do we have to? Oh all right, if we must. On with the show.

1st half – A Sea Dirge
Town kicked off towards the Osmond filled with 333 silent Dalers. Hey, we're in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, you know.

It is pleasant and dreamy, no doubt, to float with boundless thoughts of the road to Wemberlee. But, suppose you are very unwell in your coat. How do you like to be beside the sea? Quigley. What a bottom feeder he be, there is no need for a Richard Brodie tribute act.

Fighting talk! Green! Alas he had to pass and McAtee was nowhere to be seen. Only connect the head and the heart, the cerebral and the passionate. Can you hear the Grimsby sing? I hear footsteps slowly walking to the toilets at the back of the Pontoon.

Pushing, shoving, yellow plunging. Glennon seeing yellow after Odoh trickery-dickeriness. Shoving, pushing, stripey lunging. Ebanks-Landell freely headed a swinger over or was it wide, or was it both?

Backsliding. What can we do as these slippery people are constantly running through. This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, so stop fooling around.

Three down and ten! As Dentists watched, Town crept up the touchline. Maher chucked deeply and bouncy-bouncy, bouncy-bouncy, McAtee mischested and there is no more. The ball kept on bouncing through. It was so nearly a moment that could have been close to being, well, a moment. But it wasn't.

Town vervelessly triangulated vaguely near the FanZone. Efete turned and bedraggled a dribbler that was so nearly a moment that could have been close to being, well, a moment. But it wasn't.

Shapeless, soulless and senseless, bereft of brains, without wit, decidedly dreary, awfully average but, hey we're in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, you know.

Wakey, wakey! Odoh dribbled and drabbled through the rabble. A tinkle, a winkle, and Rodney crinkled a cross across into the vacant expanses between the sea and the sky. Who's that's knocking on the door, who's that ringing the bell? Ah the quirky Quigley wouldn't let 'em in, blocking a team-mate as Keohane passed towards the emptied nettage. A big Marinerman with receding hair retreated to half-swipe off the line for a bit of jiggery-pokery inside the six-yard box.

There is still pain, they aren't receding and they are still coming through in tiny waves. A wall was passed and Rodney skipped free beyond the back three, rounded Crocombe on their right and scraped a strolling bedribbler to near post. The ball rolled and rolled, and slowed and slowed, and Waterfall and Maher walked back to toe-poke away from the foot of the leftist post. The corner coiled and Keohane was foiled by Lloyd nodded off the line. But far away, across the field, the fluttering of a lineman's flag, put the faithful at their ease and broke the yellowmen's soft and flaccid spell.

Big Luke clutched his head and on came Not Dave Moore. None shall pass, for 'tis but a scratch.

Mullarkey. Yes, Mullarkey. Coiled a dripper wide. Four words, you don't need a fifth. Life moves on.

Khan. Yes, Khan. He had a shot. Four words. There is a fifth word but, please, not in front of the children, uncle Ernie or our Auntie Gin. Just open the door and let them out.

Three minutes were added. If you have any memory of these three minutes then you were evidently not abducted by aliens. Who got the better end of that stick?

There's only one way to sum up that half. Did you know we're in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup?

2nd half – Sighs and tears
The meandering muttering McAtee was replaced by Taylor.

Did you know…oh you did. I'll shut up about it then. Shall we watch the football?

Things, movement, silence. Taylor amused by the awarding of a free kick for a touch upon his outer id way out. Taylor thoroughly amused by a second free kick awarded for a hand upon his historic shoulder. Glennon dripped a free kick inducing much bibblage and bobblage, hacking and thwacking and Green's slapping hit yellows socks. Green ducked at the near post and the ball rolled over the crossbar.

That was, in context, amazing, really cool, yes it was fantastical. Wow, eh, almost football.

Dream even for a little while, filling up this idle hour of messing about near the water. Yellow peril as Mullarkey mesmerised the muddled Green and fell over a monochrome leg deep inside the Town penalty area. The Osmond Stand emerged from its fug and rose in fury at the sound of silence emerging from the turquoise lips that were firmly sealed.

Marvellous decision. We're right behind you.

Heave it high, lump it long. Nicks and knocks and Taylor dinked into no-man's land. O'Donnell raced out and rabbit-punched off Khan's head. It's like watching Indoor League.

Slackery and hackery a-go-go. Holohan passed horizontally and Odoh ran in, ran on, and wangled through the gappery 'twixt Maher and Waterfall. Rodney roamed and the Rochdale fans moaned as Crocombe bent down to pat away the woeful wiffler.

On the hour Clifton replaced Holohan, the battling bottle-tosser of old Grimsby Town.

Backpassing nonsensery as the Kiwi clopped and Efete under-shinned to middle-earth dwelling Dalesman. And? Well, Rodney, you plonker, as Devante plonked a dripper into the deepest recesses of the Dale support.

There were times when stripes approached the Pontoon. Back in the day, not today, it's one of those days.

A Town free kick, somewhere, was clumped into the throng. Heads and tails and nothing happened. A lazy lamp back down the middle had Odoh ambling towards Clifton, who walloped upfield. The ball arced over their beautifully coiffured Taylor and bounced into the penalty area on the right. Lloyd wriggled beyond the ailing yellowman, saw O'Donnell neither here nor there, and poke-lobbed into the net.

That's a nice surprise. We're in the quarter finals of the FA Cup, you know.

Efete had a nose bang and changed his shirt during these national celebrations, with the referee not allowing him back on until the next break in play. What a curiosity. Them, that is they, fluttered about. Movement, noise and general hoo-haas. Nothing happened.

And still Town metronomically lobbed to Taylor. A Maher chuckle bounded on, was headed out, was nodded back by Efete and Waterfall almost stamp-prodded. But didn't. It just bounced into O'Donnell's hands. That's all. The ball bounced, nothing happened. It was exciting, enticing, enthralling and appalling. That's football.

Khan wibbled a wobble that dripped and dropped as the keeper was wishing and hoping and thinking then praying that it would plop past the left post. It did. Just.

Handbags at 30 paces as Waterfall shepherded the ball out. The pastel peeper took a dim view of Quigley and Crocombe's pop-up fish slapping contest. And then Maher was booked for a swing and a miss. And then Ebanks-Landell headed off near the line from Lloyd. And then…and then…and then.

And then there were changes. Khouri for Khan, Orsi for Lloyd ad Rochdale brought on some very modern hair, the thoroughly modern Mellor.

It's the end of the Dale days, this is how it all ends, not with a bang but with a whimper as Danilo Orsi dribbles into the corner flag. That is their end of days, the hope only of empty men.

Six minutes were added, five were played. Huffing, puffing, and housing remained intact through North East Lincolnshire. Brierley wellied over, Henderson was addressed with relish, and we all went home, happy to forget this day ever existed.

How can one sum up 99 minutes of football in one succinct sentence that captures the very essence of the day? We're in the FA Cup quarter finals, you know.

Nearly there.