Just an Illusion

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

13 August 2023

Never mind, some day maybe, but they're not my favourite shirts. Why do Notts County always have terrible kits? My advice to anyone wearing one is don't get too close to the supermarket till, especially if you have unexpected items in your bagging area.

Unexpected rain in the Trent Bridge area as near three thousand travelling Townites get a soaking while hoping we won't be moping in the Midlands come midnight, when this game is due to end.

Red Town lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation as follows: Eastwood, Mullarkey, Rodgers, Waterfall, Glennon, Hunt, Conteh, Clifton, Eisa, Vernam and our second-hand Rose. The substitutes were Cart-Wright, Efete, Holohan, Green, Khouri, Gnahoua and Pyke. What more can you say, it is what it is, just about the first eleven. Have we gelled yet?

The simple Piemen assembled with their colours and noise and promised a half-time treat for all: a special guest appearance by a former Mariner, an old estate agent called Gary. Ah, you're too young to get it. Do I have to spell it out? G.A.R.Y.L.U.N.D. Old times, old players, just old memories for old men. And this is no county for old men.

Don't get excited, save your breath, cool it. On with the show.

1st half – Crumpling flaggery
Town kicked off towards the Big End as their big flag collapsed down the stand into a puddle. Pinging and ponging, a Town corner, Rose glanced. No-one danced.

Wrong stripey wingery with much touchhuggery. Nemane nixed Ringo and crimpled deeply. Jinking Jones, the merry Malteaser, volleyed back and across and into the mixer. With a wiffle and waft red socks sliced and Eastwood leapt. Panic over, Captain Mainwaring.

What some will call a Town corner after what some will remember as football. Hunt handballed. Another Town corner and Harvey headed back across the vacancy. The ball boombled gently past absent feet and the farthest post and that is the end of that.

They seek him here, they seek him there, round the boutiques of Riby Square. Where is our left-back? Is he just a flower to be looked at? Nemane had a ball roasting, toasting Glennon. Poor old Ringo, he couldn't cope, he didn't know where to stand or what to do. He even missed when trying to leg the little lad up.

Piddling, widdling and Countymen in love with their own reflections as they faffed about making some tarts. Rose nearly picked Rawlinson's pocket and off they rotated again, repeating their slow rinse cycle. As the Wolds Panther prowled in the bushes noodling, Nemane's back pass passed Rawlinson by. Rose rolled on, rolled inside, and dragged a slitherer into the near post as the keeper lay down like a lamb on Broadway.

Well, I quite liked how that turned out. How about you?

Finally Glennon got his man. And was booked for a desperate hook. Rambling Rose incurred official irage for a surfeit of smiling cheekiness. One more thing, I have a question for you. When did Rawlinson forearm smash Rose? It was during this game, in this half. The ref tutted, for this was not as heinous as a little light backchattery or chuck-in deferrals. Rules are rules. I blame David Elleray. Still.

County were in a rhythm on the right, ours and theirs. Toby traumatised by tussling with jinking Jones and the whole left side dissolving as dinks and winks and links had Town on the brink. Eastwood spectacularly parried away a coil through the traffic jams as Langstaff lurked at the far post.

And then three stands began to shout and cheer for nowhere in Nottingham was there shed a tear for Ringo. Glennon, gone in 30 minutes. Taken off before being sent off. No time to whine, it's time for Michee to shine. Plug that hole Michee.

McGoldrick scooped a free kick hugely over after training-ground cleverness just got them back to where they started. Town were being strangulated and triangulated. Oh such cute triangles as flankmen were isolated and the game oscillated. The Maltese falcon flew and Toby was in turmoil. A cross out of the blue and Langstaff lurked beyond Rodgers, nodding freely from the centre. Eastwood parry-punched aside, but merely out to Nemane. A cross returned, Conteh skipped underwards, Bostock chested down and walloped down the centre right. Great finish and all that, but tut-tut Mr Conteh.

And still they roamed, barely molested. Jones finagled through gappery and swingled from afar with an outside of boot scoop. Eastwood was unperturbed even if the locals swooned at this spoon. Big triangular sweeps and Toby regretted cutting his toenails as the ball twinkled on. Jones caressed lowly through the corridor of uncertainty. Rodgers slip-slided away, back-heel bumping the ball uply at the far post where Langstaff lurked and flailed over an opened goal from five yards.

Six minutes were added. Nemane was booked for time wasting at a throw-in, the ref reminded of the new regulations by his fifth official, a Mr Paul Hurst of South Yorkshire.

Corners, corners and well done, Harvey! Nemane scrumped and Eastwood plucked. It could have been something, it wasn't anything but a moment in time.

Time! Ticking away, on and on and on, when will this story end. In the eighth of the six minutes Jake eschewed the punt and rolled out to Mullarkey. A chippy channel ball and Slim Charles surged into a cul-de-sac. Toby trotted into an enticing hole, espied red shirts flowing forward, and majestically scooped. Clifton broke the County lines and the County hearts, chesting down and steering across the stranded Stone into the bottom right corner.

Oh, that's nice. Lovely.

Hang on, I have another question for you. When was Waterfall's handball? It could well have been during the helter-skelter finale as Townites thrashed around in front of Eastwood under a siege of County scoops and whoops. Eastwood plunged and pawed as McGoldrick wafted thricely inside the six-yard box. Eastwood flew left, or was it right, to sweep up a Bostock crawler. Or did he stand still? If you went for a pie or a pint you'll never know.

After ten minutes the six minutes of added time finally ended. The early queuers returned thinking the second half had just started, startled to learn how the world had changed. It's all so very confusing these days.

Fraught, flanks folding. Please send reinforcements.

2nd half – Flagging crumples
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Crank up the Vernamator! Town in a hurry with a bit of a flurry. Crosses flashing hither and thither and through the six-yard box from left then right. Little Harry's careful curl deflected wide. Eisa was spotted then swotted, Conteh began to clamp. Nice.

How many chickens have you counted so far? Just stop now. A half advance floundered with Mullarkey displaced. A simple Pieman pass released The Malteaser and Big Luke lolloped out to deal with the interloping. A cross was curled and the ball ballooned off Waterfall’s toes, looping hoopily in the perfect arc to coil over and around Eastwood and round the near post and under the crossbar. Flukey. Annoying. Flukily annoying. Annoyingly flukey.

What have we got? An Eisa draggler. It draggled wide. What have they got? McGoldrick wellied over. What more have we got? Rose cut in from the left and rolled carefully past the far post. Conteh swept up and swept wide, Clifton curled a tempting cross that flicked off striped heads and arced over Stone and dropped a yard wide.

Slowly the momentum shifted back as County remember their lines. Nemane gave and Nemane went past Efete, Eastwood finger flipping the cross up and beyond the lurking Langstaff. Mullarkey let a big drooper drop by, but the ball coiled back in. County retrieved and set up their pretty-pretty passing moves again. Eventually somewhere in time, Jones nutflicked Toby, coiled deeply, whereupon Crowley dived freely beyond the far post to head in off the scampering Eastwood's mittens.

There were some in black and white who believed Town could come back from this. Not many were sitting in our stand. We've got half an hour before we find out how many more minutes we have to endure.

OK, so let's see if Rekeil Pyke is a pointless answer. He is, though that won't add £250 to the jackpot. Pyke replaced Vernam as County began to take off their better players. With Bostock removed Conteh was even freer to continue his second-half renaissance and run the game, bulldozing past the fragile porcelain pots placed before him.

Town breaks into space as holes appeared again in the County lines and even Eisa did something, at last, releasing Clifton on the left. A shuffle, a shake and a slap was diverted loopily for a corner or three. A Hunt chip and Waterfall glance into a thicket of trees. A Clifton cross za-zoomed through the six-yard box and was just missed by flying Rose.

Them. Tripple subbing. I don't care, do you?

Town pressed, County waited for the moments to strike without sinking. A clearance bounced, Conteh waited underneath and Langstaff read his mind, intercepting and scuttling away…to nowhere. Playing with bigger boys ain't so easy is it, Pippi.

Nemane swayed past Mullarkey and flannelled to the nearest post, Eastwood batted away with a firm forward defensive, the ball dropping well short of short leg.

Gnahoua and Holohan replaced the invisible Eisa and ebbing Hunt. I have yet to find any evidence to prove that Arthur Gnahoua is real. Technology has moved on since Glen Downey's day and we have the world’s first AI generated hologram registered as a professional footballer. Arthur, please, prove me wrong. Just do something, anything. Please.

A Toby teaser cross was grazed softly to Stone by Pyke, who spent the rest of the game giving away silly free kicks when touching the hems of the County shirts. In the last minute of unabnormal time Conteh waged war, wiggling free to the bye-line. He looked up and saw the penalty area full of humans, but espied a red short alone on the edge of the area. Alas, this story does not have a happy ending, for Mullarkey leant back and shinned into the Trent.

Seven minutes were added.

We've done it before, let's do it again, let's keep up the tradition of last-minute goals at Meadow Lane. Let's keep on making them unhappy.

Free kicks, lumps, pumps and double dumps. Michee in the way as Waterfall waited for a cross, Michee taking fright at the thought of thinking, turning sideways as he approached their penalty area, passing the buck, passing the ball to stripers.

It's not the same old ending, time to go.

Town were shredded, Town should have drawn. Town were comprehensively annihilated, Town were the dominant team in the last quarter. County were purringly beautiful, utterly magnificent. County were show ponies heading for a humiliation or three. They only won because of a deflection, we only lost by one because they kept missing. You see what you want to see, that's the modern way.

Both teams are flawed in different ways. We know ours, they may not realise the full extent of theirs just yet.

We most certainly have problems. What's the solution if too many of these new silk purses turn out to be sow's ears? Or could it be that...it's just an illusion? One of these clubs is suffering from a surfeit of delusion.