As if by magic

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

20 August 2023

It's hot pants in the Pontoon, knotted hankies in the Mansfield end on a gloriously glamourous afternoon. Blundell Park, it's the hottest ticket in town. Apart from parking tickets in the Cartergate car park, perhaps the only ticket in town. Coo-ee, even Uncle Keith's turned up. Go on wave back to him. Well, he isn't my Uncle Keith, is he yours? Perhaps he's a universal Uncle Keith.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps today things will be different and we can stop being diffident.

Town lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation as follows: Eastwood, Mullarkey, Rodgers, Waterfall, Amos, Conteh, Gnahoua, Holohan, Clifton, Eisa, and the blinding smile of Danny Rose. The substitutes were Cartwright, Efete, Hunt, Green, Khouri, Vernam and Pyke. Same as Tuesday. Why change horses midstream?

Mansfield. Men in shorts. They be big men and little men and behold the mighty Flint, kinda broad at the shoulder and broader at the hip. A big man in big shorts with a big hairband.

Right, now we've got some proper players playing, let's see what's what. It's far too hot to wear a tall hat with a tattooed frown, save that for a rainy day.

1st half – Hocus pocus
Town kicked off towards the Osmond, crammed full of Townites in the covered corner and 1,188 happy holidaymakers sunning themselves in the cheap seats. Well, for the Mansfielders a day in Cleethorpes is an upgrade from a week in Mablethorpe, isn't it? Chalets with roofs! Caravans with doors! Well, sometimes.

Swanning about, Eastwood swept out and swept up. Wear your hair long, Will, and you can't go wrong.

Raiding on the right by Mullarkey, ambling Amos on the leftage. Prods were probed, probes were prodded. Knicks were knocked with sparring from striping. Izzy-wizzy, let's get busy. A muddle in the middle and Conteh tackle-passed perfectly to the awaiting left-line hugger. Salford was merely a practice run. Eisa swished and swayed, espied Pym idling in the centre of goal and ka-boom, za-zoom, abracadabra. You blinked. You missed it. Where is it? Back of the net. Top corner, top shot. Now that's magic.

Fiddling and faddling with faffing about as yellows hustled and hassled. A moment here, a moment there. Harvey back-heeled himself out of danger when cornered by the corner flag.

Rambling Rose rising above the mountains of Mansfield but flicking on to who? He's g-neither man nor moose, oh g-no g-no g-no, it's a g-nu. Oh Arthur, one day you may sweep majestically across the plains. Teasing triangulation from Town. Toby mudlarking, Little Harry turned and shanked unknowing of the time, the place, the moment. And the moment was gone, the beat goes on.

A staggering amount of possession, probing and pressure. Keep us shape!

Bowery chucked in from the shadows of the Frozen Horsebeer Stand. Striped slackery, Quinn allowed the ball to run across his little leggage, turned and wibbled wayly overly as we waved him goodbye. Maris flubbed straight at Eastwood. Keillor-Dunn chinkled down the left with Arthur absent, swinging past Mullarkey and passing inside to Maris. And? Shins and shinkles, go eat some winkles, it'll do you good and keep the economies of Kirkcudbright and Cornwall going for a few more days. Keep the Celtic fringe alive.

And Rose kept falling. And the referee kept falling for his falling. And Town's free kicks were pantaloons. Nibbling their toes and a stray Town corner bumbled through to Pym as flailing legs failed to connect. Conteh the Caretaker swept up and Amos shot crossly. Rose cheeked across to wrong-footingly divert and deflect over as Pym wandered lonely as a cloud. Holohan hopped before the near post to glance a rightist corner over.

Actually, what shall we call Conteh? Is the Caretaker catchy enough. How about The Sweepologist, The Binman, The Cleaner, Mr Benn? Mr Benn? Well, suddenly, as if by magic, KC does appear just in the nick of time.

Just as well as yellow hordes streamed forward. Akins roaming, Swan upping the tempo, Maris piping a merry tune. A chuck in the dark shadows, Akins jived, Keillor-Dunn jinked and wellied against the bar straight out to Bowery, whose shot was dive-bombed away by Rodgers.

As tick became tock Mansfield unpicked our lock. An idle moment of nothingness. A throw-in halfway inside their half bounced up and Conteh was mugged by Keillor-Dunn. On and on the little lad did run, slicing through the void of nothingness. As stripes finally approached he bedraggled lowly, leftly and Eastwood's fingers did tip. It's always good to tip.

Double blond bobbing doing things nearly, twice. You ask if Eastwood was required to touch the ball. No he wasn't, but grasping hands saved some sausages from disturbage in the furthest reaches of the Pontoon.

Tipping and tapping and Mr Benn shrugged aside a Staggerman, mugging a Mansfielder. A caress to Eisa, a tickle across the face of the penalty area and Holohan's big sweep was spectacularly finger-flipped over from under the bar. Town's corner was of no use to man or beast.

Ah, some common sense: one minute was added.

Conteh clamping but Mansfield might be glamping by the seaside for Town were fraying and slowly frying against menacing noodles.

2nd half – Fishbones chokus
Mansfield replaced Cargill and Quinn with Oates and Clarke, changing personnel and formation. Akins moved from being a mobile menace to being a mobile speed camera, from striker to right-back. And no nay never no more would Eisa be our wild rover.

There's oodles of noodles and Town are poodles. Oates wriggled free, Waterfall intercepted whatever needed intercepting. Parries and thrusts, feints and foraging, the Stags are roaming the valleys and mountains. Near here, even nearer there. Blocks from socks, Town on the rack stretched, stretching, stretching again. When will we snap?

Forget the football, Nigel, just hoof and run, that's the way to do it. A wallop up their right. Swan ducked and allowed Amos to pivot over the top and mis-head back into the Town half. We gazed, slightly dazed, some sighed, some cried as Keillor-Dunn ran on to the perfect graze. Off he chortled towards Eastwood. And on. Closer, closer, closer, closer. Closer still. Jake stayed frosty, stayed upright and finally sank as the waddling Weirsider broke into the penalty area. Alas the footballer with time to think as a paltry dink apologised past the left post to much mirth in Marinerland and much muttering down Mansfield way.

We got away with that one. Keep it tight lads.

An underhit back pass and Eastwood comically tapped under the leaping Swan who landed on Jake's back. Well, it amused us for a few seconds.

We said keep it tight.

With the ball in their keeper's hands everyone knows there's nothing doing, everyone you see is half-asleep as minds drifted, phones were checked and idling chattery abounded. What a day, eh, how's your boy been? I've nothing to say, but it's…oh what happened there?

Archaeologists found evidence under the Blundell Park car park, just near that big pothole where they let the refs park, that in the summer of the year 2023, just on the hour of a sunny day, Bowery blampled very longly from deeply deep inside the Mansfield half. On the ball sailed, over Rodgers and Waterfall and on, bouncing, bouncing through to Eastwood. Except it didn't. Instead of skipping through it just gave up and plopped in no-man's land. Waterfall stared at Eastwood, Eastwood stared at Waterfall, out came a yellow boot as Oates toe-tippled past and round the wallflower to walk into the empty net.

Hardly a surprise, was it. The warning lights had been flashing for some time, we just chose to ignore it. OK, batten down those hatches and bring on the empty horses.

I know you expected to be able to see Arthur sometime. Well, there he is, somewhere between the land and the sea, walking away as Pyke replaced the phantom menace. Or is Pyke the phantom menace? A question we may never resolve no matter how many times we ask it. The hope in the home stands is that he is not fit. Still.

Hello there Mansfielders, having fun in the sun? Do you want to play with our ball. Yes they do, and they keep it just for fun, for a laugh, ha-ha-ha. So where did you get to, Nigel's lovelies? Just the facts, loads of this and that. Flashing down the flanks and Swan turned to slash wide. Clarke slobbered a slither wide, Keillor-Dunn crossed and Maris managed to avoid scoring, leaning back and heading over. More of this and much less too, 'tis just a procession of yellowness, Eastwood's goal held together by sticky-backed plaster and Harvey Rodger's extendable legs.

And the wooden work. A corner from their left, hooped high to the old bruiser beyond the back. Flint nodded, Eastwood plunged low and left to finger flip agin. What else is on the Mansfield menu? Scrambled eggs on toast by the coast. Waterfall was bandaged up and sent back into the battle, Green and Hunt replaced Conteh and Eisa but for all the subbing and shapeshifting, nothing shifted the momentum.

At times Town almost got into their penalty area. I said almost. So rare was it to be close to Pym, that whenever a stripe threatened to cross the white line they fell over in fear of the unknown. It's a strange local phenomenum, a lugubrious existential crisis, it's the Grimsby player's fear of the penalty area.

Do suckers get punched? Sometimes. Is this the time for sucker punching? A chip and chase and Holohan was suddenly running free towards the existential crisis point. Bowery pursued the Irish rover and the ball bounded on, as did the feet of men. Poor old Gav had the expression of a man purchasing some fruit pastilles at the kiosk and realising his train is leaving the station, right now. The concrete and clay beneath his feet began to crumble and Gav began to tumble before the man mountain beside him had the chance to haul him down. It was a long way to run in that heat. Poor old Gav.

Five minutes were added. One of their bearded and bald, or perhaps bearded or bald, back-roomers was booked for some surreptitious watering. Or maybe he was standing on the cracks in the pavement during daylight hours. Heinous stuff. We must be protected from this sort of thing.

Look, it was all them, we did nothing. They didn't score again, that's that.

The grass needs cutting.

Mansfield are just better, they were utterly dominant in the end and ground Town down. There we are, a fact of life. But they only scored because we gave them the goal. Well, that's their problem, not ours. And this is our problem not theirs: Mansfield played an entire half with two strikers in defence, and Town had absolutely zero efforts or chances during that half. Think on that.

We got away with it. A point gained.