Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
1 October 2023
Heading down the backroads, the signposts are pointing west. Can Hurst's hotch-potch of picks stand the test?
When you're tired of coming to Swindon are you tired of life? Perhaps we should have gone to the Southwell Ploughing Match, all we had to do was turn right at Newark. Never turn right, that way madness lies.
A sneaky down-pitch bluster on a grey day as we sit in a semi-conscious state awaiting our inevitable fate. So begins another weary away day listening to a tin-eared Tannoyman annoying us by welcoming Fleetwood Town's fans and announcing Michael Effity, Danny Amiss and Harry Clinton. And finally, in colour, I’m sure my ears do not deceive me in this pre-match hour, didn't he just called Toby Tony?
Oh and now you're just rubbing it in with Fjortoft the Feather's son.
Town lined up in the 4-1-4-1 formation as follows: Eastwood, Mullarkey, Waterfall, Rodgers, Efete, Hunt, Gnahoua, Clifton, Andrews, Eisa and Rose. The substitutes were Cart-Wright, Glennon, Amos, Holohan, Khan, Wilson and Pyke. Proper centre-backs, but Efete at left-back, Hunt in the tickerman role and Dr Teeth is back, sparing us from an hour of Pykian piffles. Poor old Ringo, last and least in the pre-match jogs, the weary, woeful piggy-in-the-middle going nowhere, here in in the middle of nowhere. His game has gone.
Swindon. Aren't they always the same even when they are different? Red shirts, red shorts, red socks and so Our Town were in white socks. Just a bunch of blokes in various sizes, but we see that Charlie-Charlie-Chas has been to the barbers to cover up his mid-life crisis.
Well, what of the future? Big changes to Swindon's bus routes are coming!
Let's get it over with.
1st half – Fates intertwined
Town kicked off towards the unempty end and ooh, what a lovely minute. With wild staring eyes and a strong urge to fly down the flanks Clifton crossed. To no-one, for there was no-one there. There's nobody there but a homester.
Swung from high to deep Charlie-Charlie climbed upon his beapole to noddle a noodle off the outside of the post. Sit down, oh sit down, he was offside. It didn't happen. It never happened. You hear what I'm saying?
Someone's knocking on the door, someone else is ringing the bell. Crosses left, crosses right, nicked and knocked and blocked and dummied by Michael the effective left-back. Uwakwe always stood alone on the touchline. So why didn't they pass to him? Ah, that's why. In and out there is never a doubt just who's pulling the strings. Toby was alive to the sound of his music. We laughed like a brook when Uwakwe tripped over his ego.
Frustration in the nation as Harry hooked and Rodgers rucked and striped sliding was penalised for the sheer excellence of the execution. Toby roaming! Toby raiding! Corners, things, almost, not quite. Alas Arthur and Eisa's slack-shinned slapdashery were the socks on which hopes floundered. We flounder in the winter, we flounder in the summer, our old halibuts die hard. No fish were harmed in the making of that joke.
Do we really think we have a chance against these cowboys from the old west? Yippy-ki-yay, at least they are trying hard. Rose blocked a blast. There's Big Luke at the near post, the far post and the last post and don't go shopping for compliments with handy Harvey's nicks and knocks. The mood music's threatening, but no-one was dancing. It's more Tangerine Dream than Georgio Moroder.
Nice Townness, lovely striping. And then they fell asleep.
A chuck-in in the middle of nowhere, which, this being Swindon, is pretty apt. No, strike the word pretty from the record. Consider it struck. Several stripes were suckered to Charlie Boy and here comes the punchline. A flick, a tickle into the unmanned vastness, Kemp ran on towards the 'D' and sniggled lowly across forlornly fluttering fingers into the bottom left corner. Forget it Jake, it's Swindon Town. There's pain and pleasure in the stands, but our alarm bells softly chime.
Approaching menace from the masterminds in red. The ball hit the ref and he just let the local music play on. You know, once they get started their fans still sit down, so come and join the fun on the magic roundabouts and the Mariners merry-go-round. Corners to them. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Luke Waterfall was live and exclusive in our box today. That is all you need to know.
Our Town slowly turned the tourniquet with teasing triangles from all known angles. And what have we to show for this display of the flying wheelbarrows? The languid and louche Arthur drifted infield to wiffle straight to the keeper, a man with two surnames rather than brains. Andrews cutely weighted a pass perfectly into the path of the free-flowing Eisa. A cross blocked, a pass back to the unmarked Clifton at the near post. Little Harry took a touch and steer-prodded against the keeper's chest. And a couple of Toby barges and charges.
One minute was added, just for the lols. And so to the half time banana boats.
In theory it could have been worse. In theory it could have been better. In reality it was what it always is here. The Robins reliably just have more oomph and zest upfront to take their single chance. Oh, and they had the omnipotent omnivore Saidou Khan, the supreme chicken who ruled the roost. Town's brittle bones hadn't snapped yet.
2nd half – Cosmic coincidence
Neither team made any changes at half time.
All Town. Grimsby Town. Fizzing and whizzing, dashing and crashing into the red billboards from the off. Toby on the charge, Arthur cut in and slappy-slice wafted widely and highly. A cross, another, a corner, another. Moments. Legs almost stretched with foreheads not quite arriving. Not only not quite, but also quite nearly.
Mullarkey muscled and manhandled, chased and harried Uwakwe back into his own penalty area. The dreadful dreadlock passed back towards goal and Rose stepped across a lumbering giant to tickle back to Little Harry. Clifton espied panic in the streets of Swindon and passed across the face of goal. Hutton scrimpled shoddily off his shins, the ball bumbling back and up a yard or so out. An open goal. Inviting, enticing. Rose slithered wildly, Mahoney somehow slapped away. Harry passed back into the muddle and Mullarkey miffed against a platoon of red socks as the ball slipped away to the sounds of local laughter ringing through our ears. Nothing's gonna change our world.
On the hour with Flynn fretting and frothing at the slow implosion, Swindon double subbed. Young went off. Who? Was he ever even on? On came Hepburn-Murphy. Now he has legs and, unlike Ain(s)ley he knows how to use them.
And here come de fudge. Here come de fudge. Pants were swung as the previously ephemeral butterfly Eisa flew the nest, breaking solo, breaking free, but big bad Blake-Tracy was breaking his path. Oi mateyboy, the Avebury Ploughing Match was last weekend. A leg up, an unsubtle hoik and you know what happened next? You know what it's like when the home team's breaking da law. A yellow card, a free kick, a wasted waft, a waste of time.
Clifton, or it could have been our mystery midfielder Atomic Clinton, was booked by the maggot-brained ref after the bearded Brewitt, who sounds like an endangered local lizard, scythe-tackled Our Harry and hurt himself in the follow through. Hunt cleaned out behind the ref's back, Charlie-Charlie Chasboy handled without care. All seen by all but unseen by the three unwise monkeys.
They had a break, they scored a goal. What a bummer. Niddling away in the nether regions of unremarkableness somewhere on their left, Kemp cutely dissected the spaces between friends. A clipped chip into the void between Mullarkey and Waterfall, Cain hurtled behind Big Luke and carefully waited for Eastwood to plunge and caressed across where he had been and into the centre left of the goal.
Well that's that then. Swindon, just another provincial town for us to jog around and then go home.
With 20 minutes left, as Efete waited to hurl, a triple Town substitution. Eisa, Gnahoua and Hunt were replaced by Wilson, Khan and Holohan as Town definitely moved to the definitive 4-4-2 formation.
Michee, locally known as Michael, chuckled in. Rose arose, Wilson wriggled past a sausage roll and sumptuously rolled a pass around Mahoney's flapping fingers into the bottom left corner. One second, one touch, one goal. The power he's suppling, it's electrifying! Is Big Don The One, the one that we want?
Ebbing and flowing, this way but mostly that way. Which way? Straight towards Mahoney. It's one way traffic with scruffles, scuttles and blocks by red socks. Mullarkey marauded to the by-line, passing into the parkland. With Big Don surrounded by trees Rose simply stood still behind and held his hands out. Crosses. Corners. Flicks. Nicks. Oohs and aahs. Shake a leg someone or just do a Manny D.
Once in a while the rocking Robins broke away. A lump and dump and Hepburn-Murphy barundled around Harvey as the ball bounced on, heading for the by-line and plunging under lunging. I hear howling wolves in the hills. Like this ref would make a decision, there? They hadn't quite twigged he was a cowardly custodian of the non-whistling variety.
Ooh, that's nice for them, they're past the half way line again. Michee in a muddle, an acute cross-pass slithered into the corridor of uncertainty beyond the farthest post. Mullarkey slid, Eastwood swiped, and the ball double-triple bounced off coats of many colours and into the side netting.
Apart from a stray Austin header that's them, that is. All Town indeed, the pressure incessant. Slaps were dashed as were some thighs. Our Khan muffed a volley-steer vaguely into the groove, their Khan sliced up. Heads and tails, but Town still failed. Toby headed a corner high, Efete grazed a corner wide. Moments. Almost. Nearly.
Pyke replaced Clifton. Rodgers removed Hepburn-Murphy's shirt as a keepsake. These days you get a booking for doing the washing.
Six minutes were added as Swindon took off Austin and brought on a lumpy centre-back. They'd reached their Parslow point. Everyone reaches their Parslow point eventually, even the blessed Pep. But can they stop the cavalry? Town lined up for one of Michee's comedic long chucks. Suitably conned, Rose snickled into the drop zone and flicked on. Now it may be this time, it may have been later, it may been a free kick or a corner, but Rodgers back-heeled in the centre of the centre and the ball scootled through static legs and across the face of the far post.
Wait, there's more. Now it may be this time, it may have been later, but Our Khan bumbled his way into the area, the ball buffling back off startled Swindonites. Otis advanced, the locals shrunk back in fear, but the big blaster volley squiffled straight past the near post.
We humped, we dumped, we fought, we thought it was all over, but wait, there's more! Galloping Gav retrieved one last slashaway, spun around and we almost had another of the famous Holohan Howitzers into the top left corner. Almost, nearly, not quite. The ball drifted and lifted inchlets above and beyond the angle of post and bar.
Wait, there's more. Ah, no there isn't. The game ended as a perfect metaphor for the Marinermen as a swathe of stripes advanced almost on the attack, just about to do something that didn't happen.
Town got far less than they deserved for giving it a go.
You can be saddened by the result, but heartened by the performance. That brittleness was absent, the team had some personality. Welcome back Luke.
Maybe I'll catch the Spilsby Ploughing Match tomorrow. There's always tomorrow.