The whiff of sulphur

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

24 December 2023

It's Christmas time, we're heading for mid-table, there's no need to be afraid.

A blustery but dry day by the seaside, the dropping sun casting glances upon faraway clouds, long shadows creeping across the pitch towards the dentists in their dens by the dug outs, the corner flags occasionally kissing the turf as burger boxes skittled towards the FanZone. Ah, nothing says Cleethorpes like a mighty wind.

Town lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation as follows: Cart-Wright, Mullarkey, Maher, Rodgers, Glennon, Hunt, Conteh, Gnahoua, Clifton, Eisa and Rose. The substitutes were Eastwood, Waterfall, Efete, Green, Holohan, Andrews and Pyke. There is no reason, for there are no reasons, what reasons do you need to change a non-losing formula?

Harrogate turned up in a rather neat old-fashioned, no frills all blue kit with an old failed borrowed boy lurking deep, deep in their defensive bowels. Liam Gibson, not so much long forgotten as never remembered, even when he was here. He's gonna have a stormer, isn't he.

And then the tannoy crackles and the captain of the ship prepares to kick off the festive fun.

1st half – High and dry
Town kicked off towards the Osmond where a couple of coachloads of spa town revellers lurked deep in the covered corner. Their lips moved but we couldn't hear what they were saying. Our lips didn't move, but our jaws did drop as we could see just how Town were playing.

Back to square one, tippy-tappy triangles shortening by the second, Maher and Glennon squeezing themselves into the corner by the Police Box. And in a bound they were free. A pass across the face of goal, a sweep, a swing, a give-and-go and ho-ho-ho children of the revolution, so what do you want for Christmas? Total football. For a minute. Don't blink, you’ll have missed it. And suddenly one winter Glennon was gallivanting down the left. Burrell slid to steer away the cross from the near post. A corner.

What? Town's corners? Short and sour. They've got nothing that you need, for dissatisfaction is guaranteed. Talk about a month of Sundays in a blue moon.

Do not, under any circumstances, open any link to footage of Town's corners from this game. The silicon chip inside your head will switch to overload.

Totally Town, total football. Maher stuck in the corner, releasing Cart-Wright, sweeping to Toby as chessmen moved. Black knight to blue bishop four, maybe we'll find a way down the line. Arthur shimmied, Eisa shammied, Belshaw swooped upon the zinger. The blue keeper's a long way from home.

Forward we cried from the rear of the Pontoon. Rose charged down a dilly-dallying Yorkieman and a blue head grazed away from the awaiting Little Harry. Black bishop takes blue rook's pawn, black queen advances. Check. A swaying surge of stripes swung down the Town left and rock'n'rolling Rose passed past the farther post.

And then Arrogut started snapping, full court pressing. Town appeared to have the ball, but Harrogate had a ball. Under pressure we're breaking, with too many Townites turning away from it all like a blind man, passing the buck, simply sat on a fence. It just didn't work.

Triangulations and Town strangulation. Spritely Sulphurites sprang into action and Odoh was tickled free. Cart-Wright clapped back from the foot of the right post faffing and fiddling and Odoh poked again, Cart-Wright toeing away.

Up. And down. The lines on the map moved from side to side. And in the end Town just went round and round. And round. What a lovely sky.

Here they go again, upwind and very clearly in sight, waiting to strike when the moment was right without blinking. Odoh flickering past timid feet, crossing across the face of goal, Thomson awaiting, Glennon swept away.

The floodlights are oh so bright as Town go sliding, sliding, sliding, sliding, sliding away. Oh. The song remains the same. Everything that's small has to grow.

A blue plunge out towards the Frozen Horsebeer Stand with no name. And far away, across the field, two bluesmen warmed their bones beside the fire. And Thomson slid widely.

For Harrogate there's no alarms and no surprises, Blundell Park silent, silent…

Harrogate emboldened and encamped by the seaside, beside the sea. Odoh dripped deeply, Glennon ploughed a lonely furrow as Thomson swayed away from the flashing blades and slap-shot lowly. Harvey scraped away from the nearest post. A corner, a corner that curled, a corner that curled into vagueness at the near post and into a blancmange of blokery. The ball drifted over Conteh, Gibson stuck out a leg at the near post and the ball avoided contact with the human race with many a red face in monochrome, and purple faces in the stand behind.

Ooh look at the sky, look at the river, isn't it good. The half winding down, we've places to go.

One minute was added. There was a cross of no consequence. From us, from them? I told you, it was of no consequence.

Town faffing, Yorkies laughing. Harrogate are not to be trifled with, Town are gonna need a bigger spoon.

2nd half – Exit music
No changes were made by either ream at half time.

Sweeping, weeping, one lord a leaping. Clifton disrobed a bluesman, Eisa tickled, Glennon roamed and roared a cross into the heart of the penalty area. Rose arose alone, the ball hit his head and headed over from six yards, dead centre.

And that's just about it, pop pickers. If the first half was chess, the second was an awfully stodgy game of draughts.

Harrogate's helicopter parenting on acid squeezed Town's toothpaste back into the tube. Inert, imploding, incoherent and impotent, Townites totally incapable of basic skills. Striped shins do, like The Bee Gees hair, bounce. Blue breaks, striped shakes. Conteh deflected over, Maher magnificently slid across at the last as Little Harry's Big Day turned to mush. Musical chairs down by the Osmond as local limbs flailed and blue balls bounced around here and there. I dunno, there's something wrong with the world today, we're seeing things in a different way as we're living on the edge with over-complications, constant aggravations.

Flipping and flapping, the illusion of adequacy, Eisa's scruffle hit blue toes before it hit blue gloves. It should have been something that it wasn't, and wouldn't have been anything if it had. Clifton dispossessed a day tripper surging goalwards, flanked by a single foe and several friends. As the penalty area approached Little Harry passed perfectly into Eisa's path. With just one set of blue boots in his post code the Sudanese flyer piffled a side-foot swipe against those lonely shoes. Rose, standing alone in front of goal, did the hokey-cokey and turned around before Eisa could see his face. We could see it.

Before the hour Conteh and Hunt were replaced by Green and Holohan. These substitutions merely made Town inferior in a different way.

Ten minutes later Pyke came on for Arthur. There was no measurable difference, in fact this merely removed Gallic fluffery on the periphery. Actually, come to think of it, was he really on? Did we imagineer this is in our boredom and pain?

Is there anybody out there? It's a silent night, we're holey on the right, all is calm for Harrogate, their future is bright.

And the Mariners madness continued as Town carried on carrying on with Clifton dispossessed in the middle of the middle of nowhere, but somewhere too close for comfort. Daly soft-shoe shuffled between two toadstools and whackered from afar. The ball scootled off Odoh's bottom, through Rodgers' legs and spun into the left side of the goal as Cart-Wright stood and flapped his hand to the sound of a thousand flipping seats.

Flip-flip-flip, off they go two by two. Grimsby till they cry. Who's crying now?

Doo-bi-doo, la-di-da. We're just filling time. Holohan eventually shot way, way over. It was nice to see him touch the ball. Clifton clamped, bluesmen shuffling, Ramsey slapped agin the bar. Yeah, it could, should, have been even worse.

With a couple of minutes left the fading Mullarkey was replaced by Efete and Town flurried briefly. A big block of blue and Eisa faffed about for far too long. A corner, dropped and plopped and Green's volley was blocked. Another corner, flicked on, Holohan's volley smothered by blue and snorkelling outward and back to Ringo. A cha-cha-cha and Green twizzled lowly through the leggery and into the bottom right corner for a late booby prize.

Listen lads we can still…beat the traffic.

Five minutes were added, but there is nothing to add. And there it is.

And really there is nothing here unless you think a negative is merely a positive in perspective. It took Harrogate quarter of an hour to tweak their plans from Plan A to Plan A+ with knobs on. They just did what they were supposed to do a bit quicker and this current Town couldn't hack it. In fact, it would probably have helped if they had simply hacked it, at least the ball would have been further away from the Harvey boys. They'll learn, variety is the spice of life.