The Zone of Disinterest

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

18 February 2024

Are we at the Boylen point yet?

On a clear calm day we're tired of blunders, we're tired of Blundell life. Just for once look competent and organised, that's all we ask.

Town lined up in a 4-3-3 formation as follows: Cart-Wright, Smith, Maher, Tharme, Hume, Clifton, Green, Andrews, Vernam, Rose and Eisa. The substitutes were Eastwood, Rodgers, Wood, Holohan, Pyke, Wilson and Obikwu. A change of formation, a change of personnel, can a deaf leopard change its spots?

Doncaster Rovers. They played in blue, they brought over a thousand supporters. We really aren't in a mental state to bother ourselves about them are we. Thank you for coming, we hope you enjoyed your chips, and you get home safely. That's all.

1st half – This is not a drill
Town kicked off towards the Osmond. It is what it is. We are what we are. None shall pass.

Andrews passed to them. Andrews passed to them. They passed out. Hey we didn't mean it like that. Wake up! Too late, Ethel. Chase me, chase me! Stripes hunting hoops in slack packs, Town a flat-pack wardrobe left in the box in the depot, an undelivered promise. Donnymen triangulating from keeper to full-back to midfielder to striker to winger to Molyneux and into the top right corner.

Stripes simply stripped bare, sliced apart with not a tackle made. They flowed as we slowed and then their crowd crowed. Viewed through blue, c’est magnifique; gazed at through Mr Purple's haze 'twas the continuation of the end of times. Routine, normal, it's just what happens now. How did we get here? Why do we come here? We are Town, all Town aren't we? Yes, c'mon, 'tis but a scratch!

Harry flicked fatally into the void. Andrews. Too slow, too late, too lightweight and off they swept. Smith feeble of foot, Adelakun fleet of foot, roaming on our right, and passing between some bollards towards the penalty spot. Ironside swept across Maher and swiped over Cartwright. Another training ground routine, but no stepladders needed. The word is routine. It's all getting so routine as the first cuckoos left the nest. Seven minutes 38 seconds for the day's first evacuation.

Hah, 2-0. We've had worse.

And a funny thing happened on the way to the half way line. The crowd defied logic and proportion with a rousing rendition of our olde songs of yore. We may not have believed it, but we knew we had to believe it was possible.

Hoopermen sauntered, stripes jaunted past at will but withering on the vine of indecision and dither. Moments, here and there. Slim Charles whirled into a hole, Harry fell over, Andrews passed to them. Eisa surged and Clifton nearly but didn't as the ball barundled through to Lo-Tutala. Each small candle lights a corner in the dark. Well, Town got a corner down in the dark covered corner. Same thing really.

Vernam ignored the distant call of the fishmonger to elevate and underwhelmed to the near post and Eisa chested about with the clearance, exchanging tickles with the Wolds Panther. Slim Charles swept past a hoopster and didn't pass nor pass up the opportunity to tumble as he passed over the mythical white line. And if he gets hooked, baby, it's nobody else's fault but yours, Molyneux. Mr Orange pointed in the right direction and Rose blampled the penalty straight down the middle as the keeper swung left. Yes, it went straight down the middle like they say. C'mon then, game sort of on!

We're here, we're behind you, literally. C'mon lads, we can still do this. Fliggling and wiggling around the edges, a corner here, a corner there. And there be Hume clubbing longly and Rose arising acrobatically alone to scissor kick widely wide. Trips by the daytrippers, free kicks dripped and dropped. Rose on their right arose beyond Big Wood and noodled back into the starkly vacant centre. Green, head wrapped in bandages, arrived and swiped straight at the static keeper.

Excuse me there's a pressing matter to attend to. Rose dredged up a dawdling yachtsmen, a tick and a tock and a Little Harry hared through the middle to poke past their custardian and squirtle across the face of the rightest post. Oh Harry, we know you so well.

Send for the three Scousers! Ay, ay calm down lad. Artell went potty at an innocuous throw-in. It's the little things that are important to him, the fine margins, perhaps enraged that throw-in number 34 was used, not number 21. Sweat over the small stuff, Dave.

Them. A long bedraggler. Why? Collywobbling in Town feet and minds. They don't like it up 'em you know, or down 'em either. A defence full of artists posing as artisans, interceptors not tacklers. We've been fobbed off, fooled, robbed and ridiculed so when using fine china mugs please handle with care.

A blue corner crumbled nowhere and was half cleared to a nowhere man, sitting in a nowhere land near the half way line, making nowhere plans for nobody. Heads up, here comes the head tennis. Eisa intercepted, dribbled back across the face of the penalty area and passed directly to a grateful deadhead. Bailey's beady eye espied a hole in our bucket, dear Eisa, dear Eisa coiling around and through the jumble sale and against the left post, the ball boombled back into the centre of the penalty area. Maher bothered slightly for a moment, blue bodies interacted and Duck Farm clattered against hooped shins.

And after all that all there was was a goal kick that was kicked. That's just what happens at goal kicks. No alarms and no surprises, young Harvey was allowed to welly away today. It's come to this, applause and delirious happiness when someone just launches it long.

Oh yeah, we had corners. Green ducked and skimmed widely at the near post from one of them. The others? You know that I know that you know that I know that nothing ever changes.

Five minutes were added for the effects of smoke inhalation and tending to Green's head. And you know nothing ever happens, nothing at all.

To get what we want it is only rational to act irrationally – to believe, to support, for six thousand tongues to be bitten in unison and to smile through the pain. Can we make the impossible possible? Both teams look like they need four to draw, having very delicate stomachs for the fight and tattyfilarious defences. So who's going to deal best with their tummy turmoil? C'mon lads, we can still do this.

2nd half – This is not a thrill
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Doncaster kicked off by taking a walk on the mild side, a schoolboy ploy that caused our fair maidens to run to their parlours and jump on the nearest foot stool. Eeek, mice!

Scuttles and shuffles, shuffles and scuttles, a shower of shins and shanks. A rolling wave of woeful wafts and lofts. Nothing happened but everything happened and eventually it did happen. Though hardly secure Town took a detour over on the right. A communication breakdown, it's always the same, and off the Donnymen skipped, spreading play over their right. Molyneux toyed with Hume, waiting for reinforcements. Eisa watched Sterry hurry by, trotted after him and stopped as both reached the teasing twosome. Sterry just carried on. The ball was tippled into his path and Maher's near-post thighing over the sighing Cartwright brought the inevitable crashing of cymbals.

It's just a flesh wound!

Don't give up, you still have friends, you're not beaten yet. We're still worth one more try. Maher plucked the ball and dribbled through their little shrubbery, over-shinning slightly as he burst through the last twiglets on earth. A blue corner, striped break. What can you see from your executive box window? The Sydney Opera House? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Town sweeping majestically across the plain? Oh yes, Town sweeping majestically, Vernam steering a volley straight at the keeper when was Rose imploringly free, free, free. It was all so very training ground. OK, lad's let's do it again, only better.

Obikwu replaced Andrews. One academic footballer replaced another. It's all very lovely until another human intervenes. Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone.

Tharme's long throws. He threw them longly. To exactly the same place. To no-one.

Ah, do you think that's wise? Wilson and Pyke replaced Eisa and Vernam. Who do you think you are kidding Mr Artell if you think these two will run. Four interchangeably weak 'flair' players are perhaps the primest example of the problem - playing with a permanent sigh, playing one way, their way, for their summer show reel to the next suckers who employ them. Footballing fur coats when we just need someone to nick the ball off the opposition and nick a goal.

Ooh Town, nice and soft, like toilet paper. Scuffling, shuffling, standing around watching, a free kick comes in, goes out, comes back in and out again. Let's watch with mother shall we as Craig passed into the bottom right as Rag, Tag and Bobtail joined the Flowerpot Men in watching the wheels come off again. No-one laughed and no-one cried, there were not too many spaces in the lines of poor and huddled masses fleeing the scene.

You know there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good men and women. And good does not always triumph. Every man and woman has got a breaking point and half the crowd had reached theirs. No straws left, there's just a camel's back.

Shuffling scuffling, standing around watching, Adelakun out into deep space, Smith feared the shadow of his own cat, Hurst cut in and passed around Cartwright into the bottom left corner. And all that was left was the sound of another battered and bruised battalion retreating home, hopelessly defeated. Goodbye all you people, there's nothing we can say to make you change your mind. Goodbye.

All right we'll call it a draw then Donny. Running away eh, come back here and take what's coming to you. We’ll bite yer legs off.

Holohan volleyed over, Clifton volleyed over, Rose headed against yellow legs. Pyke, eurgh. Oh I do apologise, I forgot to mention Holohan came on. Holohan, he came on. The Martians could land in the car park and no one would care.

Six minutes were added, seven minutes were played. If anything happened no one cared. And by five o'clock everything's dead.

What can we do with these pet hamsters? We can't let them go, they won't be able to defend themselves. We know that. Today? They got mugged by a gang of field mice.

Here's the thing. There's hardly anything left of what got us here, there's hardly anything here that will keep us here. And what is here? A heartless, soulless empty shell.

Some worked hard and failed, some are just boys who don't know how to play, but one thing's for sure, there is no defence, there is no midfield, there is no method or will to stop the opposition. Town are giving it all away. Every week we get weaker.