Forest Chumps

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

3 March 2024

Whoa-oh, whoa-oh, the Veganboys are back in town, let's have some fun.

Look at the sky, look at the river, isn't it mud. The clouds seem sullen, the leaves are dancing whilst the rocks on the beach near Wonderland are indifferent to our mutual plight, the flight back to Bananaworld. Hello there our old green friends, you've come to sleepwalk with us again back to where you belong.

Town lined up in a home truths in the dressing room 5-3-2 formation as follows: Cart-Wright, Clifton, Mullarkey, Rodgers, Tharme, Hume, Holohan, Thompson, Andrews, Wilson and Rose. The substitutes were Eastwood, Smith, Green, Wood, Gnahoua, Eisa and Pyke. After car crash performances and an actual car crash this is what we are left with - a back-to-front version of old park life, back to a Hurstian reality of keeping it tight, keeping us shape. Harry and Hume at wing-back with a functional jigsaw in the middle.

Is today gonna be the day when we're gonna stop a goal or two? By now they should have realised what they've got to do against the forest chumps down in the dumps.

Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue. That's just the Fruitymen's training kit. Ah, I can see a rainbow, see a rainbow or two, and 120 bussed-in village greensters. God save little shops, china cups and morality.

It's raining, it's pouring, our football is boring us to tears after all these years. Enough is enough, let’s get ready to grumble.

1st half – Enough is enough
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon. Auto-correction. Town kicked off into the Pontoon.

Shall we turn auto-correction off and go with the flow, errors and all? Variety is the spice of life after all. And after the match maybe a victory curry in the Spice of Life. We can but dream and dreaming is free. You know, Rod Temperton wrote Spice of Life for Manhattan Transfer in 1983 when Town were giants. It reached number 19 in the charts. Oh how we dream of such heights now.

We're not dreaming of free-flowing football, just some football will do.

Oh, yeah, a corner. And another. And another. Something's wrong, you're not that naive, you must be stronger. It's too high, hush-hush, try a little harder Jamie with slightly less elevation. Duck Farm chuckled sheepishly deepishly and with a little luck you can make this whole darn throw-in thing work out.

Up, under, chip and chase, a head of steam and headed tennis. Up and down we go again, let's twist again. Uppily and underly, green beans chipped and pinned inside their vegan wasteland with head tennis and dead fish thrashing around in a shallow pond. Pants were swung, Holohan hooked horribly and Rodgers' sweeping looper sailed above the pink Chilean salmon leaping near the line.

Crikey O'Riley, it's just a vegan wasteland. They're basted.

OK, you've put your dinner in the oven, but remember to keep basting the roast otherwise it dries up and becomes a tough, tasteless chore to chew.

Chew, chew, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb.

Bagpuss, I never did like Bagpuss. Sentimental codswallop for the middle classes. And don’t get me started on Crystal Tips and Alistair. Six thousand minds drifting, drifting, drifting back to better days, our salad days. Choose your salad days very carefully, they may be our last.

Oi, snap out of it. Football, back to the football you cry. We cried too. And you'd cry too if it happened to be you watching this. This. What is this? It isn't football but, in its own way, in our present context, it had a certain magnificence to its awfulness.

Twenty minutes gone and no goals conceded! Ambassador of Pepball, you spoil us.

No goals, no shots, no fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it's dark. Here comes the rain again.

Cartwright mis-scrubbled a chip to a stray green who chipped straight back down the middle to no-one, nowhere. Tharme staggered backerwards, headed upperwards and Osadebe volleyed wideywards by inchlets. And that was them that was. It's over, let it go.

Shins. Shins into bins. Ah, the sins of lower league footballers.

A Forester firmly flumped a back pass wide of Señor Pink. We had pictures of a silly own goal that let us sleep at night and solve our neighbourhood problems. But Reyes stuck out a boot and this situation comedy was cruelly cancelled. We never got any closer to scoring a goal. At either end, anyway, anyhow, anywhere.

When did we last have the ball?

Those darn villagers were plundering yards at throw-ins, egregiously stealing up the touchline and fouling their chucks too. Egregious! Egregious!

Cartwright's Crocramping brought silent gasps of despair tumbling down what used to be terracing. Oh no, not Eastwood! No, not Eastwood, we're just messin' with their minds, for Harvey's perfecting his pro-cramp routine. We may need it later.

Do we want the ball? Do we need the ball? Nah, we don't need no ball control. We're shinning but were winning.

Once in a while there was movement. That'd be the ships in the Humber and the birds in the sky who are sad and lonely. Once in a while the ball moved between footballers in the same colours. Chugging on the left, by Hume I presume, and green Bernard dived. Rodgers laughed, a Town corner. Nothing. Rose and Wilson mugged a dawdling defender, the cameo of almostness ending when Big Don balletically Mr Grimsdaled for a goal kick. Clifton clattered highly. Or was it widely? It's always one or the other, does it matter which way round it was in which game?

Hume za-zoomed and passed just behind Rose, just in front of monochrome boots. A vague apology and throat clearance and Rodgers coiled highly, widely. It's all we have. It's all we did. Always the same, it's just a shame and that's all.

Our dear friends from Brigadoon, what had they to offer? Rodgers dredged McAllister, a cross was cleared. It's what should happen, it happened, because nothing happened.

Three minutes were added, four came up on the scoreboard and time froze. Pie time!

What an absolute stinker for the neutrals, but who's neutral here? A murky, mucky pup of a non-game, long on long balls, short on candyfloss. Objectively dross, absolutely awful, yet somehow beautiful.

Remember Jose's iron law: he who has the ball is cursed to reveal only their own wretchedness. The secret of Town's success was that they were savvy enough to let the meat-free strollers have it.

2nd half – Two bald combs fighting over a man
Neither team made any changes at half time. The end. Bye.

Why are you still here? You can't leave the table until we've beaten the greens? We have, don't worry, we have, there was no point in the second half existing. Come to think of it, did it exist? I believe I was there, but AI is advancing at such a rate who knows what's what these days. Is this real, am I real, what is reality now?

Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see. Well, that's where the ball will be.

Green-shirted crosses, Tharme slices. Tharme miskickled with his left, miskickled with his right and there was panic in the Dentist chairs. Is he left-footed, right-footed, or simply no-footed at all? Cartwright kicked every goal kick, every fly kick, straight into the managers' dug outs.

Town passed to them, they passed out of play. Forever and ever and ever, amen.

An arbitrary long punt, Wilson turned and slowly grubbled a drumbling driveller from afar. Archie Bunker bumbled through a thickery, Doidge dived and missed. The ball went wide, the linesman nodded that he was offside anyway. A corner was missed by everyone, they messed a break by falling over the ball. These were the champagne moments where they showed why they are paid to play football, this is what raises them above the boy and girls hacking away on Bradley pitches or the Red Rec. They can be incompetent at a faster pace.

Yeah, but we're still shinning and we're still winning, that's something to grin about.

All we have to offer is blood, toil, tears and sweat. There is a ball, I can see some feet, but these two solid objects seldom meet. There is no football, just men desperately seeking to avoid redundancy.

The word is, most definitely, desperate.

At one point Town strung a pass together. Forest Green were failing and falling for something so appalling. How galling for them.

With quarter of an hour left Green replaced our Thompson. In a startling development a Town player controlled the ball. Wilson surged, the cross blocked, the corner cleared and Green casually clipped deep into the Osmond. It was, after all, only one of the three things that happened in the second half involving the football.

With five minutes left Pyke replaced Wilson. It is said Pyke did come on to the pitch, but whether he replaced Wilson is an existential question that may never actually get answered. What is the nature of being?

Four minutes were added, over six were played. Green and Keogh got out their handbags, Cartwright had trouble finding the football what with all that nodding and winking to the ball boys and crowd, and the referee helpfully accidentally kicked the ball away as Fruitmen tried to take a quick free kick.

And finally, with the last kick of the game Osadebe chipped beyond the far post, beyond Little Harry, and roaming Robson stretched to hoik up, up and away into the Pontoon.

Standing out in the flooding light, basking in the adulation, was Danny Rose's dirty shirt, which, ironically is close to what away supporters call him.

There was a point, deep, deep into the second half, when a Town player kicked the ball and another Town player controlled it, then kicked it to yet another Town player. Just once.

Once was enough in this so-called game of professional football.

This Town did enough to beat what was before them, which was absolutely nothing at all. Beyond scoring and the Vegan all-stars failing, there was just a rainbow over Blundell Park.

One pass, one shot, one goal. One is happy.