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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 March 2024

Are we in a prison? Is this Stalag Luft SW17. Well, we're embarking on yet another great escape.

On a warming night in London's barely busy South West End 453 desperate diasporans gathered in prayer seeking salvation for the nation.

Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Cartwright, Clifton, Mullarkey, Rodgers, Tharme, Hume, Holohan, Thompson, Andrews, Wilson and Rose. The substitutes were Eastwood, Smith, Green, Wood, Eisa, Obikwu and Pyke. Same starting team as Saturday with just a sneaky tweak or two on the bench. It's not now for Arthur and the secret international has returned.

Wimbledon. Big blokes, small blokes, former Town blokes. Just blokes in blue. Lovely staff though, friendly folk in fluorescent bibs.

OK, the season only begins in March: it's business time baby.

1st half – Minuetto allegretto
The Womblers kicked off towards the Town five hundred with a hoof, woof and whoosh. Vigourballing nonsense, all hurry and scurry; for ever since I've been a young boy they've only played long ball. Hoof it!

Ah, Town triangulation, tips and trips down the flanks. A stripe upended, and Andrews dripped delightfully into the void 'twixt Alfie Bass and his big brass band. The unmolested Rodgers wandered into the darkness and managed to noddle wide. Ah, more Town teasing, easing through the holes in their vests.

Hang on there did you say Town teasing? I did sir, I did. It was just like watching a football team. Juve on a bad day, but definitely more Juve than one where you want to hide under the duvet.

Ooh, I do like Thompson's miniature old man Contehness.

We're breaking up, they're breaking away and an inswinging slapshot was spectacularly slapped aside by the Big Mitts of Young Harvey. Duck Farm quacked away and a torpedo chuck-in corkscrewed through off many foreheads, feebly bouncing enticingly nowhere. A corner pawed aside, a cross punched away, Rose nodded away, Rodgers prodded away and Hume sent Neufville away into town to buy him a paper. Away darn spot.

Wallop. They hit a brick wall. Ironic really given we were staring at a massive brick wall as high as the clouds. A brutalist, modernist monstrosity perhaps built from the bones of fallen publicans. One half expected a fat bloke in a hat to start ranting atop it, probably about Ulez.

And all the while Town were surreptitiously sneaking forward, sneakily playing football around and between the blue bottlers. A free kick dumped deeply, Rodgers nodded, a Holohan lob into the zone of avoidance and Rose bumbled and stumbled as a lone defender emerged to deflate the balloon.

Nicks and knocks, Holohan on the hypotenuse and Rose glanced gracefully into the waiting hands of Bass. Now then, here's the thing, is it pronounced bass or base? Where there's muck there's bass lad. Our vowels are as hard as our water up north.

Hassle 'em, hassle 'em, here they come. Reeves volley dipped and Cartwright's fingers tipped. Blue waves but you've got to hand it to Harvey. And so Clifton's shoelaces got cramp, both of 'em, at the same time. A crowd funder was set up to help Harry through his heroic struggle with this accursed affliction. Harry is fine now, rest easy. It'll be the central narrative arc of All Town Aren't We season two.

Your hearts will melt like the Wombledon defence as Wilson wiggled and wriggled and snapped a cracker off the crossbar and far, far away.

And one minute was added. That is all.

Blimey, a normal football match between two evenly matched mid-table shufflers and scufflers. What a difference a win makes. We're halfway there. Once upon a time, not so long ago, we were simply living on a prayer.

2nd half – Attack of the drones
Neither side made any changes at half time.

Hurrying, scurrying, and much ado about nothing. As they say in Sarf Landon, there was never yet a philosophy student that could endure toothache patiently. It's a local saying, innit.

Ups and unders, chase me, chase me, it’s Duncan Neufville! Yeah, but we've got a proper old-fashioned left-back now, one that defends. The Denver Boot clamped the soft-top sports car. It's still in the pound.

With many a Mariner still waiting for their pie Alfie Bass tickled a goal kick to an old creaking, leaking blue boot and Danny Rose pounced, mugging the chugger on the six-yard line. As Rose and Reeves mud-wrestled, Danny Boy poked to the lurking Wilson who promptly fell over tumbling dice. What a waste, perhaps Big Don should be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station.

It's all over there, baby blue, over there in the distance, in the shadow of the Mussolini Mausoleum. A header to Harvey, a header to Harvey, a header to Harvey. Repeat and rinse at a balmy 10 degrees. Plopping, dropping and slopping, but no one hung out their washing on the District Line, for everybody's mucking in and doing their job, wearing a great big smile.

Hoof it, head it, lump it, chase it. In the hole! But the monochrome wall was too high for Kelly and Tilley. No matter how they tried they could not break free. Town won't give in without a fight.

Ooh hello, Wood replaced the recently booked Andrews. A little silkiness goes a long, long, long, long way. 

Long lumps by Little but Harvey scooped off the toes of Curtis. In the end, for all the huffery and puffery, he didn't mess up our lives, he didn't tear us apart, there was little by Little. Except that big dipper that crawled over the bar. Obviously, apart from that.

Long balls, short balls, the word is balls. Harvey punched, Harvey caught a corner, Harvey caught a corner, I say, I say. Harvey caught a corner. Red sock blocks at night, a Mariner's delight.

Good grief, momentary moments of brief stipeyness, interludes interrupting the local flow. Holohan raided and faded, Mullarkey marauded and Little Harry volleyed over the bar, over the roof and into the weird piazza behind the stands; an AI-generated image of an architect's vision for a new Freshney Place fit for the 22nd century. Look trees! And happy people with ice creams! It's all very bland in Legoland. Some hang on to used to be and live their lives looking behind. All we have is here and now. Oh yes, we understand how they got back to where they belong.

With five minutes left changes were made. Obikwu and Green for Wilson and the drained Thompson.

Five minutes added, six were played.

High balls, low balls, what a load of balls. Tilley scraped wide, Cartwright fell over Davison but a wedge of striped cheese blocked out the moon's reflection. Striped shoelaces unravelled, Tharme super-scraped as a blue boot wafted. A chuck in, a driving diving header away. A point gained, a point made.

Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all. Together we stand, divided we fall.