Confessions of a milkman

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

10 March 2024

Look around, what do you see? The gathering of various Town clans in various stages of jollity. Ah-ha, look closer, it's the Mighty Mariner! Clicks, clacks, riding the back of a giraffe for laughs. S'alright for a while.

Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Cartwright, Clifton, Mullarkey, Rodgers, Tharme, Hume, Holohan, Thompson, Green, Obikwu and Rose. The substitutes were Eastwood, Smith, Andrews, Wood, Eisa, Wilson and Pyke. Someone's been digging for worms, there's tractor tracks on the beach. I spy with my little eye two grooves straight down the middle of the penalty area with circles in the sand too. No wonder it's a Green Day down Gander Green Lane, the boulevard of broken dreams.

Sutton, they look like a rugby team, they look to be playing on a rugby pitch. They have no place in the Football League. Let's do it.

1st half – Tractor watch
Town kicked off away from the near seven hundred Town fans sprinkled along the new outhouse towards the setting sun. Is it provocative to be evocative about this city farm? Mud, mud, glorious mud, there's nothing quite like it for curdling the blood of an Englishman.

A bold hippopotamus was standing one day on the banks of the cool Shalimar. Oh hang on, no, that's not a hippo it's our old mucker Stevie Arnie, the Village Green's Wembley wobbler, preserved in Sarf London aspic. Hey Arnold, you should cut down on your pork life mate, get some exercise.

Way-hey-hey! Slipping and sliding, slicing and dicing and Spiderboy plummeted way out west. Hume droiled the free kick, Arnold drop-bumpled uppily, Tharme hooked back, Justin Spindlelegs headed towards the emptied nettage but Eastmond dropped back to nod the drooper off the line.

Hoof and wallop with a homeopathic dollop of passing. That's passing out of play. That's hoofing out of play. That's the play for today. That's life.

Scrunching and munching, rags were taggled, toes were tangled. The Man From Laramie dismissively waved away the grumpy linesman's flagging like a haughty Maître D at a suburban bistro. Non, zer ur nerr tarbles tonight. I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I smell elderberries.

Mud, thud. Less a football match more a scrapyard.

Obikwu plunged again, Rose glanced the free kick highly. Or it may have been a corner. To tell you the truth in all this excitement I began to talk to the trees, but they don't listen to me. But suddenly my words reach someone else's ear. Foul throw! I shout at the ref, but he won't listen to me.

Or was this when Obikwu plunged again? Holohan, acutely right of goal got out his theodolite, looked up at the stars, and coiled wastefully over heads, over the bar, over into the slither of seated Townites. Wake up.

Thud, mud, chewing the cud. Cows lazily grazing in soggy bottom, we're gazing and eyes are glazing. Meanwhile a linesman is blazing inside as his flagging is ignored.

Moments, now and again. Mariner moments. Little Harry hurtled into the emptiness as Town broke, but his shot deflected off amber thighs to skiffle into Mr Purple's bosom. Another sneaky break, another free man on the right and a cross three modern haircuts above Obikwu's fringe.

Sutton United. Well, Sutton, united may be an optimistic noun to fling about. A free kick way over was light relief from a heavy rotation of incoherent scuffling and kicks for yardage. Cartwright caught a cross and kicked a couple of grubbers away and the rest is simply for our entertainment.

As the sanctity and safety of half time neared Town pressed with purposeful possession down the right. Toby surged, Clifton crossed, Rose's diving header flumped off a lock-forward's corset and Spindly Spiderlegs successfully avoided scoring by passing against a purple doggie blanket from the middle of the six-yard box.

Hume dripped the corner deeply and an amber head half cleared to Harry who headed straight back into the middle of the muddle. Out popped Obikwu's pipe cleaners to backwards pokey-prod into the right corner.

One minute was added and Tharme's never-decreasing chuck-ins caused a ripple of minor panic, but simply plopped to purple when red shirts lurked. Without being anything other than alive and comatose Town were sauntering through an afternoon of ploughing. Sutton were lucky to get nought, they were simply short of everything needed to be a professional football team. Except height.

2nd half – A conspiracy of one
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Sutton replaced the terrible Taylor with one of the blocks of flats you pass on the way to the ground, Sowunmi Towers. And? Oh, I forgot, Craig Clay, say hello. Now wave goodbye. Feetov Clay was put in the compost bin as on came Sanderson.

And Sutton finally abandoned the pretence of pretty-pretty hoofball and simply went Route Zero. I say zero, but that rather overstates their subtlety and sophistication.

Scrimping, scrapping, scrumping, lumping, dumping and blocks by red socks, nods by red heads. Up, down, flying around and straight into the crowd, straight over the stands. All this gloop could have been avoided if they'd taken a route straight through what is known as Cart-Wright.

What's this? It is nothing. Obikwu blocked after dithering wiggles. Go on, admit it, you thought that was a village near the Devil's Punchbowl.

You know, once in while they got some reward for their lack of style. Huge hulking Smith flicked on a drop kick and Sanderson swiped a slice over the right angle of post and bar. And that was just the right angle for you and me.

In between the meandering mudwrestling Town had their moments. Possession rotated from the right, Rose nodded and Holohan's distant driveller skipped and swerved towards the bottom right corner. The human dog blanket smothered and pawed aside. More of this, a little less of that. Holahan blocked, Mullarkey surged, Obikwu sniggled and Arnie made use of his feet and hands at the foot of the nearest post.

Just over the hour the pipe cleaner snapped. Wilson replaced Obikwu.

Pushing and prodding, probing and persistence. Green sneaked a half volley across the face of goal, but Mr Purple flipped up and away from the foot of the right post. Holohan's big dripping corner dropped onto Rodgers' head and the ball dropped against the crossbar.

And finally, here they come. Incoming!

Green's masterclass of a masterful block set up a corner that Cartwright flipped from the top far corner. Hoofs and hoiks from the homesters, hoping something would turn up from ricochets and rebounds. Their hope was simply that they hoped the ball would roll kindly. And on the red side of life there were a multitude of moments of almostness, happiness denied by overhit and underhit passes down the middle.

Rodgers chased a hamster into the middle and stamped on his little wheel. A booking, a free kick, a chip, Cartwright flapped and Cartwright flipped the ball off Eastmond's head. Up and under nudge and nurdle. A slap agin Holohan's face squiffled ballooningly wide. A corner, Tharme thrown to the ground, bodies plunging here, there and everywhere, the unmistakable slap of ball on flesh amidst helter-skelter skittleball and a clearance bazooming off red shorts into the crowd.

Phew, it was worth investing in a couple of barrage balloons after all. Just a couple of minutes left. All clear, you can come out from under the table now.

And there, in the outermost corners of many eyes, the troublesome, irrelevant lineman was flagging. The ref walked over, performative miming, the ref talking to someone on the intercom, another mime in time and a point. But what was the point of the point? To assuage the bruised ego of a sour junior, someone who'd been overruled and ignored all afternoon? Was this simply workplace HR?

One man saw things. Just one man, no-one else. One time, just one time, the ref chose to believe him.

Lakin smacked low and left, Harvey's hands touched the ball but the ball touched the back of the net. A blue touch paper was lit behind.

Andrews replaced Green, something that was already happening and now it happened.

Six minutes were added with a plop and a scrape as Tharme's mortars caused minor pandemonium. A swizzer grazed past Rodgers' eyebrows, Thompson's slap shot slithered between the stout old oaks. Holohan took a touch and, approaching the corner of the six-yard box, passed against a doggie blanket billowing across the sand. Sutton's contribution to road safety? They were offside once, the linesman's flag remaining resolutely by his side, the ref forced to intervene yet again to right the wrongs of the wrong man with the flag.

Should have won by miles, a country mile (©Jethro Dull from Brigadoon), but a striking generosity allowed external forces to impact upon our health. We caught a cold because we didn't do our top button up or tuck our shirt in.

Town had dominated the search for the Haxey Hood against a rag-tag harrumph of local oafs, being barely bothered by the boozy bully boys as the swayed through the two churches and thirty houses, the narrow streets and muddy fields, of Ye Olde Sudtone.

There was nothing to beat, but hell hath no fury like a linesman scorned.