Heroes and Villains

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

21 April 2024

Are we there yet?

Ah, but where is there? The end of the season, the end of the line, the end of an era, the end of some errors? We end with more questions than answers. The more we find the less we know, but the before we end we must start the beginning of the end. Mad Gav's back in town with his travelling circus of pit ponies and show ponies. We need to put these ponies in our pocket, for only fools and carthorses go to Woking.

Town lined up in what assorted and various psychopaths and psychics claim to be a 3-5-1-1 formation as follows: Eastwood, Mullarkey, Rodgers, Maher, Smith, Holohan, Thompson, Green, Vernam, Wood and Wilson. The substitutes were Auton, Andrews, Ainley, Bramwell, Khouri, Hume and Eisa. And this is what we're left with: a rag-tag bunch of misfitting muddlers and shallow scufflers huddled around a dying fire. Blow, blow, blow harder, fetch some tinder, I'm sure I saw a flame.

We're denuded, we're deluded and the reasons for exclusion eluded many.

Swindon. In red. Some big blokes, some old blokes, but don't cry, don't raise your eye, the rest is a teenage wasteland. I think they'd rather be down the slotties. I rather hope so.

Or we can hope that Orsi-Orsi does the bizzo for Crawley. Danny boy, we still love you so (but not next week).

Shall we start? If we must.

1st half – Go fly a kite
On a bright, warmly-cold day with a sneaky wind Town hoofed off towards the 231 resting Robins in the covered corner and a smorgasbord of Grimbarians spread across the Osmond.

Mugging and chugging, Wood swiped over. Thirty seconds, a miss. Ooh, that's lovely, Swindon are only here for the pier. La-di-da, skipping through the daisies and out of play she goes. Is this a non-aggression pact?

Their keeper hoofed towards the dug outs. A knock on, a run on, a cross on, a chance on. Aaaaaaaaaah, the memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime. You shuffle in the gloom of the Blundell Park dressing room and talk to yourself as your career dies like a louse in a Russian's beard. Charlie Austin, we salute you. Laser-precision missing at its best. Unslim Charles arose alone six yards out and you could see his mind whirling, calculating the angles for how he could successfully avoid scoring. His eyes darted, his head contorted and the Pontoon snorted as the ball plippled gently across the face of goal and bounced six yards wide.

It takes great skill to miss by so much. Thanks Charlie, thanks.

Vernamation. Whatever. Like a flustered waiter in a busy café he swings and sways but keeps dropping the tray. A cross, a deflection, a block. Defending? Mmm, would be nice once in a while, Chucky. Mad Gav's espied a tactical flaw and he's made sure that they'll get there fast and then take it slow, mostly through Kokolo. Infiltrations on the flanks by red shifters, crosses to no-one, passes to nowhere.

Linesman down! The flaggerman under the Frozen Horsebeer Stand was hamstrung by his hamstring not his inner demons or incompetence. Official shuffling, time for some score-line searching.

Stuck in the mud and cuddled by Robbers, the Wolds Panther swingled and swangled under the Police Box, tapping back to Eastwood's left foot right into the rough patch outside his off stump. Lucky boys, the reverse sweep ballooned off a top edge and landed between fielders. On the left, on the right, holes and haplessness. Toby in the way, that's the way to do it.

I say this in sorrow, not anger. Occasionally, now and then, footballers kicked the ball to each other. Now and then, sometimes, they kicked it back to each other. Kokolo strivelled into the Vernamless void and with a dreamy look in his eye crossed too high. What an afternoon delight, more of this and we'll be sipping cocktails on moonlit nights.

Town had their moments too, maybe one, maybe two, but it is a very thin gruel. They're very cruel to feed us this gruel at the end of a gruesome season. Holohan surged and Holohan crossed and looked slightly cross as Wood mis-stepped to mis-volley. Wood. A boy in a man's world. Thompson sat down and out rolled the sideways short free kick routine that is now so routine. Smith chipped deeply, Green chested and blasted and the keeper blocked back for, well, shall we call it a passing pigeon?

Thompson scythed again, 30 yards out. Swindon pumped up a balloon, smothered it in some old, wet copies of the Grimsby Telegraph and placed it ten yards from Slim Charles. The ball hit the wall, lollipopping loopily towards the bottom left corner, Bycroft scrimbled and flapped, the ball dropped wide. A corner. Yes, a corner. And? If anything happened it didn't happen in Blundell Park.

Three minutes were added as heads were clashed. A couple of shakes of a lamb's tail and all was well. Off we go again.

Eastwood hoofled highly, Green grazed on, Wilson bumble-stumbled by the penalty spot and Green ran on to wallop lowly. Bycroft stretched his left leg, the ball lodged under his heel and rolled back into his arms.

There was nothing to beat but they still couldn't beat it. Who am I referring to? Both and neither. Swindon were doing their best to keep us happy, Town were doing their best to keep Sutton happy. You see, they are people pleasers.

Silly old Swindon, don't they know there's no such thing as the Grimsby Gruffalo.

2nd half – The kraken awakes
Neither team made any changes at half time.

At last, finally, Maher unveiled the mighty awesome power of his long throws. Ah, the triumph of hope over expectation. Town snipping and snapping and Swindon caught napping. Vernam body slammed in the corner twixt toiletry and two stands. Maher glanced on at the near post and there's hugging under the mistletoe at the far post. Dibbles and dobbles, Holohan's crinkle biffled back off redness and Wood, waiting in the D, carefully caressed over. Nice hair, lovely mover, football as interpretive dance.

They may have had a shot. Maybe we can call it a shot, maybe we simply averted our gaze and pretended it never happened. We don't want to embarrass the poor lad in public.

We may have made a pass. Maybe. Town merging with the shadows, barely flickering between the lines. Eyes glazing over, is the dream over? Over and over and over and over and over, like a monkey with a miniature cymbal. No joy, just repetition.

Under and under and under and under and underhit, the smell of repetition really is on you lot.

Mad Gav made changes, seeking more power from their Elbouzedi. He didn't get it.

Between the turgidity there were sniffs and whiffs of connectivity, the hint of a possibility of something, somewhere. Town's other short free kick routine, the sneaky pass down the side. Mullarkey tapped back, Smith coiled deeply and Vernam arose, leaning backly and headed highly. Ooh, a nice Holohan cross, that's nice. A punt, a roll and Wilson struffled into the ground and Bycroft batted away. Just the odd snifter now and again, that's all.

Shoelaces have never been so fascinating.

Sent to the subs bench for a pass they didn't commit to they were, at least, available and with 20 minutes left Andrews and Ainley replaced Wood and Holohan. Oh yes, and Hume for Vernam. If you have a problem, if no one else can help and if you can find them, maybe you can fling on the AAH Team.

Magic visions stirring, ancient bonds are breaking. Town moving the ball on, changing sides. Hume intercepted, Andrews tickled infield and Ainley, espying the deep, deep expanse of nothingness way out right, moulded a sculptured pass perfectly into the path of a figure glimpsed out of the corner of our eyes. Smith skipped into the new mown grassland that smells oh so sweet and swept over Bycroft into the right side of the net. Distant bells, the sound of music in our ears. Mafeking has been relieved!

Well, that's eased the pain and got us on our feet again.

How are you feeling now? I have become comfortably numb.

Andrews disrobing Robins, bedraggling wide. Andrews, getting stuck in, nice to see. Eastwood was suddenly overcome by a debilitating dose of Procramp. And then by a miracle, he was cured. Nice to see.

Arbitrary amblings by day trippers perambulating along the prom. Smith stepped in, Wilson turned on the halfway line, burned forward and wibble-wobbled a sumptuous wallop into the bottom right corner. And the crowd went mild.

Sutton? Who cares.

Freed from fear of failure Town swarmed over the sorry Swindonites, with passing and with movement. You get your chance to try, in the twinkling of an eye, for three minutes with luck or even more! Khouri replaced Green. He lost the ball, he won the ball, he moved, he crossed, he shot, he connected dots.

Five minutes were added. The Rushians are coming! Fear not, Maher stalked Hepburn-Murphy all the way to Memphis. Khouri slapped overly, nut-megged in midfield and sent Wilson through to dringle wide of the left post. It doesn't matter what you say, no-one's listening anyway, our fate is sealed.

Are we there yet? We surely are. Sometimes it's better to arrive than travel.

Safety, no more surprises, it's the end of the torture. The door is open, you are free to leave, but you can, if you wish, thank your captors.