Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Southend Report Part 2
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER side made any changes at half time. They kicked off, they carried on regardless biffing their way forward with Town immediately in retreat.
A couple of minutes in, Eastwood started to charm in the centre of the pitch, doing a little Bruce Forsyth routine: singing, dancing, and having a round of golf for charity. Whilst the Town defence sat back and were entertained by Britain's favourite toupÃ©, he cunningly finagled the ball along the conveyor belt and through a gap between Forbes and Crane. Gray was blistering through on goal, inside the area, in the centre. Williams raced out and, from about a dozen yards, Gray tried to lift the ball over the slithering Celtic fringe. Up went the right arm, away went the ball: a superb save. The Pontoon was forced to applaud.
Didn't he do well?
And off Town went down the other end, breaking quickly, Crowe bounding free down the centre right. Two against one, Reddy to his right, to pass, to shoot, to dream on. Jason at the Argos Store would be more likely to see a better selection. Crowe passed the ball against the back of a defender. We should have got used to it by now, but it still annoys, doesn't it.
Suck that glacier mint grandma, Gray sprinted away from the half way line, Forbes left flailing in his slipstream. Whittle thundered back and caught up with the two of them wearing raincoats. They sneezed and all fell down, with Southend sort of, halfish claiming a penalty.
Southend mistakenly tried to play some football, just handing the initiative back. Don't they do their homework? They'll have to come back after the season has finished and do some detention.
After about ten minutes Town were given a free kick way out on the right. For what, know one knows, the detail lost in time. Whoofed out beyond the far post Whittle headed it across goal. Gritton, in the centre, flicked the ball on and the ever-Reddy battery boy lurked about ten yards out. With is back to goal REDDY took one touch, spun and hooked a swivelling overhead kick in off the left hand post. Ooh, cheeky. By this time we were so unimpressed by Southend's basic instincts that all thoughts of Scunthorpian dismay were banished, and we really wouldn't mind spoiling some else's party on our back lawn.
A brief flurry of fluffiness in front of the Pontoon ended when Forbes magnificently blocked, taking his electric buggy to warp factor three. The plastic shopping basket on the front didn't fall off - that only happens at hyperspeed. Southend looked a little sorry for themselves, their fans passive, the team lacking in energy, Town had a ball, or rather had the ball. And Prior kicked Reddy in the...Area 51. Sorry, that's classified information. Have you got security clearance?
A Town shot, Prior's broad beam boomeranged the ball away. Reddy oozed free, zooming away down the centre right. McDermott zimmered up in support, but Reddy failed his etiquette test, not waiting for royalty before starting the show. He'll never be invited to the right parties now, will he. A corner, cleared. Pressure, no chances. Pinault played Chopin's chopsticks on his little ukulele, distracting defenders whilst Reddy roamed the beach digging for worms, with a permit, of course. He'd have been better off using a bucket and spade. He crossed, no-one around, moment passed, no donkeys died in the making of the movie.
And then they awoke from their torpor. Town were diddled on the right, Jupp crooping a cross to the near post where the unmarked Gray shook his head and sent the ball back, just the eight yards wide. Eastwood began to work the streets with his chipper, cheeky cheery cock-er-nee banter, selling watches from his suitcase. The Town defence couldn't resist, buying a job lot of Rolex's with Mickey Mouse fascias. Indeed they, and Eastwood, are unique. Step-overs, swaying hips, rolling bundles, power and pace - what is he doing playing the fourth?
Southend upped the pace, starting to crack into challenges again and Town wilted and wobbled. A cross from their right floated, drifted and raised its eyebrows at Williams as it passed. Eastwood awaited, Williams just managed to finger tip the ball away from the top corner and Freddy's quiff. A minute later, Eastwood trampled upon the little Townites down the right, crashing a low cross through the centre of the area. Bentley spliced his mainbrace, unfurled a banner and cruised forward, followed by Fleming. They both lunged, Bentley swept the ball against the crossbar and over. A goal kick was given, despite the audible click of a Town shinpad diverting the ball away from Williams.
Pressure was mounting, that vice being tightened around the neck; Town suffocating. Southend were desperate for information: they want information. They weren't getting it. By hook or by crook, they would.
With twenty minutes left the umpteenth cross of the game was headed out for a corner on their right. All their big bruisers bumbled forward and the corner was hit flat, and quickly, over Williams and to the far post. EASTWOOD rose gracefully above the lemon meringue, through the whipped cream and smuggled the ball in from three or four yards out, it bouncing in off Macca's head and the woodwork. It wasn't a surprise, and was the least they deserved for the verve and vim. Still annoying though, 'cos football isn't about giving, it's about taking.
The last twenty minutes were frenetic, frantic and fun. Southend really flew forward, leaving massive holes into which Reddy, especially, could meander. Eastwood, always Eastwood, poltergeisted his way through the Town defence on the right. Undermanned in the centre, defenders akimbo, Town were tottering on the tightrope, about to plunge face down in the dirt. Where's the safety net? Gray was unmarked in the centre, six yards out with the ball rolling gently towards him. Little Ronnie Bull entered the arena riding his tricycle to the rescue, honking his horn and squirting water from his carnation, to scoop the ball out to the edge of the area, where a midfielder shot straight at Williams. A minute or so later a soft header ploppled into Williams arms, then Gower dribbled through three challenges and snorkled the ball at Williams, who fumbled it aside for a corner.
Excuse me whilst I take a breather. All this action is too much to take. We're not used to this sort of thing at Blundell Park, so Rantin' Russ took off Fleming and replaced him with Coldicott. Ten minutes left.
Ooh, close. Bull was sent down the left and hit a flat volleyed cross through the six yards box, just in front of the unmarked Gritton at the far post. Back down to the Pontoon with Gray doing a little rumba outside the box, hitting a surprising shot through a thicket of legs, the ball drifting a couple of yards wide of the left hand post. Back down to the Osmond with Crowe hitting a very uninteresting shot well wide from twenty yards. I suppose it was better than the time he just wellied it against the overturned life raft that was Spencer Prior's derriere. At some point they cleared the ball near their goal line after a cross from the right by Reddy. Shoulders shrugged, summertime, and our living will be much easier without this weekly waft of woe.
Parkinson replaced Reddy with five minutes left. Parkinson, it is alleged, touched the ball, though forensic examination of the DNA of the ball suggest that the likelihood of that happening was 14,000,000,0000,000.2:1
Still Southend pummelled forward, Eastwood twisting, turning and learning very quickly that his snapshot was drifting wide of Williams' left hand post. On and on they came, and not just the Southend players, for the traditional irrelevant pitch invasion was being readied by the hormonally challenged. The Southend players were clearly distracted by the ever-encroaching cheap nylon leisurewear that hugged the touchline. Closer and closer they came until they were on the pitch, taking it in turns to wander across Williams' goal line.
With three minutes left Ramsden replaced HRH Sir John of McDermott. He ran off, applauded by the players. If this really is the Last of the McDermott it was a terribly cheap way to go, almost sneaked off unnoticed. Where is that open top bus ride around the Town?
The fourth official put up his board - four more minutes of this dank season to go.
Have some sympathy, and have some taste, use all your well-learned politesse for the Grimsby of the south. Someone, somewhere gulled the Shrimpers in the Osmond stand into thinking the draw was enough, for in this added time they suddenly erupted, celebrating promotion. They were wrong. Hey, you need a second source before you go to print. The referee heard the Southend roars, saw the pitch about to be subsumed by teenagers and ended it right there and then. The kids ran into the centre circle then stopped, realising they had nothing else to do; there was no point to what they'd done, so they hung around looking a bit embarrassed as the players walked off, very slowly.
Perhaps this was the perfect way to end this season, encapsulating it all in one wonderfully misjudged moment : what's the point of it all? I particularly enjoyed the stewards' lightning reactions, taking all of ten minutes to get more than four orange beacons of authority to wander over to the Pontoon. It all happened so quickly, after all.
Oh, didn't you notice, the game, the season ended. And then one day you find, a season gone behind you, no one told Russ when to run, Town missed the starting gun.
Some of the lads said they'd be back next week, but who? Will Forbes be staying after Sunday? Will Crowe fly from his nest egg? Will our official national treasure remain? The season ends as it started: things haven't got worse, but have they got better?
The end of laughter and soft cries, this is the e-e-e-e-ennnnnnd
Nicko's Man of the Match
Nicko took off his hat, mopped his brow, phoned a friend and still couldn't decide. He flicked his commemorative coin and it came up heads, which means Justin Whittle gets the nod above Terrell Forbes. Well, he is taller, and more likely to stay next season.
Markie's UnMan of the Season, Universe and everything
The Jasons Crowe, as we like to call him. This emperor has few clothes. His legs moved, but we couldn't see what he's playing at. Don't ever let him be in your quiz team, he'll always choose the wrong option on multiple choice questions.
He used to play for Arsenal, you know.
Mr G Salisbury. A man of occasional fussiness and frequent ambiguity, he was determined not to make a "big" decision. He allowed some fruitiness from the Southerners, but was stern when Northerners demanded the ball without menaces. The tombola of turgidity came up with the following ball - 5.2312453286501. By ending the game early when faced with five hundred fashion victims chanting incoherently, all that could be said is that he was no match for our untamed wit.
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