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Quâ€™est Que Câ€™est? Newcastle Report
By: Tony Butcher
A damp squib of an evening in the Grand Ole Opry: a ram-packed ground, but the snap, crackle and pop of the previous round was missing; the Town fans huddled and hoping for humiliation avoidance. Itâ€™s the curse of the green seats.
The pre-match festivities were elongated by several hours as the tannoyboy read out the biographies of all 16 vestal mascots who were leaving for the coast. Asked for their predictions, the best they could come up with was "a hope Town win", with most expecting defeat. Ah, broken in already; realism and pessimism seared into their DNA. The one from Waltham (no, not an episode of Friends) loves football, cricket and dog-fighting. Well, he would out there in the badlands where they shoot squirrels for tea.
Town lined up in the usual stodgy gloop of a 4:4:1:1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Newey, Cohen, they still call me Mr Kalala, Bolland, Andrew, Jones (G) and Reddy. The substitutes were Barwick, Gritton, Ramsden, Toner and Parkinson. Would Calvin Andrew be our salvation on the left? Jones the Lump remained in place, though that may be because the heavy-lifting gear hasnâ€™t arrived from Seattle yet. Weâ€™ll just have to work around him.
Now they really are patronising us, playing Peter Rabbit in defence and having Martin Gritton on their subs bench too. Oh, itâ€™s those acoustics again: Ramage and Brittain. Perhaps tannoyboy should enunciate his vowels better.
Are we interested in them? Shall we fawn at their feet, these glitterati jet-setters? Itâ€™s only Newcastle; we used to beat them in the Buckleydays, which isnâ€™t that long ago. Itâ€™s so nice for Shearer that, before he retires, he finally plays at one of the great grounds of the world. Iâ€™m sure thatâ€™s why Mr Personality has delayed his media career: ever since he was a little boy itâ€™s been his dream to play at Blundell Park.
Dish of the Day: water. Not the sports ones, they rot your teeth, but good old-fashioned clear and simple water. If our bodies are 70 % water, would that mean Tony Crane is Lake Windermere?
Weâ€™d better get this old jalopy started. Crank the handle somebody.
Newcastle kicked off towards the Pontoon and didnâ€™t do the decent thing at all. We all know that people are the same wherever you go: the ball must be kicked into touch within five seconds. They passed to each other, quickly; they moved their legs, quickly. Taylor planted the ball upfield, right on to Shearerâ€™s chest. He laid the ball off to Nâ€™Zogbia, who scuffled a shot straight at Mildenhall from about twenty yards out. Mmmm.
Town enjoyed their finest moments for the next twenty seconds: passing to each other in nice, neat little triangles, even managing to almost get a throw in. Newcastle soon retrieved the ball and pick-pocketed their way back upfield. Jones the Stick thundered across to end this phase of the phoney war. After a couple of minutes something happened off down the Osmond End: Jones the Lump, on the left, flickled the ball on into the area. Reddy shimmered in the haze between their centre-backs and the ball seemed to roll away via Taylorâ€™s arm. No-one appealed and play continued as if the bodysnatchers hadnâ€™t invaded. Newcastle broke upfield with speed and intent, Shearer again bouncing the ball away to an onrushing chum. I am, of course, assuming he has friends, not just acolytes and courtiers. Babayaro swung his huge pants forward and zithered a shot straight at Mildenhall from about 25 yards out. No worries for the Mildster.
Wasnâ€™t Babayaro a song by The Who? It was wasted anyway, so donâ€™t worry about a thing.
Town were just not getting the ball as Newcastle played something like a Premiership team. It was beginning to be a bit worrying as they indulged in a little bit of chess whilst Town were still playing conkers. At least we still held on to the string. After about five minutes Whittle bent down holding his head after a challenge from the Mary Archer of football. Sergeant Rock waved away the patronising pat on the head from Shearer and just got on with it. If we only could be tough like him, we could all win our own battle of the texters.
Woah, theyâ€™re back again, these Millionairesses, making our hearts go boom-diddi-boom-diddi-boom-diddi-boom with their shiny teeth and sparkly boots. Babayaro pootled the ball to Nâ€™Zogbia who rode along the touchline on his pushbike past Macca, teasing a cross through the six-yard box. Shearer trundled to the near post and, about four yards out, flicked the ball goalwards. With tuppence for paper and strings, Mildenhall has his own set of wings: swooping down from the stands, blocking with his feet and groping with his hands he clawed the ball to freedom.
Ten minutes gone and no sign of a Town shot. Given was camped out in the Osmond End, his sausages burning whilst he put his tent up. Here they go again. Town peering over the hill at them thar injunsâ€™ wigwam, scared off by Parkerâ€™s whooping. Circle the wagons! Two touches and the ball moved from one penalty area to the other, Chopra drivelling a snivelling snorter towards Mildenhall. Safe: the shot weak, the keeper perfectly positioned.
Letâ€™s just sit back and watch this exhibition of lateral passing. Left to right, right to left and back again, and again, and again, and again - itâ€™s like watching tennis. Câ€™mon Tiger Tim! "Out - advantage Miss Newcastle".
Ooh, almost something. If you want a summary of this game, thatâ€™s it - "Town nearly...". Jones the Lump turned and passed infield to Kalalalalabamba. Reddy peeled his lemon and set off towards Given as the ball curled towards the keeper. Pity that, for it verged on football, only a slight recalibration of the laser-guided missile required.
Sorry, I blinked. Flish-flash, bash against the post. Newcastle whistled up the right, switched the ball infield to Faye, who advanced towards the centre of the Town defence, drawing out Whittle. McDermott scurried around to cover and the ball was dinkled through. Nâ€™Zogbia, on the centre left, hurtled around Cohen and took a couple of steps into the area. Mildenhall gulped up the turf, Cohen leant on the outhouse and Nâ€™Zogbia passed the ball against the outside of the left-hand post.
Another minute, another surge down the centre, stopped only when Jones the Stick pressed the little red button on his hip and telescoped the ball away at the last. Another surge, another minute down the centre. This is a footballing kaleidoscope - the same patterns swirling around, just in different places. Some great Town blocking stopped Shearer, but the ball rolled out to Peter Rabbit, who peeked out of his burrow and knitted a bobble hat, or did the shot go way over, threatening Skyâ€™s remote camera dangling above the Pontoon like a glitterball.
Town heading, Toon passing, repeat ad infinitum. We canâ€™t get the ball. Why canâ€™t they be like Tottenham and bring their own wine? Parker a pest, impassable, the antithesis of Carrick. Heâ€™s holding our ball. The pendulum is swinging....you are feeling sleepy.... imagine you are a goat... what a rubbish corner! Newcastle tried that Blazinâ€™ Squad routine, where they all walk, reallllll cooooooooooool towards the goal then run back. Nâ€™Zogbia belted the ball out for a throw in near the managersâ€™ dug-outs. It makes a change from plonking it on the first defenderâ€™s forehead.
After half an hour Town got a free kick, just inside their half on the right. Newey clattered the ball high in to the box. Bodies tumbled, Jones the Lump stumbled and was free, about eight yards out. Whatever happened to this likely lad? Well Thelma, Jones the Lumpy Jellyfish crumpled and nodded the ball into the Elm Lodge Housing Estate. Townâ€™s first chance wasted. Townâ€™s only chance of the first half tossed away like a wet salad. Nobody wants a wet salad in Grimsby.
From the restart Newcastle piddled about for a bit then chipped the ball towards Shearer, on their centre left. Whittle jumped, Shearer didnâ€™t, play continued. The Fragrant One ran after the referee and moaned about something unseen by the Pontoon, pointing to his mouth and gesticulating wildly. And carried moaning for what seemed like a thousand years. You know a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down: just get on with it. Isnâ€™t that what professionals do, Mrs P? Oh dear Alan, youâ€™ve started a conversation you can't seem to finish. You're talkin' a lot but you're not sayin' anything. Whittle stood back and ignored the perambulating Shearer. Innocence has always been his position.
Normal service resumed; they can pass it sideways all night for all Town cared. Have you noticed something? Newcastle havenâ€™t had a shot for ages. Sure they got their felt tip pen out and did some modern free form art outside the Town area, but nothing they could hang in even the cheapest of galleries. Town had paid attention to detail and were not allowing them any space whatsoever within 30 yards of Mildenhall. Cohen and Andrew, in particular, were muscular pacy auxiliary full backs, nullifying the threat from the flanks. If the ball did swim free there was always Jones the Stick to Inspector Gadgetify the ball away.
Hum a tune if you want, or shall we hum a tune for you? Iâ€™ll put the i-hum on autoshuffle. Ah, here we are. I know that one, itâ€™s...itâ€™s... especially for Big Al, the kiddies pal. Chim chim-in-ey chim chim-in-ey chim chim cher-ee. Blow us a kiss, thatâ€™s lucky Toon.
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhwup, kaboooooom. A firework burst over the ground, the stick landing inside the Newcastle half. No, not Jones, the wooden stick upon which the firework was tied. It was a very large stick indeed, as big as Solano. At this point it is appropriate to confirm that Norberto Solano was on the pitch. Newey and Andrew placed him in a Jiffy bag and left it with the fourth official for safekeeping, so nobody steals him when weâ€™re not looking.
With about five minutes left they had some kind of attack. Whittle did his usual aardvark-on-rollerskates clearance and they had a chance. The ball was tribbled towards Shearer, twenty yards out. He waited for the ball but Pope Jean-Paul glided back and whisked it away for a corner. Oh yes, the Pope wasnâ€™t on a rope today, for he was clearly intent of being seen on television. Good for the sales pitch that: "as seen on TV". As the half sulked towards its cup of tea Town managed to exert some pressure, even some passing. Bolland released Cohen down the right and his low cross rolled behind all, with Reddy stretching back, his turning circle obscured by a large transit van of Geordie navvies. Possession was retained and Town tried down the left flank, with Andrew drifting a cross to the far post, where Bolland lurked whilst a defender skimmed the ball away for a throw in. There you are: another Town highlight. We had a cross and won a throw in their half. Success-city Arizona.
The half ended with them playing Townâ€™s squeezebox: in, out, Town not quite shaken all about though.
After the blistering start we were all happy with parity. Town had done nothing in attack, but they hadnâ€™t either in the last half hour. It was a bit boring, but weâ€™re used to that in home games by now.
As the half ended the mobile phones trilled with news from home: the Sky-watchers had been watching the Discovery Channel which revealed the full history of the secret War of Shearerâ€™s Lip. Ah, so maybe Whittle had touched him after all. And in such a delightful way too.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"As long as we have a shot I donâ€™t mind what happens."
The report continues in the Second Half.
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