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Jumping the Shark: Northampton Report
By: Tony Butcher
A grey day in the grey sheds in the middle of greywhere, with around 500 Town fans continuing their Sainsburyâ€™s cafÃ© tour 2005. You can buy tour merchandise from the club shop, you know.
New stadiums are all very well, but decking? The playersâ€™ and celebritiesâ€™ entrance didnâ€™t have a red carpet but red decking. Is that a pot plant or is John Fenty schmoozing with the Town fans?
The gene pool of stewarding talent is clearly very small in Northamptonshire - isnâ€™t that the infamous Rushden rocker, the hairy branflake?
Town lined up in a proper 4:4:2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (Stick), Newey, Cohen, Bolland, Mr Kalala, Toner, Andrew and Gritton. The substitutes were Reddy, Barwick, Hegggggarty, Jones (Lump) and Ramsden. Cohen started on the right, Toner the left, though that part of the masterplan didnâ€™t last long. Andrew partnered Gritton in a more-or-less proper striking twosome. Finally the public gets what the public wants. Russ has made our bed, will there be need to lie about it?
The pre-match minutes positively flew by with the DJ double-act chuntering their way through to three oâ€™clock. Hey, loved the booming bass and faux cod-cool-cockney that sank somewhere off the southern tip of Greenland. No-one bothered to call the coastguard, they were too busy getting the refereeâ€™s autograph. Now that is one way to stroke his ego, whispering sweet Justins in his ear. Ah yes, the Peopleâ€™s Elbow (Â© pending) given a rousing cheer: his Hull years suddenly forgotten in the flash of a smiling limb.
Northampton lined up in the usual manky maroon with a surfeit of lampreys in their squad. No, not that, a jackanory of Johnsons, three of â€˜em, but only one today. Disappointingly they hadnâ€™t signed anyone called Hot, so theyâ€™ll never be able to put Hot Cross Bunn on their team sheet. Mindless nonsense? Of course, hang the DJs, itâ€™s their fault my mind turned to mush. The Cobbling people did select a famous player though. Jason Crowe: he used to play for Arsenal, you know; I bet he even tries today. This paragraph is swirling in paisley patterns, incense burning in the background: letâ€™s follow Captain Sladeheartâ€™s Magic Band down the yellow brick road. Câ€™mon Justin tread on some toes, itâ€™s time to play.
The misty midlanders kicked off towards the Town fans and passed to each other on the ground. Town trotted and watched as Smith wandered in from their left wing. The ball was rolled Smithwards and he simply sauntered forward and catapulted a low shot to Mildenhallâ€™s left from about 25 yards. Ten seconds gone and were Town still waiting for the game to start. The clocks go back tonight lads.
From the punt forward Gritton chested and turned on the right edge of their area, carefully curling a shot to Harper Leeâ€™s near post. The keeper mockingly killed the ball with his bare hands. Hey, a minute gone and two shots already! Donâ€™t get your hopes up, thatâ€™s just about as good as it got for Town in the first half.
A few seconds later Town were like a personalised credit card application form, with Northampton a surprisingly cheap shredder bought from Homebase earlier that morning. But you can only put one sheet through at a time though: it appears useful, but is rather laborious and ultimately unsatisfactory. A throw in on the Northampton right saw Toner and Newey distracted by the lack of executive boxes in this luxurious leisure retail outlet. McGleish and Mendes flickedâ€™nâ€™trickedâ€™nâ€™crossed to the near post before Toner could finish his fruit pastille. Lowe, six yards out, brushed the ball goalwards and Mildenhall clutched it to his chest at the near post. Townâ€™s left was dissected like a very dead frog, the ball gone in sixty microseconds. Northampton were fizzing into gaps, infiltrating the spaces between defendersâ€™ ears.
It got worse and worse, so bad we couldnâ€™t even groan. Mildenhall was shrieking wildly at his nominal defence, frequently furious with the doziness in front of him, particularly at throw-ins. Town players stood and watched as every single throw-in was short and played back to the thrower, who crossed with impunity. "Get the thrower!", a regular Mildenhallian lament. About five minutes in Town lucked out and got a corner, thus causing a thirty second delay in the Cobbling attacking. They broke, Mendes za-zoommed and boomed a shot wide. Cue more Mildenhall bellows.
A couple of minutes later Crowe dribbled past Macca and collided with Whittle, about 20 yards out, just wide of the penalty area and Smith teasled the ball into the near post. Mildenhall tried to punch the ball away at chest height, but McGleish and Whittle arrived at the same time as the ball. With Mildew grounded and the goal a gaping, Mendes, from about five yards out, managed to avoid scoring, beautifully volleying the ball over the bar as Jones the Stick lunged. It takes great skill to miss from there; you or I couldnâ€™t possibly have done that. In mirth we call that missing.
Ah, thatâ€™s nice, Bolland had a shot; well high, well wide.
Town were shapeless dross, barely reaching a standard we could call inept. Not a team but a bunch of grapes, waiting to be plucked and eaten. Do spit out the pips. Northampton obliterated Town with passing and movement; it was exceedingly embarrassing. It was like watching Town last April: uninterested strolling in a field, waiting for the sun. Here we go again: a long punt forward by Northampton sailed towards the right corner of the Town area. Mildenhall came out to collect the ball, Whittle back-pedalled and headed the ball directly to Smith. The Mildster was stranded in sector 7G and Smith precisely side-footed the ball towards the vacant the net. Mildenhall raced back, chasing the ball as it rolled away from him, like he was chasing a paper bag on a breezy day in Mablethorpe. The ball tumbled a foot wide of the left hand post. Mildenhall verbally decapitated Whittle and McDermott.
Only fifteen minutes have gone and they should be three up. Lucky Town. Hey, a Town corner, How did that happen? Newey curled it to the far post and Whittle firmly nodded the ball downwards, straight at Harper. Weâ€™re a set piece team, remember.
Normality returned: Whittle absent, McGleish scuttling through towards goal chasing a pass down their centre left. Mildenhall raced out, slid like an octopus, and managed to put McGleish off as he stretched forward to poke the ball goalwards. Northampton folded over Town like an immense duvet, crushing with feathers and co-ordinated pillows. Low fell in the area when Whittled, the referee almost laughing at the cheek of it.
Town were a mess.
Every so often Town long punts didnâ€™t boing off Bojic and his deputy, Doig. Andrew fliggled himself free down the right, cut back and crossed perfectly for Gritton at the far post. The ambling sushifreak chested the ball down and fell over. Pfft, thatâ€™s all.
About 20 or so minutes in Northampton replaced big bruiser Dyche with a one of their Johnsons. Dyche had twisted by the pool when challenging Gritton and never recovered from his embarrassing addiction to Dire Straits. Crowe switched from left-back to right-back and faced the fearsome froth that was Cohen and Newey. Cohen was visiting Planet Simonfordus: living in a parallel universe where there were no Northampton players, nor a ball, or Town players, or grass; just magic mushrooms. At one Cobbling corner he stood motionless in a no-mans land, he didnâ€™t move until the Town fans ordered him to. Hello...is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear us.
A Northampton cross bisected, dissected, trisected, quadrosected; they didnâ€™t connect with it, OK? Mendes, sent free down their left, drifted to the bye-line and dinked a sultry cross into the centre, about head height. Mildenhall came out, Whittle stooped and glanced the ball over the Big M and about an inch over the cross bar. The corner curled in from their right and dropped a couple of yards out, with Mildenhall blocked by Mendes. Scrabbling and dabbling around on the floor the keeper was freed from his subterranean hell by a combination of Jones the Stick and McDermott. Is that five or six they should have had by now? And we have the best defence in the division? How?
A Town attack? Surely not, I must be dreaming. McDermott and Toner combined down the right, with Toner bulldozing forward and clipping a terrific cross through the area. Andrew slid forward at the far post and missed the ball by whatever he missed by, letâ€™s call it 28.7 centimetres. Whatâ€™s a fact between friends? I was dreaming wasnâ€™t I. Not only an attack but three passes. The empirical evidence does not support such a hypothesis.
My local paper says a blue Yamaha motorcyclist was stolen last week. Do you think his mum misses him? And what was blue about him? His language, his feet or his trousers. Whatâ€™s that got to do with football? Nothing, I just thought Iâ€™d lighten the load.
Here they go again: Cohen, Bolland and Newey standing like empty milk bottles on the doorstep, watching Crowe glide past silently on his electric milk float. Crowe crossed, McGleish peeled away at the far post and, from a few yards out and a narrow angle, spectacularly volleyed towards the unmanned pie stall. The Cobblers continued to cobble, Mariners still marinated in their own juices. Crosses, corners, fighting, barging, flapping, hacking, crying, howling, hacking from Newey: the Town fans were hiding underneath their seats.
In the last couple of minutes of the half Low was booked for stopping Andrew from getting away down the right: he fell over and pushed the ball out for a throw with his hand. Then the homesters managed to rouse themselves into some semblance of anger and succeeded in getting Pope Jean-Paul booked for tripping Jess. The half ended with a barely credible, but hugely hilarious, paucity of parity. Town should have been at least four down.
There isnâ€™t much to say: Bolland ran around and Mildenhall shouted a lot. Thereâ€™s the positives. Toner was incredibly one-paced and extremely uncomfortable when away from the centre of the pitch. The defence had much less trouble last Wednesday, they couldnâ€™t cope with all these little men buzzing around their ankles. Northampton were a blur of movement, spinning cobwebs around our clunky flies. They played football, we hoofed it to a barely-bothered Gritton. The front two were as close as Doris Day and Rock Hudson - up there on the screen, playing partners, but not being partners.
Oh dear, the lion tamer's whip doesn't crack anymore; our lion won't fight and our tiger won't roar. Octoberâ€™s been rubbish.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Newey looks like he shops at Meadow Hall."
The report continues in the Second Half.
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