The joy of ex

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

25 October 2003

Barnsley 0 Grimsby Town 0

A bright, chilly day in old Barnsley town, with a swirling, curling wind swaggering through Oakwell. Fortunately for the 1,000 or so travelling Townites, it was from behind the stand into which we were stuffed like maiden aunts at an 18th birthday party. "Over there, in the corner - don't talk to any one but your relatives." But like said auntie, the Town fans threw themselves with gusto into hearty, jaunty joshing, with the occasional embarrassing faux pas about them Yorkies next door.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, McDermott, Crane, Edwards, Barnard, Cas, Campbell, Hamilton, Anderson, Boulding and Onuora. The substitutes were Young, Crowe, Groves, Mansaram and the unusable one, Jevons. The demise of Daws saw Campbell in the centre alongside dwindling Des, with everyone else in their normal positions.

Licks were lipped - or is that lips were licked? - at the thought of Cas against Galli, which Galli's waddling demeanour didn't diminish. So just why had Gallimore and Handyside joined the absent jellyfish (still presumably in his mould) in beautiful downtown Barnsley? Ah, I see: shirt sponsor explains all. VK (that's Vodka Kick to the Salvation Armyists among the marching Mariners). It's the lure of the sponsor's freebies, isn't it. All Town can offer is some suspiciously loose wiring done one weekend, maybe next April if you're lucky.

The thoroughly "researched" match programme revealed that Town'had finished 18th, 19th and 24th in Division Two in the last three years. And they even wheeled out old Sun hack John Sadler for the obligatory "no disrespect to today's visitors but..." schtick. Hark at them, the Town that comes to us for a holiday. Perhaps we should try that when they ask for a stick of rock and a round of bingo.

Ah, the introductions. Barnard was applauded by their dentists, but booed by everyone else, while, in a surprise development, Handyside was mostly cheered and Gallimore roundly heckled. And serenaded with personalised shanties and lullabies, most of which centred upon what Graham Taylor would call "refuelling habits". Curiously, that was the one word the Town fans didn't use, being more direct in referring to Galli's Grosvenor days. If Galli won't confront his demons, then we would do it for him.

First half
Town kicked off away from the massed Mariners and fooled our haughty hosts by passing to each other. Several times. Nope, we wouldn't kick it out of play and Barnsley never recovered from the shock of the new. As the locals almost said "Eh up, what is this thing you call passing?"

Barnsley had Betsy and Rankin up front, who looked like they could run quickly, and Barnsley thought that too, with attempts to use their pace against Crane and Edwards. There was much fluffery from our foes, but nothing of consequence resulted. A few flurries of activity in the opening 10 minutes, breakaways promising something but delivering only two uninteresting shots from outside the penalty area. Was one a free kick from way out? Possibly. Another an opportunist thwack? Maybe. Davison needn't have bothered taking his towel off.

Hamilton was already infuriating many with his awful positional play and sudden narcolepsy. Burns did as he pleased, drifting off Des then running past him as Barnsley attempted to copy Town's triangles. With Edwards and McDermott sweeping, they ended up as Bermuda Triangles, no thanks to dozy Des. It wasn't great, but so what. Barnsley were sleepwalking and Town were happy with that.

After nine minutes, something happened. As Town dollied around in midfield and defence Barnsley pressed, so the ball ended up with Crane, about 10 yards inside the Town half in the centre. Crane engaged his onboard computer to weigh up all options and it came up with the answer "hoof". Strange how it always does.

To groans from the aesthetes and purists, Crane lofted the ball straight down the middle towards Onuora, halfway inside the Barnsley half. Iffy jumped, Iffy missed, as did his marker. The ball bounced forward and past Handyside, with Boulding bounding free, but drifting away from goal to the left. The ball bounced once, and Boulding, about a dozen yards out and perhaps eight wide, side-footed a half volley across Ilic and a few feet past the left post.

Five more minutes of tipping, tapping, sliding and swiping followed, during which Barnsley threatened to produce something which may have led to one of their players touching the ball in the vague direction of Davison, if they were lucky. They broke quickly, giving the illusion of danger, but did you ever doubt Edwards? A couple of times Barnsley players got to the bye-line and crossed, but... you know Davison has big hands.

On the quarter hour, Town surged down the left with Anderson fizzing like a popsicle, cutting inside and spreading a delightful and delovely pass over to the rampaging McDermott, who entered the Gallizone. McDermott advanced and slipped a pass inside to Campbell, who tapped the ball to Cas. Gallimore wasn't physically flapping his hands but we know, deep inside, Corporal Jones was fighting to get out.

Campbell ran around the back and down the line, so Cas simply stroked the ball past the retreating Galli. Campbell crossed the ball into the heart of the penalty area and the unmarked Onuora, near the penalty spot, headed firmly down; the ball bounced up high and slid a few inches past Ilic's right post. Should have scored, Iffy boy.

Go out and make a coffee, for the next five minutes were a replica of the previous five. Shuffling, scuffling and scurrying soaked up by the Town defence with ease.

After 21 of your English minutes Town bothered to attack again. Barnard walloped a free kick forward; Cas challenged and the ball ended up near Campbell, on the edge of the area. He let fly with a twisting, turning volley which flamboyantly fizzled and flooped through the area. Boulding, unmarked and just beyond the penalty spot, steered the ball goalwards and Ilic crumbled to his right. The ball was almost straight at Ilic, but he still had to move to save it, so it was a decent save, but another miss. Twenty-one minutes, three attacks, three chromium-domed chances. How frustrating.

Back Barnsley came, with attack after attack foundering on the rocks of their own rubbishness. They flattered from afar, they flirted with a glance, but they didn't even ask for a dance. No wonder they'd only scored seven goals at home.

Around the half-hour mark, the crowd woke up a bit. Barnsley broke away after a Town corner and Campbell was penalised for hunkering down with a striker. Campbell dissented mildly and the referee took umbrage, booking the tiny tartan terror and moving the ball forward 10 yards.

A couple of minutes later Barnard cleared down the line and Burns arrived late, leaving Barnard in a heap. Of course, this is far less serious than gurning, so a little lecture and a pat on the back were all he received. The locals loved Barnard being floored though.

It was perhaps around this time that Barnsley had their one effort on target during the first half. Forgive the inexactitude: the shock of them making Davison catch the ball was matched only by the softness of the strike itself. Carson, for once, managed to fly free down their left, capitalising on some Hamiltonian waywardness and a Crane lunge. He got to the bye-line and dinked a careful cross into the centre. Rankin, about 10 yards out, leant back and steered a gentle header straight at Davison.

That was it, as far as they were concerned. Town's defence was rigid and unyielding, with many an excellent block to stop the opposition getting close enough to shoot or cross. They were mostly kept out of the penalty area and crowded out when they did accidentally impinge on Davison's personal space. I think little Burns headed wide after a Carson cross, but I may have been gazing out at the surrounding hills at the time.

Town, like a metronome, attacked every five minutes. Hmm, a pretty slow metronome, that; perhaps Town bought it off e-bay from Perry Como's estate.

Enough idle gossip; you want those magic moments from Town. Well, heeeeeere's Johnnie! One-touch passing and movement down the right saw the ball flipped to Campbell five yards outside the penalty area. He caressed a curling first-time pass between Handyside and Gallimore for the swooping Macca, who'd sneaked round the back. The ball bounced about 10 yards out and wide of goal with no Barnsley defender bothering to defend. Macca continued. Ilic sprinted off his line and just managed to reach the ball before our intrepid rover, with Town getting a corner.

Nothing happened for another few minutes. There were a couple of 'almost' and 'if only' moments from Town, but then aren't there always. If only Onuora were seven foot three, or Boulding had had his hair cut.

Half time sauntered towards us like a cocky cockernee barrow boy with a barrelful of pumpkins this Hallowed Eve. And Town won another corner, this time on the left. Barnard and Anderson stood over the ball, pointing and generally wasting time. Campbell trotted up to the corner of the penalty area and no Barnsley player bothered.

So Barnard tapped the ball up to Campbell, who played the ball through to Anderson, who'd run in from the corner flag. Anderson zoomed on towards goal and, as a defender eventually lumbered out, smackerooned a low cross shot through the clucking, gargling masses inside the six-yard box. The ball zipped through unmolested and managed to avoid the diving, sliding, waving Onuora at the far post, missing Iffy by inches and the net by nanometres.

And that was all the news that's fit to print from the first half. The players walked off towards the tunnel, handily placed next to the Town fans. All the way back the Town players were accompanied by a rousing chorus of support, until every man jack of them had gone down the tunnel. You could almost see their chests puff out with pride.

Do you want it condensed like soup? Barnsley ambled, Town missed. The striped ones should have been at least two up, having had four golden opportunities presented on a silver platter, with an orange stuck in each boar's mouth. Barnsley played neatly and with a certain amount of prettiness until they got in the last third of the pitch. They were most certainly not a threat and had not even looked like shooting, let alone scoring.

It was all too easy, but that nagging fear, like a green bug-eyed monster (hey, as Cliff warbled, Galli doesn't play here anymore) was at the back of each Town fan's head. Something was bound to go wrong, and most mental fingers were pointing towards the referee, for he'd been most keen to indulge the locals. Nothing too drastic as yet, but the little things were going their way.

So 0-0 and as easy as a Sunday morning. I wish we could shoot straight, and that we'd pass the ball to Cas sometimes.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"After five visits I've finally found the chic streets in Barnsley."
"Barnsley would give Wednesday a decent game."
"Does that stand double as a cathedral?"
"Damn that Hamilton woman!"
"I think we've got the better of the left-back swap."

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time and the only moment to report was Groves' continuing obsession with clapping the Town fans, with a mutual love-fest as he made his way back to the bench.

Barnsley showed their experience by hoofing the ball out for a Town throw-in, the ball staying in play for at least 2.65 seconds. Burns obviously has Premiership class, having learned that after just a couple of weeks in this division. Clearly has a footballing brain - or maybe a football for a brain, I can't decide.

After a couple of minutes Barnsley had a shot, which was nice for them. Betsy surged down the Town right and passed inside to Rankin, who shimmied and shakeyed before slicing a drive very wide of Davison's left post. It probably looked close to the people in the terraced houses with green doors behind the old stand. The ones whose view is obscured by that old wooden horse of a stand.

The pattern of the first half was repeated, but without those Town attacks every five minutes. The Town supporters began to get a little bored, which encouraged some to indulge in the crasser depths of Yorkist baiting. Oddly enough, whenever a be-Benny-hatted youth tried to start such chanting, someone else shouted "give us a Geeeee", thus drowning them out with a song of support. And it wasn't the yoghurt-reading Guardian eaters either.

Town had an attack, which distracted many enough to abandon their preoccupation with singing towards the distant anoraks and cagoules. The ball was dinked down the right towards the corner flag. Cas didn't bother chasing it; Gallimore retreated, turned and chipped the ball 20 yards directly to Campbell. Now how often have we seen him do that. Not pass to Campbell, obviously, but pass to the opposition, normally underneath the police box.

Campbell advanced, exchanging passes with McDermott (I think) then, near the corner flag, nutmegged Galli. Cas roamed freely inside the area and got a little excited. Instead of looking up and crossing to the unmarked Onuora, Anderson or Boulding, he let fly and pummelled a great big thumper an inch or two high and wide of the angle of post and bar from a narrow angle.

Back came Barnsley and, excuse me sir, that was any good. A subtle change of tactics and formation was starting to open the Town defence up a bit. Barnsley started to dribble at speed down the flanks, forcing the defenders to retreat or commit. Town mostly coped, or should I say Edwards was magnificent in timing his interceptions, backed up by the McDermott.

But occasionally Barnsley slipped through. Rankin surged down their left, attracting defenders like some kind of minor celebrity at a Top Man sale. Further, further, closer, closer, into the area and Des diverted the ball to Betsy, who stood unmarked 10 yards out in the centre. He took one touch and then... the wheelclampers arrived to whisk the ball away to the compound. That'll be £75 please.

Then a supreme, majestic block by McDermott, just about six yards out, with Crane and Edwards providing sentry duty. Now that's defending. The resulting corner was headed over without any hint of concern down among the Town supporters. A little later, another surge, a desperate rolling, throwing, hurling litany of blocks and shackles, but Town avoided the face/egg nexus after these particular scrambles.

Still no saves for Davison to make. Oh, sure, he had to come off his line a few times to smother through balls, but the combination of Davison's glower and the Edwards/Macca shepherding routine meant the tranquil waters of Town support were never stirred. Nor shaken. Whenever pressure mounted, a Town player helpfully fell after a challenge, usually Anderson, sometimes Barnard, occasionally Crane. Play was stopped, the moment lost for our huckster hosts.

The second half was played out to a constant chant from the Town supporters, and with every minute the glee increased, for Barnsley didn't seem to have the nous to unlock the gate, nor the brawn to kick the garden fence down. They just stood outside shyly asking to come in and play.

Around the hour mark Campbell excited the excitable by trying a spectacular standing scissorkick from about 30 yards. The ball looped wide of Ilic and a foot or two wide of goal. It looked good from afar, but close up it was just one of those chip wrapper efforts, ten-a-penny in any game. Ilic didn't have to bother, so he didn't.

Anderson, the cheeky pup, lined up a free kick from around 35 yards out. The crowd hummed in anticipation, the Barnsley defence started to sink back to Ilic, as the keeper frantically flapped them forward. Anderson trundled up and lamped a right-footed shot goalwards. The ball hit Boulding's backside and, after a minor scramblette, Barnsley cleared and counterattacked.

Around this time Barnsley brought on Fallon for a forgettable midfielder, and became a little more direct. Town were pegged back, in that most of the play was up the other end. Here, sitting in our tin can, far away from play, nothing terribly interesting happened.

Town rather wasted another free kick, about 25 yards out in the centre right. As Ilic lined up his wall Barnard tried to curl the ball in from a standing position,. He ended up chipping a backpass straight into Ilic's arms. Perhaps he should have waited and just blasted it - you know, put all his weight behind it.

Up the other end they had a free kick, blasted into the wall, no worries. What do I mean no worries, for the ball rebounded out to their left and was crossed in to Fallon, who headed goalwards, forcing Davison to tip the ball over for a corner. No worries because it was never going in; Davison was always underneath the ball and just didn't feel like catching it, that's all. Only those who believe in pixies and fairies that live at the bottom of their garden would consider that a chance and almost a goal.

The referee's trickle of silly decisions started to became a torrent. All they had to do was hit the floor and they got a free kick. Though, to be absolutely fair to the referee, he wasn't above being conned by Des Hamilton, whose one contribution to the Government's anti-burglary campaign was to get Town a free kick simply by asking nicely. Good job too, as a striker was free. Oh Des, you were dreadful, with just two passes to a fellow stripey all afternoon.

With about quarter of an hour left, after a Town corner had been cleared, Carson hared off down the wing, going on, and on and on. And on, deep into the Town area, almost inside the six-yard box. As he was about to shoot, Crane emerged from a swamp and terminated his command with extreme prejudice, sliding across the area sweeping man and ball away with the most manly challenge you'll see any side of the Humber. That was the end of that.

And that was the end of Cas's afternoon stroll. Off he went to be replaced by Crowe and Town changed formation, with Hamilton sitting between defence and midfield, with the three remaining midfielders forming a narrow wedge. What a great pity for us all that Cas never had the chance to run towards Gallimore; paradise postponed until February, methinks. Mehopes, youhopes, we allhopes. There we are, a fully conjugated verb.

Hmmm, let me think - did anything else happen? With a couple of minutes left, Betsy received a pass on their left, cutting in with a chested lay-off to himself. Rankin ran across Crane and the ball was played into the penalty area. Rankin moved towards ball, Crane moved towards Rankin, Rankin bounced off, Crane and fell over. Davison picked the ball up, the crowd bayed, and the referee, surprising all, waved play on. A-ha, got away with it.

Thirty seconds later and the ball was back in the Town penalty area, deep on the right near the bye-line. Crane lunged to clear as a striker tried to get past him and sliced a huge, steepling, spiralling mis-hit towards the left corner of the box. Barnard stood underneath the ball and it bounced once. On its way down, Rankin rubbed himself against Barnard and flung himself dirtwards.

Of course the crowd roared. Yeah, yeah - don't blame you for trying. Hang on! The referee, weak, silly man, took an age to point theatrically to the penalty spot very, very slowly. Dark mutterings from the Town faithful. We waited and waited as detritus was cleared form the pitch. Well, not all, just the plastic bags. Gallimore remained and prepared to inflict a very painful dagger into the kidneys. Gallimore. Flippin' Gallimore. That's just rubbing it in, isn't it.

A hop, a skip and Gallimore thundered forward and smacked the ball low to Davison's left. Davison followed the ball, but not all the way, as the ball sailed wide of the post. Gallimore had missed. Down below their seats went the Barnsleyites; up, up and away went the Town support. It felt even better than a goal. The Town fans were delirious, spending the remaining minutes in full voice, probably raising the roof at Meadowhall, enunciating words clearly, reporting their undying respect for the Barnsley left back. Curiously, something not sung during his eight years at Town.

Galli crumbled, hiding away from the ball, refusing to turn and face his new admirers. The sheer gusto and beauty of the moment cannot be even hinted at; you really had to be there. You may think you can feel it, but to be there was to be on top of the highest mountain, breathing in pure oxygen. The giddiness of a 0-0 draw.

But lo, the game continued, with Barnsley continuing to fall when breathed upon. In added time they got one right on the edge of the area, just to the left of centre. Usually, Gallimore waddles up, but oh no, he was behind the sofa. Haywood, a substitute who had hitherto been Campbellian in his invisibility, curled the ball way over the bar.

Game over: a draw that felt like a crushing victory - that's the crushing victory it should have been. Who cares? There are very few moments like this. It transcended football; it was more than a mere game; this is what football is all about - joy in other people's misery.

After two minutes of time added solely so that we could ask Galli to give us a wave (he didn't, by the way) the game ended with the Town support almost apoplectic with joy, again cheering the players back to the tunnel. Handyside had a little hug with Groves and the Town players and management sought out Gallimore to offer him a consoling shoulder to cry on. Galli was ignored by his team-mates.

Now that's how to leave on a high. We should have won, we should have lost, we went away happy. For all their possession Barnsley forced Davison to make just a couple of very routine saves, and they didn't create any full-on chances, having resorted to falling around near the penalty box.

Town were more incisive, but lacking in ruthlessness. Overall, the team is melding together nicely, with a balance of brain and brawn in defence, with subtlety and pace further upfield. There was a tigerishness in midfield exemplified by Campbell, who twice tackled Hamilton before he could set up a Barnsley attack.

Stay calm - that early season storm is almost past. It's becoming rather enjoyable watching Town.

Nicko's man of the match
Three little bears to choose from: the irrepressible human dynamo that was Stuart Campbell; Mr McDermott, soon to be knighted for services to the art of defending; and Edwards, the surprisingly cool Hull reject. The jury was locked in heated argument for hours overnight before burning the ballot papers. We have a new Pope - Mike Edwards, understated and underrated.

Markie's un-man of the match
Leaving aside Gallimore, who had one of his finest hours in a Town game, it has to be dismal Des. An embarrassing series of panic-stricken clearances towards the end topped off an afternoon of ambling and shambling. Buck yer ideas up laddie - patience can wear as thin as Rodger's hair.

Official warning
Ah, a Premiership referee, with Premiership prejudices. Seemed to think that home teams in red should get all the decisions. Mr Wiley was a petty, weak, infuriating man who put in a tawdry performance. The early mutterings among the Mariner masses were that he was itching to give them a penalty. He timed it to comic perfection, though he couldn't count on Gallimore. So count up them points: 3.764. He didn't earn his fee today.