Taking the Mick

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 February 2004

Grimsby Town 6 Barnsley 1

A cold, sleety, snowy afternoon in the winter wonderland, with around 1,500 or so Barnsleyites expecting their usual levels of satisfaction after a day trip to the seaside. The pitch looked delicate, with splodges of brown evident, and a circle of sand underneath the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand near the halfway line. So the pitch matched the Town fans' state of mind then. You could tell how brittle they felt, for there was just one burst of a cappella unpleasantries towards the summer swingers from South Yorkshire.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Pettinger, Ford, Crane, Armstrong, Barnard, Campbell, Daws, Coldicott, Jevons, Rankin and Thorpe. The substitutes were Soames, Young, Hamilton, Mansaram and Parker. Hmmm - still no Edwards, then, and young Pettinger in goal, a slight lad with a jersey that looked a size too big for him. The afternoon that spread before us was filled with dark portents. Fear is the key.

Barnsley lined up with only Handyside, looking rather porky these days, of their ex-Town players in the starting line-up, Galliless and with the little chap with hippie hair on the subs bench. As the Pontoon pondered aloud: "Who is Michael Boulding?". Or maybe "What is Michael Boulding?". As he has rapidly found out, the manner of one's leaving is the mark of a man. They had a few big blokes on the field, with Betsy and Rocastle being Crane-like, in height if not around the hips.

First half
Barnsley kicked off towards the Pontoon and were rather sprightly for the first minute or so. A few passes here, some running around there, and, as you'd expect with a debutant goalie, they hoofed a big loopy cross in as early as possible. Pettinger dropped it as two Tykes challenged. A fortuitous free kick resulted. Knowing and worried looks were exchanged among the Town faithful, as a few throats gulped. Whoops, it's going to be one of those days. Again.

Or is it? Up Town swept to the angel of the north, Jevons, gliding across the earth, mesmerising all, a faint glow emanating from his boots. Handyside was forced to trip him 25 yards out on the Town right. Jevons lined up a right-footed curler, Barnard a left-footed whacker. The waddler waddled, the ball wobbled, Beresford wibbled as the ball zipped into his ageing stomach as he dived to his right.

Hey, you know, this ain't as bad as we thought. Rankin was certainly up for the fight and Thorpe was interestingly mobile and cute in his flicking. And then there was the resurrected one, the subject of a reverential banner in the open corner between Pontoon and Main Stand. "Jevvo" is the new Eric Clapton, apparently. Would he get Barnsley on its knees now honey?

Ah, stop getting carried away by a fleeting moment of hope, of skill; it's a mirage. After about five minutes Barnsley ripped Town apart down the centre left. A tip, a tap, Nardiello slinked and jinked through. Into the area, drifting wide of the goal and thwacking a shot at Pettinger, stood against the near post, who parried the ball aside for a corner.

A decent save, and the Pontoon overly ovated like a pregnant duck. This was more like it; this is what we're used to. The comfort of disappointment. The crowd were curiously silent, like they were awaiting bad news. And that was the whole crowd, for the Barnsley supporters were similarly worried by sheep. It all meant a rather strange atmosphere: who was more scared?

C'mon, lighten up. A dozen minutes gone, Thorpe daintily turning, impressively passing to Jevons on the right. Thorpe ghosted away into the Humber mist and Jevons twisted, turned and chipped a brilliant little pass diagonally over the defence. Thorpe bounded on and, about 15 yards out to the right of goal, attempted to lift the ball over the onrushing Beresford. Surprisingly, given Beresford's record of achievement at Blundell Park, a good blocking save was made, darn it. The Pontoon muttered like Mutley, but shook heads approvingly at Thorpe's movement. He just looks like a striker.

A minute or so later he proved it. Pettinger wellied a long kick down the centre left, which caught on the breeze, drifting, floating, going, going. Thorpe was gone behind the defence, bearing down on goal. Red flappage, red panic, red foul. Ireland seemed to hold back Thorpe as he was about to shoot, perhaps a dozen yards out. Penalty, red card, happiness. Jevons took an age, walking around nervously and curled the ball against the foot of the post as Beresford plunged the same way. The ball was then shinned out for a corner. He never looked like scoring.

A minute later there was a long, long, long delay as Monk was stretchered off after crumpling on their left, just outside the area. Yep, the Tykes were in a terrible tizz. They just didn't look bothered.

And after 23 minutes, they were looking even less bothered. Thorpe, marvellously, rampaged down the left touchline, holding off what can only loosely be called a challenge by a defender. He bounded along the bye-line and tapped the ball back to Daws, who hit a low cross to the near post. Bodies converged, the ball plopped up and someone tried a header. The ball lolloped out to Jevons, who calmly opened up his body and steered the ball into the top left corner of the goal. Nice of the Barnsley players to just stand around and admire the scenery. Perhaps Handyside was caught in a wistful daydream, harking back to his glory days. In black and white.

Barnsley managed to get worse. Another couple of minutes later, another Town chance. Crane, of all people, out on the right, stretched and slid a cross beyond the far post to Thorpe, who had again drifted away from his marker. Thorpe, about eight yards out, rose like a colossus and thundered a header down towards the near post. Beresford slid across and the ball hit some part of his body and squirmed away for a corner.

Jevons curled the corner on from the Town left, the ball arcing beyond the far post to Armstrong, who smacked a powerful header high into the net from just a few yards out. The Town fans spotted Boulding warming up under the police box and politely enquired as to whether he knew what the score was.

At some point during the first half Ford made a good tackle. Stallard was almost through on goal, which for Barnsley was a highlight: something almost happened but didn't. I know they've got three of our players, but do they really need to try on Town's footballing personality too? Nice of them, all the same.

Ah, half an hour gone, Town a whirling dervish, Barnsley a basket case. Would Town rest? You bet your sweet bippy they wouldn't. Crosses, surges, one-twos, stepovers, flicks, tricks, back-heels. Ooh, everything. Campbell, sent free down the right, crossed, but Handyside stopped it with his hands, just outside the area.

Barnard drilled the free kick across the face of the penalty box. The ball ricocheted around a bit and rolled out to the unmarked Jevons about 15 yards out in the middle. Jevons calmly strode forward and threaded the ball through the blancmange of players with the outside of his left boot, into the bottom left corner. No Barnsley player seemed to move; they stood back and joined the fans in admiration of the white-booted enigma. They too felt honoured to be in the presence of second division genius.

What's the score now? In all this excitement I kinda lost count. Shall we ask Michael Boulding? Nope, he can't count. A steady stream of Yorkists flowed from left to right, making for the exits. The police, jokers that they are, wouldn't let them out. Too right; we Town fans have suffered worse fates. Frequently. All of which meant that these fair-weather supporters stood around in a sleet storm. Cold, wet and thoroughly miserable. We had no sympathy for the red devils.

Perhaps they'll stay a while longer, for here comes the fightback. A spell of pressure from Barnsley (ie. two passes inside the Town half) and Rocastle skidded a shot across the face of goal from about 25 yards out on their left. Pettinger dived low and parried the ball aside. Nardiello scampered forward and was eventually strangled by a combination of Ford and Crane as he tried to dance along the bye-line and into the six-yard box. That was the last Barnsley attack.

Town continued to toy with these lower-league charlatans. Thorpe again drifted behind his marker at the back post, this time offside. Now that's something we haven't seen a Town striker do for 25 years (drift away from his marker, of course, not go offside). For about 10 minutes the Town players seemed to be signalling to the bench that someone was injured and eventually Ford hobbled off, replaced by Parker after 40 minutes. Nobody was sad to see the space cadet walk off, but he still got a warm ovation. Probably for being injured.

Rankin. Haven't mentioned him much. Will do now. A minute after Ford went on a space walk Town put together a purringly perfect move. Barnsley attacked down their right under the police box. The ball was eased away from the fragile pretenders to the throne. Armstrong, Barnard, then Coldicott exchanged one-touch passing: Toblerone football.

Coldicott clipped the ball to Rankin, on the touchline near the halfway line, who chested the ball down with testosterone oozing from every pore. Isaiah turned and ran up the wing as Coldicott curled a pass for him to chase. Rankin powered on, pursued by a fading figure from the past. Handyside, poor Peter, sinking, sinking into the pitch, with Rankin away. Along the bye-line Rankin turned, awaited the arrival of the former favourite, then simply stepped inside, leaving Handyside face down in the dirt.

Into the area, Beresford shaking, Rankin slapped the ball around the less-than-dapper flapper and in off the right post. A brilliant team goal with a great finish, followed by a blinding flash as a bridge was burnt a couple of yards from the Osmond Stand. Rankin raced up to the remaining raging Barnsley fans, turned his back, hopped up and down and, with both hands raised, pointed to the back of his shirt.

It began to snow.

Three minutes of added time were announced, but the number 4 appeared on the board held up by the so-called fourth official. Whatever, half time came, and more Barnsley fans went. Having been in the same position so, so many times this season the Town fans of course had so much empathy for the poor huddled masses in the Osmond End. Not. This was very reminiscent of Oldham all those three weeks ago: one team almost deliberately losing. It really was like they wanted Town to win even more that we did.

As a team, Town were excellent: Daws and Coldicott controlled the middle, with Coldicott especially not allowing any Barnsleyite time to even attempt to control the ball. He was instantly upon their ankles, gnawing and gnarling his way through bone. Jevons carried his wand around, casting spells upon any of the little pixies who came near, enchanting the crowd with his swivelling hips and magical boots. Thorpe and Rankin were the air mobile, ready to attack at a moment's notice. Handyside looked very, very ordinary as a result. We even saw the lesser spotted Campbell too, out from its winter hibernation.

This was all we could ever dream of and more. Everything was going perfectly. What could go wrong now? Oh, yes, it was snowing; it'd be just Town's luck to have the game abandoned, wouldn't it.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"It's the result of a bizarre kindling incident."
"Has Handyside gone on the Galli-diet?"
"What are the major differences between San Francisco and Cleethorpes then?"
"I have no objection to trees in the countryside."
"Typical Town - we should be seven up."

Second half
Coldicott was replaced by Hamilton at half time. And didn't it show. Barnsley were immediately in the ascendancy; territory was ceded with Hamilton standing away from his opponents, allowing them to turn, control and pass. After a couple of minutes Barnsley got a corner on their left. It was swung over to the far post where there was a bit of a huggle of players. The ball was headed towards goal and Parker cleared off the line, straight to Nardiello, a few yards out, who smacked it high into the net as Pettinger groped towards him.

And still Barnsley flowed towards Town, with some desperate tackling and last-ditch blocks. Oh dear. Stallard sent free behind the Town defence, on the centre right. Onwards, closer, closer still. Pettinger off his line. Stallard drew back his right boot and belted a low shot across Pettinger, who flicked out his foot and diverted the ball away for a corner. Well done, bonny lad!

Corner, pressure, crosses, more pressure. Crane received a boot in the head as someone tried an overhead kick half a dozen yards out. Town were holding on grimly, rocked, on the rack, that slim 4-1 lead quivering and quaking.

Ahhhhh, that's better. Thorpe flipped Jevons free, he danced, he jived, he hit the bye-line on the left and passed across the face of goal. Beresford just managed to cling on to the ball as Thorpe lurked. Rankin, almost played through the middle by Armstrong, pushed Austin into Beresford as the keeper cleared, leaving both hobbling around.

Ahhh, that's even better. Town punted a long ball down the centre left and Thorpe flicked a header on. Rankin burst past a defender, zoomed goalwards, avoided one challenge and then fell as Kay clipped his ankles, just a few yards out. Another penalty. Barnard had a long conversation with Jevons, arm around shoulder like a kindly uncle. Jevons placed the ball carefully upon the penalty spot and stroked it underneath Beresford's dive, into the centre right of the goal. Still 35 minutes left. Double figures beckon.

Hey Mickey you're so fine. What's the score?

A couple of minutes later Barnsley were awarded a free kick just inside their half. Why is Nardiello rolling around the floor? Typical Crane - idiot, idiot Crane - sent off for doing something seen by few. No-one argued, including Crane. Then Nardiello was booked after the linesman had a quick chat with the referee. Town immediately replaced Rankin with Young. Rankin was displeased with his withdrawal, being forced to drop the handful of salt which he was gleefully rubbing into the wounds of his, well, very soon to be ex-chums.

Barnsley still pressed, with Town, bizarrely, hanging on in quiet desperation. A man free, a block, a cross, a hack, a header, bodies flung hither and thither. Young emerging with the ball, Jevons - magnificent Jevons - charging down an Austin piledriver at the edge of the area. Personal safety sacrificed for Town survival. Parker, great hooking clearance, Armstrong, calm, collected, dribbling away, passing to safety.

Parker started to roam down the right, once crossing to Jevons, who headed straight at Beresford from a dozen yards. A little later he was played behind the full-back and headed on into the goalmouth, with Beresford hurtling off his line to smother. The storm weathered, literally, and Town returned to attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. Thorpe sent free down the left, towards goal, onwards, ever onwards. Daws sprinting up the right , free, arms frantically waving, but Thorpe decided to cut inside and hit a shot against a defender's legs. Daws annoyed.

With about 20 minutes left Barnsley made a substitution, bringing on M Boulding, who played out on the left. He was booed, jeered and choi-oiked incessantly. He contributed nothing to Barnsley's cause.

Town moved beautifully forward, with Hamilton bulldozing his way up the right. Jevons was unmarked out on the left, but Hamilton turned around and waltzed up a little cul-de-sac. The crowd growled, Hamilton passed to Daws who flipped the ball over to Barnard, who strode forward with intent. About 25 yards out Barnard took out his calculator and performed some elementary trigonometry, sliding a perfect pass an inch beyond Handyside's big toe.

The ball travelled into the area and Jevons switched on his cruise control. He awaited a defender, shimmied, dropped a shoulder and sent the hapless arriviste into madness. Now just the keeper to spellbind. Beresford walked forward, Jevons, near the penalty spot, feinted to shoot, watched Marvellous Marlon drop to his left, and haughtily, sumptuously, exquisitely, caressed the ball into the centre of the goal. The artist's exhibition was complete, to rave reviews. Barnsley players lay down before him and worshipped at his feet.

Again enquiries were made of Boulding's numeracy skills, which he refused to display.

Now we could rest easy, for even Town could not mess this up. Oh, sure, Barnsley had a few attempts at goal, most notably through a couple of free kicks which they spent several days arranging before chipping into the empty seating behind Pettinger. Empty? Weren't there 1,500 there an hour go? Barely a quarter remained, the pain too much for the fickle followers. And when Barnsley weren't wafting the ball into plastic they were offside, always offside. It was as if the Town defenders knew what they were doing. How queer, as they say.

There was only one other Town effort of any note in the happy quarter hour that followed the sixth goal. Jevons placed a shot a couple of yards wide of Beresford's right post after some flowing football down the right. Actually, it may have been earlier; oh, so what, it happened. Pettinger has a tendency to punch when challenged, which didn't cause any problems. Today, anyway. And, well that just about it. Unless you feel an urgent desire to have some Barnsley bookings described in detail? No. Why bother? What a glorious day to be alive and support Grimsby Town. Of all the teams to stuff, Barnsley, a "team full of rejects". Oh what irony that their rejects played wonderfully for us.

This daft season careers off in another crazy direction. Barnsley were just so feeble it defied belief, but Town, eventually, were irresistible and ruthless. In fact Town did to the Tykes what has been done to us so often this year. Perhaps they are learning? Perhaps the weak-minded have been weeded out?

Sometimes the facts should be left to speak for themselves. Is it a one-off? The last dregs of life from a dying team? Something stirred, some players tried. Town have started to climb towards the light.

Oldham to Barnsley is such a short drive, but what an eventful journey.

Nicko's man of the match
Now who could it be? Did anyone do anything exceptional? Almost perfect (hey, he did miss a penalty), playing with passion, and purpose, he was omnipresent. He was everything the Phil-o-philes believed; his second coming is official, a crowning moment of genius. Playing like this he has the feet of cod. Phil Jevons, he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.

Markie's un-man of the match
Tony Crane. The boy is an irresponsible fool; this sending off being his pièce de résistance for a season full of stupidity. He doesn't deserve to be paid.

Official warning
He didn't seem to get any decision wrong. He was incredibly good, Flabbergastingly decent. Unlike Marlon Beresford, nothing got past Mr Mark Halsey. Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time was guaranteed for all Grimbarians. Can you ref us every week? He gets 11.032. Quite staggering, eh?