The dogs of bore

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 December 2003

Peterborough United 0 Grimsby Town 0

A bright day with a cold, cold wind blowing through our souls and straight into the stand holding 600 or so Town fans. Winter woollies a must, hats optional. The players warmed up as if they'd rather have been somewhere else, somewhere else warm, which would be anywhere else really. A few tried to keep the chill away by indulging in some close-knit one-touch passing, but Des kept letting the side down, shinning the ball into the stands. Hey, it's not the real thing, it doesn't matter - it'll be all right on the night.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, Cas, Crane, Edwards, Young, Campbell, Hamilton, Pouton, Jevons, Onuora and Boulding. The substitutes were Groves, McDermott, Anderson, Mansaram and Ford. Hmmm - bit of a change, eh. With Cas at right-back and Young at left-back, at least Town wouldn't be dwarfed, which was lucky as that old chucker Andy Legg appeared on the pitch. Now stroke your beards and count to three... what would the Peterborough tactics be?

Them? Out went Newton and Clarke, and in came Logan and Willock, so at least that pesky Newton wasn't going to rip us apart again.

Even the traditional beach ball tennis couldn't warm the terrace up, nor the big balloon release. They just went straight up, up and away, never to be seen again.

First half
Peterborough kicked off towards the very vocal Town support and within five seconds had won a corner simply by chipping the ball over the top and crossing. Edwards cleared inside the six-yard box. It rapidly became clear that this was a very different Posh from the ones we'd previously played this season - hoof, hoof, hoof, welly, welly, hoof. It was like playing a third division team: passing is for wimps. Subtlety is a range of soft furnishings from Binns.

The first long throw arrived direct from Luton Airport after two minutes, around the same time that Peterborough got another corner. Arber rose, Arber headed goalwards, Pouton nodded the gentle looper off the line at the left post. For the first five or so minutes the Poshites' basic humpings put Town under pressure, the ball constantly arcing above the stands, swirling in the breeze and plummeting towards Davison.

Town passed the ball a few times, before someone curled it upfield to Onuora. Result: always a free kick to Peterborough. The game sank into a weary, dreary pattern. Posh hoof, Town head out for throw-in. Legg hurls, Davison catches, Boulding offside/Onuora fouled. Posh welly upfield, etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum, forever and ever, there was a kind of hush all over the ground, please let me out of here. It was the footballing version of being on hold listening to Richard Clayderman.

A brief respite, a moment of hope. Young bounding free down the left, skipping past a challenge, exchanging passes with Jevons, rampaging almost. A deep cross to the far post sailed over Campbell, was retrieved and... what an interesting article in the programme that is. Did anything happen out there?

Just for a change, Legg hurled a long throw into the penalty area and Crane headed it clear. Were the players as bored as us? Was one of them about to do an impression of Simon Ford and actually fall asleep while running? Ooh yes, Tony Crane, twice treading on the ball while fiddling about for no reason near the halfway line. Cas saved his mate Craney with a sprint and shoulder routine, with Edwards saving Private Crane the second time.

Offside, offside. Peterborough caught the same cold, with Willock proving Town's best defender, clearing danger whenever it raised its tiny cold head above the wall. Willock, more a description than a name, never seeing Logan's runs.

Ooh look, another long throw! Ooh look, the Poshies managed to head the ball too, Arber rising like a soufflé about 12 yards out to head nicely high and wide. The ball merely plopped onto the ground to the left of goal as Davison walked across to sign autographs for some small boys.

Jevons! Twisting, turning, crossing, but slump those shoulders, for nothing happened. Another Legg launch drooped to the far post and Arber, again, headed goalwards. Davison, clearly bored and wanting something to do to stop his brain seizing up, tipped the ball over the bar when he could have caught it easily. Can we just stop this nonsense? Neither side is going to score. Let's save the planet's dwindling resources by turning off those floodlights right now.

Spoke too soon. A mistake by Cas as the ball was lumped behind him saw a small Poshie barge him off the ball inside the area, to the right of goal, and pull a short pass back to Woodlouse. Davison raced off his line to block the so-called shot. The ball deflected up off Davison's body, arching up near the post, where two Town defenders wellied clear.

Any more for any more? Thompson dragged a shot from outside the area several feet wide of Davison's right post. In a normal game this wouldn't even be considered worthy of mention. It was a big highlight today. And then there was the big controversy of the first half, when Town only half cleared some lumpy stuff from the homesters. Legg, 20 yards out, let fly as Hamilton slid across and completely miscued, slicing the ball over the bar. The referee gave a corner. The Town players were furious. How could anyone believe that Hamilton would touch the ball?

Cas had a shot, in the sense that his right boot wafted near the ball. The said inflatable then moved in the general direction of their goal and the Peterborough goalkeeper picked the ball up. That was Town's attack. That was the first half. That was a waste of everyone's time and money.

Why dignify that rubbish with analysis? Some spectators actually left at half time. Half the players could have and no-one would have noticed.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"That's not the kick-off time - it's the ticket price."
"Town didn't even have a shot in the warm-up."
"Is your hair wet or have you gelled it to keep warm?"
"Young looks like a left-back today."
"You can't park in a line of three."

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time, although Town came out with a different attitude and had a real go for the first quarter of an hour. Anything you can do we can do better, for Cas had a long throw too, which fizzed in to the near post; Edwards headed on, and Onuora turned and tried to lift a volley over the keeper. Tyler just managed to punch the ball clear before Iffy's boot made contact with a football for the first time since Christmas Day 1998.

Pressure, pressure, the ball pinging around in front of Tyler, but never near him. Crosses, corners, Crane and Onuora marking each other out of the game, Onuora blocking a goalbound Crane header at the far post. Have Town forgotten how to pass, why to pass, to pass to score, to shoot, to do anything worthwhile? Sure, Town had the ball, with Pouton trying, oh so trying, to calm play down, to bring some dignity to events. Unfortunately his calming influence didn't extend to his feet, as his passes were uniformly underhit, a contagious disease that spread to Jevons too. Or perhaps they are colour-blind and can't see blue shirts.

Boulding? A dreadful game: weak, unperceptive, but he was the central character in the second big moan of the game. The ball was lifted over the top of the Peterborough defence, just right of centre. Arber and Boulding held hands, then had a little wrestle. Just as Boulding appeared to have rolled free, Arber's left arm appeared as rigid as a juggernaut. Boulding ran into it, fell down clutching his face and the ball was kicked out of play. No free kick, and a collective shout at the ref and linesman. Some refs do, some refs don't, and this was a don't-er, or was I mishearing my fellow Grimbarians?

Do you really need to know about Cas's volley which drumbled through the penalty area, well wide? It was more of a shot than his effort in the first half, and that's just about all you could say about it. Is it possible to be bored to death? Peterborough, what were they doing? Nothing. I can't remember Davison touching the ball in the first part of the second half. They did have some long throws though, which filled even their fans with inertia. Trying to remember this game is like staring into the abyss: is there anything in there? Will I come out the other side a sane man?

Wahey - at last something to talk about. Fry took off his rubbish third division strikers after 67 minutes, replacing them with the octogenarian Clarke and Fotiades, and deploying to a three-man strike force.

Straight away this almost brought dividends as Town should have scored. Jevons won the ball and played a superb little pass through to Onuora. Yeah, like Iffy'll race clear like a hare, a gazelle, or maybe a one-legged hippopotamus. Surprisingly, a defender managed to get back and slide the ball away from the big man, but only back to Jevons, near the edge of the area, who again released the tiger. Roar, paw, poor, Onuora tripped over the ball and managed to knock it sideways to Boulding, about 15 yards out to the left of goal.

Boulding's shot was deflected across the area. Jevons strode forward and filled the void, side-footing towards the top left corner. The ball hit a defender in the face and spun a yard wide of the left post. A right Keystone Cops hashing by both teams.

The game was not so much drifting towards 0-0 as set in quick drying concrete, with steel girders for support, with superglue affixing the deep piles driven into the ground. And on days like these don't you just know Town'll mess it up with a calamitous bit of slapdashery.

Hello Des! Town indulged themselves in some passing between the defenders, across the back line, to Young, to Pouton, who noticed Des free on the halfway line. Hamilton decided to knock the ball back to Edwards first time. As Edwards controlled the fire-encrusted meteor, a striker ran from behind him, and nicked the ball to Farrell, near the halfway line on their right.

Farrell zoomed clear towards goal; Edwards got back and half stopped him near the corner of the penalty area. Farrell stepped inside Edwards and then another defender, and was free with just Davison between him and unlikely glory. Farrell seized the moment and thwacked a right-footed drive around Davison, over and wide of the top right corner. Nice to see you, to see you nice. Didn't he do well?

This was their chance. Full stop. That was it. Clarke did manage to burst clear a couple of minutes later but shot straight at Davison from a narrow angle. It didn't look particularly interesting from 100 yards away. And they flung a few crosses into the crowd too. Did I mention those long throws? The Poshites nearly scored from one, you know, when Cas flicked on towards the right-hand corner. Davison slowly sailed to plunge upon this stray cat.

But the sum total of the Poshies was a few more chucks, some rubbish corners, some barging, and some dribbling from Farrell. It all explained why they are down at the bottom. Fortunately, Fry didn't think to bring on Newton, who relishes Town full-backs.

Town had the better chances to do something wonderful, but failed every time. The nearest and dearest of these knocking opportunities was our old friend Michaelmas Boulding. Hamilton, in the centre of the pitch, bicycle kicked the ball over the top. Boulding got in front of the defender and was free, bearing down on goal from the centre right. From about a dozen yards out and just wide of goal, Boulding mumbled a soft right-footed shot straight into the keeper's arms.

Boulding, again, was sent freeish on the right, wriggled past a defender, had a shot blocked from a narrow angle and the ball bounced back to him. With Pouton and friends queuing up unmarked inside the area, Boulding dragged a first-time shot against the first defender's shins. Pouton walked over and told Boulding off.

Oh, I forgot - Young was replaced by Ford with 15 minutes left, just after he'd received some treatment for something or other. Ford wasn't noticeable, so this suggests that he didn't make any monumental errors. But then again, who'd have noticed, who'd have cared. Brains were being sucked out of heads by the sheer tedium of the torpid trash in front of us.

Sometime during the afternoon Campbell tried a Childsian volley as the ball dropped from the stars. His cross-shot zoomed low through the area and was volleyed clear by a defender a few yards out.

Finally, the vocal minority got the thing they wanted, Onuora was replaced by Mansaram with just less than 10 minutes left. Mansaram was Mansaramian, all enthusiastic bundling, good, bad and ugly in the some movement. A wonderful chasing down of a chip into the right-hand corner, robbing the defender, and then... passing directly to the next one, five yards away.

At the end Town won a free kick near the left corner of the Peterborough penalty area. No Barnard, no Anderson, so only Jevons to take it. Everyone in the ground knew where the ball was going, and Jevons duly curled it around the wall and into the side netting, causing an unnecessary frisson of excitement in those Town fans rattling their jewellery in the seats at the side.

There were five minutes of added time, and after a couple, to a chorus of indifference, the referee gave up and ended the game. Oh, and the obligatory daft booking for Crane. Injured when clearing and receiving treatment off the pitch when Legg hurled a mighty arrow into the centre, Crane ran back on and tackled Legg as he picked up the clearance. Seems the referee hadn't allowed him to come back, so a yellow card was wafted.

Sometimes you can have too much information, and if you've got this far, you have. All you needed to know about this game were three words: long throw, offside. Peterborough were dreadful, without any style or wit, yet Town managed to match them. It's games like these that show why Town won't go down, but won't go up either. For they lack the will to win, to be ruthless, to be professional. Or perhaps the win bonuses aren't that generous, or take the payers into a higher tax bracket, with the cost/benefit analysis falling on the side of 'why bother?'.

It was like watching a schoolboy game.

Nicko's man of the match
No-one outside the defence did anything worthy, though at least Pouton tried to do things properly. Edwards, the Farrell-robbing moment aside, was an unobtrusive rock, though overall the only Town player to enhance his standing in world football was Greg Young, who looked confident and competent, even causing minor peril to Peterborough when striding forward.

Official warning
Determined not to make a life-changing decision, such as moving to Australia or sending someone off, Mr Penn was a bit of a cowardly green custard. Was he a homer, or just afraid to do something that might make people shout at him? Arbitrary, and mostly arbitrary against Town, he wasn't awful, just average for this division. There have been worse this year. He gets a 4.872.