Petering out

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 December 2003

Peterborough United 3 Grimsby Town 2

A faint Fenland breeze was of little consequence to the 1,000 or so travelling Townites standing and simmering behind a goal. That old cup feeling was abroad, with beachballs, high hopes and community sing-songs for the pensioners among us. The sturdy roof and concrete terracing provided a great echo chamber-ber-ber-er for a medley of hits from the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Us Town fans were so caught up in our own little social whirl that the Peterborough mascot was hardly noticed - a white rabbit. If you want to know how tall it was, just ask Alice.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, McDermott, Crane, Edwards, Barnard, Anderson, Lady Emma Hamilton, Crowe, Campbell, Onuora and Jevons. The substitutes were Hughes, Cas, Groves, Mansaram and Young. Everyone was not stood where you'd expect them to be, for Anderson started on the right of midfield, and Jevons was on the pitch. And both were white-booted. [Oh my God - Ed.]

Town warmed up with a new routine - a one-touch huddle, where Hamilton kept mis-controlling; followed by alternate headers and volleys, with Hamilton again the final fumbler. And then came the shooting practice, Jevons and Anderson taking it in turns to knock shrink-wrapped pies out of the hands of unwary supporters.

And today's programme faux pas was provided by that old "can't tell 'em apart" stereotype. "Iffy Onuora (pictured below)". That'll be that Derrick Hamilton bloke, who the programme claimed was "another well-known face in the Town side". Shall we ponder that a while and then pass over it?

First half
To a raucous roar, Town kicked off towards their grand fans, delaying the welly out of play for several seconds, and sneakily using Hamilton's shins to do the dirty work. The first ten minutes or so were fine, nothing scary, nothing tremendously exciting. The Poshite fans were sparsely sprinkled around the ground and, apart from a knot of a dozen or so burberry types to our right, eerily silent.

Town had much the better of this dull start, with high balls pumped up to Onuora causing as much concern in the heart of the Peterborough defence as it did in the heart of the Town supporters. Big balls? Hoofing? Never works for Town, does it. Well, it almost did this time. Barnard lumped a free kick straight down the middle up to the edge of their penalty area. Onuora rocked and rolled, the defender creaked, and suddenly Iffy had chested the ball down and was free. The ball bounced, bounced again, Iffy pondered, Iffy's legs moved and a defender raced across, blocking the shot. Almost, almost.

A couple of minutes later another big welly landed on Onuora, and it wasn't a literal one chucked by the more irate Town supporters. The defence parted in awe. A chorus of angels sang. Transfixed by all this space and light, Iffy bundled across the area searching for something, he knew not what. Then he found it - the safety of the known world - a defender's boot.

You may well laugh, or even cry, but this was very strange - opponents fazed by beefy route one football from Town. Town had corners, Town threw in crosses, Posh under pressure, sinking slowly towards their own goal. Yes, that's what we need - an own goal.

A shot! At last, after about 10 minutes; and it brought a flutter to the heart of those romantic souls who pine for the fjord that is pheromone Phil. The enigmatic (© Neil Woods 1992) drifter exchanged passes with Anderson after McDermott had surged forward, ripping apart the Peterborough left. A high ball controlled on his toe, pulled down, swaying, swishing, thwacking a wobbling shot towards goal from the centre right, about 25 yards out. Tyler started to dive right, re-adjusted and grappled to his left, clutching the ball at the second go.

Another minute, another Town shot. The ball was worked across the pitch and to the left. Campbell cut infield and curled a shot from the edge of the penalty area towards the top left corner. Tyler clung to the ball as it zoomed goalwards.

This was all very well, all so pleasant, Town in the ascendancy, shots, passes, jokes old and new. Peterborough hadn't got inside the Town penalty area yet. A quarter of an hour gone and nothing for Davison to be concerned about, just a couple of back-passes to launch upfield. The Poshies had buzzed, hinting at danger, but without any substance.

Then a big block of substance came crashing down upon the Town heads. Pressure, pressure, five minutes of solid attacking from Peterborough. Crosses, flicks, tricks, constant attacks forcing Crane to head, block, hook, block, head again as the tricky little strikers started to infiltrate the spaces between full backs and centre backs.

Newton crossed. The ball skimmed off a Town head and out towards Farrell, at the right corner of the penalty area. A thwacking great volley flew into Crane's body, down onto the pitch, and hooked away as all in blue claimed a penalty. How could it be a penalty? A simple grasp of geometry would tell you the ball must, could only, have come off Crane's... ribs! There's a bit of an angle at the bottom of the ribs, isn't there, and it must have come off that. It's the only explanation I can find.

The pressure ratcheted up and Town were not helped by their inability to hoof clearances very far and the referee giving a series of free kicks to Peterborough that were contentious in the extreme. And let's not forget the linesman who was an unwilling flagger. In one way this is a tribute to Fry, for his strikers have perfected the art of being offside but not 'active', or at least not active until the cross comes in and, hey presto, they are unmarked, but no longer offside.

And from one such occurrence Town should have conceded a goal. A couple of attacks repulsed back to the middle, McKenzie offside inside the Town penalty area, as the ball was played out to the right wing, behind Barnard. Newton bedazzled and bewitched Be-Barnard, dinking a cross from the bye-line into the middle of the goal. McKenzie, perhaps six yards out, unmarked, the goal a-gaping, a goal awaiting, carefully placed a header against the inside of the far post. The ball spun back and Anderson spectacularly hooked it over the bar for a corner.

The corner was rubbish, by the way, for all those wondering what happened next.

After about 22 minutes Peterborough were still having a jolly inside the Town penalty area. Was it a corner, was it a free kick, who can remember? Whatever it was, it was only half cleared. An appeal for offside was ignored as the ball was headed out towards Jevons, halfway inside the Town half. Arber got there first and lobbed the ball towards the penalty area with a big bloke heading it out to their right wing.

The Welsh waddler wobbled over towards the ball as it was crossed into the near post. Clarke, about eight yards out with Onuora behind him, rose upon his tan boots (tan!), raising both arms towards his chin. With his back to goal, Clarke appeared to nudge the ball over his shoulder with his right arm. The Town players shouted handball. The Town fans shouted handball. Clarke turned to his left and, from the edge of the six-yard box, lifted the ball towards goal. It crept under the crossbar as the offside McKenzie ran behind Davison.

Is there some rule we don't know about in second division football? What is it about handball? You don't have to speculate about the Town fans' fury, as well as the players'. A very soft goal, but probably an illegal one. You'll have to watch it on super-slo-mo to decide whether Clarke did handle it.

Ah, the Town response. Within a couple of minutes Town had been awarded a free kick about 25 yards out, in the centre. Was it really a free kick? Who knew with this ref? Peterborough's wall took an eternity to line up, and then we had half a minute of playground slap and tickles as Edwards stood at the end of the wall and was promptly shoved about. Who would take it? Barnard? Hamilton? Campbell? A-ha, I see white boots - it's Mr Jevons! A slow curler gliding towards Tyler, who shuffled left, then suddenly the custard custodian stopped at the foot of his post and twisted right, palming the ball across the line. Jevons had scored.

The rest of the half wasn't very interesting. After about half an hour Barnard dinked a free kick from left to right, deep into the Peterborough penalty area. Edwards chested the ball down to Jevons, who controlled it, shimmied right, shammied left, drifted past one, two, then placed a shot against a third defender's shins.

Town prodded the Poshites a few times, mainly down the left, with Campbell a constant menace with his purposeful, pacy probing. Crosses to the near post, crosses to the far post, all just a little too far away from a striped booty or head. Town had the ball most of the time, but Peterborough just seemed to like it that way, as their rapid attackers really did glide through the Town midfield, and then defence.

Did I say midfield? There seemed to be someone missing there. His name was Pouton, or was it Daws? Twice Crowe's ability to run very quickly saved Town, as did Crane's extremely long legs.

About 10 minutes before half time Peterborough tore Town apart down the left; Barnard a distant memory, Hamilton long since curdled, Newton placed a perfect through ball for McKenzie to run onto. Hamilton, dear, dear Des, simply wound down as McKenzie ran past him, leaving a clear run on goal. Into the area, on the left, wide of goal a shot hit low across Davison and a few inches wide of the far post.

Davison was forced to race out of his area and lump the ball into touch as Newton again bypassed Barnard without so much as a by-your-leave. How rude of him. Desco Hamilton, free, surging down the left, acres of space, a clear run, go, go, go, you're going to a go-go. Going into a cul-de-sac of his own making, the chance gone as Hamilton slowed down, overtaken by defenders and events, drifting aimlessly into the corner. Wasted.

That's just about it, apart from a weak header from Jevons from somewhere inside the penalty area. It may have been three yards out, it may have been thirteen yards out; it was too far away to tell. Oh, and that shot by Anderson that screamed just over the bar at the back of the stand against which several Poshites were leaning.

Newton and Campbell had a bit of a contretemps as Campbell eased the ball out of play. Stuff and nonsense really, though Newton was fortunate not to be booked for being stupid.

Hang on a second - is that it? Is that all from the first half? Yes, you aren't that bothered about Crane getting booked, are you? Or Hamilton, for an ostentatious dive by Farrell after he'd lost the ball? Frankly Town would have been better off if Hamilton had been sent off. For he and Barnard were having shockers.

The rest were fine: Crowe was busy, if not particularly threatening going forward; Jevons was trying really hard, even running around and not falling over at the slightest whiff of enemy odour; Onuora had been effective when standing still. The theory of Iffy seemed to worry the Peterborough defence, if not the reality. Peterborough had had three efforts on goal and Davison didn't make any saves. And that really was it.

So nicely poised, but the danger signs were there for both teams. It had a name and that name was Keith Hill.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"There's a man burning messages on his chest over there."
"This game needs a rocket up its backside."
"So have Town deferred their tax, or just not paid it?"
"I wish we'd sponsored Edwards instead of Hamilton"
"You have a concerned eyebrow!"

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time, though Town did emerge from the dressing room a couple of moon days after Peterborough. Tricked you! There was a change: Town switched Campbell and Anderson round. You'd think their mothers would notice though. They may both be Scottish but they don't look that similar.

A nice opening to the half, with Town holding the ball, passing and edging towards goal. The Town fans roared them on and the ball was worked across the pitch from left to right, with McDermott starting an overlap beyond Campbell. The ball was played up to the edge of the Peterborough penalty area and headed clear towards the centre.

Hamilton went to challenge, then stepped back. The ball was lifted over him as he watched. Thomson ran on. Hamilton watched. McKenzie lifted the ball over and through the Town defence into the space vacated by McDermott. Hamilton watched as an interested, though unconnected, party.

Thomson, in an inside left position, scurried through, with McDermott bursting his little lungs to get back. At the edge of the penalty area Macca caught him up, but was bumped away by his backside. A yard of space gained, a glimpse of goal, and Thomson smacked a low drive across Davison and into the bottom left corner from about 12 yards out.

What an excellent finish - though they were not the words passing through the vocal chords of a thousand Grimbarians at that time. Too harsh to blame Des? Making him an innocent scapegoat? Well, as this move was happening, several fans were pointing out the lack of Desmobility: that he hadn't tackled and he hadn't followed the man he was stood next to. Des hadn't, full stop, end of story, end of the Hamilton honeymoon.

Town drove forward after this, principally down the right, with McDermott and Campbell voracious in their appetite for the ball. Campbell free, crossing to the near post, no-one there. Campbell jinking away, crossing to the far post, no-one there. Campbell chasing back, hooking clear, mugging Newton to set up Town attacks. Omnipresent, meticulous in his passing, darting, dashing, a cavalier seconded to the NAAFI.

Jevons free, crossing softly to the near post as Onuora awaited from afar. Jevons free, down the middle, after an excellent Barnard flat clip. The crowd ecstatic, their hero about to score. NO! On the edge of the area, with Tyler stranded, Jevons curled the ball a foot wide of the left post. What a waste of a miss, as the linesman had managed to flag him offside when it appeared as though he'd come from behind a blue shirt. Or was it Onuora offside, several years ago?

Campbell again free behind the defence, into the area, on the bye-line. He crossed to the near post and the ball slapped off Arber's thigh and straight out to a fellow blueboy as Crowe lurked and Onuora lingered. Crowe surging, one, two, three defenders beaten, on the edge of the area, a fourth, but the fifth squeezed him like the last drop of toothpaste, the moment gone.

Town, all Town. Pressure, constant, constant pressure, the game played out in front of the deafening, but frustrated, Town support. Surely now? Crowe nicked the ball in midfield, playing it up to Onuora in the centre, and Town piled forward at speed.

Jevons was released down an inside right channel and he lured a couple of defenders over to his mesmerising shoes. Into the area, he looked up and delicately caressed a cross towards Onuora, about eight yards out in the centre. Tyler flapped as Onuora and the final defender bunched together.

The ball flew out sideways back to Jevons, about eight yards out. The goal briefly open, bodies strewn across the turf; was this Jevons' moment? He saw glory, he saw expectant, hopeful faces behind the goal, willing him to succeed. He succeeded only in failing, shinning the ball horribly, horribly wide as he tried to volley it in from a tightish angle.

After about quarter of an hour or so Anderson was replaced by Cas, with Campbell moving back to the left. Hope springs eternal, or hope eternally springs from Cas's introduction. Just after Cas came on, Campbell pinged a brilliant crossfield pass onto his toe. Cas tipped it past the full-back, almost being felled in the process. He stayed upright, flew into the area and looked up to see three Town players unmarked at the far post.

Cas rolled the ball across, but behind Campbell, who controlled it, jinked about a bit and then laid the ball back to Barnard. The 15:04 from Barnsley Central rolled forward and smacked the ball way, way, way, way, way wide and over. As Barnard approached the ball the Town fans standing on the terrace mentally sat down, for disappointment had been posted well in time for Christmas.

This was all very annoying, Town losing yet dominating, creating chance after chance, with Peterborough hardly touching the ball. "You're supposed to be at home." We wished they'd remember that.

With about 25 minutes left Peterborough got inside the Town half, which was lovely for their distant support. Nice of their players to visit them now and again. Nothing subtle, just a big hoofed clearance. Crane headed back, but Curtis Woodlouse nicked the ball off a non-existent Town midfielder. He ran forward a bit and then played the ball sideways towards Newton, about 25 yards out on the left edge of the Town area.

Danger? What danger? Crisis? What crisis? Nothing would happen here, would it? Yes it flippin' well would. Barnard ambled over, expecting Newton to dribble, but Newton raced in and hit a perfect low shot that glided an inch above the ground and straight into the very right-hand corner of Davison's goal. Just inside the post it was - perfect, absolutely perfect and unstoppable.

But still Town poured forward. On and on, crosses in, over, through and around. Blocks, headers, bundles, barges - everything and anything was used by the Peterborough defence to guard their little yellow flower in goal. Was that a hand as Crowe went through?

Cas volleyed amazingly wide after a cross was headed out to him on the edge of the area. Campbell stopped it going out for a throw-in, but only ended up setting up a counterattack. Oh no - not another sucker punch? A deep cross from their left zoomed towards Barnard, who shrivelled as Newton ran behind him and headed back across goal. McKenzie, very close, very central, headed towards the left of the goal as Davison was running across to his right. Up went an arm, over the bar went the ball. A brilliant reflex save.

That's it for Peterborough, apart from a couple of breakaways when shots were blocked. No more, nothing: they were simply clamped inside their own penalty box, unable to do anything but hack, thwack and hope the ball clear.

Another Campbell masterpiece of a pass went straight to Cas, who steamrollered forward down the touchline. He looked up, saw Jevons unmarked in the middle of the penalty area and chipped a dainty cross into the box. Tyler came off his line and stopped, frozen in the Jevons headlights. Jevons rose slowly, silently and glanced a looping header over Tyler and onto the roof of the net. A terrible miss. He sank to his knees praying for forgiveness.

Town rolling forward, crushing these Blue Meanies underfoot, half chance after half chance, squandered by slow reactions and some excellent, if desperate defending. Onwards, ever onwards, Campbell crossing, just too high, just too far, just, just, that little word just.

With about 10 minutes left Mansaram replaced Onuora. Would Flash do it again? Suddenly Cas was free after a Barnard clip through the middle of the defence. On the edge of the area with just the keeper to beat - a goal! No. The referee had stopped play to award Town a free kick for a foul on Campbell, about 40 yards out. Yeah, advantage Town eh? The crowd apoplectic, the players in a frenzy of fury.

The free kick was chipped by Hamilton to the far post towards Crane. Two Peterborough defenders collided and the ball fell behind Crane on the corner of the six-yard box. The tower of power turned and shot first time as Tyler came off his line to block. The ball ricocheted up, with Tyler and Mansaram leaping. Flash headed backwards and the ball arced gently over Tyler, onto the face of the crossbar and down. Cas stooped and conquered, heading the ball in from about six inches out.

Pandemonium at the Town end, the players wrestling each other to get the ball back to the centre circle. C'mon lads - we can still do this! Would Town escape to victory?

Town piled forward still, Cas heading into the area, Jevons falling, Crowe bundling, Mansaram wriggling. Clowns to the left of them, jokers to the right, Arber stuck in the middle, clearing. Jevons again slipping free down the left, crossing to the near post. Rea swiped clear.

With a couple of minutes left Barnard passed inside the full-back with Campbell bursting down the wing, cutting infield and back down to the bye-line. He crossed low to the near post and, here it was, salvation. Three yards out, an open goal, the ball rolling gently to him, Jevons steered a first-time pass across the face of goal and a few inches wide of the far post. The party balloons finally popped at this incredible miss. It was like Rushden all over again.

The game continued as it had all the way through the second half, but with a palpable sense of foreboding as the minutes ticked away, for it was clear that Peterborough could have put on their party hats, supped some mulled wine in the supporters' club and had a little postprandial snooze, and Town would still have managed to avoid scoring an equaliser. There were three minutes of added time, mostly taken up with Peterborough wasting time in the corners. The very last action was a Town throw-in, hurled deep into the penalty area by Cas. Crane was pushed, Crane pushed back. Referee awarded Peterborough a free kick.

And out of the cup we went. The players sank to their knees, none more so than Jevons, who looked most distraught. And so he should be. Fine though his performance had been - determined, strong, intelligent - one can't get away from the fact that he's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy for missing those two sitters.

Town really threw this one away, for Peterborough played on the break, which seems to be their forte. Two quite excellent goals and an highly dubious one shouldn't have been enough to beat Town, who, in that old phrase, frittered and wasted the chances in an offhand way. Not that Town played supremely wonderful football, but the chances were created and the territorial domination was there for all to see.

It really has got to the point where they need a clip round the ear from teacher.

Nicko's man of the match
Two candidates. Representing the Popular Front of Grimsby we have that sturdy oak Crane, a colossus at London Road. But the choice of the Grimsby People's Front is Stuart Campbell for an effervescent, scintillating and, above all, determined performance on both wings. Dribbling, surging, tricking, treating. He had it all, serving up chances to the profligate ponies up front.

Markie's Unman of the match
For the third time this season, thus earning to right to keep the title forever, Mr Hamilton, who is fast approaching Widdrington territory as the fans just groan when he gets the ball or hear his name. As a management consultant would report, he successfully initiated a ball/foot nexus in the 53rd, 77th and 78th minutes. With clarification on the word 'successfully' required: he touched it and it didn't go directly to a Peterborough player. Does he think football is a giant game of tiggy where the aim is to avoid contact with any object within the field of play?

You want to know the killer fact? Someone shouted out "bring back Stacy" and nobody demurred at that suggestion. Even with half a leg, Coldicott would tackle more.

Official warning
K Hill is a rubbish referee. He had a bizarre interpretation of handball, where the hand of cod seemed to stretch from tip of finger up the arm and down the ribs towards the waist, but those Poshies were armless. He spent the second half awarding free kicks to Town when Crane rather obviously crumbled under the slightest touch, but that seemed the only thing he would give Town. He was determined not to let the game flow, and was a general pest, especially to Town. Anything above 2 would be taking Christmas cheer too far, so 1.3402 is a mighty generous mark, but he's getting it anyway.

And don't get me started on the linesmen. One flagged for everything, the other for nothing. Guess which one did the Town defence?