De profundis: Peterborough (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 January 2006

Grimsby Town 1 Peterborough United 2

The following is uninspired by a true story.

A clear afternoon in the afterthought of football with 350 to 400 Poshites lined up against the Osmond wall. In the week of the re-relaunched stadium the missing millions continued shopping. Town's fan base is reducing like rhubarb jus: just keep adding sugar and it'll eventually set.

Town lined up in the 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Bloomer, R Jones, Newey, Parkinson, Bolland, Woodhouse, Cohen, Reddy, Mendes. The substitutes were mutton-chop Gritton, Bleach-Boy Barwick, Downeydude, Croft and Toner. Tiny Woodhouse looked lost, the shirt too big for him in mascot manner. He stood in the centre, the ghost of a smile as he looked around and saw Bloomer at centre-back and Mendes up front with Reddy. Or maybe he was wondering how Caravan's In the Land of Grey and Pink is considered the second best prog rock album of all time, ever. Why was he looking at Reddy when he thought that?

The bit-part also-sats have gone a bit weird. Gritton is preparing for his role as Uncle Pumblechook in the next Caxton Theatre production of Great Expectations by growing the most ridiculous beard this side of the sixth form college and Barwick has dipped his head in some potent sheep dip: it must be a non-League thing. Toner wore some enormous pantaloons. Maybe they are all going to a fancy dress party later.

Dish of the Day: is now being written in riddles. Why is the potato not a vegetable? Because it's an aardvark, obviously. Actually it's because it's a tuba; so it's a member of the brass section of the food orchestra. You can blow your own potato at the next pub quiz knowing that. We were also informed that mashed potato is not innocent. So a bag of spuds from Tesco will do wonders for Humberside constabulary's clearance rate.

Let's start the game with a riddle: now Grimsby had a donkey that everyone admired; temporarily lazy and permanently tired; a leg at every corner balancing his head. Who could it be?

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond stand, with Newey getting all excited by having some new children to play with: he didn't immediately whack it down the left touchline for a goal kick. He waited a few seconds, passed inside to Woodhouse, received the ball back and then whacked it out for a goal kick. Oh you tease, Tom.

Peterborough were playing in all yellow. Why? Newcastle played in all blue against Town; Rochdale did too. Is it riddle day? Has anything happened yet? Newey floated a corner quite exquisitely into the waiting arms of Tyler.

Woodhouse shirked his first two challenges, giving the Sladosceptic tendency an early opportunity to gargle. The Gargling Gargoyles of Grimsby: weren't they big in the folk scene in the early 60s? I bet Paul Simon never slept on their sofa. Newey floated another corner quite exquisitely into the waiting arms of Tyler.

Posh pressure: Town trembling, a shambles. The ball ping-ponging inside the Town area, skipping off home boots, knees, heads and tails with defenders scattered like bad seeds on the ground. Fortunately Peterborough decide to cross gently, despite having three players free against Newey, who was lost on the right. Not to mention the big bloke unmarked in the centre as Jones amused himself with some musical statues. No, I didn't mention it; forget you ever read this. This paragraph will self-destruct in ten seconds. Please leave the area for your own safety.

Reddy, set free at a narrow angle on the right after some whipping and dipping from Woodhouse and Mendes, had a shot blocked for a corner. Hmmm, interesting: a pass and flick, just like old times. Newey floated yet another corner quite exquisitely into the waiting arms of Tyler. Woodhouse, drifting infield, espied a small bald man on the edge of the area, twisted back on himself and ladled a pass between two defenders, straight to Parky's toe. Eyebrows raised by eighteen degrees. That was football, that was.

In the tenth minute, finally, something to write home about: Dear Mum, Town were acemer for six seconds. Rather than walloping madly, Newey, underneath the Police Box, surrounded by yellow, passed the ball a few feet infield to Woodhouse. He tapped the ball back to Parkinson, and circle was squared when Newey completed the triangle. The ball was played back to Woodhouse, who rolled it into the centre, where Mendes had drifted away from his marker. He turned, za-zoomed and stroked a perfect pass out to Cohen on the right wing; the crowd rose, there was noise, there was hope. Cohen cut infield, baboombled past two high-kicking defenders and, 20 yards out just to the right of centre, drivelled a low shot a couple of feet wide. Take a few seconds, read it again. No, you weren't dreaming: football.

A few minutes later, when the ball eventually returned to earth following a series of drop-kicks and hacks from Bloomer, Jones and Mildenhall, Woodhouse again passed intelligently, with style and purpose, towards Mendes, who flicked Reddy free immediately. Woohoo, this is good! Nothing came of the Reddy run, but the intent was there, the desire to play football as we knew it.

Peterborough were slightly irritating, keeping possession and rolling the ball to Crow, the dumpy gnome, who acted as a useful third centre-back for Town. The Town fans decided he was worthy of derision and girth-based taunting. Town fans do keep forgetting their Oscar Wilde, don't they. For a footballer, if there's one thing in the world worse than being taunted by the Pontoon, it's not being taunted by the Pontoon. Town conceded a corner when Newey chased back and cracked a pass back to Mildenhall, who ambled to his left and miscontrolled the ball. Nothing happened as a result, but it was a little clanging bell that Town's defending was lacking in some way.

Town had a free kick and, for the first time today, Newey failed to fail, pumping it in the vague direction of the penalty area. The ball dropped short of the keeper; there was some minor panic, a little scrambled egg on toast, and the ball was cleared. Slowly, slowly Town started to turn the handle on the Blundell Park vice, squeezing the Poshies back, with Woodhouse and Mendes continuing a short song and dance revue in the middle; belting out some old favourites like the short pass to feet ra-ta-ta-ta and the old one-two, the old one-two, you'd better never bother with the old-two. Oh, look: a corner. Jones and Arber strained, the ball looped out again for another corner. Newey floated the ball quite exquisitely into the waiting arms of the waiting Tyler. The whole crowd was waiting too.

The next ten minutes were quite exciting, with the merest droplets of adequacy dripping out of the Town tap. Woodhouse and Mendes, again, flicking and slipping Reddy free, St Ledger saving the day with a last-gasp stretch and toe-poke out for a corner. Well, not all the time: some things never change. Newey pumped a free kick into the Peterborough area. No-one challenged; the ball gently floated in to the centre and dropped perfectly into the keeper's arms. Tyler scrumbled a fly kick straight to Mendes, 35 yards out, who immediately tickled Reddy free inside the area. Reddy looked bored, allowed the defender to barge him away towards the corner, then suddenly awoke and shruggled Arber away. Reddy raced along the bye-line and passed the ball back to Cohen, unmarked towards the corner of the penalty area. The Gaz-guzzler gurgled goalwards, miscontrolling past two defenders before having a shot blocked. Dilatory dawdling and doh!

They had a shot: nice. One of their central midfielders, probably Gain, bashed the ball from 25 yards straight at Mildenhall's nose. No worries.

Back Town went with a whirl and curl, Woodhouse on first violin, Mendes on timpani, Cohen and Parky on triangles. And finally it came to pass: we passed, we scored. Cohen somewhere, Mendes everywhere, the ball released behind the defence on the right. Reddy, on the edge of the area, burst infield, cut back and, from a narrow angle about ten yards out, tried to curl the ball around the keeper into the far corner. Yellow bodies, slow, nowhere to go. But oh that magic feeling: the ball appeared to deflect off a defender and bumble into the bottom left corner of the net as Tyler sighed to his right. Half an hour gone, all is now right with the world.

Off they kicked with Peterborough passing, Mariners unmoved, the ball dropping behind Bloomer 35 yards out on the right. Bloomer, facing the Pontoon, held off Logan, who did the decent thing and at least allowed our man to keep his shirt after the mugging. Gain burst through as Bloomer tussled with Logan and headed straight for goal. He kept going; Jones ran back in a straight line, parallel to Gain. Gain reached the edge of the area as Jones hesitated, and continued to run parallel. Gain carried on, and about eight yards out to the left of goal simply passed the ball through and under Mildenhall.

From this moment Town were useless. Their game descended into a stodgy gloop, devoid of skill, devoid of confidence. Parkinson's flimsiness returned: he had the presence of a paper bag, which on windy days is prone to drift across the pitch and get caught in a vortex underneath the Smiths/Stones/Findus stand, forever twirling around in the same pocket of air, in its own world, dissociated from the rest of Blundell Park.

The angry silence returns. There ain't nothing going on.

The BBC is holding a competition to mark the anniversary of the Humber Bridge. They want a picture that encapsulates its beauty, its contribution to social cohesion. There's £500 of stuff as the prize, which should fetch £20 on eBay. Town could enter it with a digitally enhanced photograph of Futcher and Jones limply holding a skipping rope. Now that's art and politics. A sure-fire winner and a big boost to KTMA, that famous wartime comedy set in Foaming-at-the-Mouth, now known as the Main Stand.

Unlike Gary Cohen you haven't missed anything while you have been culturally tickled. A very large ship sailed by, and a helicopter was seen way off towards Spurn Point. They still didn't find Tom Newey's pass. That ball has gone forever. It's a tax write-off.

Near the end of the half Town strung three passes together. Reddy roamed down the right, Mendes shuffled the ball on and Woodhouse managed to Pouton a left-footed shot 23 yards wide, much to the audible pleasure of the away support. Our immutable law of the ex is that they won't score against their old club. Woodhouse did manage a fantastic 40-yard pinpoint volleyed pass to Cohen, but Cohen was in one of his Simon Ford space cadet moods, so the moment was lost.

As the game trickled down to half time the Town defence fell asleep, allowing Crow to bounce clear on their centre right. He advanced into the area and, about a dozen yards out to the right of goal managed to scoople a terrible sand iron into the bunker behind the fifth hole at Cleethorpes pitch and putt. Mildenhall looked embarrassed, but not quite as embarrassed as when he fell over doing a goal kick: his kicking was sub-Coynian today.

And so was his heading. In added time, as the Twixes were being unwrapped, Peterborough lapped the ball down the middle. It bounced midway inside the half. Mildenhall came a couple of yards outside his area and cushion-headed the ball away from a striker, but straight to Gain, about 30 yards out. Gain looked up and saw the goal devoid of stripeanity and all the Town defenders running away from him. He controlled the ball and gently chipped it over Mildenhall and against the inside of the right post. The ball bounced across the face of goal and Newey licked it clear. A suitable way to end the half.

You've just read it, you can tell what was what. Town's promise of the better life: a goal, a daft concession and then nothing. Bloomer battled well enough, but the elixir of Jones is wearing off. We need to find that cave with the eternal flame again. Macca was non-existent, Newey unfortunately omnipresent in inanity, the wingers were wrongers and Reddy only partially interested. After the goal was conceded the ball kept being launched rather than passed. It all fell back to the status quo, and who wants that these days?

And this was the good half.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"We've all had those really weird dreams when we've had too much raspberry schnapps and cheese vindaloo."
"Woodhouse will soon have all that passing nonsense knocked out of him."
"There are a lot of pies between here and the sea front."
"Mendes looks like an irritating player." "To us or them?"
"If you play like a fourth division team you are a fourth division team."

Second half
Peterborough were made to stand around a for a minute or so in the creepingly biting wind before Town came out. Sir Macford did not emerge at half time, being replaced by Croft.

The game continued as it had paused, allowing food to be digested. Town continued to hit the ball towards where Reddy might be, as he may be able to run faster than them, sometimes. The ennui stretched before us like a conga line at the Women's Institute: an unappealing thought unlikely to make grown men weep with pleasure. Someone, deep within the bowels of the Pontoon, complained that Town had "two men who can't edit" up front. Indeed; what's the point in crossing the ball if they are using different font sizes and line spacing? It looks so unprofessional.

Run Reddy, run Reddy, run, run, run. Posh pushed back, Cohen surging, Newey supporting, Mendes chest-bursting his way out of the egg to cross through the area: cleared for a corner. Bloomer bundled towards the ball, a large defender obscured the sun and the moment passed without need for a vicar. Town pressure: Woodhouse free on the left, inside the area, chippled a cross to the far post, where two defenders lurked and licked the ball away for a corner. No Town players near. Newey failed to find his man, a defender cleared, rather than Tyler catching.

Have another go Tom. A free kick to Town after Reddy's hair was parted unnecessarily. Bloomer chugged his marker and in the melée tried some scat jazz singing. And a shot, which was blocked for another corner. Again Newey slapped it into the middle and the ball bombled about between various rubber bands, falling to Cohen, 12 yards out to the right of centre. For a short moment he was unmarked with a clear shot at goal, but Cohen is not a man to do things by instinct. He wishes to consider the lily, the cheesemakers and whatever happened to Leon Trotsky. He hurried his shot and clapped a slidey squiff a few inches above and beyond the top left corner.

Back Town growled, forcing yet another corner. Newey again avoided Tyler, and everyone else, setting the Poshies up for a Benny Hill chase down to the Osmond end. Jones scampered the ball away using the nobblier of his knees. The corner, from their left, was taken short and clipped to the centre. One of the hairier defenders skimped the ball down towards the bottom left corner. Mildenhall saved theatrically, but easily.

At some point early on in the half something tells me Newey did something good. A fast breakaway down their left, Town in tatters, the cross fizzling towards the near post, and Newey slid across and sent the ball away for a corner. This may have been in the 5Second minute. Something happened in the 5Second minute. Maybe it was when we first noticed the referee's elastic moustache.

Ah, now the 57th minute was pretty important too. At a Town corner Woodhouse was seen stretching his legs and back, like athletes do when they want to avoid cramp. He was barely seen again, but remained on the pitch. Perhaps he needed a rest. Oh yes, the corner. Newey floated it quite exquisitely into the waiting arms of Tyler.

Twenty minutes into the half the referee stopped play and ordered that a paper bag be taken off the pitch as it floated underneath the Smiths/Stones/Findus stand. You may read this in your daily newspaper as "Gritton replaced Parkinson". Don't be fooled: that's just journalistic code. A bit like saying in an obituary that someone lived life to the full, or never married. Gritton played in the centre with Reddy while Mendes was sent to a gulag in Siberia, under the permafrost gaze of the Findus/Stones/Smiths standers.

Town were briefly threatening, with a couple of diagonal passes causing consternation in the heart of the Peterborough defence. Reddy twice almost burst through on the keeper, but lacked a little interest in switching on his turbo booster pack. Mendes twizzled around two defenders on the left, sheer pace and brute force levering his markers away. He cut back from the bye-line and crossed low though the centre of the box. No Town players moved, instead watching as the ball perfectly bisected them and was thighed away by a perturbed Poshite straight to Bolland. The newly frizzed Yorkist dragged a shot through a thicket of legs and a yard wide of the right post.

With 20 minutes left Town attacked again, with Mendes peeling away from his marker and drifting in towards the edge of the penalty area. He ushered to Gritton, indicating precisely what he meant to play, but Uncle Pumblechook was already sat in his armchair, tartan rug upon lap, sleeping cap upon head, waiting for his cocoa. The incisive pass rolled gently to Tyler, to much unhappiness in the Pontoon.

Peterborough just got on with life, not dwelling upon the fortunes of bore, and sauntered off down their left. The ball was lifted down the flank and Logan ran after it, catching it up near the bye-line and lifting a dinky cross to the near post. Are we worried? Do we care? A two-foot six-inch laughing gnome can't outjump Jones the Sticking around a lot longer, can he? Crow, unmarked near the edge of the six-yard area, leapt up, nodded and steered a header across Mildenhall and into the bottom left corner. Now there's a surprise. I'd half forgotten they were still playing. How did he manage that? Chuckling away, laughing all day. We ought to report him to the Gnome Office.

Town's response was immediate: a corner. No danger then. Ah, but that's where you're wrongish. Style and sophistication took no part in the moment; bodies flew, the ball scrimbled about seeking oxygen and daylight, and fell to Mendes on the edge of the area, to the right of centre. He hit a first-time shot through the diving defenders and the ball cannoned off Tyler's chest and back out towards the penalty spot. Reddy and Gritton lurked, but defenders bumped them away as the keeper scrambled on all fours, sacrificing dignity for points.

Still Town eschewed the midfield, where Woodhouse was the pendulum that wouldn't swing, and Bolland was all shins and shoulders. Once again Reddy almost got between defenders and keeper, but slowed at the last. Mendes spun beautifully but was felled. The illusion of pressure, the semblance of hope.

With 12 minutes left Croft chipped the ball diagonally down the pitch towards Gritton. The ball sailed overhead and over the defence. Reddy raced through, Tyler raced out. They both slid towards the slowly rolling ball and collided on the left corner of the area. Both players remained motionless, the ball free, play continuing, the crowd frantic, the Poshies frenzied. Mendes surged on and reached the ball just before a centre-back, who hustled him and forced the Balham battler out of the area. Mendes jinked and jived, hit the bye-line and rolled the ball to the near post. Gritton hid behind Carden and watched with disappointment as the ball was returned to its maker in China, with only two bounces.

Reddy eventually got to his feet but Tyler didn't move. After a couple of minutes it was clear he was to be replaced and Peterborough had no reserve keeper on the bench. There followed a further couple of minutes of arm-waving and arguments, with Barry Fry forced down from the top of the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand to issue instruction to the captain, while the assistant manager did the jukebox jive on the touchline. The substitute eventually ran on with the gloves and Logan picked up the green shirt, put on the gloves and positioned himself at the far post. Great, this is our lucky day. Yes, they have no goalkeeper, they have no goalkeeper today.

After nearly five minutes play resumed and Town piled on the pressure. On themselves. They were nothing short of pathetic. Here's the full list, leaving out no detail no matter how small, of all the things Logan had to do:

  1. Croft mis-hit a shot from 25 yards which apologised to each and every player as it bumbled through to him. He caught it eventually as Town players watched from a safe distance.

  2. He dropped a cross as Town players watched from a safe distance.

  3. He took a goal kick.

  4. He tucked his shirt in a few times.
The referee managed to find eight minutes of added time and played nine. In all Logan was goalkeeper for 15 minutes. Town neither bombarded him with high balls nor peppered him with shots. There were crosses to the near post, when four players marked each other at the far post, oh, and to the near post, when three players marked each other on the penalty spot. Peterborough played with heart, conviction and no little intelligence. The added time was mostly taken up with daft Town fouls, stupid Town fouls, faux punch-ups and Peterborough time-wasting in the corner. Bolland, in particular, spent minutes on end deflecting the ball out for throw-ins and corners. Town players were even bravely blocking crosses when there were no Peterborough players in the Town area, giving away further corners.

There was a mass bit of shoving when Bolland flew across a defender and caught him late and often. A defender and Gritton were also booked, Gritton because of his bad beard. A minute later Jones was rugby-tackled off the ball by their substitute. Neither the referee nor linesman saw it, but gave Town a free kick anyway. Mildenhall ran up into their penalty area, Newey curdled it high, the ball was headed into the six-yard box and, of course, no Town players were anywhere near. The ball was big-booted towards Copenhagen.

Mildenhall remained upfield for one final desperate throw of the dice which had long been placed back in the box; the box was in the cupboard and everyone had already gone home. In came the cross, out went the ball, Bolland waited 25 yards out. The ball dropped, Bolland's boot flashed and the ball soared a yard over off his shin. A suitable way to end the game

First-half hope gave way to the typical Town turgid lumps. There must be more to Town life than hoping Michael Reddy fancies running quickly today. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole: the Slademachine is badly malfunctioning; all these new parts from different suppliers are just not working. Town look like a team in transition, not confident winners. Woodhouse and Mendes look like players who would not fit into the blueprint of hump-it-and-see. And only two subs were used when Woodhouse had used up his hour. Perhaps park keeper Russell should have called in Curtis's rowing boat?

Of course, it's all Geoff Ford's fault: we have invented our own curse. The GET should take back that manager of the month award and shove it up the Riby Square junction.

The defence looked very wobbly, all looked likely to fall over, and Mildenhall is starting to look worried. Further forward it's a curious animal. The only times Peterborough were concerned were when Town passed the ball through midfield. Like hurricanes in Hertfordshire it hardly happened, for the back players, especially Mildenhall, just kept hoofing like a chorus girl. The question is: are they under orders?

It's all dribbling away into the void, like a Trevor Brooking sentence.

Remember: to marvel at nothing is just about the one and only thing that can make a man happy and keep him that way. Stay happy, everyone.

Nicko's man of the match
Justin Whittle. You need to know no more.

Markie's un-man of the match
It's triple points on your Markiecard today. For his appalling delivery from every set piece, Mr Tom Newey. For getting in our way, just wasting our time, Mr Paul Bolland. For being in another dimension from everyone, Mr Gary Cohen. It was one of those days.

Official warning
He had rubbish facial hair, a mincing trot and an uncanny ability to get in the way of play. He ignored a foul in the run-up to the first Peterborough goal and did very well to find some additional time in his pocket, perhaps left over from the last time he refereed Town. Is he an accountant and was this a brought-forward figure? Well, I've carried forward some negative points for Mr A Penn, so 5.012. He was average for this division, which he may misconstrue as a compliment. Will you?