House of fun: Barnet (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

21 April 2007

Just who could Fenty's flowers be for?

Grimsby Town 5 Barnet 0

Around 50 Barneteers barricaded themselves within the Osmond stand for no apparent reason, while everyone else lived a life of luxury, lazing on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the sunny uplands of mid-table comfort. Gaze wistfully upon your next-door neighbour's inorganic tulips: oh to be in 16th place now that April is here.

Town lined up in the good old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, his Excellency the Emperor penguin Lord Admiral Sir Mighty Maccadermot, Bennett, Fenton, Newey, Till, Bolland, Boshell, Toner, North and Jones the loveable Lump. The substitutes were Murray, Bloomer, Grand, Hegggggarty and Taylor. With Whittle signed, sealed and delivered up for future frolics, the near future arrived in the shape of Ryan Bennett. Look around, what do you see? Seven of the squad came up from our youth team, even if Macca's were the alumni of 1896.

Ah, no Straight Peter Bore to be seen: he must be saving himself for Gay Meadow.

Barnet pooped the party by refusing to select their full comedy name XI. We do miss their hair bear bunch too, but are amused by Paul Warhurst, possibly the only thing slower in football than the old rugged Lump's feet.

Their goalkeeper looked like Steve Cram and they have Dick Emery in their squad. How appropriate, as this time last year they were awful, and we liked them.

Danny North has taken his wig off.

First half
Barnet kicked off towards the Pontoon with a nudge and wink and shiver and a dink - pah, get out of our town, we're smooth operators. Let's have some fun in the sun.

Newey raided, rolled and cajoled Toner into exchanging glances down the left wing. His shirt ripped from his chest, Newey cha-cha-cha-ed into the area and crossed beyond the far post. Till retrieved and Town danced merrily around the Barnet maypole, enwrapping them in brightly-coloured ribbons. Till twinkled, Warhurst flabbed a clearing header as the tambourine beat on. Newey again, crossing again, deeply again: it's Town again. Passing, passing, passing the time, everything fine, drinking red wine and the unmarked Bolland headed wide from the centre of the area.

That's three minutes, three attacks and three steps to heaven. How pleasant. Fancy a cheese dip?

Or a game of cricket on the beach? Perhaps a walk around the boating lake followed by a double cornet 99 with a selection of fruit sauces. Eeeeeh, a grand day out and we can have a carvery afterwards for £3.99. Cleethorpes: reet good value.

North again needled his elders with scampering, scrumping and scurrying around their ankles; Jones the perfect foil, the sponge to soak up the batter. The ball was never more than eight feet off the ground, this game is football. Nice.

Hmmm, and then you find ten minutes have gone behind you. Did you miss something? Only Barnet flutterings and Pontoon mutterings, as Sinclair kept being blown over by the breeze. Free kicks and corners zoomed into the Town area, but always a Town head or knee arrived. No danger, for no Barnes was required.

There's always something there to remind me of the brittle bones in the Town supporters' skeleton. Welcome to Wayne's World, for the Pontoon's very own Mr Purple has a rival: Mr Mauve. A hoarse barker of indeterminate tone and indecipherable syntax, he's appropriately a little lower in the pecking order - five rows to be precise. Maybe there could be a sponsor's moan of the match.

Now we've got that fallow period of vague concern out of the way, let's get back to Town business. Oh, you're interested in how young Ryan coped? Have patience, all will be revealed in the epilogue.

After about 20 minutes Town got the ball back after the referee forgot to whistle. Till teased his full-back with twists and turns, sending a cross flying high through the area after some sweet soul music from back to front, left to right. Clear your throats; that was just a dress rehearsal. Stand by people… lights… camera… action.

Town swept forward on the right, with Boshell stroking a pass out to Till on the touchline. Till flicked the ball over the full-back and chased on, harried, hassled, and hooked the ball back near the bye-line. Stuck in the corner, Till waited for Macca and tapped the ball back. Ah, patience, 'tis a virtue. Possession retained and the chess pieces moved again. Macca took a detour into the area; Boshell waited for the space to be emptied and caressed the ball back to Till way out on the wing. One touch, one look and one perfect cross carved its way to beyond the far post. Old Lumpy sneaked between two defenders and, about six yards out and unmarked, firmly steered a header back across the keeper and into the top left corner. I'd say that's move number six in the Buckley coaching manual, figure 7b on page 23.

Simple, easy and so Town.

Shall we have another one? Newey flung a free kick in from the right to the far post and, about a dozen yards out, Fenton imperiously rose above his non-existent marker to barumph a header goalwards. The ball accidentally hit a Barneteer's big bald head and managed to avoid further danger.

Barnet had a bit of a go for a few minutes. Just a bit, mind, and not for very long. No danger to Town, for no Barnes required. Except that time when he used his 20 tiny fingers to clutch an Alma Cogan slapper. We all wasted our time when Sinclair, again unable to stand up for falling down, won a free kick 25 yards out on their centre-left. Puncheon took so long setting himself that a man walked out of the Pontoon and bought a pie. The free kick was passed into the Pontoon in a pleasing parabola, several feet wide of the right post, and the man was pleased with his pie, as it had just the right amount of gravy inside: not too wet, not too dry - unlike Barnet.

I forgot, they did something a little worrying at one point. A long, high diagonal pass from underneath the Frozen Beer Stand arced over Fenton and dropped six or seven yards out beyond the far post. Barnes stayed, Fenton flayed and Birchall sneaked behind to volley across the face of goal.

Birchall should get his mum to turn up his shorts; I doubt he'll grow into them.

After about 35 minutes Toner was cracked for the second time and was replaced by Heggggggarty. Little Nick ran on to defend another daft free kick, given for Boshell's wonderful hook/slide. You've no need to be concerned; I just thought you'd like to know some of those little things in life. The free kick hit Fenton and rebounded to North on the edge of the Town penalty area, who turned and ran off upfield, only to be legged up by, erm, one of them. A booking at last! To, erm, one of them.

With Bolland carrying the piano for Boshell, some pleasing tunes were served up. Boshell dominated the centre, picking up all the clearances and rebounds, stroking the black and white cat into a huge purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Barnet were being methodically prodded and probed ready for some intrusive surgery.

Can you pass me the anaesthetic please, nurse.

With five or six minute left to half time Town got a throw in near the Police Box. Newey flung it long and high and old Lumpy distracted Warhurst sufficiently for the ball to sail on by. North darted behind the full-back and hooked a bicycle kick pass infield to the onrushing Heggggggarty, who chested it forward and was confronted by a solitary defender 25 yards out. He tried to lift the ball Gazza-style, but a double ricochet bumbled the ball into the right corner of the their area, straight in to the path of North. Hegggggarty was cast aside like a old girlfriend as North took one touch and, a dozen yards out, crackled a low shot across the keeper into the bottom left corner, before running away patting his head and rubbing his stomach.

With this Town started to put on some style, with Jones tweadling through one, two and three challenges with rolls and shimmies before being hauled to the ground with a rugby tackle. No penalty given. A minute later Newey and Heggggarty started a passing move on the edge of the Town area and progress was made in little triangles up the wing. Hegggarty flashed a firm pass into Lumpy, on the right side of Barnet's penalty area, who played a perfect first-time volley-pass into the path of North. Alas and alack, young Danny sliced the shot wide and wider still, with Boshell and Till waiting unmarked to his right.

How many more can we score? How many more do we want to score? Hatch kept winning headers around the edge of the Town area, so we'd better stop counting those chickens. See what I mean? As the half died, Town nearly made us cry, with dilatory, dopey defending. A corner was half cleared, but everyone stopped and watched as a shot ballooned off Bennett. It dropped about six yards out on the right and only Birchall moved, smattering a volley across the six-yard box. There, there… there's old Lumpy to calm things down, snurtling the ball away using his experienced forehead in an experienced fashion.

Shall we stroke our own egos for a while? Oi vay! It's half time already.

Going forward Town had strength, movement, poise and some nous. The machine was well-oiled, and not in the Gallimore sense. Boshell and Bolland hunted as a pair, snaffling danger, smuggling possession away and just keeping the clock ticking. The defence was a little unhinged at times, with Newey unable to find reverse gear and Fenton sometimes observing rather than participating. Bennett was caught betwixt and between at first, but his yoof and extendable legs extinguished danger, and later he stood in the right places, reading exactly what Barnet were going to do and being there before it happened.

Beautiful football on a lovely afternoon and Town winning - what more could one ask for? More of the same, I suppose.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Heg's away! A cross dipping, Barnett tripping over their own mundanity: three minutes of frivolity approaching. Town dominant, a footballing pesticide spraying over, around and through the Bees. Behold Lumpy the dainty dinker and Newey on his magic swirling ship leaving defenders on his boot heels and wondering why we're below them in the league. Heg's away again! Ah, if only he had some pace, eh.

Just wait a few seconds: Town'll be back; remember the password is patience.

North pestered and flustered Barnet's defence, who acted like a bunch of middle-aged, middle-class curtain twitchers. Look at them, those teenagers out there, hanging around street corners being cheeky and robbing us of all our possession! Newey did a triple lutz with piked twist through three challenges and Bolland strode up in support, following the ball as it rolled behind the defence on the centre-left of the area, before rolling a pass into the centre. North, unmarked and on the penalty spot, carefully steered a low left foot shot to Harrison.

Wait, there's more. Jones lobbed Till free inside the area. He looked up and swung a cross straight into the path of Boshell, who glanced a header just over the angle of post and bar. It's exhausting being happy, being entertained. Let's a have rest, shall we.

Ooh, they've had a shot. Wonderfully wide from eons away. Barnet pressure, but Town just hosed them down. Bennett: here, there and everywhere, being brave to block and donning a headscarf to use a little bit of clairvoyance now and again.

Woah! Did you see that? A fast, fast Town break with North magnificently nicking away from Nicolau as he waited for a clearance to drop on the halfway line under the Frozen Beer Stand. Young Danny timed his leap across the defender perfectly to shield the ball, roll and roar off into the sunset. The last defender was seduced into one last dance and a pass was rolled along the face of the penalty area. Till, unmarked and screaming, waited but bedraggled his shot 19 yards wide. We expect our right wingers to just miss - we have standards, you know.

Right - back down the other end for a minute. A corner, a header, a save, a momentary moment of possible concern, that's all. The header was weak and looped nicely into Barnes' chest. Their attacks occurred, they just weren't that interesting - whenever they got inside the Town area a Town limb appeared. It was all so very Mr Benn.

Hey, this is what you came here for. On the hour Town turned up the heat to gas mark 11. Roar on, roar on, with hope in your heart. One-touch passing, silky smooth, oozing pleasure, like cream poured on melting chocolate. Who did what, when? Buy the video if you want the facts, for facts get in the way of a beautiful narrative. Just imagineer who you want, doing what you want, for that's what they did.

North, twelve yards out and teed up perfectly after Newey, Boshell, Heggggarty and Bolland hired a cruiser and had an all-night party; black and white tie only, of course. OK, twelve yards out and teed up perfectly to do what? Miss. Slurping sill-ill-ill-ill-ill-illy wide with his right boot: great move, bad finish. A minute later Heggggarty hugged the touchline and etch-a-sketched a whipping, dipping cross to the far post. Till flew in from his roosting area off Spurn Point and, eight yards out at a narrow angle, scissor-kicked towards the potting shed.

You think that's it. No, there's more still. Heggggarty retrieved possession and Town started again, with Boshell majestically striding forward to chest down a half clearance. Barnet were befuddled by Till tricks and Lumpy stepovers and the ball rolled through to Hegggarty, near the penalty spot. Harrison threw himself forward, turned and fell on the ball as it rebounded off his chest, thigh, instep and backside to roll goalwards.

Three chances in a minute, none taken.

With 20 minutes to go Barnet inflicted another period of pressure on Town after Maccadermott was turned into a inflatable puppy by Sinclair. Do not have concerns, for Bennett's big boots diverted danger. You blinked, I saw you - so you missed that period of pressure. Town counterattacked and won a corner through Heggggarty, who took it himself. It was low, slow, and cleared to the halfway line, where the Boshmeister glided forward to chest the ball beyond a little Beeman and stroke a pass back to the now unmarked Heggggarty on the touchline. A soft-shoe shuffle sent a defender into the Pontoon toilets and Little Nick had time, he had space and he had the inclination. The cross was deflected slightly and skidded through to the near post, where North, two yards out, bumped the old warhorse aside to get the faintest of touches to nibble the ball between keeper and post.

To celebrate the victory Macca was replaced by Bloomer and five minutes later Till was replaced by Taylor, with North moving to the right wing. Macca, of course, was loved off the pitch in a deeply manly, but sentimental fashion. What shall we do with Macca in May? A bronze bust in the foyer of the ticket office, or shall we pickle him and have the jar on permanent display?

Barnet were lying in the road, helpless, hurting and hoping for it all to end, swiftly.

Hey! We're gonna have a party. Never has such poetry in motion been seen in a sporting event since Jocky Wilson was in his prime. Jones used his brawn in tandem with his brain to service and complement North, with only the linesman and referee saving Barnet. With about ten minutes left another corner to Town was won by Hegggarty. From the left he swung it high and beyond the far post, right into the flight path of the soaring, roaring Fenton, who plonked a header down firmly back across the keeper.

This fourth goal roused Barnet from their sulking, and Town were pinned back, with Bennett thricely and Bloomer to thank for some street-smart street sweeping. From a corner Hegggarty blocked at the far post and chased down the rebound, walloping the ball down the left wing. Taylor swingled in front of his marker and set off on a rollicking run down the touchline. Bolland and North sprinted down the middle, unmarked and squelching for a pass. Taylor held on, drew the last defender towards him and, as he reached the edge of the penalty area, tapped across to North. Fame and fortune beckoned, the ground rose to the sound of silent expectation… Harrison flung himself forward and North dragged a shot across the keeper. The ball deflected off the keeper's right boot and trickled a few inches past the post for… a goal kick. Durrrrrrrr.

Right, here's some whitewash, let's get slapping it over the next minute. Bailey trundled forward and, from about 30 yards out on their centre-right, smurfed a low shot goalwards. Barnes waited, dropped to his knees and scooped the ball away off his shoulder towards the left corner. As a striker rushed in Barnes flew across to punch aside for a corner. The corner was cleared and Puncheon, from a similar angle but from just inside the penalty area, begrudged a bumbling low shot towards the centre-right of goal. Barnes had an unobscured view, but scoopled the ball away in bizarre fashion, possibly off the crossbar, probably off his tortured soul. Thirty seconds later some bloke tried a dipping volley from 30 yards, which Barnes fingertipped over. The lad's a worry, isn't he.

In added time Taylor started to fiddle about in midfield, setting off on a crazy Benny Hill-style run, pursued by the lovely ladies from London. Through the Marble Arch, he was down Oxford Street in search of a bargain as quick as flash, but some brutish defender stepped in front and bounced him into the gutter. Penalty!

Now, who's going to take it? Never any doubt. Chirpy, cheeky Danny North (19) indulged in banter with the keeper, placed the ball, took five steps back and banged the ball into the bottom left corner as Harrison plunged right. Danny set off down towards the Town hall followed by a marching band and floats with scenes of Grimsby life through the ages, all made from old copies of the Evening Telegraph.

Hegggarty had a shot, went near Jones, ah, so near, ah, that's it, it's over. Fantasticalibilozy.

Lie back in your chair and dream a little. The bad times may have ended and what comes next? It's only Barnet, I hear you say. Nothing to play for, I hear you sneer. Mmm, well, think what you want. C'mon down. Why not try Alan Buckley's House of Fun: this is now an alchemist's, not a joke shop.

Nicko's unofficial man of the match
The outfield spine was strong and tough. Bennett, Boshell and North were the root cause of happiness and so all three should receive a laurel garland each and be bathed in saffron until next Saturday. Bennett is very good indeed, and it would be rather nice if no-one knew that for a few years.

Official Warning
Mr D Foster was rather strange to start with, forgetting to give Town free kicks. He made no utterly mad decision, but that's not to say you felt confident he wouldn't if the wind blew from the wrong direction. It was one of those games where Town were so comfortably dominant, and the opposition not prone to physical nonsense, that the ref was almost incidental. One can only give him a bog-standard score of 6.000.

The Others
Not a team. They had individuals who had skills, but no cohesion or apparent willingness to band together in co-operation to achieve certain collective ends. See, neo-liberal individualism doesn't do you any good. Arise ye workers from your slumbers, spurn the dust to win the prize. Embrace the collective citizens of Barnet!

Not as good as us. There you are: that's all you need to know about them.