Cheese and onion: Peterborough (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

24 March 2007

I reckon it's Danny North in the gorilla suit.

Grimsby Town 0 Peterborough United 2

A chilly, northerly breeze blustered through Blundell Park on an afternoon as grey as the coffee from the Pontoon pie stall, with around 400 Poshies pushing for promotion down in the Osmond stand. The return of the Son of Futch was eagerly awaited by thin-faced boys in tatty baseball caps: the callow youth of today. Futcher, Mendes, PG Woodhouse, James Lawson, Martin McIntosh, Clement Atlee: it seems so long ago, was it all a dream?

Town lined up in the 4-5-1 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Whittle, Fenton, Newey, Till, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Toner, North. The substitutes were Murray, The Lump, Taylor, Grand and Bloomer. So same as last week except for the changes then. Straight Peter Bore straight out of the team and replaced by Twinkle Toes Till; with big blue eyes, will he be able to satisfy?
As the Mighty Mariner did a laboured goalpost dance in front of the Poshies, the Town players disappeared up the tunnel and the Peterborough players did some light aerobics. With seasonal safety comes an inner calm and an absence of atmosphere. We're not here to yelp.

So who did Town supply for some supermarket-based Comic Relief? Michael Rednosey and Gary Ha-Ha-Harkins, of course.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond stand, with Hunt belting the ball up high towards Peterborough's right-back, who quivered and quaked as it curly-wurlied in the swirling wind. Low swung his boot and cushioned a clearance straight back to his keeper, who picked it up. Play was waved on and it took two minutes for someone to kick the ball out of play for a throw-in. This is football, but not as we know it, Jim.

Fenton to Whittle to Newey to Toner, bringing the cheque and the postal order. Town ticking again, swinging left, swinging right. Let's swing baby: we only swing when we're fishing.

Argh, Paul Bolland burped the wrong note on his saxophone, passing along the halfway line straight to Mackerel-Smith. Never fear, MBErmott's still here: Motorbility Macca eased across the edge of the Town area to schmooze M&S away from a returned pass.

We can all calm down again and get back into the rhythm.

Fenton to Boshell to Till to Macca, is it four months since Rodger got the sacka? Town were mesmerising with patient possession. Look at the watch, concentrate on the watch. Do you remember when you were young? Do you remember when shorts were short and men wore moustaches? Listen to the mantra and repeat after me: passing and movement, passing and movement, massive improvement.

It's so funny how we don't boo anymore.

Slow, slow, slightly less slow, slow; let's dance the Town dance. Town were dominant, in total control, but not penetrating the Peterborough penalty area. Newey... no, not quite. Macca might... no, not quite. Town huffled and puffled, squeezing the Posh pips, but refusing to collect the dribbling juice. Yoiks! They can play football too. A Peterborough breakaway, with Low galumphing down the wing, toasting Newey for tea and smiting a superb first-time cross through the middle of the penalty area, dissecting all. A hazard warning light came on for a few seconds, then Town put the seatbelt back on.

For the brief few seconds they had the ball, the Poshy forwards looked interesting - slow Boyd with his extendable legs, and M&S the pest - but it is just the hint of a possibility. Whittle and Macca know, they just know what to do with themselves.

Ah, ooh, argh. One-twos, rocking and rolling, we're dealing in dreamers and telephone screamers: what's happening? Not a lot to say, but a lot to see. The machine needs a little oil and some new parts, but it is ticking over nicely; just don't expect it to go100mph yet. It's a work in progress. A corner here, a cross there, just moments of minor hope and expectation.

After 22 minutes there was a shot towards a goal. And it came from Town. The ball broke loose to North, just inside the Peterborough half. He skippled past one hulk and zoomed towards goal. Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. With Toner and Till unmarked and waving frantically North hit a slapshot which squeezed itself a foot or so over the left angle of post and bar. Toner and Till are probably still waving frantically and demanding a pass.

"You'll never be your father!" A scientific impossibility that needed restating in these nanotechnological times. Na-noo, na-noo to you too, Ben Futcher.

Back to normal, back to Fenton to Whittle to North... to North? Yes, even joshing Justin was playing football, passing accurately along the ground to team mates. But Town weren't crossing the border.

Just before the half-hour not only did Peterborough players pass the ball to each other but they also had a shot. Ooh, copycats. Their first, their last, their everything. They did things on their left, then in the centre and the Reddyhaired Strachan, 20 yards out, bedraggled a mishit shot dribblingly, dreadfully wide and wider still of Barnes' right post. I shall attribute it all to Boyd's Inspector Gadget-like legs. The cumbersome swaggerer always seemed to manage to get a toe on the ball. He looked like a man with time on his hands and devil in his boots.

The game was full of manly challenges, with the Poshies specialising in long slidey hooks and studs. The referee was indulgent, the crowd indignant. It wasn't dull - there were lots of throw-ins. "Linesman! Look at those feet!" Blue boots, orange boots, patent leather pastel boots, lovely lanky white boots. We all dig those boots.

Town, Town, Town, Town, Town, Peterborough... Town, Town, Town, Town, Town... Town, Town, Town, Town, Tooowwwwwn, chips and spam.

No way sir! Hunt brushed Boyd's hair with a sable muffler and the Poshites got a free kick 25 yards out on their centre-left. Futcher walked in front of Barnes and swayed left, right, left again, deliberately standing so that Fumbling Phil couldn't see the ball. A man is what he is: Futcher lost concentration, wandered out of position and back into the wall. Strachan kicked the ball into the wall and we all lived happily ever after. No Poshite will pass this way again.

The last five minutes of the half were a cornucopia of delights for lovers of louche living. Town attacked at will, their patient passing matched with precision and incision inside the penalty area. Hunt mugged Micah Hyde just in front of the managers' dug-out, tapping the ball to Boshell, who immediately tickled it back: Town's magic triangles at work again. Hunt rode the wind and caressed a pass down the touchline, where Toner riverdanced. Low was tied into a little bow as Toner cut into the penalty area and lashed a shot goalwards. The ball hit a big Poshy backside, spun to Tyler's left as he was going right, and squirtled across the face of goal, possibly winking cheekily at the post as it passed. The corner was half cleared to Toner, who tried to lob the keeper with an outrageous volley from the edge of the area. And you think he top-edged it towards third man? Well, it did clear the ropes, I suppose.

A minute later Newey soared, Hunt roared and Bolland, unmarked on the edge of the area, managed to place his shot three yards wide. Magnificent build-up, terrible let-down. Hey, England are playing later! Hmmm, the parallels are perpendicular.

There we are: a half full of Town being Town to the nth degree of Town. Passing, possession but with little penetration. It looked so good, it felt so comfortable, but was a bit annoying that we hadn't taken advantage of a Poshite defence that was reminiscent of a straw bale. You could say they'd successfully stopped Town from shooting, but it'd be more accurate to say Town had stopped themselves in the foot.

We've been here before, haven't we.

Second half
Peterborough came out five minutes early, throwing some fluorescent cones on the pitch and performing a re-enactment of Carry On Camping's infamous aerobics scene, even bringing out a ditzy, bubbly blond to lead the fun. Like a hippo in a tutu, Ben Futcher played the Bernard Breslaw character - but who was their Kenneth Williams?

Blah-di-blah, they kicked off, yabba-yabba, they got a throw in under the Frozen Beer Stand boardwalk. Hugga-wugga-hugga: bit of this, a bit of that, the ball headed out and knocked back into the edge of the area. Who cares, nothing's going to happen, it's just the humdrum bumblings of fourth division football. M&S flicked the ball over his shoulder behind the defence, into the left corner of the Town area. Fenton retreated, having read of this trick in his pre-match revision. Something's wrong - he's not naive. Fenton calmly strode across and glided serenely into the doghouse. Boyd's telescopic toes tapped the ball off Fenton's feet and, from a dozen yards, he swept the ball under and across Barnes into the bottom right corner.

And it was all going so well until then. How irritating.

With the Poshites still framing their group photographs Town waltzed forward. Well, when I say waltzed, it was more like a pogo at a sixth form disco. Someone deep in the Town half whacked the ball straight down the pitch on the centre-left. North ran on in a straight line and Futcher ran at a discreet distance, never invading Danny's personal space. That's a metropolitan thing. While the junior Futch pondered why there are so many people in Manchester who wear a straw cowboy hat, North ran on and, from a narrow angle eight or so yards wide of goal, tried to lob tiny Tyler. The ball looped; Tyler hopped and just managed to paddle it up, clutching it as it slowly fell towards the line. Ah, Town just micrometres from instant parity. Shame.

Peterborough had started the second half much more aggressively, snapping into Town and doing unto us what unto them had been done thusly. That was quite clear. In other words they stopped Town playing it around at will, forcing the back four to hurriedly welly clearances, rather than calmly stroke the ball like it was a well-nourished cat. Micah Hyde was omnipresent, brushing Boshell aside twice within ten seconds.

That was enough of that. After five minutes Fenton hobbled off, followed by Boshell, with Grand and the Lump putting on their white hats and yellow neckerchiefs as the seventh cavalry. And Town went to a 4-4-2 formation, but then again you knew that, you knew it was coming, it's a recurring theme.

With Town denuding their midfield Peterborough began to roam freely, to pass to each other and generally look dangerous. But then so did Town. With belts loosened, everyone's middle-age spread was flopping over the end-of-season trousers. Newey trimmed a few straggly Peterborough hedges with a long, long swerving run. He cut infield, across a second defender and, from 25 yards out, slashed a right foot shot goalwards. The ball slapped against Low, suspiciously close to his outstretched hands, and plopped down near the penalty spot. North and Lumpy pursued the ball with no-one between them and goal. Tyler was wrong-footed and North panicked, sliding and stretching to toe-poke from eight yards. The ball dribbled through the divots and drifted eight inches wide. A terrible miss.

Town preyed upon the visitors' left-back, Huke, who didn't know where to stand, or who to clobber. He couldn't pass it either, so Poshies were no doubt praying for him. North twice rolled past him, with crosses intercepted at the near post. You could be forgiven for thinking the Force was with us, Luke. I forgive you, for how were you to know good old M&S was wriggling past Whittle as a long punt fell between penalty area and halfway line. As Barnes started to advance, M&S stretched and did a canny lob-volley, which drifted 17 yards wide, almost going out of play. Almost, but not quite. Macca emerged, as if by magic, and Town came roistering back.

Two passes later North was free again, outpacing, outthinking, outfighting the Duke of Huke. North reached the bye-line and curved a brilliant cross through the six-yard box, withTyler clamped to the near post as the ball zoomed past him. The old Lump came alive and got in his old Ford Cortina with a beige vinyl roof and eight-track cassette blaring out The Shadows' 20 Golden Greats. Ah, 'Foot Tapper'. My granny likes that one. How appropriate, for just two yards out, beyond the far post, The Greatest Lump of All steamed in and tapped the ball into the net. The side-net. It's not a wonderful life.

It's just one of those days, where Town will never score.

With half an hour left Till was replaced by Taylor, who went to centre-forward with North as the right winger. You could see the theory, shame about the practice. As a winger North's a good landscape gardener. At this point you will wish to be alerted to M&S's inner ear problem. He can't stand up for falling down, especially inside the penalty area. Thricely sent behind the Town defence with only Sgt Rock in pursuit, M&S kept taste-testing the grass, bumping off Justin's shoulders with alarming regularity. Have a few more dinners lad, then the wind wouldn't blow you down.

Town were disjointed, with Toner in particular having the yips. When did he last control the ball? Never mind, here's the man on his electric-powered buggy - the environmentally sound Maccaman. After a minute of nonsense around the edge of the Peterborough area MBErmott used the lesser beings as decoys. Well, there's no Tony Rees to roll those backheels any more. The blue sea parted and McDermott slabbered a shot towards the bottom-left corner. Tyler hurled himself across and scooped the ball off the turf, but dropped it. No-one had followed in.

A minute later Town's mojo was rising, the old one-two was back, with Jones the Lump the steady centre of a whirlpool of motion which drowned Futcher and White. Newey harangued, Hunt touched and Bolland was free, 20 yards out. He sliced a shot just over the angle of left post and bar, and that was that. Brief Mcflurry of activity ended with a candyfloss shot from Mr Shins.

With 18 minutes left Grand upended some blueboy way out on the Town right. The free kick was curled high to the middle, where a Town headed grazed the ball out to the edge of the area. Huke stood underneath the ball and wafted his left boot in a vague way. The ball squiffled in an eccentric slow arc back towards the near post. Several Town players were near, but they were all small, as Big White stuck an arm across Hunt's face and noodled a loopy header over Barnes and into the bottom left corner.

Well ain't that a shame, we'll just have to bring on our big guns to have a rousing fightback, as usual. Oh, they were already on the pitch. The game was over. Peterborough controlled the last 20 minutes and neither I nor you are interested in eulogising over Micah Hyde's omnipotence, or George Boyd's slinkiness. So let's just skip as quickly as possible over the rest... dwhjhg;dgj;agh... long shot from them just over the... barjfkjkdflk... Taylor sent through on goal, took it round the keeper, passed back to Toner, loopy cross, dropped near Hunt, scramble, nothing happened... hdfjhsdjkfhjks... added time Taylor sliced... shotadhfjh;f... Taylor chased, brilliantly back-heeled near the corner flag and collided with Jones as he was about to shoot... 9it.,q2-xe8uch... the end.

There we are, there we were, there we'll be, and so will they. Both teams are simply practising for next season. They need a defence, we need a striker. If Town'd scored first we'd have won comfortably, but we didn't, so they did. It really should have been a draw and losing was quite annoying.

Oh, you want to know what Taylor sliced. A carrot for his soup.

Nicko's unofficial man of the match
The first half was very good throughout the team, but the old stagers were the stars in the bar afterwards. Hunt and especially Whittle were immense: Whittle was fantastic. But with only
10½ hours left let's saunter down memory lane, via sentimental avenue and maximise these dwindling maccamoments in our life. For standing in the right place, for being the driving force of our attacks, and for just being Macca, it's John McDermott.

Official Warning
Mr R Booth was erratic in his pedantry. Peterborough could take free kicks wherever they wanted, but Town had to take throw-ins from the exact spot. Flying frisbee tackles were fine from the Fenlanders, but Town couldn't touch them, unless Big Whittle did some jujitsu on M&S inside the area. He was, ultimately, untrustworthy; one always felt he'd make a mad decision some time soon. Fortunately, his madness was confined to pre-match nibbles. A score? I just didn't like him, so 5.0102.

The Others
Veered between laughable and impressive, depending on which part of their team had the ball. They were thoroughly and totally outplayed in the first half, but their manager did some managing at half time, which is always useful. Once they stopped Town's rhythm being beaten out from the back, they were able to get hold of the ball themselves, and they do have forward players with skill, strength and perception. Hyde was the best player on the pitch and their front two offer a total pest (M&S) with some deviousness (Boyd).

Their defence was useless, and relied on Town's unwillingness to score. They can't expect to be promoted with Ben Futcher anywhere near their first team squad and a tiny tot as a keeper. The result flattered them, but beware a tactically astute manager with money. One for next year, but then so are we.