Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
15 April 2008
Boys Brigade 0 Wycombe Wonderings 1
It's cold, it's wet and there's no-one here at the end of the pier show: ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first stop on the Best of British Variety Tour 2008. Have you brought your own ham sandwiches and tea? Two coaches from Buckinghamshire have just rolled in, shall we put on a show for them? Let's make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, let's make 'em dance in the aisles.
Town tried to line up in a 3-4-1-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Atkinson, Fenton, Newey, Heggggarty, Bolland, Boshell, Till, Jarman and the Butler. The substitutes were Monty, Birdy, Taylory, Tonery, and Borey. Jimmy Cricket floated behind Cannon and Ball, and with Heggggarty and Clarke more back than wing, the Krankies were in midfield. If the White Stripes are the Krankies of rock, are the black and white stripes the Krankies of football? No, you're thinking of Kevin Keegan there, I think.
The rain dripped down, down, down, way on down to soak the pitch. Slippery when wet, you say? Dreadful album, dreadful hair, and that's just Sergio Torres. Just because he's a Latin shelf stacker doesn't mean a screeching ponytail is an acceptable hairstyle.
Are we just living on a prayer for the rest of this season?
Town kicked off towards the Osmond and the first ten minutes or so were very interesting indeed young man! Town zipped passes along the ground, with Jarman a strong twister, flicking and tricking gleefully, while the hairboys purred through the gaps in Town's crazy paving.
Jarman sprung a leak in the Wycombe hosepipe down the left, marvellously swinging his pants and accelerating past the full-back. He screwed a long cross straight to Butler on the edge of the area, who dinked past his marker, knocking the ball into a huge space to the right of goal. Fielding tap-danced forward, Butler smashed a drive towards the top corner and the keeper did the Charleston to parry aside for a corner. Taken short and taken quickly, Bolland curved the cross into a blue midriff. Handball? VfL Gummersbach to you. Why not: let's create our own chips on the sturdy shoulder of distracted disappointment.
Little Jarm's at it again! Tip-tap-toe and Bolland was freed down the right. The cross coiled to the far post and Jarman ducked to nod a foot or so wide. Oh spring-heeled Jarm does leap the leap and, by the way, he orders his team-mates about, so he talks the talk too.
Whatever did happen to Talk Talk? Marketed as a pretty-boy new romantic band, Essex's Talk Talk proved to be one of the most rebellious groups since The Monkees, at least in the way they eschewed popular convention. Oh look, Torres missed the ball. Must be the hair that weighed him down.
McGleish took the ball on his chest, 30 yards out, sizzled around and hooked a volley nicely into Barnes' looming luminous shirt. Facey bullied his way through Atkinson to scribble a hurried apology to his mates, the ball droogling nicely wide. An amber light flashed high up in the Frozen Beer Stand. As there was nobody there, no-one noticed.
Relax, Town are towning about, just like they used to in the early days. It's just like starting over with Jarman the catalyst, the fulcrum, the centre about which the Town universe revolved. Let Till take a chance and fly away down the wings. He did! Past one, two, three and the second again, he wrapped himself in a ball of confusion, ending up in one of those cul-de-sacs off Brereton Avenue. No trouble finding somewhere to park tonight. Over came the corner, up went Fenton, who headed nuddlingly wide. No danger, just a tick in the box marked 'shot off target'. A theoretical chance only, for everyone has worked out Town's corner routine by now.
Wycombe prodded, probed and hummed a minor hit from 1978 (possibly by Boney M), took out their stethoscope and walked through the doors of imperception that were the Town midfield. McGleish scuttled, Fenton throttled and Boshell dug a grave for a little blueboy way out on their left. The free kick was curled into the very centre of the very Town penalty area. Barnes stood on his line and Newey walked away from Facey. Alone, unmarked, without a significant other in his life, Facey dunked a free header down towards the bottom left corner from perhaps eight yards out. Barnes shivered and shook his hips like a bad Elvis impersonator before plunging into his orange jumpsuit to paw the ball aside.
What a good save, what a bad piece of defending by Newey.
The corner was cleared and the ball hung around on a piece of ground in our home town, before someone tapped it to Boshell near the Police Box. Immediately swamped by a bucket of blue, the entire defence retreated, waiting for someone or something to show them the way. Torres put a single red rose in his teeth and did a steamy tango with Facey on the edge of the penalty area, before flashing a low shot through several legs into the bottom right corner via Barnes' fingertips.
It wasn't a surprise, for the carpenters of Bucks had whittled Town in to a small chair.
McGleish chased a Facey flick into the penalty area, Fenton fell over Barnes and didn't get up again. Oh dear. After a bit of brass cheek rubbing from Dave Moore, Fenton returned in a hobble and occupied a space exactly three feet two inches away from Facey for the next 20 minutes. Jarman continued to flicker, but Wycombe's defence stood on the edge of the penalty area and let no one pass by. Town ran around on the ground and stood in the field where barley grows. There were lots of almosts and not-quites, which don't add up to a hill of beans in this town.
Woah! After tipping and tapping in their own half, one of the centre-backs suddenly pinged a flat diagonal pass towards the right corner of the Town area. Two midfielders flew forward and Doherty brought the ball down on his chest, twisted and thwacked a low shot towards the bottom right corner. Barnes blocked and the ball slippered about behind him as Torres lurked, but the mandarin Mariner fell upon this potential H bomb.
Then they fell asleep again, content to rock upon their chair on the porch, singing old blues numbers. They were in the kitchen, yeeeeaaah, and Seamus, that's the dog, came inside. Twang, baby, twang. Town moved from side to side, moving slower and slower, the only spark being Jarman's purring. The lights flickered, then they went out again, with Wycombe breaking quickly, breaking dangerously. Facey, the only remaining funicular railway in football, cranked down the pitch, drawing three Town defenders with his aura, before Newey's outstretched leg diverted the shot. Butler did a magnificent double twist with piked turn to stamp on Torres, but the referee gave Town a free kick. Some people will never forget Las Malvinas.
Time drifted like the rain across the floodlights: soothingly meaningless and mundane. Jarman suddenly turned and lamped a dipping cross shot over the angel of post and bar. How typical of the youth of today to disturb the peace. With a couple of minutes left to half time Fenton gave up and walked off, replaced by Toner. Town moved to a 4-4-2 formation with Clarke and Hegggarty the full-backs, Till and Toner the wingers. Toner, his creativity to the fore, launched a cunning cross, which everyone thought was rubbish, far too close to the keeper. Fools! Such vision is only in the eyes of one man, for he'd almost succeeded in nutmegging the keeper. Or maybe Fielding just dropped it through his legs and was practising for the end-of-season party game. Chase the key ladies, chase the key.
As the added time ended Fielding dawdled over a back-pass and Butler launched himself into a tackle. The fly-kick was intercepted by Newey on the halfway line, the goal was empty but everyone had stopped. A foul given, the half ended, the season almost over.
It was miles better than Saturday and Jarman had shown glimpses of excellence, a hint of a brighter tomorrow. Or at least a chance we might see a shot in the second half.
It was OK.
Neither team made any changes at half time.
For ten minutes Town were fine, with Jarman winning free kicks after some lovely pratfalling. But the free kicks were wasted; taken short, taken early and completely destroying momentum. Ah, but it ain't all bad. Jarman shrugged off Goliath and exchanged flicks with Butler, rolling around and placing a shot towards the bottom corner. Alas, a blue foot diverted; Fielding ran out of his area and slid the ball away for a throw-in. Town pressed, winning corners, but without Fenton who is there to not score from a corner?
Hold your hands in the air, there is hope. Jarman brilliantly turned, brilliantly crafted a pass with the outside of his boot over and around a defender and into the right side of the penalty area. Butler bounded after it, but had to stretch to reach the ball, just holding up play and the defender cleared. A singular moment of excellence. We have to look for the little things in these pre-pre-season matches. There's always tomorrow.
There's always a mad three-minute period when Town implode in any game, isn't there. In less time than it takes to boil an egg Town can move from adequacy to slapstick. Town plotted the downfall of the Holy Wycombe Empire by setting up camp outside their penalty area. The ball moved form side to side and corners were won. Town are always at their most vulnerable when they are attacking. A corner cleared to Bolland on the edge of the area; he hesitated and a defender simply whacked it upfield, straight to McGleish, who ran off beyond Fenton. Yes, where was Fenton, eh! On McGleish raced in a straight line and, as Newey dived across, he hit an unexpected shot firmly towards Barnes. The ball cannoned off Barnes' shins and back into the centre. There was a scrummage and a line out, and a drop kick by Torres was shankled off the line by someone old, someone new, maybe someone borrowed, but definitely not someone blue.
As the ball was half cleared, half hacked back down their left, Barnes came out of his area and bedraggled a fly-kick straight to Oakes, standing on the left, perhaps 40 yards out. As Barnes turned and fled the scene of crime, Oakes carefully zinged a pass/shot goalwards. The ball skimmed the surface and beads of sweat were rolling off the flailing Barnes as it passed by, tipping its cap and saying hello, and dunked against the base of the far post. Barnes caught up with the ball and play carried on.
And Wycombe carried on as Town players were scattered across the mud like barnacles on an old barge. Oakes flipped passes through the Town right and scraggled a shot in to the side netting via a Town knee. Over came the corner, up went a Wycombite, the ball dropping to McGleish about six yards out. Unmarked, unwary, unbelieving of such charity, he stretched and managed to avoid scoring magnificently, skewering towards the mysteriously vacant Leaking Boot.
With this a change was made, for the Butler didn't do it today: Bore replaced him on the hour, bringing much-needed fast feyness to the front line.
Jarman swished a sumptuous fashionably reversed pass into Bore's path, releasing the hound, but Tubby the Tuba honked: the linesman gave a very dubious offside. It was a pass out of place in the fourth division, such was the weight and precision; it showed that beneath the chubby cheeks and chequered hair lies a mind with footballing vision.
Ah, again! Jarman flickered Bore free down the left with a first-time lollipop. Bore raced in to the area, stopped and waited for reinforcements. He looked up - I shall stop there and repeat - he looked up and rolled a pass behind the retreating defenders to the edge of the penalty area. Jarman stepped over the ball and allowed Boshell to swipe a low shot across the keeper and three feet wide. Marvellously crafted, not so marvellously presented for your consideration this evening.
After this it all rather dribbled away. Wycombe contented themselves with the occasional breakaway, allowing Newey to expand his repertoire of annoying ticks. Twice he overhit back-passes, once almost scoring, but then he did do a good block to thwart Delboy Facey. Obviously bored, Wycombe flung on Leon Knight just to see how long he would stay on his feet. On average, he fell every 11.7 seconds. Even this referee had heard of him, so he got nothing but a mucky shirt for his troubles. It slightly amused a dozen or so Pontoonites; the rest prepared themselves to beat the crush and get home before this game had ended.
With 12 minutes left Jarman was replaced by Taylor. If it be possible to get a hearty ovation from a smattering of scatter cushions, then he got it. One more thing to tell you: Town remembered Till was on the pitch and passed to him. He crossed; Taylor cushioned a pass to Bolland just outside the area and no-one was the slightest bit worried that they'd have to arise from their seats to acclaim the equaliser. It stayed in the ground, I think.
Three minutes of added time were added, which is usually what happens to added time. It just allowed another 23 per cent of the crowd to leave early.
It wasn't awful: Town were just not as good as Wycombe, that's all. The game held interest and both teams were trying to play quick, incisive, ground-based football. What's wrong with that? For some the glass is half empty, others half full, but for some Townites the glass doesn't even exist.
Still, it's better than an evening with the Anita Harris Experience.