Bread and circuses: Barnet (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

1 May 2010

A Whole Town 2 The Purple Dazed 0

Ah, we were drowned, washed up and left for dead, this is no time to frown at stale crumbs from crusty bread. This annual saving malarky is almost a gas, gas, gas.

A bright and bleak, cold and emotional afternoon in the amphitheatre of angst, the coliseum of calamity, the hippodrome of hope. Friends, Grimbarians, Countymen: send us your tears later. The ground heaved and hoped, ram-jam packed to the rafters, bobbing and weaving, ducking and diving, singing and ringing out loud and proud. When the chips are down fish rise.

Town puffed out their chests in a 4-4-2 formation, as follows: Colgan, Bore, Lankyshire, Atkinson, Widdowson, Coulson, Sinclair, Hudson, Devitt, Ak-Ak and The Tommy Wrong. The substitutes were Overton, Forbes, Wood, Linwood, Leary, Chambers and Peacock. The now usual first team, with ailing Leapy Lee sipping Night Nurse on the bench ready to spring to our rescue sometime in the second half.

And Barnet walked into our party, like they were walking onto a yacht. Their hat strategically dipped below one eye as they danced like dervishes, a purple haze in front of their 400 or so travelling Barneteers. They had a flag, we had the traditional man with crutches ready to cast them aside and be cured through the miracle of Town.

When did we last cut the grass? The pitch was full of divots, even before the players warmed up, with exceedingly long grass and clumps of tufty hillocks here and there. Even before the players came out I said. Was it a Baldrickian plan to neutralise Adomah or had the hover mower broken?

Let the games begin: for those who are about to try, we salute you.

First half: A snail crawling along the edge of a razor
Release the lions!

Town kicked towards the Osmond with a Hudson clump charged down; Barnet had a cross and that was it for them for ages. Oh, they had the ball a lot, playing short passes up and down, down and up, but getting nowhere near anything of interest. Barnet simmered, but Town held the lid down, checking the boiling beetroots now and then to make sure they didn't mush up before we mashed them up.

With Tommy Wrong on the field, Town welly.

The rumble from the mumblers and tumblers washed down from the stands as every Town tackle, every Town punt was roared. Barnet quivered and a corner was cleared. Ak-Ak spun a soft left hook straight at Cole. The Pontoon cleared its throat, awaiting the mass singalong chorus. Ooh-la-la! One-touch purring, like a frisky feline! Devitt! Mighty Joe! Ak-Ak slipping a fiver to the Oirish scamperer 25 yards out. A touch, a sweet, sweet swish of the Tahger's feet and the ball za-zoomed a couple of feet wide of the near post. Just moments in the muddle, moments of movement is all we need. Tommy can you hear me? The movement you need is on the shoulder of the last defender.

Finally Town got a free kick, when Bore was not fouled.

The game fustered along with armwrestling and bogsnorkeling deep, deep in the midfield fens. The crowd quietened, the tension ratcheted up and up as fingers bit crossed nails. Barnet carried on rolling and strolling, calmly building sweet nothing from the back as Town backed off, awaiting the punts that never came. Ak-Ak squeezed and Cole was forced to race out of his area and panicky-thwack. Wright almost flibbered the keeper as Barnet's collection of easy listening records reached Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Tick-tick-tick... Town ascendant but flicks and tricks brought nought but a corner or two. Ak-Ak swooned through three but passed rather than shoot. Ak-Ak crossed high; Bore schmoozled, but built a castle from dry sand. Breen stamped on it and that was that. The ground silencing to a low hubbub: tense, but patient. We're waiting, waiting for a girl like you. No, not that. We're waiting for someone or something to show us the way.

We're waiting for this.

On the half-hour Widdowson hook-volleyed up the touchline. Ak-Ak waited underneath, sumptuously pirouetted with the ball on his toe and elegantly stroked a pass into the Barnet half. Their defenders stood and stared; Hudson raced through on the inside left. Up leapt the crowd, up ramped the volume. His toe touched ball and the ball did bumble and stumble over the tufts and divots, springing towards the penalty area. The crowd froze, the din now an empty bin as Cole sprinted out to the edge of his area. The Hud stretched and poked against the keeper's chest. The ball ring-a-ding-dinged against chests and thighs and looped slowly goalwards. Gillet, possibly the best Barnet could get, scrimpled straight to Coulson on the centre-right. Through the purple haze Coulson slippered and the ball squeaked into the side netting, right up against the angle of post and bar. Head in hands, hands in head, heads between knees, knees between hands, Town all of a twist of frazzled chips.

The rest of the half was played out in the dazed hinterland of this moment, this chance, this season's saving miss. Town sank slightly; Barnet perked up and even had a shot: Jarrett wibbling wide. It was merely as near as it was far, and as close as it was distant. Mmm, another shot eh? Hyde bedraggling a bumbler towards where Colgan was meditating from way out near Tibet. That was all they mustered. They couldn't even do anything when Lancashire passed straight to Furlong when last man. Nothing happened to frighten the show ponies.

That was the phoney war. The Battle of Blundell Park starts after this commercial break.

Second half: Lazarus lives again (like he did last summer)
No changes were made by either team at half time.

BarnetInstant Song Barnet Barnet oefhaafok9npjscp Barnet BBBBarnet Barnet kicked off and there was a purple haze all around with Town not knowing if they're climbin' up or down. Town attacked, Barnet broke away and Lankyshire blocked at the last for a corner. They crimped the corner, some purple piper played a tune and their choir softly sang. Unmarked ten yards out, Devera smiggled a firm header goalwards. The ball zoomed towards two players stood right in front of Colgan. The keeper of the Town keys put shutters on the dreams as they ducked, Colgan parried, the ball dropped, and a black boot swiped away. Relax.

For a second.

Adomah roamed and swingled a drifting curler a foot or so over the angle of post and bar. Jarrett crossed, Adomah crossed, Town half cleared, quarter cleared, octocleared and O'Flynn flick-headed onto the roof of the net. Barnet dug foxholes and lit a fire. They were set for a siege. Atkinson's knee, Widdowson's wile and Colgan's bluff snipped the Bees' shoelaces. Oh dear, they're carpet bombing our slippers. Ain't got time to wait. Something better change. I said something better change.

Tommy can you hear me? Tommy can you hear me? Tommy can you hear me? How can we be saved? About ten minutes in, Wright was replaced by Peacock. We can be saved. Even a dead Peacock is better than a Tommy Wrong.

Barnet hared down their left and fizzed a deep, deep cross which floated and wafted beyond the far post. Atkinson held up his arms in the universal 'what, me, guv?' gesture of utter and complete innocence of everything and Furlong fell head first into the ground. A distant wail rose from the hair bear bunch in the Osmond. It's Miller time... but nasty Nigel saw no evil.

Well I saw the thing comin' out of the sky, it had one long horn, one big eye: Michael Leary replaced the obviously injured Sinclair. Whatever next, an accurate Leary pass? Oh yes! From the pass came a corner, from the corner came joy to you and all mankind.

Two purplers got themselves in a tizz and flabbered waftily away towards the middle of their half. Straight Peter Bore leapt like a free range salmon to pummel a high, high, high header back into the penalty area. Some players were heading south, others north. Atkinson shuffled, Breen stood still arm aloft for the invisible offside that wasn't. The ball plummeted from Heaven. Cherubim and seraphim flew over his head as Atkinson, eight or so yards out, carefully arched his back, cushioned with his chest, swivelled and hooked a magnificent volley over the keeper into the top of the net. Blundell Park exploded like only it can at such epochal moments. It was the beginning of the end of the world as Barnet know it. And we feel fine.

Bore shingled a shot wide, a bit of badda-bing on the right saw Peacock plunge over the ghostly foot of defenders past. Penalty? No, a booking for diving. Up went the ante, up went the volume, up the other end went Barnet. O'Flynn went on a wibbly-dibbly run like a wheel within a wheel, wobbling a shot at cool Colgan. Town punted, Barnet grunted, and the game to-ed and fro-ed as both teams went on a jailbreak. A cross cleared, a cross cleared. Another free header, another fine save by Colgan, arching to his right. Go away Barnet, haven't you read the tealeaves? It's not meant to be for you Bees! O'Flynn flick-headed a yard wide; someone else headed onto the roof of the net.

Town a mess, a shambles, a gloop of gunk without form. Town punted nowhere, Barnet retained possession, slowly unthreading Town's cardigan. We need action, we have Ak-Ak. A mazy, crazy, hazy rubber-legged bendy-bus of a run had the Ivorian Engine steaming goalwards on the left. Pwhoar, a dipping shaking shot splintered Cole's fingers as it was superbly parried aside.

No, just a flash in the pan. The nerves twanged audibly in the stands, the poise and passion turning to clouds in your coffee. Adomah flim-flammed through three to greedily drag weakly wide. Crosses dripped in, legs and heads poked out for corners and we waited. One corner, two corners, cleared, not cleared; in, out, back again and a man free, the ball bouncing . Whack! Some bloke whacked from near the penalty spot. Colgan was surrounded by trees, obscured by clowns, as the ball shimmied and shook goalwards. Up came two orange fists and away flew the ball.

The spell was broken! It's a rope!

Leary mugged and Devitt chugged to Ak-Ak who beautifully flicked on to Peacock, on the edge of the area. Espying Devitt sneaking through the statues and shrubs in the park, Leary cushioned a pass behind the defence. Cole raced out and slid two-footed to clear at Devitt's feet. It's our turn to spellbind. Ak-Ak danced to a crazy Latin beat and caressed a reverse pass into Coulson's flightpath. He looked up, saw Peacock in the centre and rolled the ball across the open goal. Peacock was motionless, perhaps feeling a little unwell after all that running. The drugs don't work for ever.

With ten minutes left Woods gave in to the demands of the crowd and weleased Wodderick. When I say crowd I mean Forbes, his mum and auntie Millie in Dunstable. Three is a crowd, after all. Forbes came on for Coulson.

The human pacman even managed to do something positive. Immediately. He ran down the left wing, twisted a melon into a rhubarb and thwingled a shot a foot or so wide. Town even got a corner for an imaginary deflection. And then they all ran off down the other end for five minutes. Atkinson grazed away from Furlong and Leary brilliantly blocked with a full-length dive as the ball rolled to Hughes on the edge of the area. Leary snapped again; Atkinson prodded and poked as purple legs loomed inside the six-yard box.

The crowd were beginning to wrestle and rustle as Town lost cohesion and sense. Town had players here, there and nowhere near the ball. Fingers were in polders, the sea, the sea, we cannae hold it back for ever.

Relief was infrequently fleeting, mere seconds when someone booted it towards the Pontoon. Town couldn't get hold of the ball; Town did get hold of the ball! Ak-Ak glided down the left, swung infield and curled a right-footed shot around two defenders from 20 or so yards out. Cole stood still. The ball thunked against the post. The rebound went straight to Peacock, eight yards out. The ground suddenly went silent, as 7,000 lungs inhaled, ready to explode. Peacock allowed the ball to drop. Cole did a star jump. A terrible pokey prod was lifted against the keeper.

You could hear the sobbing on Ceefax.

Back they came: Barnet, Barnet, Barnet. Crosses, crosses, more crosses, little tips, little taps, big bumps, little bumps, more crosses, crosses and crosses. Eighty-seven minutes.

Head it, shin it, skin it, tap it, unwrap it, do anything, put it anywhere. Eighty-eight minutes.

Nudge it, nod it, whack it, kick it, don't drop so deep, don't leave so much space, don't stand so close to me. Eighty-nine minutes.

Up came the board... five minutes of added time! Where did they come from?

And still Barnet trucked on. Teenagers began to seep out of the stands and onto the sidelines, as the noise level wrenched up to 111 in a confused mixture of defiance and fear. Whistles, groans and guttural roars combined to wobble the windows in Waltham. Peacock hooked, Ak-Ak chased down the line and Breen smoothly eased away the tired and emotional to roam towards the halfway line. Breen passed, but his chum was stuck in the mud and Hudson, like the hawk, swooped to glide unmolested down the centre right. Cole started to advance, but Hudson shot early from outside the penalty area. The ball slammed into the bottom left corner and the pitch was covered in what counts as humanity in these parts. A spontaneous eruption of relieved joy. Hudson was consumed by the crowd, who were consumed by an unnatural joie de vivre as Hudson's shirt came off.

The pitch invaders swashed off as the police came on. The game restarted, and the game ended in another blanket of human happiness.

Ah, that was the Battle of Barnet, a famous victory by our own pet Yorkists: Atkinson, Hudson and Woods.

They said in three weeks Grimsby will have her neck wrung like a chicken. Some chicken, some neck! We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight on, in Burton.