A moustacheless bard: Barnet (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

24 November 2007

Only a man would attempt to dry himself with a tie.

Barnet always 0 Grimsby Town 3

A mingy-mongy cold day in the beating heart of the sub-suburban desert of that London with over five hundred be-hatted but not besotted Mariners cuddling together under the warm glow of a strip light. Hello! Here's some volunteer Barneteers - they've more stewards than fans.

Town lined up in the zig-zag 5-3-2 formation as follows: Montgomery, Hird, Bennett, Fenton, Atkinson, Newey, Till, Hunt, Toner, Sir Lumpalot and Danny Boy North. The substitutes were Taylor, Hegggarty, Clarke, Rankin and Bore. Now, take a deep breathe and let's dive into the pool of sorrow and joy. Hird played at rightish-back, Atkinson at leftish centre-back, with Newey as a free range chicken laying eggs arbitrarily at the corner of some foreign field. Till was a sort of rightish midfielder who stood quite wide sometimes and others not. Toner and Hunt bestrode the straights of Underhill. You could say Town were fluidly formed; you could say they were drunk. What you couldn't say is that they were on the straight and narrow.

For the tailors and hairdressers among you, Hird had dark hair and was not as tall as the blond bob of Rob Atkinson. Thora and Ron had come to help, but the absent miserablists were watching Last of the Summer Whine; all we need is Watkiss to whizz by in an old iron bath.

The Town players warmed up directly beneath the gathering throng of Grimsbyness with hops, skips and jumps or,for the Rankins among you, hop, hop-less and hop-even-less. Poor Isaiah runs to fat quicker than he runs down the wing: after a week away he's tending towards a rotunda, his warm-up being a subtle impression of a 13-year-old avoiding PE. If only he'd forgotten his kit he could have been chewing a hot dog.

Or was the warm-up a subtle indication to the players just where the Town fans were? We don't want a repeat of Whittle's faux pas last December, applauding three men and a London dog in the plastic seats.

Who was the captain of our ship? Ah, your is heart speaking as our boat is leaking. Haven't you guessed? Lumpy heard the SOS.

Barnet played in a faded black and amber kit, like it had been washed 27 times too often on high heat; and of course that meant Town played in two-tone blue. Let's go one step beyond and get on with the show.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Whittle End, tricking the hosts with the posts by passing to Toner before Newey walloped the ball aimlessly upfield. Subtle changes you see, they make all the difference.

Barnet, Barnet, Barnet, keep your hair in hairnet. Ay Carmina Burana! Wave upon wave of old stripes pounding upon the temporary Town sea wall. Big lumps of rock and cast off bricks were hastily bundled together in a net and placed before the Montgomery holiday home. But the sea rolled over and round, flooding the rose garden. It's up to the front door! It's crashing against the windows! The electricity is flickering, call the fire brigade!

Past one, two, three, who is it? Oh, Leary shivered Town timbers down the right, cutting Newey's ribbons and bounding to the bye-line. A cross was crossed; Birchall steamed through two defenders to the near post and toe-poked wide. Back they came from the goal kick, scything through the fields of gently swaying hay with passes and movement, touches and pushes. Town retreated in awe at the neat nicking and knocking and Bishop wallied over from the edge of the area.

Repeat action immediately with bonus ball. Whooosh! Hatch thrashing and flashing, Birchall spinning and winning, these dervishes were devilish as the tide crept around a sandbank. Ba-doom! Another shot from the edge of the area weasled goalwards. Bishop? Wright? Who knows who? Who do you do? Why don't you?

Repeat action immediately with added vitamin C. Are we on a constant tape loop? I'm dizzy, my head is spinning, like a whirlpool, it never ends. Town's flesh was stripped away by the flashing blades second by second by second. C'mon, you've got to fight for what you want, for all that we believe. Newey, Newey, Newey, Newey! Do ya know what ya doing? Atkinson headed clear to Newey, who volleyed across the face of goal, the ball curling around the far post for another corner. Wright shot over, or was it Bishop? Hatch squirtled wide from the edge of the area. And in daylight too!

À bout de souffle! What a first five minutes.

Town managed to gain some control over the ball for at least four seconds at one point. They're back! Barnet rolled through the midfield, their strikers holding play and midfielders barundling forward into the spaces where full-backs once were. Town's tiny tent billowed, with the defence huddled inside as the wind screamed and howled like a werewolf. The werewolves of London are here! Where's the silver bullet? Who needs a silver bullet when we have the silver surfer! Monty rode out to the rescue, plucking crosses and corners from the sky and stray eyebrows from Hatch's head.

After ten minutes Town managed to get the ball inside the Barneteers' half. Lumpy flick-headed the ball on behind the lolloping defence as North shingled between Peekaboo Yakubu and Burton the Wagon Wheel. A home boot diverted North's volley over and wide for a corner on the right. Toner eventually trudged across and clipped it towards the penalty spot. Fenton, as ever, glided silently over the home guard to thump a header goalwards. The ball hit a human on the goal line, bombling up, and North spun around to poke the ball into the top right corner.

One shot, one goal, one smile and suddenly nobody else will do.

Barnet ignored this irritant and carried on regardless, but fortunately Town have hired Sir Montgomery Infield-Hopping of the helping hands agency. Here we go again. A corner repelled, danger delayed by seconds. Town were asleep. Peekaboo! Barnet took it quickly, clipped it to the near post and the unmarked Yakubu dived ten yards out to grizzle a header towards the bottom right corner. Monty sure plays a mean pinball! Marvellous Monty slid down to flip the ball away for another corner. A-hoy-hoy Grimsby! Taken quickly, taken short, Puncheon scribbled a sketch and dribbled past a wretch, along the bye-line and shot low. Monty saves by intuition! Hatch squirmed a shot wide, Hatch squished a shot high, Bishop thwangled through a thicket of legs. Why worry, Monty plays by sense of smell, sweeping the ball off the sodden turf.

Town got a corner, Barnet broke away. Birchall ran and ran and ran, from Hither Green to Lower Thitherington on the Northern Line, from penalty area to penalty area. Eight yards out, on the left, Birchall flicked a flick with the outside of his left boot, but Monty knelt by the post and wafted the ball away with his crazy flipper fingers. The corner was half cleared and Puncheon drifted from their left to flaggle a shot towards the bottom right corner. Monty again, shuffled the ball away for a corner. Pressure mounting, Town wobbling. A long throw jangled near a Town arm, the ball dropped in the area by Toner's feet. He slowly turned, but straight into a buzzing thing. The shot was blocked, or it went wide, or it went wide, then was blocked. Details, mere details. Why worry, it went neither near nor far.

Oooooooooh, Town nearly got near them as Sir Lumpalot delicately dealt the cards out. North thought about sticking, then twisted, but too little too late. Ahhhhh, almost.

I think I need a little lie down now: that was exhausting. The game remembered its place in the social strata and became as mushy as a pea for ten minutes as Town's defence gradually got acquainted with each other. The blond Bob mastered his tapes and Barnet were erased.

Ooooooh, on the half-hour Town nearly got near them again as Sir Lumpalot was delicately threaded through the eye of a huge needle by North. He rampaged into the area, one-on-one with Ha-Ha-Harrison, but miscontrolled as the linesman flagged for offside. Captain Sensible ran after the ball, picked it up and brought it back to the keeper. He was booked for sporting behaviour, inciting much unhappy talk from the tingling terraceers.

They're back! Pinging and flinging crosses and corners in and through and round and over the Town area. Monty flies like a bird in the sky-eye-eye-eye. And so does Bennett, grazing the ball off Hatch's forehead as the big old rabbit waited at the far post. Another shot from the corner? Perhaps. Their efforts were getting further and further away from goal and from further and further outside the penalty area.

Town sank back and Barnet plundered gold down the flanks, wheedling in and crossing crossing, crossing. Monty stooped and scooped the ball off his toes and the bees' knees. Nothing passed: everything stuck to velcroman. Ah, what's this? Puncheon punched and munched his way down the right, weaving Newey into a cardigan, barging old Tom aside and dinking a delicately flighted chip from the centre left edge of the Town penalty box. The ball sailed on, over Monty, over the bar and wide. Monty knew... he didn't blink a blink.

Another shot wide, another shot high. Another cross clutched and another scrupled away by a Town boot. They're never ever going to score against Town, ever, ever, ever.

The Barnet defence were in the mood for a dance as the half ended, stroking the ball around knowing that with a bit of rock music everything is fine. On the halfway line Kenny Gillett (who sounds like a Las Vegas lounge lizard) decided to samba sexily up the aisle as North approached. Are you dancin'? Are you askin'? Danny, you're a teaser, you can turn it on. Dispossessing Kenny G, North left him burning and then he was gone, pursued in a wacky race goalwards by the Underhill Mob. On he ran, closer and closer to goal, shrugging aside one challenge and waiting for Ha-Ha-Harrison to fall. The keeper duly fell and North nicely, precisely lifted the ball over the flapster and it bumbled and stumbled and crumbled in to the bottom right corner.
You've got to laugh. We did.

Carry on laughing through half time.

Second half
A-ha, both teams made changes at half time. Till was replaced by Straight Peter Bore, in a straight replacement, as it ever would be, and Peekaboo Yakubu was replaced by Joe O'Cearuill.

The game restarted as the first half had... until the edge of the Town penalty area. Barnet dominated possession, with Town allowing them to tip and tap across the pitch, then clamping them ruthlessly when within 30 yards of goal. Birchall and Hatch were not allowed to turn and run into the spaces behind the wing-backs and there was always a big head nodding sagely; and Monty'll catch a floater when the cross comes in, me laddie.

With Town sitting back in their rockin' chair Barnet were lured forward. The Lumpaldinho worked his magic, sneaking away from his markers and finagling flicks to North and Bore. Bore befuddled weakly after a flowing move down the left, crossed and North tossed a pancake while Newey ladled a tempting ruby into the centre of the area. Moments of nearlyness, but hope of football to come.

And then Hatch headed wide from inside the six-yard box. Are we bovvered? Nah, it's Barnet, they don't do goals against Town.

The moon was beaming but the Barnet tide was ebbing. Hunt throbbed and glowered in the centre of the pitch, pushing Puncheon down a fireman's pole and over the edge of reason. Ricochets and rebounds sent the ball rolling nowhere inside the Town half. Hunt approached and Puncheon launched himself towards our T4 determinator with both feet. Hunt reassembled himself as Puncheon was only booked. He'll be back.

La-di-da-di-dum-di-da, doing the Barnet walkover, oi!

Sublime sliding and sexy swaying, scintillating and seductive, we're eau de cologning! What's going on? Town, being old Town, that's what. Toner tickled the ball away from the defrocked Bishop of Barnet as Lumpaldinho shimmered and shaved some parmesan towards Bore. It's the Bore of yore: rocking and rolling, reeling and a-peeling his marker to terrify with a burst infield towards the centre. Jonesey the cool cat waited inside the 'D' and the defenders recoiled in horror as they were speared by a three-pronged hook. Jones to Bore to North, unmarked and free. Ha-Ha-Harrison thrust himself forward and diverted the shot. North was offside, Bore being selfless in passing when he could have shot.

And at that North was replaced by Taylor

Within seconds a block tackle in midfield resulted in the ball spa-boodling into an uninhabited deadzone inside the Barnet half. Taylor was free, Taylor stumbled and mis-hit a shot. Flip forward on the DVD about 53 seconds: chocks away, he's off again! Taylor spurtled free down the centre, but was manhandled away by brutes. Right, fast forward again and... stop... there, did you see that? No? Then rewind at double speed. There! Jones and Bore combined and North was freed again down the centre left. Barneteers bore down on the tiny tot and Taylor, about 15 yards out, tried to lift the ball over the sliding, sagging Burton. An arm was raised, as was the roof under which stood the merry Mariners of Olde Grimsby Town, and the ball was diverted away from goal. No penalty given, despite a signed confession and Burton's DNA and fingerprints being conclusively proven to be on the ball.

Barnet fizzed and gurgled like a dying firework, occasionally spluttering great plumes of yellow smoke and coughing sparks. Town stood well back and approached with big gloves and a face mask. Shots and passes were sliced dreadfully, but so dreadfully they turned into exquisite passes to the wings. Hey! I've told you not to worry; Sam and Bob snuffled danger, and when they didn't Fenton stood in the middle of the penalty area and nodded everything away. Bennett oozed calm and grazed deep crosses away from the lurking Hatch, while Birchall was sent down the cul-de sacs behind Underhill in search of his pushbike.

And then Barnet started to control the ball out of play, which was nice.

Here he goes again: Taylor was sent free down the centre-left after sumptuous interplay. On he raced into the area, awaiting Ha-Ha-Harrison, who lay down to his left as a shot was carefully placed around his wiggling fingers. And a foot wide of the far post. Bad miss sonny. Tut-tut.

And still Barnet refused to give up. The fools! They carried on flying into tackles, metronomically beating out a rhythm, as Town half cleared, quarter cleared, and exponentially failed to kick the ball either out or to a similarly clad figure further upfield. Bishop swiped a shot through eight pairs of legs towards the bottom left corner. Monty just did the rest with a raffish roll. A minute later Hatch turned Bennett and thrashed a dipping volley from the edge of the area which sizzled a foot over and wide.

It would be handy to score again. Shall we? Jones and Taylor flickered Newey free down the left and he forced his marker to beat a retreat. Crossing high and deep, Bore waited eight yards out at the far post. The ball dropped and Bore beautifully cushion-volleyed a pass into the centre of the area for Hunt, who swiped goalwards. Ha-Ha-Harrison plunged left; the ball hit a defender's thigh and badroozled up off the turf to the right, spinning, spinning and grinning an inch past the post.

In the last minute Town counterattacked again down the centre, with Taylor snicked free behind the defence and trampling into the area. With just the keeper to beat, Taylor stopped and rolled the ball to the penalty spot. Toner and two defenders collided and the ball rolled back to Taylor five yards out, who tapped it into the empty net.

Well, that's it then?

And still Barnet refused to give up. Wave upon wave of attacks rained down upon Town, with even greater furiosity. A high cross from their right was cushioned into the space between penalty spot and six-yard line. Monty rushed off his line and forced Hatch to lob onto the roof of the net. Another cross, another magnificent Monty save, a one-handed claw from the top left corner. Wright snaggled a long shot over. Birchall wormed his way in from the bye-line and crackled a low shot towards the bottom left post. Monty again! Another corner, another scramble, a shot mishit through a thicket of legs, passing Monty, going in... no! Fenton boomed the ball off the line. We finished as we started.

In the third minute of added time Rankin replaced Taylor. And then it ended: three goals and three points in our pocket. Barnet, why do you bother playing this fixture? There is nothing you can do, ever, to score. We are your nemesis.

A bizarre game where both teams could be a bit miffed they didn't win 5-0, and both were lucky to avoid a humiliation. Barnet murdered Town at the beginning and the end, but in the middle there was satisfying mundanity. In the second half Town purred when moving forward, with Bore adding vivacity. He even ran back and defended determinedly. The defence eventually settled into a unit, with the two loanees being pleasingly efficient and competent, especially Big Blond Bob.

Let it never be said that Town's season is dead. Be happy.

Nicko's Unsponsored Man of the Match
Hunt was commanding in the centre, while Blond Bob Atkinson had wonderfully elastic legs and good positional sense. You know where this is going, you know who da man. How do you think he does it? What makes him so good? It's Gary Montgomery; he's got such supple wrists.

Official Warning
Ah referees: on their whims season turn. Applying Mr A Penn's logic to Town's recent woes, we'd have had fewer sendings off and fewer penalties against us. Not particularly noticeable for large portions of the game, he let it flow. A bit of a nothing man apart from the two big decisions he had to make. Hang on, he booked Lumpy stupidly, didn't he. Let me stew on this... Puncheon and the penalty cause his stock price to plummet to 6.164. Sell! Sell! Sell!

The Others
Electric-heeled and tremendously committed, they were admirable in many ways. No long ball hoofing for them: they played to feet with tricky strikers who always pestered, supported by the silky Puncheon. But they have no idea how to defend collectively and an old slow keeper. Hatch has pointy elbows, but he didn't moan when he got pointy bits in his face. They are infinitely better than the lightweights we've seen from them previously. They've shed the hairbears and are reaping the benefits. If they could shoot and defend they'd walk this league. But then, who wouldn't.