Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
11 March 2006
Grimsby Town 3 Barnet 0
Here's a thing: who was the last moustachioed Town player? Beards and stubble don't count.
A wicked wind from the west blew a sunlit snowstorm across the pitch as 120 or so Barnetians finally reached the acme of football: they are living the cliché, Grimsby on a cold afternoon. The programme trumpeted Target 6000: the Push for Promotio. Isn't that Italian ham? That reminds me - it's ten years since Ivano Bonetti's Latin loving.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Futcher, Newey, Cohen, Bolland, Woodhouse, Toner, Reddy, Jones. The substitutes were Barwick, Jean-Paul, George and Ringo. Or, to you, Kalala, Croft, Mendes and Goodfellow the hairy Weetabix joined Terry the Tease in trying to look interested while sat on a cold wooden plank. No Stick today, just Lump. No, Mr Spooner, not Lick and Stump; that's something you read in one of your leisure magazines.
Toner was yet again way out on the left wing, hanging around on a piece of ground, waiting for someone or something to pass him the ball. You know where the rest were. Except Parkinson. Where was Parky? Lost in the blizzard? Stuck in the queue for petrol at Tesco? Those pay-at-the-pump things are really confusing, especially to anyone under five feet eight. Bring back men in brown overalls - it's the universal panacea. Now that's an Italian cheese, isn't it? That reminds me - it's ten years since Enzo Gambarro's Latin loafing.
Barnet warmed up for the game right up to kick off with some precision passing and movement ballet underneath the Main Stand. Did Hessenthaler have to wear that tutu? He's shrunk since the last time we saw him. That's what happens when you get old, though the ears stay the same size. Barnet also brought along some London hair: Duncan Norville's alice band was simply a side salad to Batt's pimp ponytail and Anthony Charles's human pom-pom. I prefer good old short back and side northern peas: from field to freezer in less than 12 hours (unless the conveyor belt has broken again at Christian Salvo's, or they've hired a particularly relaxed bunch of students).
Dish of the Day: having a big belly does not mean that you will lose your hair, but only if you wear your trousers around your armpits. Oh, and eat some more vegetables. He is a character from The Fast Show, isn't he?
I'm feeling a little bit peckish, shall we start before the main course gets cold, or just pick up a Penguin? It's stopped snowing, so penguin is off the menu.
Barnet, dressed in red with little yellow stockings, kicked off towards the Osmond end, booming the ball high and happy down the centre, straight onto Futcher's head. Don't they know how to play professional football? Do we have to kick the ball out of play for them? Oh, we do.
Barnet had a throw-in down on the Town right and it may even have been thrown inside the Town area. Or it may not. One thing that can be stated with certainty was that no more than two Barneteers would have touched the ball before kicking it out of play. These Bees were busy doing nothing, the most marvellous opponents Town could ever imagineer.
After three or four minutes Town had collected enough Zen coupons to send them off in the post to claim their free gift: a shot from Gary the Jones. A high ball was flicked on by Reddy and, about 20 yards out on the centre right, La Lumpa slid a dipping volley a couple of yards wide. Just practising.
Barnet's hairforce was offside a couple of times. Whittle organised the defence with military precision; when Sgt Whittle says move, you move. Town attacked again and Yakubu kicked the ball in the air. Bolland and a Barneteer collided, both went off for treatment and the game carried on regardless. Hairymen offside, Town moving the ball forward and Barnet defenders slip-sliding the ball away from their own feet. We warmed to the Middlesex minglers: they were our kind of opponent. [Hairfordshire, surely? - Ed.]
Woh, hang on, that's two passes, there may be a third... no, it's a Town throw-in. And then the hairforce was offside again. This is nice and comfy: perhaps if Town tried a couple of passes the red sea would part? Who'd ever thought of Bolland as Moses, sending the chosen one through? Alas, La Lumpa's legs moved but his hips didn't know that he was playing. The little keeper Reed read the pass, racing off his line to collect the ball.
After about eight minutes Barnet had their shot. Some flickery and trickery on their left resulted in Sinclair spinning infield and cracking a right-footed drive a couple of feet wide of the near post. At an indeterminate point Newey shoulder-barged a striker face down into the dirt inside the penalty area after Barnet broke quickly from a Town corner. Only Hessenthaler, the incredibly shrinking man, bothered to complain when a goal kick was given. Yes, that's it from them; we won't see then again until phase two, when Doris gets her oats.
Town started to control the game, simply by being on the pitch and awake. Pressure mounted upon the laddies in red. Crosses were apologised into the area and not so much cleared as prodded a few feet away. Barnet defenders kept shaking their feet near the ball, like they were trying to dry their boots after walking through a shallow puddle. At least they been brought up well, nice and polite, not wishing to stain our carpets. They moved from clearing the ball out of play to passing it out.
A dozen or so minutes in, Town had a free kick out on the right. Woodhouse, the new Newey, pumped the ball to the far post and Whittle, on the edge of the area, pummelled a header back across the face of goal. The Men with Hair watched as the ball sauntered along the yellow brick road, straight back to the unmarked Woodhouse. The Driffield drifter took one touch and, from a dozen yards out, lashed the ball towards Reed's head. The sixth-form stopper pushed the ball away from his face, but into a huge open space, and Barnet were all over the place. Whittle cracked the ball over and over the bar; he will rock you if you are sitting in the back bedroom of 73 Blundell Avenue.
The sticky tape holding Barnet together started to peel away at the edges. Bolland, the Grimsby Grafter, menaced a barely visible Bee 25 yards out, powering diagonally across the penalty area through three red shirts, gaining a corner as the cross was blocked. Futcher and Whittle lurked at the near post, and Woodhouse curled the ball to the far post: pressure, panic, and pomegranates inside the six-yard box. Charles has Leo Sayer's hair from 1974; he didn't dress like a clown, only played like one. We started to love 'em all. Toner and Newey combined on the left, the ball was pulled back from the bye-line and Sir Lumpsford rolled the ball to the keeper from about 10 yards out.
Barnet crumpled further, giving away foul throws and passing directly to Town players, often stood right in front of them. Charles started to become a cult hero, his afro bending in the breeze, his passes bananaing into the trees. His careful crossfield punts into the Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus were a particular treat. For him, marking is something teachers do while watching Coronation Street.
We are the laughing Town fans and this is what we cried: "Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha."
More throw-ins to Town after Hairy wafting. Newey chucked long, Futcher flicked on, Cohen hooked and Clist stooped to clear, belted above the eye for his trouble. Barnet were just waiting to concede, a duvet waiting to be stuffed, some cream waiting to be whipped.
Another long punt forward by Town and Bailey headed the ball from his keeper's hands. Bolland, 20 yards out, hit a first-time singing volley which zimmered a couple of feet wide of the left post. Bolland again, or was it Cohen, shifting through the gears to get to the bye-line and clip a cross to the far post. Toner, unmarked at a narrow angle, opened up his body and steered a volley towards the bottom right corner. Reed crawled across and pushed the ball aside. Woodhouse hung the corner high from the left and Futcher looped a header onto the roof of the net. Town breathed, Barnet heaved.
After 29 minutes Reddy walked off. Mendes came on and went to the right wing, with Cohen moving into the centre of attack. Reddy hadn't looked very interested today. He only moved in a straight line, and then only to where he wanted the ball to be. I suppose he was injured all along.
Town became rotten for ten minutes, sinking to the level of the opponents. Mendes did a superb impression of himself; perhaps nobody does it better. He's like the Tasmanian Devil, whirling his dervishes in a frenzied blizzard of limbs, but with no connection to the rest of humanity. Woodhouse kept giving the ball away and Town resorted to longer punting, which just allowed the Hairboys to experiment on the outer fringes of physics. When a Barnet footballer and ball meet, none of Newton's laws of motion provide an explanation for the results. In the absence of rational explanation, religion often fills the void: thus the Church of the Almighty Perm was founded.
Town were so embarrassed at the ineptitude before them that they started to play attack versus defence inside the Barnet penalty area. Woodhouse crossed and Lord Lumper steamed in at the far post, timing his run to perfection, ready to bazooka a header into the top corner. Futcher stretched back and glanced the ball away, making a magnificent clearance.
It was all getting a little annoying, for Town should have been at least three up already. Barnet were beyond parody, beyond belief in their collective and individual inabilities.
With about seven minutes left to half time Town attempted to exert some pressure upon the Barnet defence. Unfortunately the ball kept going near Mendes, who managed to tackle Bolland twice when trying to control the ball, after losing possession four times within three seconds. Mendes, on the touchline under the Police Box, spun around and around and around and around, acting as a useful decoy for Bolland, who mugged two Barnet Balladeers before slipping a short pass to Woodhouse.
So about 25 yards out, without any opponent close, Woodhouse decided to go for a big cucumber. Ah, dear Curtis, it's more like a courgette when you try it. His shot bumbled towards goal like Harry Worth, the crowd already sinking back, preparing to groan, when the ball hit Lumpy on the shin, bounced off his knee and he stumbled forward chasing it towards goal like a tourist hailing a taxi. Reed was nonplussed and Charles was distracted by a sudden gust of wind which forced his hair to billow towards the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand. Jones the Lump caught up with the ball around the penalty spot and poked it just to the right of centre of the goal. Time for a little chuckle or two as a few defenders tried to harangue the linesman. How very last week.
"Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha."
From the off their hairforce was caught offside again, this time on their left. A change is as good as a rest: this was a Barnet Siesta. Mildenhall jived up towards the halfway line and wellied the ball down the centre deep, deep into the Barnet half. Futcher tried to graze the ball on, but missed it, and it bounced into the heart of the area. Charles nudgelled the ball with his hand, and Jones the Lump steamed in and poked the ball past the little boy that Santa Claus forgot. Hey, hey, goal follows goal, there's straw for the donkeys, and the innocents can all sleep safely.
"Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha."
Barnet managed the impossible: they got worse. So bad that Town fans were getting annoyed for the Barnet 100 down at the Osmond end. This wasn't a contest; this wasn't a professional match. Were they really Barnet Football Club, or was it their supporters' club standing in as the team bus had broken down near Boothby Graffoe? The real Barnet would arrive later, right?
Barnet were barely capable of standing on their own two feet as the pratfalls continued. Reed caught a corner and so very carefully threw the ball out for a counterattack - straight to Toner, who had the startled look of a man who's stormed out of a room straight into a broom cupboard. Bailey fell over his own toenails, Sinclair went to the shops without his wallet, Strevens thought it was a fancy dress party, Yakubu wished he was a seagull, or maybe a double glazing salesman in Staines. Send in the clowns? No need - they're here already. Oh, look - there's Norman Wisdom at right-back, and Max Wall in midfield. Over there, there's that Lee Evans bloke, and both Krankies are in central defence.
Town strolled on and on. Woodhouse curled a free kick from near the right corner flag into the middle of the area. Cohen stooped and winked a header goalward, but straight at Reed. Shall we "ooh"? Why not; this is more fun than we've had since Lincoln.
In the last minute of the half Town played the ball among themselves at the back, just for something to do, to avoid embarrassing their fellow footballers further. Newey looked up and curled the ball down the left. That'll waste a few seconds. Two-nil ain't so bad; they can keep some dignity. Bolland jogged through from midfield to behind where what we know as a right-back would be. Charles observed the movement, and espied the ball, but didn't put these two things together in his head. Bolland ran through, controlled the ball, took out his shoe polish and shined his boots up a treat. As he advanced further he combed his hair, flossed his teeth and booked a table at his local Indian restaurant; after all, Saturdays can get very busy after seven o'clock. Bolland couldn't put it off any longer - he'd given them long enough, so he rolled the ball across and under Reed from about eight yards out as Jones waited forlornly at the far post. The Pontoon resembled the Cadbury's Smash aliens. It was hilarious: where's the chirpy sitcom music to accompany the action? The theme from Happy Ever After was the soundtrack of the first half.
"Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha."
Glossing over more Londonderrieres, the half ended with Macca being sent free down the right as their 'defence' stood on the halfway line. McDermott raced on, chased by Charles the hairbear, as Jones waited unmarked at the far post. But Macca took a touch too much and the cross was blocked for a corner. The referee then booked Charles for being useless. Harsh, but fair.
Unfortunately that was it; the referee put us out of their misery. And we were enjoying it so much. Never in the field of football conflict has so little been done by so few. Barnet were embarrassing. They were on a plane of embarrassment so much lower than anything seen before at Blundell Park. I have considered that statement for several hours, tested it using litmus paper and a saline solution and had independent analysis done by scientists in three continents. And Yorkshire. I have in my hand a piece of paper which means the statement stands! It's official! Barnet are the worst team ever seen; they ain't no beauty queen.
Town were not much better than OK, but they didn't have to be. Just existing was enough to cause Barnetboys to dissolve into mush. It was difficult to assess what standard of football they would be able to compete at, for I haven't seen too many Lincolnshire League division three games. How can professionals be this bad?
Remember: the Hair Bear Bunch never bite. Town could get as many goals as they wish, or should we not bother with the second half, and just settle for a 45-minute stroll for the points?
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Didn't someone threaten to play Buggles today?"
"I didn't see Morecambe but they were better than Barnet."
"In India they use sleeping gurus to make traffic calmer."
"The goldfish were fine, but the cat needed stitches in its ear."
"Their manager runs the English non-League team." "Yes - Barnet."
Neither team made any changes at half time. At least not physically; I don't know what happened to their brains.
Kalala stood on the touchline, warming up.
Within 30 seconds Town nearly scored again. Cohen was felled down near the corner flag on the left. Woodhouse chipped the free kick into the centre of the box and Whittle boomed the ball somewhere that wasn't near the goal.
The game was at a much slower pace, Barnet giving the ball away more slowly, and further away from their own goal. Town players seemed relaxed, content that whatever they did the ball would still remain at their feet. The result was a rather tedious freeze-athon for the fans. Barnet troubled Town a bit, but not much. Fluttering about on the edge of the penalty area to various degrees of superficial adequacy.
Whatever happened to the boogie-woogie bugle boy in the Main Stand row C?
The first ten minutes of the half were like most games this season, only with occasional Town shots, mostly from Toner. Cohen was a persistent pest, foraging down the left, barging past his marker and tapping Toner free. After Bolland had dispossessed Charles through hypnosis, Toner, unmolested 25 yards out with Cohen and Jones a-calling to his side, swung his pants and lampooned the ball wide and high.
Newey tickled a long diagonal pass to Cohen, who chested the ball infield. Bolland was tackled. Toner retrieved and tried to curl the ball into the top left corner from the edge of the penalty area. He failed. Anything else? Yes - Cohen did a superb bit of wingery on the left, hurtling a low cross into the centre of the area. A defender shinned the ball away as Jones waited at the far post.
Junior Mendes hadn't yet controlled the ball. It's still early; today may be the day.
That's really lovely: a Barnet attack. So that's what their strikers look like. Is Norville wearing sunglasses high upon his head, like posh women do in ITV dramas? Futcher tackled an already tumbling, erm, Barnet bloke, 20 or so yards out on the centre left. The wall drifted like a concertina as Mildenhall bellowed ignorable instructions. Norville took two steps and clipped the ball over the wall and against the top of the crossbar. Mildenhall sailed underneath the flight of the ball, heard the smack of leather on wood, and got up dancing like Kajagoogoo, pretending he didn't know where the ball was. Well, he has to do something to keep himself amused.
And that was that for Norville, for around the hour Barnet made three substitutions bringing on the bizarrely bequiffed Batt, Tony Hatch and Soares. Off went Clist and Mayor Rudolph Grazioli, whom no-one had realised was playing. Barnet were a bit less of a pushover after this change, with Hatch, in particular, adding steel toecaps to the tackles.
Junior Mendes had touched the ball, but only in the loosest sense of the word. He was entertaining in his own way. Just don't think of him as a footballer.
Twenty minutes or so into the half, Newey had a triple flashback to his Mansfield madness. He tried to beat the winger near the managers' dugout, but was dispossessed. Possession was retrieved, then lost again. Then again. Newey, facing the Pontoon, then tried to hook the ball over his own head, but Hatch stretched and poked the ball away, reached the bye-line and fizzed a cross low through the middle of the penalty area. Whittle, on the six-yard line, hookled the ball away beyond the far post, setting up Macca for a counterattack. Now that's total football.
A minute later Newey was dispossessed once again as he tried the old Galli-trick: Pontoon murmuring. Barnet crossed, the Town rigging creaked a little and Sinclair, unmarked a dozen yards out, stroked a shot straight into Mildenhall's midriff. The Big M looked slightly peeved that they should even think that they might score a goal. Do they know who he is?
Barnet got their first corner. Their fans cheered. Hello Barnet!
With 20 minutes left Kalala replaced Bolland, which neither added nor detracted from the gondola's progress down the canal. And we were still waiting to see if Mendes could control the ball. Does a tackle count?
Barnet mounted a series of incursions into the Town area. Strevens was sent behind the defence on the right, tricked his way past Futcher and was free, ten yards wide of goal. Mildenhall stood up, leant against the goalpost and started to pluck the opening bar of Skippy The Bush Kangaroo on his banjo. You have to, don't you. It's that or lose two teeth and wear a straw hat. Anyway, this Strevens character, lovely chap: he controlled the ball straight out of play without breaking stride. Magnificently observed physical comedy. We've sussed it: they aren't professional footballers; they are actors with a comic bent. We're back to Junior Mendes again, aren't we.
Blah-blah-blah, they fell over. Blah, Mendes. Blah-blah Soares headed ploppily into Mildenhall's web. Blah-blah high ball dropping behind Town defence, Mildo disdainfully allowed it to bounce as Bailey stretched. Blah Charles continued his masterclass in crossfield punting into the lap of the dentists.
At a Barnet corner Kalala stood in the middle, marking no-one, jumping up and down. Well, it was quite cold. Mildenhall shrieked at Kalala and after the corner was cleared Futcher and Mildenhall informed Kalala that they considered his positioning to be awry. Or something very similar. Whittle had to calm them all down with a fatherly arm across the shoulder.
Mendes! He fell over again, but fell over into the path of the ball, kept it in play and played in Cohen, who did a rubbish cross straight to a defender when Jones was unmarked at the far post.
You can tell they aren't a proper team: they took until the 9First minute to try to decapitate Cohen. Real footballers do that in the first minute. It's the law. Bailey was booked for kicking the ball away, not the killer-diller tackle. Around the same time Jones scythed into Hatch, and the referee allowed play to continue. With the ref's back turned Jones and Hatch sailed across the bar, then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two. There was blood and a single gunshot, but just who shot who? The referee could not see, so he just wagged his little finger a few times at the naughty boys.
What a waste of time the second half was: Town didn't bring us flowers any more, though watching Barnet we'd learned how to laugh and learned how to cry. One more time: Mendes! A Town corner fell to the lonely loanster a dozen yards out, the ball bounced high, Junior leapt up and scissor-volleyed the ball over the stand. You can go home now.
Barnet had improved in the second half: they were bad golfers, selecting the wrong club to chip into the wrong bunker. The swing looked good until they had to make contact with the ball, so more practice needed to get the handicap down. It was the easiest of easy wins, though maybe a long-term chance lost. Barnet offered themselves for sacrifice upon the altar of promotion and Town - their troubled conscience cleared by ritual slaughter - were only prepared for some limited humiliation. You get the feeling that if Town had tried a bit they'd have scored ten, which would have been nice.
So there you are: a stroll in the sunshine. You don't know what you missed. If you were there, then Barnet are our little secret. No-one else could possibly imagine that. If they had any dignity their players would have walked to the Osmond and handed their wages over, personally, to each and every Barnetian who'd been conned into coming north.
Nicko's man of the match
No-one was outstanding because no-one needed to be. Futcher and Whittle looked fine together and so, to be ultra-contrary, Mr Justin Whittle for telling everyone what to do, and them listening.
Markie's un-man of the match
I'm sorry, but it has to be said: Junior Mendes was the only Town player who would comfortably wear the Barnet shirt. He was funny, but only because we won.
Until he got fed up of cockernee sparrows tweetiepieing in his ears, Mr E Ilderton was most sensible, allowing the game to flow but pulling back offences when required. He missed Hatch and Jones' comedy playhouse production of Raging Bull, but that's what his linesmen are for. This ref coulda been a contender for best of the season. How about 8.345?