The ants are my friend: Barnet (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

5 December 2006

I hope they have enough 50p pieces for the meter.

Barnet 0 Grimsby Town 1

On a Tuesday in Barnet you can hear happiness staggering on down the street, or is that just the Town fans? Are there any Barnetinas anywhere in this postcode?
A mighty wind blew straight up the hill, through the empty terracing, and rattled the turnstiles. Time to wrap up: you don't want cold ears when watching Town, nor cold feet; or was that just the midfield in the last six years?

Town pulled their frilly nylon shorties right-up-tight in the 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Croft, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Till, Rrrrrrrrrrrricky Rrrrravenhill, Pulis, Heggggggarty, slimline Lumpaldinho and Paterson. The substitutes were Rankin and the Napkin, North, Murray and Boshell. It's a Buckley team: you know where they stood, you know how they were supposed to play. Blessed is he who shepherds the weak: you know his word is the law.

What a shame: Barnet had dropped the hairforce, so no Duncan Norville, and chief hair-bear Charles was left jitterbugging up the touchline in a tuxedo. They've dropped the comedy and gone all serious; perhaps their football has too.

As the players ran out Whittle turned to the 20 people sat in the green seats behind the far goal. Initially disappointed that so few had turned up, nevertheless he saluted their fortitude with an overhead clap and thumbs-up. Justin... Justin... over here... hello... an amused Fenton tapped Whittle on the shoulder and pointed him over towards 300 sharp-dressed men: now he comes runnin' just as fast as he can. Great commitment, but it's your embarrassment.

We're burgundy in Barnet. Let's see action.

First half
Town kicked off towards the end the Town supporters were not in. Justin... Justin... Justin... get a grip man. Darn breeze. Future passing, nothing lasting, with Town unable to get beyond the halfway line as the ball blew backwards whenever clearances were hoiked and punted.

Shall we try passing to each other on the ground? Err, maybe not, as hobbledehoy Barnetboys hurried, hassled, hustled and many other things beginning with the letter h. They hydrated too. Lovely skin. I suppose you have to in that London, being metrosexuals and all that.

Whoops, Hatch nearly rewrote the theme to Crossroads after Town's centre-parting flapped, or perhaps they parted like the Burgundy Sea. Whatever, whichever, whoever, whenever... never, actually. Barnes trotted out and scooped the ball up as Newey and Fenton simulated the red wheelbarrows for the Christmas crowd. Then they sang O Little Town of Be-e-e-thle-hem. Fenton was just a tad too sharp and Newey was a little flat, unlike his hair. Tiny Haystacks had hair which looked like it hadn't woken up yet, going every which way but loose, any which way it can.

Wince, then grimace, with Newey doing his soft-shoe shuffle infield, but only turning and gurning into trouble. Perhaps Birchill just blended into the night in a small town, starless and bible-black. Probing through Puncheon, dibbling through Devera, Barnet swept sweetly through midfield with flicks and tricks, causing stomachs to rumble. Crosses dipped and flaked through the centre, but no Barneteers touched the ball. Ah, at last! Ten or so minutes in and Cogan slippered a volley sensually wide. With shooting like that you can tell that the banjo is back in town, with the cow stuck in a jam on the M25. Oooh, another shot, and another. Nice. Wide, way wide, softly wide, with lovely, lovely shooting.

Don't mess about with Buckley's Town: Barnet should remember you should never do a tango with an Eskimo. Tap the side of your nose. Little things mean a lot: Paterson and Till flickered briefly, applying Pythagoras's theory to undulating Underhill. Nearly, but not quite; maybe next time.

Here they are again. Gross crossed from the left; Birchall got on a stepladder between Fenton and Whittle to graze a flick wide. A minute later Devera dallied, Newey nibbled and a cross dinked into the middle of the six-yard box. Up popped Whittle to wobble his eyebrows. Town wobbled no more. For a while.

Suddenly Dave Moore ran around from the dug-out, opened up his bag and got out a hairbrush. Comb your hair, Tom Newey.

Gradually Town started to break the shackles, slapping two and three passes together and even getting over the halfway line. Till and Paterson exchanged passes on the right with King clunking and clinging to passing nylon. Another triangulation and Till, near the corner flag, walloped a dipping cross into the far post. Heggggarty sauntered, waited for the ball to drop and carefully side footed a volley goalwards. A big-bottomed Barneteer flew horizontally across and blocked. The ball rebounded to Ravenhill, a dozen yards out: blocked again. Lump retrieved, Paterson crossed: another block. And another for a corner and excitement. Town flowing, the Barnet cattle are lowing. Heggarty hoiked it high and Town scrambled a few eggs as the toast burned. The ball dropped at the far post and Paterson, a dozen yards out, scissoringly bicycle-kicked it into the ground and straight at Harrison.

Let's spend five minutes watching Barnet run round in circles.

Did you enjoy that? C'mon, it's nearly Christmas, you know you'll have to put up with worse in a couple of weeks. Now let's get back to football.

Near the half hour, as Barnet 'attacked', nothing happened. Pulis and a Barnetboy tussled, with Town retaining possession right in front of the away support. The referee gave Town a free kick nowhere important, for nothing at all. The ball rolled; Newey stroked it up the line to Heggggggarty, who spun and caressed a perfectly weighted pass between full-back and centre-half. From just inside their half, on the centre left, Paterson's tiny feet pitter-pattered away. Harrison raced out to the edge of his area and swayed like a cobra as Little Marty piped hypnotic melodies. Paterson switched the ball from left to right to left, leaving Harrison on his backside, and tap-danced on a couple of yards before passing into the empty net. All the people of the lulled and dumbfounded town are sleeping now, as we partied on the satisfyingly old-fashioned concrete terrace. Nostalgia is what it used to be.

And now for Barnet's fifteen minutes of tame. Town sat back and just stood in front of them, forcing them wide and leaving little time or space for their tricky wingers to wing. Croft and Till clamped Puncheon like over-zealous meter maids. It had got dark and Puncheon's heart was towed away. Town bothered to attack just once, with a Till and Paterson shimmy-shammy-shake and a big game of Twister inside the penalty area involving Ravenhill. Ah yes, Rrrrricky the missman. If Des was disco, you're a ratatouille. Let us hope Bolland's unbroken foot remains unbroken.

Barnet just had a bunch of shots from way outside the area. Barnes even had to catch a couple as they humbly grovelled at his door, meekly requesting entry.

Stop counting your turkeys. With a couple of minutes left Newey passed infield, merely setting Puncheon up for a counter-attack. Newey trotted back as the cross zoomed in, perhaps eight yards out at the far post. The ball glided over Fenton and Hatch powered his header an inch over the crossbar. Wakey wakey. After boiling an egg, the referee decided to eat it in his dressing room. It's 'arf-time, pop pickers.

Town hardly did anything, but there was always the hint of danger when they did get over the halfway line, which wasn't often. The mighty wind blew back every throw-in, every goal kick, drop kick and clearance. Town played downhill, but upwind, which just meant anything on the ground raced away, and everything in the air curled back. It was quite dull, quite poor and quite all right by us. We wouldn't want the amber masses roused. There is an amber mass out there, isn't there?

Time to count your jumpers and practise 'Up the Mariners' on your new trombone.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time and Isaiah Rankin had a cup of tea and a stroll in the dark.

Hey, that's cheating - they've turned off the wind machine!

Barnet tapped off the second half and there was no wind. You could tell that, as Tom Newey no longer looked like he was a human Van der Graaf Generator. H to he, who am the only one, as they often say in the Executive Boxes on a Saturday evening: that may explain their man of the match decisions.

After confusing Barnet with progressive rock references, Town sidled forward with some passing and some movement. Till tempted King with some chocolate-flavoured butterscotch and won a corner, which Heggggarty curled low. Fenton leapt and... lekfkwfhuweyfasjdlkfjkl... let's fast-forward a couple of minutes. Ooh, Pulis whacked a long shot straight at Harrison. Woah, hang on, let's rewind, we missed something... lkjfkldjsaf... sorry, it was only a throw-in.

What is time? An elastic concept whereby quantifying and framing are merely abstracts imposed by humankind. One of the most peculiar qualities of time is the fact that it is measured by motion, and it also becomes evident through motion. So is Gary Jones timeless or invisible? That's a fancy way of saying everything in the second half was a bit of a blur, so thick and fast was the action, one moment blended into another. So, like Greig's piano concerto by Greig, there may be all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.

Shall we begin? Oooh! Fenton nodding wide from a corner. Aaah! Pulis volleying into Harrison's arms. Oh! Sinclair dripping a curling cross through the Town six-yard box. Uh-oh! Puncheon punching free and scraped aside by a last-ditch Croft tackle. A bout de souffle aperitif; just wait for the main course.

Five or so minutes in, Till raided and won a corner, which was drifted into the middle. Bodies collided, the ball dropped, Fenton and Jones spun and one of them did a bouncy poke wide from about eight yards out, with Harrison flapping his wings and squawking at his non-existent defence. Paterson spun past one, rolled past another, did a Croftian turn past a third and rolled along the byeline, his low cross scruffled from the near post by peekaboo Yakubu. Was this the time Peekabu shinned the ball off his line or was that later? I told you about time, didn't I. Paterson snapped and trapped Peekabu inside a net, swinging away down the left, cutting infield and drifting a low shot a foot or so wide of the right post.

Back the Bees buzzed, swiping crosses low and high across the face of goal. Croft and Fenton, immense with their incense burners spreading instant karma. A Barnet corner wafted in from their right. High and hopeful, a defender rose a dozen yards out and thumped a header down and across Barnes. The ball bounced towards the net but Heggggarty waited and volleyed off the line as a million bright boots danced before him.

Half cleared, the ball was immediately returned by the Busybees. It disappeared in a miasma of multicoloured boots and socks, emerging near the penalty spot. Bailey poked, Barnes hoped, and the ball swung left and away from goal. Puncheon fibbled to Birchall, who flibbled a swinging shot across the face of goal as some amberman slid in at the far post. Hatch headed over from a corner and, ooh, there was oodles of nearlyness to forget from them. Town sunk further and further back, inviting and enticing Barnet to fling cross after cross after cross after cross into the box. They crossed a lot, but got cross when Fenton and Whittle kept pooping their party.

Do not sit nose to nose with llamas, as there is an increased probability of being struck by lightning. Even if there are no llamas, be aware of the dangers of having legs too far apart in a thunderstorm.

Sorry, did I distract you? Town chased the lady down Barnet high street, bamboozling them with pace and passing, Till oozing, Paterson cruising and Jones bruising the beepeople. Heggggarty intercepted a crossfield pass in the centre and raced forward, tickling a fine pass to Jones as Paterson peeled away to the left. On little Nick ran, accepting the sub-Reesian flick, rounding the left-back and shivering into the penalty area. Harrison shuffled off his line and, from about a dozen yards out, Heggggarty sliced a right-footed shot to the near post. The keeper half stopped the ball, which rolled, rolled, rolled towards the line. Ahhh, he picked it up.

At this Barnet made a double substitution. On came the Magno Vieira GTI, now with alloy wheels and heated seats, and Dickie Graham, one of their mascots, the bonsai Barneteer with a straw bale for hair. Ho-ho-ho-oh, he's quite good. Gulp. The match went a bit crazy, with Barnet playing with three defenders and Town breaking quickly into the vast wastelands populated by a few blades of grass and the occasional yak.

Graham can tell a waltz from a tango, dancing through two tackles on the right edge of the Town area and flashing a shot low to Barnes' left. Or right. Down went Barnes, out went a hand and away bounced the ball. Off Town steamed, Paterson rolling down the right, rousing the Town support, riverdancing into the area and cracking a shot against Harrison. Off Barnet dreamed, Puncheon forcing Newey back, and back, and back, before flagellating the ball to Barnes's left. Big Phil punched the ball aside for a corner.

Pressure, scrambles, blocks and hacks; Town clinging on, watching and waiting for the next attack. Fenton this, Fenton that: magnificent, strong, sturdy, silky, smooth and purrrfect. A cross into the six-yard area, snicked away by Fenton - the ball went straight to Sinclair, whose shot murdered goalwards. Fantastic Fenton headed it clear. Town broke back, Till patted free by Paterson. On past two defenders, Till glided into the area and, from a dozen yards out, crackled a low shot against Harrison. The ball bounced back behind Till, who hooked the ball over his shoulder. Harrison rose and plucked it from high above his head. Please feel free to ooooooooooh.

Paterson again, rolling, rolling down the river and forcing a corner. Or was it Till - I forget. I blame the old lady who took an age to get the ball back as it bounced towards the toilets. Heggggarty swung the corner into the far post, where Harrison casually stepped back and flipped the ball off the line. Pah, what foul?

Whoops, Graham shot, Town blocked, Puncheon crossed, Graham crossed, King surged and Bailey burst his banks. Crossing, heading, arm wrestling, bar billiards and a spot of shove-ha'penny were thrown in for good measure. A free kick, 20 yards out on their left curled and dipped into the middle of the six-yard area. All of humanity descended on one spot and the ball suddenly looped up across the face of goal, slowly, slowly arcing over the bar. Everyone in burgundy patted Whittle on the head. A header squirmed through to Barnes, a corner was punched, a cross was slapped. Fenton, Fenton, Fenton: the man with three heads and six feet; the Ganesh of Grimsby, here, there and everywhere. Never flustered, no bluster, get that man a custard cream.

Barnet are now playing with two defenders and eight attackers.

Off Town broke, Paterson wiggling along the halfway line, waiting to be freed. Till lobbed the ball down the right and off turbo-boy ran. One defender rolled, a second boiled, a third was sold on eBay for £20.06 (exc. p&p) and Paterson was up to the edge of the area. Harrison advanced and Paterson poked a shot with the outside of his right boot around the keeper. The ball curved and swerved and gently kissed the outside of the post.

Hang on, I forgot the time Ravenhill intercepted a crossfield pass and Town had three against one. Rrrrricky overhit his pass, forcing the ball wide on the left. Paterson cut infield and curled a low shot inches wide of the left post, the ball hitting a defender's toenails on the way. Ooh, ooh, and then there was when Paterson was tapped free on the right after, hey, passing and movement. Harrison advanced and the shot deflected up off his forearm and looped goalwards. Peekabu ran back and hoiked the ball off the line. Ooh, ooh, ooh, Paterson again, disrobing Yakubu on the right, squishing in the area and crossing low to the near post. A corner. Can't remember what happened next.

Before the Big Bang, there was no space or time: get your head around that. Then try and work out the career path of Paul Warhurst. Hello! On to replace someone in a similar coloured shirt. The immutable law of the ex-Law signing, anyone? No, not really: no-one Nicky Law signed counts as a Town player. That's just the way it is.

Barnet - more crosses. Some headers, boots and body parts flailing in mass pandemonium inside the Town area. Puncheon inside the area, blocked away. A ricochet, a rebound, the ball poked back in, lobbed back in, punted back in, hurled and curled back in. All fingers remained inside the polder.

Till broke from the halfway line and reached exactly the same spot that Paterson, Paterson, Till, Paterson and Hegggarty had not scored from - a dozen yards out to the right of goal. Till shot. An amber boot nicked the ball in a loopity-loop over the bar.

The extremely polite tannoyman announced there would be three minutes of added time.

Barnet played with one defender and nine attackers.

Erm, there were five minutes of madcap laughs inside the Town penalty area. Punching Puncheon, slapping Sinclair, blocking Bailey and crosses, crosses, crosses. Three minutes gone. That must be it? Town whacked the ball high and mighty downfield. Four minutes and a corner to Barnet. Harrison waddled upfield and the corner sailed over him and was cleared, then sent back into the area from right to left and crossed back. Harrison, a dozen yards out, was unmarked. The ground fell silent - the greatest goalie goal ever, to be on continuous Sky loop, was imminent. He twisted his body, leapt in the air and spectacularly scissor-kicked a volley a couple of yards wide.

Now that is that, finally. I think I need a little lie down.

If you give 'em a short, sharp shock, they won't do it again. Dig it? I mean Barnet get off lightly, cos Town should've given them a thrashing.

For all their pressure Barnes only had to make a couple of saves of any consequence; they didn't create much, relying on the Micawber-esque tactic of hoping something would turn up. Town created enough to win by many, but managed to avoid scoring more than one. It wasn't great but it was just about effective, with only flashes of the Accrington hour of majesty. Hey-diddle-diddle, Rrrricky in the middle, Pulis covered the cracks with a spoon. Paterson and Till terrified on the break but it was the fortitude of the defence that won the game, even allowing for Newey's terrible positional play. Croft covered excellently, while the centre-backs were unsurpassable, that's what they were.

Just listen to the rhythm of a Buckley's bossa nova. You'll be dancing with Town too before the season's over. Happy again?

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
Many were fine, some were good, but two were acemer. Paterson and Fenton: supremely, magnificently great in a superb way. Paterson never stopped moving, never stopped causing problems. Can we shave Michael Reddy's hair off and send him to Stoke instead? I suppose he'd need elocution lessons, or electrocution. But it ain't him this time. For being the sarcophagus of Barnet's dreams it's Nick Fenton. Absolutely brilliant defending: like Paul Futcher with legs.

Official Warning
Mr P Armstrong was a right high-muckamuck. Totally erratic, mostly wrong, and never in Town's favour. Except the goal, of course - he gets bonus points for that. One good bad decision doesn't a summer make, as no-one has ever said, or understood. Useless, so 4.101. Remember, that includes bonus points for being useless in our favour.

The Others
Not bad, but small. Light years better than the footballing joke that turned up last spring, they actually had footballers playing for them this time. Neat and tricky, they were a bit physically light up front and a bit clunky in central defence. But, against Paterson, who in this division wouldn't struggle? Peekaboo Yakubu is a mime artist, isn't he?