Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
27 September 2008
Some boys in red 0 Barnet 1
No more carefree laughter, silence ever after; walking through the empty stands with tears in Fenty's eyes. This is where Buckley's story ended; that was goodbye. Knowing Buckley, but are we knowing Stu?
Town lined up in a formation that was roughly 4-4-2 as follows: Barnes, Stockdale, Bennett, Heywood, Newey, Kamara, Hunt, Del-boy Trotter, Till, Ameobi, Llewellyn. The substitutes were Monty, North, Jarman, Hegggggggarty and Mr Heslop. No Clarke, no Bosh: no passers in midfield. Till on the left and Lulu floating down through the clouds between Ameobi and the midfield. Kamara is spindly, Ameobi gangly and Trotter is lanky, but Stu tells us they are pacy. We shall see, for the pudding is ready to be served.
Hang on, what's going on here? Barnet walked out in white shirts and red shorts, Town in red shirts and black shorts. If Barnet turned up in a clashing kit they should have worn our red tops, with the club shop charging a handy £1 for each letter of their players' names. That's... £104, if you count the apostrophe as a chargeable item. That's the price of their failure and a vital income stream not being tapped.
Four borrowed boys, an improper kit and a rudderless ship. This isn't Grimsby Town, it's a glorified kickabout. It's the start of a new era, boomed the tannoyman. Yes, the eleventh this decade: so an era lasts less than a year here?
As some old warplanes buzzed and swooped low across Blundell Park, the alleged Town kicked off towards 74 Barneteers in the Osmond stand. Newey kicked it out of play. It's a new era, remember. It must be, for he kicked it out a bit further up the pitch than normal and a bit quicker too. So that's what Lance Corporal Disco Stu, the swinging postman, meant by high tempo. Have you got a lifebuoy?
Lulu was offside.
Barnet fizzled downstream and Adomah bedraggled wide. Barnes hoofed, Barnet twizzled upstream and Akurang was grappled aside by Heywood. Two minutes gone and the new era had quickly dawned upon the masses. Hoof, head, slice, slice, hoof, skickle, dwickle, and in a pickle. I'm losing the will to live.
What are this so-called Town doing? What is the method? Who are they?
Kamara ran quickly and smacked a pass into Ameobi's chest. It bounced away, into the path of Llewellyn, who flimped a shot a foot or so over. Ah, high tempo, high energy disco Stu. Is this liquid gold?
Ameobi has a chest but I'm not sure whether he has feet. His only accurate passing was with his big booming chest. He'd be fantastic at chestball: quick someone invent Fenty that thingummybob, 'cos if you don't Stu'll lose his job.
Lulu was offside.
Three passes were made. Chesty Ameobi was offside.
The Barnet left-back, Kenny Gillet, who sounds like a saxophone-wielding smooch singer from 1986, was shoddily booked for shoddily wrapping Kamara in cling film. The free kick was hoofed shoddily; who knows or cares where it landed; if it landed.
Lulu was offside.
Lulu was offside.
Lulu was offside.
Am I dreaming? Where am I? Why am I watching an under-7s game?
Ameobi headed against a defender's shins and Lulu was offside. Please, someone wake me from this permanent vegetative state.
Someone flicked a header across the face of the penalty area. Barnet defenders frozen, Till foxtrotted around a vague defender. Out came a Barnet arm, hauling Till to the ground in the centre as he bounded towards the keeper. As last man he had to go, right? Wrong, for the man in pastel was as yellow as his card. From the free kick Newey tromboned a steaming thwacker goalwards, the ball hitting some Barneteer en route to inching over the crossbar. A corner! Wasted.
Just for the record, Barnet had some shots, of sorts. Barnes was troubled only by the ballboy falling over as he returned the ball. They were feeble, but stronger than 'Town'.
Newey lazily waddled after a hopeless Barnet punt and swiped the ball away for a needless corner. As the whole Town team huddled inside the six-yard box Carew walked up from the halfway line. The crowd roared, the Town players looked at each other inside the six-yard box. The corner was tapped to the unmarked Carew on the edge of the area. He crossed, Akurang glanced a free header a foot or so wide, and the Pontoon seethed at the disorganised dribbles of dross before them.
Kamara was slain with a scrunching tackle from behind by Gillet, who immediately ran away to hide behind his fellow defenders. The referee beckoned Gillet and Carew, wagged his finger three times and sent them away. The crowd were so incensed they raised a groan.
A Town cross was cleared and a Barneteer sniffed the grass as the ball was returned to Llewellyn, ready to cross from the edge of the area. The referee stopped play, then instructed that Barnet return the ball to Town... by passing it back to Barnes. Barnet learned from this and hit the turf at any opportunity. The crowd were so incensed they growled like a tired bear being poked with a stick.
Yeah. Loads of handballs missed too.
Oh, and then there was the moment Bishop went off for treatment and was allowed to return from behind Stockdale at the moment Trotter passed the ball to him. Bishop just kicked it away and set up a counterattack with an instant crossfield hump. The crowd were so incensed they wailed like a narwhal with toothache.
Lulu was offside.
In the last minute of the half noddy nothingness down the Barnet left caused narcolepsy in the stands and the Town players. Two Barnet players walked into offside positions as the Town defence strolled further upfield. Some bloke lobbed the ball down the touchline and Adomah ran from his own half, with only Bennett reacting. Adomah can run faster than Bennett. Adomah rolled a cross into the centre and the unremarkable but unmarked Bishop fell and stretched and steered a shot low across Barnes into the bottom right corner from about six yards out. Cuh, eh, who would ever have believed it?
There were five minutes added for all the Barnet falls during which Bishop slapped a shot through a thicket of legs from 30 yards, which snickered off Heywood for a corner. Shall we just stop now?
That was dreadful. You want to know about the newbies? Kamara flickers without impact and was rarely given the ball, Ameobi can't stand up for falling down, and Trotter was visible only through the most powerful telescope. Pity poor Peter Till - stuck out in the wilderness of the left, his threat was nullified by the selection, not his opponents. We'd neutered our best player by sending him to Siberia with no-one capable of passing to him.
Do I see any method? I see no method at all, sir.
No changes were made by either team at half time. It was still pathetic.
There is nothing to describe, no style, no pattern. It was the random collisions of distant bodies in a galaxy far, far away from what we are used to, what we demand, what we expect.
After about ten minutes there was a bit of a to-do inside the Barnet penalty area. They were incapable of clearing the ball away and 'Town' were incapable of anything. Eventually Trotter slapped a shot vaguely goalward, the ball bouncing off a Barnet shoulder and looping slowly to Harrison. I suppose we should say that was a shot, a chance, a moment when something could have happened.
We who were there, we know...
Those who were listening, you know...
Those who are reading, you know...
Finally Lulu and Chesty were replaced by Jarman and North. North did nothing in his half hour; Jarman cruelly injected some skill and vague hope, proving he really is a Town player. He brilliantly shielded and turned to race towards goal, two defenders crunched and the ball fell loose, but North ran parallel to the action; the moment was gone.
A moment that perfectly encapsulated this 'Town': in a controlled panic Newey tapped a quick free kick straight out of play.
Heslop replaced Hunt. More brows were furrowed. Kamara went into the centre, with Till on the right and North on the left. Was it 4-4-2? Was it 4-3-3? Was it 4-2-4? Was it a mess? Run around now, kids.
At last, one moment to cling onto while we slip underneath the cruel sea one last time, our wreck to be found in 100 years by diligent divers and assiduous archivists. Scrape away the barnacles and you'll see a small silver goblet among the broken bottles. Jarman superbly flicked the ball between defenders, sending Stockdale free inside the area. He crossed, Kamara didn't grow a foot, and the ball sailed beyond and beyond and beyond. We're beyond redemption, beyond hope, we are already one step beyond the Football League.
Barnet missed a sitter: terrible marking at a corner allowed some big bloke to stand by Barnes, walk to the near post and graze on a flick. Akurang stooped and scooped a header over the bar from about six yards out. Then they had another couple of shots, which were shots in theory only.
After 83 long, long, long minutes of torpid torment a 'Town' player made contact with the football, moving it towards the goal and ensuring their goalkeeper made an official save. North flicked; Kamara dipped a volley straight into Harrison's midriff from about 20 yards out. The ground stood as one to applaud. We had gone beyond anger and simple frustration. This was self-parody. We only have humour to keep us sane.
Then Heywood stood upfield, Barnet had a couple of chances, and we went home to ponder the meaning of Town life.
Previously this season Town's results have suggested that the Conference was a possibility, though the majority of the performances haven't. This abomination demands relegation, right now. In the emotional hyperbole that follows disappointment Town fans are wont to declaim: "This is the worst Town team ever." All things considered, in context, this probably was the worst thing sent out in our name. Previous debacles have, at least, been in higher divisions with some individual players who did something, or were capable of doing something. This wasn't a collective unwillingness to play (à la Oldham); this wasn't defensive panic (à la Hartlepool): this wasn't just a rag-bag collection of the capable and uncaring (à la Nicky Law). This had nothing, anywhere, against the weakest opposition you could hope to play against in professional football.
I know that when you lose at home to Barnet you're supposed to look on the bright side of life, but some things are impossible. Right here, right now, that's one of them.
Fenty'll just have to face it: this time we're through, if that's the best Stu can do.