Cod Almighty | Match Report
2 May 2022
Barnet 2 Grimsby Town 2
Supporting a lower-league football team, our acquaintance with heartbreak is priced in at an early age. For me, it was Bobby Kennedy’s ill-fated reign immediately prior to the arrival of McMenemy. For my son, it was the sale of Omar Bogle in January 2017. He was nine years old. Since then, he's hardly been to a game and with our form fluttering between mediocre and disastrous, I was happy that he'd lost interest.
He was born a stone's throw from Queens Park Rangers and has never lived anywhere near Grimsby. It's a minor miracle he's shown any interest at all. At football training he'd endure ridicule turning up in a Town shirt, surrounded by the hordes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona tops, while his coach (a Birmingham City fan) heaped praise on him for "supporting a real team". He rediscovered a passion for football during England's performances at last year's Euros, so since then I've been carefully nurturing his interest. We've watched England a few times and I've taken him to see a couple of Europa League games at Leicester, too.
Town have been on a good run, so I figured a game against Barnet was a dead cert. We'll definitely get something from this, right? He agrees to come. It's a perfect day for a match, the sun warming the slightly chilly air of the early morning as we travel over towards The Hive. The away end is already jammed full of Town fans, the queues to the bar completely preposterous, the insipid lager no reward for the wait.
Today there's no mariachi band to greet the team as they run out, inflatables filling the gap, as cactus plants, doughnuts, crocodiles, bananas and penises fly willy-nilly around the away end. But within a couple off minutes of kick-off, the alarms are already sounding as Smith's rash charge concedes a free-kick from which Barnet contrive to miss when scoring would've been simpler.
It sets the tone for a dismal first-half performance. It takes us 18 minutes to muster the first half-decent move when Sousa receives the ball wide and cuts in and shoots on target – but straight at the keeper. Another chance as Waterfall heads well over from a corner. On 20 minutes Effete goes down injured and, a few minutes later, goes down again, a possible recurrence of his previous injury. Cropper replaces him and within a minute, launches one of his behemoth throw-ins to little effect. Town are dilatory on the ball, the gap between Taylor and attacking support is distant, the team careless in possession, the team as a whole, listless and diffident. The party atmosphere in the Town end replaced by a growing sense of doom and disquiet.
Waterfall drags down Mason-Clark and is rewarded with a yellow card. Top scorer Marriott punts the ball in to the net from the free-kick, on his second attempt, the marking non-existent. 1-0 Barnet. Another Town header flies cleanly over the bar. No threat, no urgency. A terrible first-half, only leavened by the efforts of Scannell, comfortably Town's best player (with Sousa the only other noteworthy player, his crossing much improved). My son perturbed, the look of "why do I even bother?" etched on his face. Can't really blame him, it was an utterly woebegone display.
Second half, Town line-up with the introduction of Tristan Abrahams alongside Taylor. He replaced Jones, who I hadn't even realised was on the pitch until then, playing incognito for 45 minutes. With Abrahams bringing a more physical presence, the Town attacks are more pressing and intense. A first chance: another Waterfall header, this time straight at the keeper. Cropper's throws causing more problems for Barnet. Almost directly from that attack Barnet press forward, Hall's cross is fired into the box and Waterfall, with no-one around him, inexplicably heading it past Crocombe. Barnet 2-0.
Credit to the team, undeterred, they pressed forward. It's all Town now. First chance falling to Clifton who turns it over the bar. Scannell twisting and turning on the right, causing havoc, from permanently hobbled to undroppable star in the space of a few games. Penalty appeal as Smith is bowled over. The ref waves it away. Taylor fouled and Scannell's floated free kick is met by Smith who heads comfortably wide. On 70 minutes, Ben Fox replaces Holohan. If the Abrahams' substitution give us more presence, then Fox singlehandedly changes the game. Now we have a someone controlling midfield, doing the simple things well, passing, moving, pressing, permanently in forward-motion.
It's all Town now. Cropper's throw-ins, Scannell's corners, Abrahams' presence, Taylor's movement, Fox dictating the pace. On 81 minutes we're back in the game as another Cropper throw-in floats into the box and Smith pokes it past Azaze in the Barnet goal. 2-1.
Nothing but Town now. A corner falls to Fox on the left, he pokes it into the box, it’s cleared but only as far as Fox, who again sends a raking ball in and Waterfall's outstretched right foot does the rest, atoning for his earlier moment of madness. 2-2. A cacophony of limbs in the away end, some of them belonging to my boy. What a comeback. Not only back in the game but there only looks like one winner.
Unfortunately, the usual Town idiots invade the pitch, the game stops for several minutes and it feels like whatever momentum we had is killed by our own fans, the hopeless poltroons. Despite that, we still create more chances. Fox, again again again, aims the ball right into the 6-yard box but it's deflected away from Abrahams' boot. Full-time.
Frankly, we should never have been in that position in the first place. Barnet offered very little, but Town were really under par for large parts of the game, without Barnet needing to be anything other than mediocre. Fox outstanding and surely a dead-cert for the next game. My son happy, a Town fan for at least another few weeks.