The Barnet blitz

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

27 August 2005

Barnet 0 Grimsby Town 1

A cloudy but warm afternoon in London's wealthy north end with around 400 Town supporters perched precariously upon some green temporary seating. Hmmm, do you think we've solved the mystery of the missing seats at Blundell Park? We sold 'em down the river to Thamesland.

What lies beneath the tarpaulin?

Town lined up in the newly minted 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Ramsden, (Parkinson), Bolland, Pope JP Kamudimba Kalala, Newey, Jones (G), Reddy. The substitutes were Croft, Gritton, Andrew, Barwick and Gliding Glen. Well, we wanted the 4-4 bit; let's compromise on the rest, shall we. It was well worth those ACAS talks going on until after midnight. Urgh, but Ramsden at left-back? Newey wandered lonely as a cloud at left midfield and Parkinson stood around in front of His Mcfulness on the right. Jones the Stick at centre-back, Jones the Lump in the Teddy Sheringham role between the devilish Reddy and the deep blue-shirted sea of the Town midfield.

What's underneath the black plastic square pegged down inside the goalmouth? Is it a jungle trap, staves whittled from local oak to impale the unwary stopper? Is it a portal to another dimension where the mystery of Glen Downey has actually been solved? Or is it just a bit squishy?

Ah, The Who's greatest hits, good choice of tannoy music, you bet. Is it 1973? Yeah, but The Sweet? There is a line in the musical sand to be drawn.

Barnet? They ran out in a black kit with orange pinstripes. Or was that piping? Or was it stitching? Who are you, Barnet? Simon King, just back from photographing an auk in Orkney, no doubt; Mayor Rudolph Giuliano Grazioli. Ooh, we've heard of him. Sadly Duncan Norville and Margaro Gomis were nowhere to be seen. Not surprising, really, as Margaro Gomis were knocked out in the second round of the Intertoto Cup. New grounds, new teams, new players; it's all so confusing these days.

If we got bored we could just turn round and watch the cricket match going on behind us. The pitch looked a bit green - good for swing and seam. Swing those pants Michael Reddy!

First half
Barnet kicked off towards the Town support (to the left as you see it on television). The right arm spinner wasn't really turning it but was causing problems outside the off stump with his drift. The field was set deeply, so Whittle headed the ball away. It didn't look like a wide to me, but he's the umpire. Oh, the football. You know, this and that. Did I tell you Town were playing in blue? Town were playing in blue.

Barnet fizzed about in front of Town. Ravioli up front was a bundling pest, nipping in front of Jones and Whittle to barge and create space. Their midfielders swamped Kalalalalalalala, who started at a relaxed continental pace, resulting in black shirts flooding forward. Eek the cat, phone the RSPCA. Ah, John McDermott.

Don't forget Jones the Stick either.

Oops. A dink over the top, the ball dropping on the edge of the area. Whittle wide-eyed and legless; Grazioli an inch away as Mildenhall clutched the ball from his big toe. Sinclair finagled himself into the wide spaces between Town defence and midfield and danger loomed, but there was always a big woolly jumper to smother. Town sucked in, blown out as Barnet bellowed down the middle and out to the right. Macca here, Macca there, Macca everywhere blocking, Town rocking slightly, the ball pulled back and King, 20 yards out on their left, smurfed the ball safely wide of Mildenhall's right-hand post. Never close; it wooed the locals though.

There are some locals aren't there? Ah yes, over there on the right, the Underhill overspill cooing their geographically inaccurate insults towards the lazing Mariners. Four boys in white hats under the snack bar, boys on the town: Bar-net, Bar-net it's a helluvva Town, the schoolyard's up and the shopping mall's down. Yes, but what about the football?

Newey kept fouling. Newey kept giving the ball away. Newey-Newey-no-ey, booked-y for a fourth rubbish tackle-y. The boy's becoming a liability: is he this year's Tony Crane? What would that make Tony Crane?

Still Barnet muckled about: brief moments, fleeting, almost this, nearly that, but nothing to report. Twenty-nine minutes gone and the first "sort it!" of the afternoon. Have Town attacked? Ah yes, piddling and fiddling on the left, a Kalalalalalalala-bamba cross and Parkinson stooped to head the ball way over the bar from about 10 yards out at the far post. A minute later a further brief encounter with football. Stood on the station exchanging glances, if not telephone numbers, Reddy's train steamed out of High Barnet. He rhubarb and custarded through two challenges on the edge of the area, drivelling the ball low to Tynan's left. Only the Ceefax-watchers cooed. The next Northern Line train to Barnet is not approaching; you'll have to wait for 13 minutes on platform 2.

Still the Barnet beavers gnawed away on the Town tree trunk. Sinclair was a permanent threat, infiltrating at will; Newey absent, devoid of thought, a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl leaving Ramsden exposed to Strevens' trickery and pace. Town were stout, stoic and strong; Macca was magnificent, Jones imposing. Corner after corner, pressure mounting. Ooh, Charles rising free and plonking a free header into the next borough. Another corner was pulled back and hoiked into the hedge behind the Town fans. Pssssssssst, the ball's deflating quicker than the Barnet fans' expectations. Nice.

Still Sinclair roamed the land, still Mildenhall stomped across the savannah plucking the ball from feet, heads and all points in between. A save, low to his right, held with confidence. Town fans content as he barked instructions and encouragement to his defence. Sir, you are no Anthony Williams. Sinclair again: tickling, tockling; Bailey too, a sudden pass and nearly through. Mildenhall swiping down upon Ravioli, the ball loose, the ball cleared: happiness. Hey, a Town attack, Jones flicking, Reddy rolling, Bolland and Kalalalalalala ladling the ball between them and across the face of the Barnet defence, 25 yards out. Boom, a Kalalalala slicer, destroying a greenhouse in the back garden of 23 Westcombe Drive. "What about my sweet peas?" Indeed: blame it on the boogie.

Newey, a final nail in his coffin, diddled and daddled after Ramsden had superbly dispossessed Graham. Two Barnetians swooped. Graham, free inside the area, sent a fizzer frying across Mildenhall. It was saved and soothed away by Whittle. We can sleep safely again. Those shadows are just illusions. It's all in the mind.

The innings ended with a run-out, the half ended with a whimper. Time for tea.

Well, it'd do. Nothing too scary from the homesters, despite their whirligigging around in front of us, spinning like wheels inside of wheels. Town were moribund in attack, with snippets of passing, but Reddy was easily moosed away from goal by defenders and G Jones was the by-passed biped. The Town flanks were occupied but essentially of no use. Poor Newey was dreadful, incapable of passing, tackling or even standing in the way; at least Parkinson did that.

Was Russ happy with the dullness, or had he a cunning plan? I'd have had mid-wicket a little deeper for the second-half slog, myself.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"In Grimsby if you can remember the 60s you were there."
"I hope they have enough balls."
"Three hundred miles was a long way to go to buy a kettle."
"Even a one-legged Croft would be better."
"Is this an Olympic venue?"

Second half
Town made two changes at half time: Gritton replaced Reddy and Andrew came on for... hang on, what's all this? Wahey! Ho-ho-ho, hee-hee-hee, we're the laughing gnomes. Town kicked off, knocking back to Ramsden, who launched a long punt up the left. The ball hung, Andrew swung and, like two Ben Chapmans, sailed majestically upon thermals, gliding, hovering and hoopling a header over Tynan from the edge of the area. Their man at the back was ready to crack as he raised his hands to the sky. Oh, how we laughed at the goal and at their centre-half, Charles, with his hairy homage to George Berry. Oh kids, you really don't know what you've missed with George Berry.

And again, Town up and at 'em. G Jones flickering through, Macca teased away down the right, crossing just behind Gritton. Gritton disrobed a centre-back on the touchline with The Lord of all Macfullness racing clear. He looked up and caressed a pass to Gritton, who spun and hooked a shot towards the right-hand corner. Tynan clipped his toenails, applied some creosote to his goalposts and scooped the ball up as it rolled past his petunias. What would Alan Titchmarsh say about that? The Barnet flowerpotmen were wilting withTown raiding freely down the right. A throw-in, chucked to Gritton turning and hooking goalwards, Tynan keeping a straight face while collecting the small change.

Ah, this is nice, an afternoon among friends. Lovely.

Barnet upped the pace, challenges crunched and crackled, the game played at a crackerjack velocity. Their supporters, roused from slumber, were beginning to roar. The referee was induced into giving free kicks; what would follow? The game was gradually seeping towards the Town goal; it was like American football: three falls to go ten yards. C'mon, c'mon touch me babe, and we'll get a free kick. They did. Free kick, corner, free kick, corner; all taken with great deliberation; like Masterchef, they cogitated near to constipation. Get on with it! Why did they bother? Charles free at the far post headed hugely high. Unlike his hair, which was highly huge. Another ball, from their left, flung to the far post, was headed into the replacement greenhouse. "Ruddy hooligans."

This wasn't football; it was celebrity shirt-swapping. Jones and Charles were admiring the stitching on the inside of each other's shirts. And shorts. The referee tutted a lot. Ramsden was booked for persistently annoying the home support with rambunctious ram-raiding of his winger, the ball an optional extra. Push me, pull me, hoof, hump, clobber, clatter, biff, crash bang wallop, offside, onside, over the slips for four. The cricket was losing its fascination as Barnet pummelled Town. Heads headed, knees knocked, Mildenhall caught everything.

Ooh, that was close. A corner on their left swung to the near post and grazed onwards, and Charles, a few yards out, intercepted the ball, swivelled, fell back and hooked the ball over the roof of 21 Westcombe Drive. How could he miss? A leading scientist in the Town end (someone with grade B physics) claims that the weight of his hair caused him to overbalance, losing control and co-ordination.

That's much better: Town broke on through to the other side of Underhill after Kalalalalalalala and Bolland mugged a Barnetian. Passing, movement, a wiggle of the hips and a scoopy scrape and turn, G Jones acted as a wall, Kalalalala-dimba swirled a half volley into the chest of a waiting Town teenager. Oooh, just a few feet wide. We're back again, Andrew and Macca picking a pocket or two down the right, with Macca supporting and curving a cross towards the waiting Gritton, a dozen yards out at the near post. The re-animated Celt hunched down and flicked a diving header straight into Tynan's arms. Nice move, promising, got us on our feet and roaring.

With about 20 minutes to go Croft came on for Ramsden, presumably before the crowd sent him off. All hands on deck, all hands on deck, the Barnet brig is about to attack on the port bow. The busying Bees made a series of substitutions, hauling off defenders and replacing them with attackers, the ball flung furiously forward, bodies hurtling into each other. Graham barundled through two challenges, on their right, the ball ricocheting once, twice, thrice into his path. A cross-shot towards the near post was smothered without fuss by Mildenhall. Crosses from the left, crosses from the right, bargeball, not football. The ball was rebounding at crazy angles, Mildenhall imperious, impervious to the little blackshirts snapping at his heels. Town heads were emerging from the morass to clear, Town boots poking out to block. Frantic and frentic: finesse merely a clothes shop in the high street. Barnet were fraying and flinging abuse at the officials. Oo-er, just because you're losing; keep your hair on.

Town were infrequent visitors to the Barnet half, Parky sent free, oozed away by the defender with just a quiet word in his ear. Time ticking down, Town players being booked every minute. More pressure, more corners, more flan-flinging, more moaning, more bookings. Relief, a Town throw-in; despair, another sending off. Bolland and a Barnet player grizzled at each other when Town got a throw-in on the left, underneath the Underhill posse. Bolland held the ball. The Barnet player growled into his face and appeared to knock the ball out of Bolland's hands. Bolland was booked, shouted at the referee, and was booked again. Town players surrounded the referee to hand him the petition they'd just signed, holding a candlelit vigil and singing "We shall overcome" in a peaceful protest. Minor pandemonium, play on.

There were four minutes of added time.

The ball was wellied high, there was dancing, there was prancing, there was mincing too, but no chances were being created. Town broke away with Andrew, three against two. He looked up, looked for instruction, then ran into the corner. The referee gave Barnet a free kick for an invisible foul. The ball was back again in the air, fighting, biting, kiting: a corner. Another corner, half cleared, crossed back to the far post and a header looped across and over Mildenhall. From the mists of time an ancient warrior returned to save his nation. McDermott rose and headed the ball off the line. Our hero. Barnet still didn't know who they were dealing with - the perfect defending machine. Town broke, four against two. Andrew advancing, Kalalalalala sprinting forward, Gritton waiting in the centre. Andrew underhit his pass andÂ… that was it, victory.

The sweet smell of success. Town were organised, determined and professional. At no time did they look like losing, for Barnet huffled and puffled but didn't even get to the front door; they just wailed at the garden gate. Town have a large front garden. Plaudits all along the watchtower at the back, with the three sentries in the midfield guard house getting a ribbon on their medals.

Town did enough, and even looked likely to string passes together when attacking. Andrew was lively and direct, a sort of stronger and less dizzy Mansaram, while Gritton appeared to be focused upon his present job rather than a game of darts in his local next Tuesday. G Jones was efficient and not without hints of skill. The longer the game went on, the more direct Barnet became, until they just went route one. They looked like a team that wanted to pass the ball but were reliant upon pace, rather than a playmaker. A few strategically placed roadblocks were all it took to confuse them. Sound familiar?

The music was soothing and every Town fan was groovin'. Now we know what was under the tarpaulin: three points - and they're ours.

Nicko's man of the match
We love saying "we told you so". We told you so, Russ: four defenders, four midfielders. Jones was a colossus but, restored to his plinth, John McDermott was macca-nificent, defending with his head and hips, not with hope. The last-minute header off the line was the icing on a particularly sweet cake.

Markie's un-man of the match
Forty-five minutes of total terribleness, incapability on a brownfield site. Tom Newey: oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. You are new, so this is the slack you get: must do better.

Rob's rant of the day
"Howzat" to a ball pitching outside leg stump.

Official warning
The camp crusader. Shut that Dorr. Weak, a daytripping official seeking the easy way out. He'll get his licence revoked for he's broken an iron law of football: he booked John McDermott; ergo he has no competence. Easily influenced by the moaners and groaners in the popular stand, he always looked likely to send someone off. So George Daws, what's the score? 3.786.