Pump up the volume: Peterborough (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

10 September 2005

Peterborough United 0 Grimsby Town 1

A miserable murky day in Fenland central: the pitter-patter of tiny raindrops, the cold blank stare of a dead-eyed sky and around 800 Mariners massing in a shed. What a perfect day. Drink orange juice in the park; maybe we'll see a move or two.

Town danced around in the warm-up, the subs, as usual, cast off into the shadows to do some male bonding, which translates as belting the ball as hard as they can at Lukic the Destroyer. Ah, little John, taking pot shots against Mildenhall and smashing the advertising hoardings above the goal, panel by panel: shards of broken plastic flickering in the wind, dangling with intent.

What a boring programme, the sort that really does believes it's an official matchday magazine. All gloss and dross: the only stab at humour is the number of pictures of their full-back, Dean Holden, who has a sideline in being Matthew Hoggard's celebrity double. A niche market , I'm sure, opening bingo halls as the Giant Haystacks of cricket. Oh yes, we remember now - they only buy strikers who don't want to live in Grimsby. A curious selection method.

Shane Huke. That is a great name: he sounds like an Aussie euphemism.

Before the game there was a presentation to the Exalted One to mark his 600th league game. Such a fine memento of the day, two shirts with GOD written on the back. Oh, no, sorry, poor eyesight: the number 600.

Kalalalalalalalalalala's shorts reached his ankles. And his ankles reached his feet.

Town lined up in the I-can't-believe-it's-not-better 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Croft, Cohen, Bolland, Mr Kalala, (Parkinson), Jones (G), Reddy. The substitutes were Gritton, Barwick, Newey, Crane and Ramsden. Parkinson again on the left, Cohen on the right, Jones the Lump betwixt and between somewhere unseen. Town wore the yellow kit, forsaking that unlucky black and white one which clashes with Peterborough blue, obviously.

First half
Peterborough kicked off towards the Town support, taking 2.67 seconds to hoik the ball upfield. A throw-in. It's somehow comforting for every team to do the same thing, week in, week out: the fourth division, a field of footballing sheep.

Oi, what's going on 'ere then? Passing and movement? Poshites spritely, whizzing and whirring around the lumbering Town defence; Quinn and Logan buzzing like an badly wired lamp. The ball was played from right to left and crossed into the area; a challenge, a bundle, a rebound and Farrell unmarked six yards out on their left. You can relax on both sides of the shed, for he leant back and scooped the ball way over the bar. Great miss.

Still they waltzed around in front of Town, with pace, with purpose, within you and without you. And we're only talking about the space between the defence and midfield. Oo, that's better: a Town player has actually, factually, touched the ball. Kalalala robbing, McDermott roving, Reddy riverdancing down the right. A corner, a bumble, stumble and a Kalala shot humbling through a thicket of legs and diverted away. A moment when something almost happened, but didn't. Such is life down in the dreg end of football.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself: there's defending to be done. Peterborough broke, Farrell bursting through the centre from his own half. Croft gently legged him up near the centre circle, and was booked. By the way, the clock that didn't exist showed that six minutes had walked on by.

The game flowed freely, mainly towards Mildenhall, with the Town flanks a no-go zone and Jones the Lump lumbering in the dark forest. We heard noises but we never saw the mythical beast. The Poshies pranced and preened, dominating possession, foundering upon Jones the stick of rock and oozed away by Macca the Magus. Yes, Farrell, we're talking about you, spinning and spooning down their left, Mr Macca eased you away and tapped the ball against you for our throw. You've been Macca'd. Welcome to the 600 club; you get a little badge and a certificate of authenticity. But not a T-shirt: you have to buy that.

The game becalmed, dull parity, the clouds greying, Quinn's hair flopping. Boom! Quinn swivelled 25 yards out on the left and bazookered a dipping half volley straight into Mildenhall's chest. A smile, a cheeky wink and the Mildster whacked it upfield as far as he could. Peterborough were still fizzing, but their little bubbles were further up the pitch. Jones and Whittle solid, not soiled. They couldnae get through, Cap'n. Logan's runs were pretty, but pretty pointless. You thought I was going to make a joke there? Nah, you can't do jokes when you're over 30.

Twenty minutes and seventeen seconds: "Sort it Slade." An early one today.

Mildenhall amused himself chasing an orange balloon, amusing us with his sitcom inability to stamp on it. Mildo the clown gave up after his third attempt to burst it. They really should have played some suitable music over the tannoy at that point. Well, they do it for goals so why not other cultural high points?

Burton suddenly burst forward from centre-back, dribbling on and on into the Town half, exchanging passes. A flabbergasting flat shot zoomed low across Mildenhall, who parried aside. Farrell lurked; Macca put on his brown overalls, took out his trusty bucket and mopped up the spillage. He even polished the spot afterwards, lovely and clean. Posh starting to push. Ah, not too posh to push, these pregnant Poshies.

I haven't mentioned Parkinson yet. No need: he is a small island in an ocean of doubt. What is the point of Parky? Is he a some kind of decoy, like those false towns that were built in the second world war to stop Sheffield being obliterated? Croft was exposed in the light. Nobody knew where Parky was, how near or how far from the touchline. At least Cohen was back covering for Macca when he raided, if nothing else.

Have Town attacked? Oh yes, a free kick, that's nice. It's only taken 25 minutes to get one. Hurled in from the right, Jones the Stick leapt and nodded back across goal, whereupon Jones the Lump stood on the ball six yards out. OOOOOOOOO ....offside anyway. We rang once, no-one home. We'll come back in 20 minutes.

Let's slow the game down, let's not get too hasty with these things, eh? Modern life, no time to think about things. Mildenhall showed great concern for the state of the pitch, too many divots my dear McDermott. Oh, Quinn again, pot shooting from afar, straight at Mildo's heado. He doesn't flap them, laddie. We're cool about the goalie these days. Oh, Quinn again, the terror of Ferdinand being an occasional pest to Town. Poshies moved on a break and dinked a cross from their left to the far post. Whittle slept and allowed Quinn to sneak around the back. Macca covered, but Quinn, eight yards out, lashed him with his quiff, and the ball zoomed a foot wide of the left post. You can say that again. They're getting closer.

Gain surging, Gain crossing, through the area, blue feet not far away, pressure mounting. Quinn falling, the referee falling for it. A free kick, 25 yards out in the centre, the wall ducking and diving, Mildenhall's view obstructed, the shot seeking out further advertising hoardings to destroy. Ah, nice.

Peterborough were racing quicker into the tackle, Town a five-man team, defence against all-out attack, pinned back inside their own penalty area. The ball in, out, shaken, stirred, boiled, flambéed, grilled, oven-baked, but still no way past Mildo, Mildew, Milders, the Mildster, whatever you want to call him. A long throw chucked in, headed out, sent back in. Barging, bundling, a bald-headed midfielder mumbling a shot through six legs and a goat. Gasps and gawps as the ball zipped along the turf straight to Mildenhall, who held on. No rebounds, no flaps. Safe.

Town piddling, possession lost; Peterborough freewheeling down the right. Farrell was suddenly free and hanging the ball up to the far post. Croft leant into Quinn and guided him away from goal, the header drifting wide, the Poshies returning to their seats. Poshites breaking again after Parkinson mugged himself in midfield. Farrell again sent behind the defence inside the area, Macca pursuing, shunting him away from goal. Farrell checked back inside as McDermott slid towards Crowland, a clear shot imminent. He pulled his boot back and was disappointed by a travelling salesman selling snake oil charms to repel gnat bites. Whittle blocked with his big brass neck.

Gasp, a cross snivelling through to the far post, scraped back across the face of goal, missing the left post by the merest of inches as Mildenhall joined the fans on the terrace in standing and waiting for disappointment. And in that he was disappointed, which is enough to make anyone happy.

Is it time yet? Time for what? Time to ring their bell again, for the night is young and full of possibilities. Kalalalalalalalalalalala won possession, surged forward and released McDermott from the halfway line. "Forward!" he cried from the rear and the Blues retreated, allowing him to skip unmolested to the edge of the penalty area. Macca fizzled a low shot across the face of goal. A bit soft, a bit wide, just a little bit of pie to chew upon at half time.

Yeah, that's it. That's the first half that was. Their goalkeeper touched the ball a couple of times, I think. Oh yes, how could I forget the time Rob Jones back-headed a huge punt upfield from Mildenhall. If their goalie had gone home early for his tea then it would have gone in. Reddy sometimes ran around, Jones the Lump was a Fenland monster, his terrifying existence the stuff of rumour among villagers and travelling salesman. Croft seems to be having trouble adapting to the new Town, for short passes to David Gilbert just don't seem to be working these days.

The midfield two were mostly capable of stopping too many surges forward from their counterparts, and the defence just about coped with the swirling fog of the Posh attack. It wasn't very edifying; it wasn't much, but it was 0-0 when Peterborough should really have been two up. But hey, we shouldn't look these shoddy gift horses in the mouth, should we.

Who's gonna be the second half suckers?

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I can't think of anything - this game's stolen my brain."
"Is Rob Jones the only one who can tackle?"
"Shane Warne's been sent off at Oldham."
"Gary Jones moves like a gazelle. A dead gazelle."
"Well I believe Macca's shirt says GOD."

Second half
Town made two changes at half time: Gritton replaced Parkinson and Barwick replaced Cohen. Town sort of, in a roundabout way, moved to a 4-3-3, with Gritton on the left upfield. He's our Wayne Rooney! Stop sniggering at the bus stop; the analogy holds water. No, analogies do not make you sneeze.

And Town attacked, in the sense of having the ball, and moving towards the Peterborough goal. How interesting. Breaking news: Town break new ground. Gritton revved up and racing around, the perplexed Poshites scratching heads and wailing. Town pressed down the right, stringing at least three passes together, with Reddy racing into the corner, winning a throw in. McDermott lobbed it in to Gritton, inside the penalty area, near the bye-line, who jumped to his left, then stepped his right. With his hands on his hips, it must have been those pelvic thrusts that drove the defenders insane. He spun and flibbled a low cross goalwards. The ball skidded off the grass, collided with Giant Haystacks' shins and skipped on, six yards out. Jones the Lump stretched out in front of Burton and poked the ball inside the near post as the goalkeeper was cleaning out his gutters. Wakey, wakey, you're 1-0 down.

As their manager said, we're a bit like the Mafia: just when you think you've escaped you get sucked back in. Or maybe just The Godfather Part III: not what it was but it does pass the time and is less distressing than a battered haddock in Croydon.

Have you checked your supplies? Got a tin opener, clean water, a sharp knife, sturdy boots and a waterproof jacket? You may have enough to survive the next 45 minutes. Right, let's set off into the jungle.

A free kick on their left was hoisted high, bodies battling, the ball rebounding, dropping to Gain on the edge of the area. Twisting, turning, probably gurning, but also curling a shot safely over the angle of post and bar; Mildenhall unconcerned. Jones the Stick, peerless in his heading, seemingly omnipresent with his extendable legs and expendable head. Crosses whipped, crosses clotted, Town under pressure, sinking back, Mildenhall unfussed, not required to touch the ball. That's the eighth chicken the Town fans have counted today. Nope, a ninth has wandered across the zebra crossing. How else would a chicken cross the road?

If it ain't Newey it'll be Kalalalalalala, won't it. Finally booked by the odd referee for persistent tree felling. Nothing huge, no great big cedars noisily chain-sawed in the open, just a lot of little conifers chopped down with a red-booted axe. You have to be careful with that axe, Jean-Paul.

More corners, more crosses, more pressure on Town. Big yellow heads nodding like donkeys to ease the oil crisis. Town's formation was beginning to creak as the Poshies realised we're undermanned on the flanks. Newton finally began to find space and run at Croft; frequently two against one, Croft was unable to deal with the flying fen. Newton received the ball in his own half and surged forward, exchanged passes and cut infield. The Town defence retreated and Newton glided on into the area with just Mildenhall between him and happiness. He drifted wide and slashed a shot across the face of goal, the ball rolling suggestively, teasingly, pouting as it passed the post. McDermott covered up this coquettish shot. The children can sleep safely again; their morals will not be corrupted.

Around the 65th minute Town had a wonderful Indian summer for two minutes, passing themselves along and up and back again with Bermuda triangles around the Poshites. Kalala won the ball on the edge of the Town area. Croft passed to Gritton, who spun and, well, the next 30 seconds were a throwback to yesteryear. Barwick, Reddy, McDermott, oooh, everyone doing one-touch passes, leaving the little Posh piggies in the middle. Town went nowhere, but it galvanised the away support: suddenly a roar rose as possession was kept, passes made, movement observed. Cohesion, intent to play football, hope of a better life: that's why we headed west. A moment that meant a lot to Town fans, and nothing to neutrals. It was a defining moment for the relationship between players and supporters: we started to support again, not just watch and throw witty one-liners at them.

As the Town fans' noise levels rose, the Town players' commitment increased. They moved as one, they played as a team - but it was all in defence. Peterborough piled forward, upping the pace of play, taking off strikers, sending on quicker players, loading up their right-hand side. Semple came on. Croft wibbling, Gritton forced back to help. Semple free, crossing, the ball bombling through the middle of the area as toes poked. No touch, no goal, no chance of respite. The ball was half cleared, back they came. Corner, corner, free kick, corner: all headed clear, bubbled away for ten seconds at most. Into the box, out again. A man free, two yellow shirts smother and a shot deflected. The ground freezes, the ball squeezes underneath a Town boot and skips off towards the top left corner. Mildenhall rises like Poseidon to clutch the ball away from disaster, swoops like Superman to save the baby tumbling from the skyscraper.

Ah, swapping your Town rejectors around now, are you? Benjamin arrives without a suitcase to replace Quinn, or was it Logan; do I care? Back they come, down their right, crossing low through the area. Benjamin stretched, ten yards out in the centre, the ball continuing through, Barwick to the rescue. Another surge and cross. And another, and another: through, over, round and under; smuggled inside overcoats, disguised as tourists from Hungary, painted to look like an aardvark, they tried it all, but Town's customs officers stood firm.

The ball sailing beyond Mildenhall inside the six-yard box, free, inviting, everyone waiting for a blue sock to appear. It's yellow! It's... oh, I don't know, who cares, it's one of ours. Let's say it was Macca for old times' sake, shall we? Ooh, another sweeping move from right to left, a cross dimpled into a striker acting as a wall... Poshies to the left, Poshies to the right, laid back, leaning back and swiping the ball over the bar. Phew, and all to the sound of the 800-strong GTFC choir. So, Russ has finally got his own army.

With about ten minutes left the hole on the left was finally plugged when Jones the Lump was replaced by Newey, with Town really, honestly and truly, playing a 4-4-2 formation.

And still Peterborough piled forward. The rate of cornerdom increased and the Town choir reached a crescendo; every block, every header added to the poultry enumeration. Another cross through the area, Jones placing an order with lastminute.com for an extra leg: it arrived just in time. Semple running, Newey clattering, Jones wrapping his wings around any Peterborough striker within pecking distance. Short corners, Town sleeping, the ball drifting into the middle of the box, disappearing into the blue lagoon and shooting out again on the yellow river. Falling, failing, hoping, praying, they did it all, they got nothing.

Four minutes of added time. FOUR! Where did that come from? The ratchet was ratcheted up another ratchet, ratch fans. The unbearable lightness of being a Town fan, watching from afar as the ball hid itself in the long grass. Another short corner on their left, dinkled in, Mildenhall challenging, the ball creeping over his hands and being ladled away along the bye-line. Caught your breath? They're back again, along the bye-line, the ball pulled back; Benjamin, perhaps ten yards out, scoopled the ball over the stand, which is probably what his teammates wanted to do to him at that moment: the last moment. Town had survived until quarter to five. So we win again.

An exhilarating experience, not for the finery of our silky football, but for the guts, determination, and a brave fortune. The crowd were energised, giving the team immense vocal support, to which they visibly responded. They couldn't give in, not with that behind them. If we'd lost 4-0 it wouldn't have been a travesty, so one-sided was the game in terms of possession and chances created. But Town won, and that with only one shot on target all game, and barely another worthy of such a description, even off-target. We're the biggest muggers in the league. Now, let's sort this home form out, shall we.

Typical Town: you just keep us hanging on. Are we going to reap just what Russ sows? And what is it, exactly? With a little luck, can you hear the Town exploding?

NickO's man of the match
Town's towering figures today were the twin towers at the back. Mildenhall oozed impermeability from every pore, exuding confidence. Ah, that sweet smell of male confidence... or was he a bit clumsy with the liniment? Is the book going to close early this year? Again, yet again, it's last year's scapegoat of choice, no longer a laughing stock, but the man whose sock is high: Rob Jones the Stick.

Rob's rant of the day
"Mildenhall my lord, Mildenhall." Well, I didn't like it, even if everyone else did. For a start substitute "Macca" for "my lord". Context is everything.

Official warning
Mr Sutton. No, not my old maths teacher who used to stand on one leg, jingle-jangling coins in his pocket when agitated, but some bloke allegedly from Lincolnshire. So that's somewhere between Tetney and Crowland. He started off being whistle-unhappy, especially in our favour, but then went on a whistle-crazy rampage, seeing demons in every drink. He never gave off the aroma of total madness, looking like someone who would rather not make one of those big 'as seen on TV' decisions. Not that bad, considering, so an average-type score of 5.563.