The Grimsby Town FC


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Buckley: MOM
Buckley: MOM

Arising From the Ashes of Underhill

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 25/11/2007

"I really enjoyed that" announced my daughter Revis after our last match. She’d never come out with those words before. The sun glistened on the river as the noble black-and-white warriors spent a pulsating 90 minutes earning a gallant 3 - 3 draw.

The healthy crowd basked in the occasion. Shame it was Fulham we'd gone to see. Indeed, cup heroics notwithstanding, who knows what motives other than reckless loyalty and criminal insanity could have brought us once again to the dark tunnels of pain associated with watching Grimsby Town FC. Today’s punishment zone was Underhill, home of the less than mighty Barnet, but nevertheless too mighty for the pointless Mariners. Actually, we did gain 1 point out of a possible 24 in our last 8 league games, but let’s not get too carried away.

I've kept up with events thanks to Andy Humberstone, whose "colour analysis", as the Americans would call it, is not fit for repetition. Colourful language to suit the occasion. Then there are the messageboard items sympathising with the traumatised season ticket holders. The counselling industry must have been thriving in North East Lincolnshire. Oh, and Captain Buckley tells us that the team isn't trying. Cue more abysmal torment with lashings of despair. They really don't know what they're missing at Fulham.

So, Revis, Merlin and I descended on a bitterly cold day on Underhill. Barnet is an affluent place. Over £400,000 for a modest house. You could buy a street in Grimsby for that. Or the whole of the Town squad. Still, one cup win over high-flying Carlisle in midweek, and the market value has gone up. Even Andy the Colourful was strangely optimistic: "I fancy us to win".

It doesn't take long to realise that Barnet isn't Grimsby. Our buses go to Nunsthorpe, theirs go to Arnos Grove. We walked past shops, which I guess are called boutiques round here. One was called Thai Concept - it looked like a restaurant to me. Close by was an Organic and Mineral Hairdressers - a barber’s shop - and then Exotic Bengal Cuisine - ah, an Indian takeaway. You need a glossary of terms round these parts. Barnet FC on the other hand is quaint. It’s a homely place. We were exhorted more than once to enjoy the game by friendly people who the stereotype would have suggested should have been out there wrecking the place. The toilet wall bore no graffiti, but guidance on sensible and responsible drinking. You can meet the Barnet players at the Sunday market, one poster told us, no doubt to have a chat about Thai concepts. Barnet FC has a nice atmosphere to it, but with its non-league feel, it’s a sinister reminder of what we might be experiencing next year.

There were loads of familiar faces in the crowd, this being a recognised GTFC Exile’s annual outing. Less familiar were the players in the team, with the two loanees Atkinson and Hird, and Gary Montgomery in goal, of whom good things have been said. It turned out that the line-up was an interesting and attacking 3-5-2 formation, with Hird and Newey operating as wing backs. This is how it read:

Montgomery: Bennett - Fenton - Atkinson: Hird - Till - Hunt - Toner - Newey: North - Jones.

The first few minutes was all running, with Town matching Barnet’s efforts in the industry and lack of control department. The first decent shot came on 11 minutes when North latched on to a Toner pass, and won a corner. The ball was drilled in, the ball was headed powerfully towards the goal. Barnet failed to clear it with any authority and Fenton headed back in for North to stab the ball home in the melee of players. Barnet 0, Grimsby 1.

Barnet were straight back up the field and won a corner. Newey then comically ballooned the ball behind his own goal line when attempting to clear. Montgomery made an excellent low save following the corner. Montgomery made another brilliant low save on 20 from Barnet’s Birchall, who looked offside, and then from the same player a minute or so later. Town were attempting to make progress and Toner in particular was winning the ball in midfield but it was leading nowhere.

Barnet were playing their own game, charging up the field, taking players on, passing quickly and shooting on sight. Town were ready for it and Jones typified the defensive spirit when blocking a piledriver after a free kick. All in all, there was a great deal of effort and a lot of fouls. Town were being more patient than Barnet.

On 32, Toner set Jones clear with a through ball. Jones, unaware initially that he was offside, carried on and was booked for his troubles. On 33, Fenton stopped another Barnet attack, booting the ball away from trouble before hooking a dangerous cross clear shortly afterwards. A Toner corner on 40 led to a Barnet breakaway. This was when they were at their most dangerous. Thomas chipped over the bar to end the move.

Then, on 45, a Barnet defender was weighing up his options on the half way line when North saw his opportunity and dispossessed him. The race was on. Half of Barnet descended on the rapidly advancing North, who with the defence in hot pursuit and eventually surrounding him, cut outside, controlled the ball and slid it under the goalkeeper into the left corner. It was a great striker’s goal. Barnet 0, Grimsby Town 2. The half-time whistle blew soon after.

Half-time verdict. There was lots of 4th division scrappiness, with no shortage of running or effort. Town countered well and took advantage of frequent Barnet mistakes to build up attacks. Barnet relied on speed, wingers and breakaways, and lacked composure compared to Town. Town’s performance was solid, especially in defence, and all of Fenton, Toner and in particular Montgomery in goal were stamping their authority on the game, not forgetting of course North and his sublime second goal. Revis noted that Barnet wore the same colours as Boston United who we annihilated last year ... "and it’s a crap ground as well". Barnet, however, weren't Boston, and were showing signs of being able to unlock defences with their pace and skill.

The report continues in Part Two

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