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Going Underhill

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 06/12/2006

Football is about ifs and buts, speculation on what might have happened if decisions had been different, promotion and relegation calculators, the tables and other talking points which breathe life into our existence, not to put too fine a point on it.

Home > Features > 2006 Features > Going Underhill

Had we managed to beat Northampton in our FA Cup replay, my children and I would have faced a dilemma. I had booked tickets to go to France, braced on the pre-AB thinking that Town winning a game was clearly preposterous. AB came along, we then drew and I had to put it to Merlin and Revis that we now might have the choice between Barnet and Lille, London's leafy glades or cold miserable Northern France. I believe this is referred to as a lifestyle choice in posh magazines and Sunday supplements.

They chose Lille, I imagine because of its similar grim climate to our own North East Lincolnshire idyll, so there is work to be done here. The God of Football has to be recognised. We lost the replay so the matter became academic. So let's talk about something that did happen.

Three days after this hypothetical fixture, here we are at the end of the Northern line amidst the residential dwellings of slopy Underhill Road, Barnet, London EN5. The only other ground I can think of in such relatively affluent surroundings is Cheltenham. I and an impressive 250 + other Town supporters made the trip for tonight's game. I had been here before and so wasn't entirely surprised at the non-league feel to the place. That's we're heading if we don't get anything out of today's 6 pointer.

The good news is that things have been looking up recently. I couldn't get to the Accrington game but it was a good win in what I'm told was some style. It's also taken a little bit of pressure off. AB has had a week and a half to develop the team's style further and so there is reason for optimism.

On top of this, our opponents Barnet have loaned out their prolific striker Tresor Kandol to Leeds. Does Tresor Kandol sound like a sugary sweet, or is it just me? OK, it's just me. Anyway, he's not playing tonight. Unfortunately as is normal in life, this piece of optimism was destroyed with the knowledge that Barnet won their last home game 4-1 minus the Sugary Sweet against Northampton. Ominously Town turned out tonight in the maroon and white of our cup conquerors.

I bumped into Swanny and Mick and a few others outside the ground. There was no urgency to get in so we went into the nearby Old Red Lion for a couple of very convivial pre-match pints. "£2-10 a pint!" cried a Town fan indignantly. Welcome to Ripoffsville a.k.a North London. A sign above the entrance gate told us "£50 notes no longer accepted". Has any Grimbarian ever seen a £50 note?

Having paid our £15 to get in, we enjoyed the novel experience these days of standing on the terraces. Swanny introduced me to a fellow old boy of Clee Grammar and Matthew Humberstone Nick Meaney. Nick had an interesting tale to tell of his times in New York, London and Grimsby. He could now add Barnet to the list.

It's always embarrassing though when people you meet have a clearer recollection of your past and what you've done than you do. Moving on, we compared our experiences of a footballing nature. "I've been through it and came out of it the other side" he commented. I asked if he had had counselling for it. He clearly needs it, because although an Exile like me, and an international one at that, Nick goes to a fair proportion of games and has become hardened to the suffering. But like the rest of us he echoed the fear of relegation from the league.

As if to reinforce the nightmare, amidst the cold winter chill the stadium announcer went through the teams, attributing us with a player called Tony Newey. A communal shudder ran through the Town section. Had some cloning taken place resulting in a grotesque hybrid of Tony Gallimore and Tom Newey? The combined school of Alcoholic Pedestrianism and Misplaced Crosses? It's too dreadful to contemplate.

Town fans were coming in by the dozen as the game kicked off, with Barnet playing down wind.

First Half

The ball was played around quickly with both sides showing commitment but little control of the wind or ball. Paterson had a chance for Grimsby on 7 minutes but Barnet's goalkeeper was quickly onto it. On 10 minutes, Newey hesitated and Barnet's Cogan took possession and crossed but Fenton went in bravely and cut out the threat, injuring himself in the process.

A lot of hard but fair tackles were going in from both sides and Town's defence was looking solid, but in spite of Barnet in particular driving the ball upfield, there was no sign of a goal. On 20 minutes, Town got a corner and Paterson turned and shot but the goalkeeper again smothered the ball.

There was no shortage of commitment and at one point Whittle ignored the danger and bravely headed clear midst all the flying feet. This was kick and rush stuff, with Barnet determined to get the ball upfield as quickly as possible and Town going along with it. On 27 minutes, Town had possession and a cross ball came in from the right. In the first proper passing move, Newey found Hegarty who spotted a huge gap on the left. Paterson received the ball, drew the goalkeeper before going round him to his left and slotting ball into the net. Barnet 0, Grimsby Town 1.

The game continued at breakneck speed with Barnet getting in plenty of crosses and shots. Good for statistics but nothing else. At about this point I noticed Tom Newey's hair. I can only describe it as wind-friendly. Either he hadn't dried it after washing it or he had stood on Cleethorpes beach for 24 hours. It is a matter for speculation which it was. On 36 minutes Hegarty set up a passing move which led to nothing and a minute later, a Jones header started another one, leading to a Till cross which was cleared. Shortly after, a Newey intercepted and burst over the half way line but he was unable to pick out Jones who could have gone clear. Just before half time, the persistent Barnet broke away again and Hatch headed just over from a pinpoint cross.

Half time verdict.

Although we were 1 - 0 up, I had concerns as we seemed to be incapable of controlling the game. Barnet controlled the pace, which was nothing short of frantic. We had no more than three good passing moves, one of which led to our goal. The only consolation was that AB would not have liked the fact either that the game was being played on the opposition's terms and would no doubt have had something to say to the team about this during the break.

Swanny was more upbeat, but cheering up proceedings as ever, I pointed out that last Saturday Barnet had been 0 -1 behind at half time and came back to win 4 - 1. Swanny was grateful for this observation. The announcer meanwhile incongruously read out the half time scores involving Levski Sofia and Spartak Moscow. The only comparison I could think of with Moscow was the weather, which was bitterly cold in Barnet.

Click HERE for the second half.

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