Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Under the lights at Underhill

Another detour from the FA Cup for me on Tuesday night. I went along with my POSH mate to watch the League Two encounter between Barnet and Peterborough United. On a bitterly cold night - which included a few snow flurries - Peterborough deservedly won 2-0 which sent them to the dizzy heights at the summit of the league. Once again, an opportunity to visit a ground I haven't been to for a number of years.

And it hasn't really changed a great deal. The kindest way I can describe Underhill Stadium is that it is an "identikit" ground with no two parts looking the same. This gives the place a rather odd character. A mixture of terracing, the old Main Stand, a new orange, black and white South Stand, a tiny Family Stand and even a gazebo like structure with seating for away fans. No sense of uniformity, very unique indeed. The POSH supporters were a little more brutal in their vocal description of the ground.

As I struggled to keep warm on the East Terrace, from where it is impossible to get an unobstructed view of the entirety of the playing area, I couldn't help thinking that that the £15 admission fee is exactly the same that I have paid for a good seat at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday.

I'd forgotten how much the pitch slopes at Underhill, and it used to be a lot worse than it is these days. As it turned out this home advantage had little bearing on the game. Peterborough dominated the first half with some neat, on the floor passing and were able to get numbers forward very quickly. Barnet were very fragile at the back and the visitors looked like the only team that were going to break the deadlock. The goal arrived on thirty two minutes when Peterborough won a free kick on the right. Dean Keates whipped in a teasing cross which evaded everyone in the packed area, including Beckwith in the Barnet goal.

Two minutes later and the referee - Mr Kettle from Rutland - bizarrely sent off the Barnet number eleven Jason Puncheon. POSH had won another free kick in an almost identical position from where Keates had scored. In his frustration at the decision, Puncheon kicked the ball away. The ball hit the linesman, who was a good distance away, with some force. Credit to the linesman (or should I now say "assistant") who took it like a man and barely flinched. Mr Kettle decided that Puncheon had deliberately aimed his kick at the linesman and brandished the red card. Very harsh, particularly as Puncheon had not done anything in the match to suggest he was that accurate.

The second half was poor. Peterborough appeared to take their foot off the gas and allowed ten man Barnet back into the game. The second period was littered with errors; misplaced passes, mistimed tackles, air shots and scuffed kicks. Not pretty. In amongst all this our friend Mr Kettle continued to give out cards like confetti in a game that wasn't dirty. As my POSH mate said, Mr Kettle was very keen to whistle.

Peterborough really should have put the game to bed, but squandered possession so much that Barnet managed to delay the inevitable. The inevitable finally arrived on ninety minutes when Jamie Day scored with a well taken free kick.

Peterborough recorded their sixth win in a row and their seventh clean sheet out of eight and to the joy of the 1000 plus travelling support now sit above everyone else in the table. Barnet meanwhile must be disappointed with the lack of clear chances, and their poor goal scoring record must be a concern.

I sense it will be a tough end of season for the team from Underhill. As for Peterborough United the view from the top is one they'll want to enjoy for some time yet.

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