Sunday, 29 April 2012

Match Report: Barnet 4–0 AFC Wimbledon (Barnet Fan’s Perspective)

A bumper crowd (4,422) turned out at Underhill for its final game of the season and the home fans certainly went home the happier after smashing four goals past AFC Wimbledon – a first win in 17 games and only the second victory this calendar year!
For the hosts, Scott McGleish started up front with Izale McLeod, with Ben May dropping to the bench. There was also a re-shuffle to the back four, with Mark Byrne drafted in as right back, and Michael Hector partnering Mark Hughes in the centre of midfield. For the visitors, Terry Brown made five changes to the line-up and young goalkeeper Jack Turner made only his second start in the Football League.

The Bees started the brighter of the two, kicking up the slope and against the wind: McGleish with the opening chance, a tame header. Despite the torrential rain making conditions difficult, Barnet played it around well (something we’ve not witnessed much this season!) and Hector and Byrne, playing in unnatural positions, were highlights – Ricky Holmes was able to utilise a number of clever balls played to him on the wing, making several decent runs towards the penalty area. Needless to say, he was Man of the Match. The Dons’ keeper was certainly the busier keeper of the two, and was called into a save a handful of shots, mainly from distance.
The visitors’ first real attack came midway through the first half: a dangerous ball whipped into the box, but no-one there to make any real impact – the Bees’ defence, despite not having too much to do, generally looked assured.

And it was the home side that deservedly broke the deadlock: Ricky Holmes with a shot from 10 yards out.
Barnet 1–0 AFC Wimbledon (Holmes ’33)

The second half started much like the second, but with the Bees playing down slope, in the direction of the wind, that would always carry them on from where they left off. It was obvious that the goals hadn’t stopped at one, and so, they kept Turner busy in the Wimbledon goal. Jordan Mustoe with a lashing free kick, which was always going over, got a rapturous applause from the crowd; Michael Hector too, had a couple of shots from distance, causing a number of good saves. It was fair to say Turner kept the Dons in the game, and so the score remained tight at 1–0.
Just before the hour mark, Wimbledon looked the best they had all game and a couple of chances in quick succession: first Sam Hatton hitting over the bar, and then Byron Harrison with a header that never really tested Dean Brill in the Barnet goal, who didn’t have too much to do all game.

Terry Brown then proceeded to make a double substitution, one of which saw Jack Midson’s return to Underhill – and he got a decent reception, with a number of home fans applauding his entrance. He made very little impact on the game.
The final 10 minutes made excellent viewing for the home faithful, not so much to the Dons’ fans, a number of which left when the second goal went in: an assist from Holmes allowing Sam Deering to tap into the corner of the net.

Barnet 2–0 AFC Wimbledon (Deering ’81)
And the third came minutes later, again, Holmes – who had an absolute blinder down both flanks – the architect. An excellent run down the wing before cutting inside and delivering a beautiful cross for Ben May (who replaced McLeod) to tap in from range – a real poacher’s goal!

Barnet 3–0 AFC Wimbledon (May ’86)
With five minutes added on by the fourth official, the Bees continued to look rampant and weren’t going to stop at three – the fourth and final goal came midway through the time added on. Mark Byrne had a shot from distance, and despite Turner saving it, he could only manage to punch it skywards and captain, Mark Hughes, was on hand to tap it into the empty net.

Barnet 4–0 AFC Wimbledon (Hughes ’90+2)
The Bees thoroughly deserved the victory and safe in League Two, AFC Wimbledon never really got out of second gear and made it easy for the home side. It was probably one of the performances of the season; every player knew their job, did their job and there could be no complaints about the score line – more than four goals could have easily been scored.

Unfortunately the victory doesn’t confirm safety in the Football League and once again it will go down to the wire – Hereford beat Crawley away from home 3–0, and the final game of the season decides who will be joining Macclesfield Town in the Conference next campaign. Next weekend Hereford play Torquay at home, whilst the Bees go away to Burton Albion. With the gap still only two points, it could go either way…

Monday, 16 April 2012

Goodbye Sanchez… Hello Allen (again!)

It’s never dull at Barnet, but I think this time, they’ve completely outdone themselves. Lawrie Sanchez has finally been relieved of his duties as Bees’ boss – most will say this decision has been left far too late, with only three games remaining. Martin Allen has been called in (for a third time) to save the team from relegation to the Conference.

It’s a decision that has definitely been split between fans – yes, he has that belief and motivation that has been lacking all season, from both players and the manager, but you have to question his loyalty and morals. He left us the last time after three matches and 18 days, despite getting two wins and draw in that time. He left us when we needed a manager like him the most, leaving for Notts County – for more money. The club then filed for compensation for leaving whilst still in contract; the belief the Magpies had poached him. There was so much drama and confusion surrounding his exit, with all fans positively hating the man. What’s changed now? Why is he back?
And it’s safe to say, Sanchez isn’t at all bitter about his sacking (taken from Sky Sports News):

“Following the termination of my contract by Barnet FC, I'd like to express my extreme disappointment at the lack of loyalty shown in me by the club. It is the same lack of loyalty the club accused Martin Allen of showing when he walked out on Barnet towards the end of last season. When I took over from Martin, the club were three points adrift of safety with just four games of the season left and under serious threat of relegation to the Conference. However, thanks to a fantastic effort from the players, staff and myself, Barnet took seven points from those last four games and avoided relegation. Now, exactly a year since my appointment, the club are three points clear of the relegation zone with three games to go. This position has been achieved despite the long term absences of first team members Danny Senda, Steve Kabba, Darren Dennehy and Mark Marshall. I certainly felt that recent performances would see the club remain clear of the threat of relegation. Unfortunately, that confidence seems not to have been mirrored in the boardroom and I am disappointed the club have lost their nerve at such a vital stage of the season. I wish the players and my staff at Barnet all the best for the remaining games this season.”

In my opinion, I’m glad to have got rid of Sanchez, although it has been left far too late. There’s been a flat atmosphere around the ground all season, despite the minor prospect of reaching Wembley in the JPT. The players seemed to lack motivation, fight, togetherness – which is exactly the reason we find ourselves in the same predicament as the last two years. There is no way he can take the credit for our survival last year, and it’s almost laughable he believes it was down to him. Martin Allen got crucial points during his stint, and then it was thanks to the legend that is, Grazioli. Allen got the fans and players going last season when he returned, and I believe the same buzz will return with three games of this campaign remaining. Before I was saying we’d be lucky to get two points from our remaining matches, now I believe we’ll get six or seven points from nine. As much as I dislike him for his previous two departures, he’s the man to keep us up.


Two minutes with… Hereford United

Friday night saw another six-pointer at Underhill, as Hereford United (in the bottom two) were the visitors. Bulls’ fan, Tom, shares his match experience and thoughts post-match in this instalment. You can follow Tom on Twitter, @Milward1989

Barnet 1–1 Hereford United
(May ’31 – Facey ’11)
Attendance: 3,189 (away: 673)

How did you get to the game?
Like every game, I travel with a bloke that lives in Evesham (I live in Stratford-upon-Avon myself); he gets the bus over to Stratford, then I pick him up. We got our timing a bit wrong for this one mind, arriving in Barnet just before 4pm.

What did you do pre-match?
We actually got the bus to New Barnet (Although I understand now that it is walking distance) and went to The Railway Bell for a quick bite to eat. Met another lad who supports Hereford but lives in Lincoln (he got the train) and went back to the Old Red Lion which was fairly packed with Hereford fans.

Where did you sit/stand in the ground?
In the away (East) terrace, right up on the halfway line. It’s one of my favourite away allocations what with being so close to the home fans - allows for a good atmosphere and a decent bit of banter.

What did you make of the game?
It was a case of two very poor sides taking part in a game that promised so much but offered very little. I thought we came out firing in the first half and probably dominated a good proportion of the first half hour or so. Sanchez got the early change right in bringing on May who changed the game in a way; he was trouble for us to deal with and that made us look nervous and allowed Barnet back into it. Both teams had chances to take the game but if we always took our chances I suppose we wouldn't be down the bottom of the table.

Was the scoreline a fair reflection?
Yeah, I think it was; although a point doesn't really help either of us.

Who, in your opinion, was man of the match?
There were 22 poor players out there for me. If I had to give it to somebody, thought Kenny Lunt was always calm on the ball for us in the middle of the park.

Who do you play next and how do you think you'll get on?
Next up for us is Northampton at home on Saturday. Well let's face it, nothing but a win will be good enough with Crawley and Torquay being our last two games. I'd probably say we have the hardest run in out of the teams in the bottom three (ourselves, Macclesfield and Barnet). But we have to be optimistic otherwise there is no point in still going. We'll beat Northampton and I think we'll snatch something at Crawley to keep us up.

Thanks Tom

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Third time lucky..?

It’s funny how a few months can change things: one minute we had Wembley in our grasp and League Two football looked a certainty next season, and the next, no cup final and the possibility (yet again!) of sinking into the mire that is Conference football.
November was a good month for us – we beat Cheltenham away in the JPT and were to make the area semi-finals (the furthest the club had ever progressed in the competition) and Sanchez was up for the League Two Manager of the Month award. We were unbeaten in League and Cup, also winning at Southport in the FA Cup, and only dropping points to AFC Wimbledon in the League (a 1-1 draw away from home). At the end of the month, for a moment the table looked pretty:
January too, was another good month. With the transfer window out the way, we managed to hold on to our, and the League’s top scorer in Izale McLeod, and loan players brought in all extended their spells. In the League, we won every single match: Bristol Rovers and Crewe Alexandra at home, Accrington and Northampton away, and drew in the first leg of our area final of the JPT against high-flying Swindon. The table again made great reading for Bees’ fans, reaching the dizzy heights of 17th:
We are now reaching the end of the season and it’s a completely different story. One win in 16 matches and once again we find ourselves just above the drop-zone – Hereford and Macclesfield occupying the bottom two positions. We played the former on Friday night, drawing 1-1 and last month played and got a point against the latter. Two points out of six against the teams below us, what a difference at least one win could have made. Macclesfield played yesterday at home to Crewe and drew 2-2. As it stands with three games remaining, the table looks like this:
I honestly cannot pinpoint what has gone wrong between then and now. You really cannot blame it on losing the two-legged final with Swindon. If the team were adamant they’d make Wembley, they should have really done better to win after 180 minutes! Imagine for a second we had actually made it all the way, would there have been a slump between the regional and actual final, or would they have been up for the League matches? And after Wembley, how would results and performances gone? It’s true, however, that the majority of the squad look disinterested: McLeod isn’t the player he was pre-transfer window and looks lethargic and lazy, both goal keepers have had absolute mares and have been swapping positions on the bench and the pitch, and the defence – despite being changed fairly frequently – always looks as if they have only just met each other on match day; a real lack of communication, amongst other things! And if it’s the players lacking motivation and looking disinterested, surely it’s the manager’s job to raise their spirits and get them up for the fight? On Friday night the only players in my opinion to look interested were May and Kamdjo (who in my opinion played an absolute blinder and deserved to be Man of the Match!). I’m not going to turn this into another ‘why I dislike Sorry’ rant but it’s plain for everyone to see, it hasn’t worked out for him. On reflection, I cannot believe we were so excited and optimistic pre-season – what for? The majority of this season has made for painful and frankly, heart-breaking viewing. But remember, don’t worry, we “won’t get relegated… not on [my] watch!” Great news!
The run-in
With only three games of the 2011/12 season remaining, it’s a three horse race amongst us, Hereford and Macclesfield. The fixtures for each side look like this:

                        Barnet                       Hereford                   Macclesfield
20.04.12         Southend (a)
21.04.12                                           Northampton (h)        Bradford (a)
28.04.12         AFC Wimbledon (h)   Crawley (a)                Burton (h)
05.05.12         Burton (a)                  Torquay (h)               Southend (a)

Being three points above the drop-zone, advantage swings our way – despite our horrendous goal difference, which stands at -29. We’ve not had the easiest of run-ins, having to also play Crawley, Swindon and Cheltenham in the last month or so; had we picked up three points against the likes of Hereford, Macclesfield, Dagenham et al, it may have been a different story, and perhaps, we’d not find ourselves in such big danger. In all fairness, I can only see ourselves getting a maximum of two points from the remaining nine available – is it optimistic of me to say we will draw with both AFC Wimbledon and Burton? I can’t see us getting anything at Roots Hall, especially as Southend are going for promotion – a possible 3-0 thrashing!
Via the BBC, I’ve put in my predictions for the remaining fixtures and the table looks like this:
Here’s hoping for the third season running it doesn’t go down to the final game, there could potentially be some horrible scenes at Burton on the final day of the season. Whatever our fate, I’d rather know sooner than later, the last two years have been absolute killers – despite the pure elation and jubilation at the final whistle!

Supporting the Bees should come with a health warning, but I’m Barnet ‘til I die..!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

My away day experience: Ipswich Town

Following on from the positive feedback I got from my last piece ‘my away day experience: Northampton Town’ I thought it only right to talk about my trip last weekend. We played on Friday night in League Two, losing to Torquay (0–1) and I was heading to my boyfriend’s for the weekend. Those of you who religiously follow my tweets (or those that secretly stalk my timeline) will know that he lives in Ipswich, and obviously supports his local team! In just over three years, this was my first visit to Portman Road – although I’d seen the stadium whilst being in the town centre before, and I’ve been dragged into the club shop on numerous occasions! Jake’s been to a number of Bees’ games and is yet to see a win, so I consider myself lucky to see Town win at the first time of asking! They beat Barnsley 1–0.

9:00 am – I woke up, despite setting my alarm for twenty five-past, but I knew I had some last-minute packing to do, although I had done most of it the night before. Even though I was only staying two nights, like usual, I seemed to pack way too much – this included three pairs of shoes when I knew I’d only be wearing one and ‘going out’ clothes when I knew we weren’t likely to properly go out!
10:00 am – I left home for Shenfield station and my poor mum who was in her dressing gown at such an hour on a Saturday morning had the privilege of taking me. Although the train wasn’t to depart until 10:25, the traffic down Shenfield is often pretty bad, and there are currently temporary traffic lights in place, in a three-way system! I also needed to buy my tickets (an open return, costing £17.45) and buy Jake a birthday card.

10:25 am – the train left the platform, and as usual would be an hour – stopping off at about seven other stations on the way. I try and get the straight train as getting off and changing with so many bags is way too much effort. There isn’t much to do at either Chelmsford or Colchester and the latter is a complete nightmare to get off at as the connecting train usually departs a minute after the initial train arrives (and as you can imagine running with two/three bags, in the pouring rain in suede Ugg boots isn’t much fun!). I had my iPod and phone to keep me occupied anyway, and the journey isn’t usually bad.
11:30 am – I arrived in Ipswich five minutes later than scheduled and got a taxi from the station to Jake’s house. His mum often meets me at the station but that morning she’d gone to get her hair done – not that I mind getting a cab anyway; he only lives about 10 minutes away. The driver was a right character as well –although slightly annoying because that 10 minute journey ended up being 25, with a two mile detour because of road works or something (I couldn’t be bothered to ask!)

11:55 am – I arrived at Jake’s and unpacked. Unpacked is a word I use loosely, as it generally means open both bags and throw a few bits here and there. We didn’t really do an awful lot, but were planning to go into town to grab something to eat and meet his friend Joe.
1:20 pm – we got a lift into town off Jake’s dad, but weren’t meeting Joe until two, which was when he finished work, so we walked through town in search of something to eat. We ended up going to the Hot Sausage Company for hot dogs. It was basically a little wooden cart with a boy grilling sausages in an old fashioned apron and straw hat – so cute! I just had a normal one with ketchup and Jake had the works: onions, cheese and ketchup! They were proper sausages as well, really yummy and fresh. We ate them whilst walking through town and towards Sainsbury’s where Joe works. We then bought drinks and waited for Joe.

2:00 pm – We met Joe and then made our way to Portman Road. We had to go and get our tickets beforehand anyway, and the boys wanted to get there early as there was loads going on pre-match (but more about that later!). As we walked through the car park at Portman Road it felt a little surreal, it had been a while since I’d seen so many cars and people outside a football stadium. There were people queuing for food, tickets and programmes and others just generally standing around waiting. When you’re used to crowds below 2,000, it’s quite overwhelming – although I have been to the likes of Old Trafford and Estadio Santiago BernabĂ©u, where of course there are thousands more. We got our tickets after waiting for five minutes or so and then made our way towards the turnstiles and to our seats. After tweeting about my PR debut, I had people asking me where I was sitting – “Upper tier, Sir Bobby Robson” was my answer, it meant absolutely nothing to me. We had to go up about three flights of stairs to get to where we were seated – no such luxury as that at Underhill!
2:40 pm – before kick off the south stand (opposite where we sat) was renamed and unveiled to the fans as the Sir Alf Ramsey stand. The squad of 1961/62 were there for the official unveiling and led out the celebrations. With it being the 50th anniversary of when they won the League in the top flight of football at their first attempt. The team also showed off their trophy as they entered the pitch.

The match – it made a change for me to see the ball being played on the floor, and although Jake said it wasn’t a good game, when you’re used to watching Barnet, anything would look good. Town should have been at least three goals up before half time – like Barnet, creating plenty of chances but having the inability to finish. There was a heart-stopping moment when Arran Lee-Barrett in the Ipswich goal spilt a tame ball, only just managing to save it before it crept across the line. Chopra didn’t really do an awful lot, and was eventually subbed. Another thing: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas isn’t very good in the air, but the keeper and defence insisted on lumping it to him – it proved ineffective. Barnsley were absolutely woeful and only brought 198 fans – terrible! Most teams in League Two have better support – even on Tuesday nights!
5:20 pm – we went to Pizza Express after the game and although when we arrived we were practically the only couple in there, it soon got busier with people coming after the game as well. As Monday was Jake’s birthday they emailed him with a deal: a free bottle of wine or prosecco with a meal. Jake doesn’t drink either, but I thought it rude to decline so opted for the prosecco (it was more expensive as well, so result!). I had a good go at drinking the whole bottle, but by the time dessert came, I was full (and the bubbles had gone to my head!). As usual we shared dough balls to start; I then had my usual pizza – Pollo Ad Astra Leggera with light house dressing on the rocket. To finish, we shared the fudge glory sundae. It was a lovely evening and the atmosphere was decent, although I prefer the restaurant on the docks which is where we normally go and is a beautiful setting. From here, we went back to Jake’s and watched the football in bed, rock ‘n’ roll, I know!

And much to everyone’s disappointment, I haven’t quite converted to being a Tractor Girl yet and it was back to Underhill last night to watch the Bees play Swindon… although on reflection, I wish I’d been anywhere else!