Monday, 21 May 2012

Who stays and who goes..?

It’s the biggest day of the close season, aside from the fixture release, for both players and fans alike – the day of the retained and released list. For Barnet though, it seemed a little strange, obviously still with no manager in place. The decision to oversee matters was left with Paul Fairclough. With no real news of note the last couple of weeks on the club’s official website, it was refreshing to finally see something of such importance. Like any other club, rumours circulated on Twitter, before the club announced who was staying and who was going. Prior to the story online, Sam Cox tweeted: “Just received a letter… didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that was coming!!!”, and later on today went on to say: “Unfortunately got the news that I won't be at Barnet FC next season...Firstly I want to just thank all the fans for always supporting me... & believing me throughout my 2 year period at the club...It's unfortunate I never really got a decent run in the side but I can say that... I gave 100% every time I stepped on the pitch/training field...I'm happy to say that during my time I made some gd friendships on and off” (@TheSamCox).
It wasn’t only Barnet players tweeting – the Gillingham players released only found out via Twitter that their services were no longer required. Former Bee, Simon King tweeted: “disappointed to find out on Twitter that I had been released, but I don’t want that to leave a sour not for me ‘cause I have had a quality time at the Gills and met some lifelong friends” as well as “obviously very disappointed to b leaving, felt I was over my injury nightmare and thought I still had a lot to give” (@s_kingy05). Injury or not, I’d love to see Kingy back at Underhill. Other than the defenders we’ve had on loan – the likes of Hector and Saville – I believe since his departure, the defence has really been lacking, and we need a player like him. I always thought he was a great defender that deserved to be playing higher, but the injuries have certainly hindered this. I say sign him up – everyone would welcome him back with open arms!
Now onto our retained and released list. Firstly it’s goodbye to the following: Dean Brill, Sam Cox, Darren Dennehy, Mark Marshall, Izale McLeod, Alassane N’Diaye, and Jordan Parkes.
A lot of the names on that list will come as no real surprise to some. Parkes, despite having a decent first season with the club (after a successful loan spell in 2008), barely featured last season, also having an unsuccessful loan spell at Farnborough Town. It is a shame it didn’t work out for him, because there was a lot of promise when he joined from Watford – over the two years he found himself drop in the pecking order, and when the loanees joined, it was obvious he would have no real future.
N’Diaye, too, didn’t feature an awful lot for the first team, despite coming off the bench on numerous occasions. I didn’t personally rate him; he didn’t really add much to the team, and the fact that fans from his previous clubs have said a similar thing, speaks volumes.
With the FA finally giving the verdict on the Mark Marshall drug case and banning him from all competitive football for two years, it was no surprise to anyone that the club have terminated his contract – not much else to say on that matter!
Dennehy, too, has seen most of last season from the sidelines with injury. He also missed most of the previous season, after retaining a foot injury, back in Septemeber 2010. He made his comeback against Colchester in the JPT, but was soon ruled out again. Injury aside, he was a decent defender, and Gillingham (where he spent a period on-loan) fans sing his praises. It will be interesting to see where he ends up, and hopefully can stay injury-free. Like a couple of the others, he took to Twitter, tweeting: “Would like to thank my boys at Barnet Fc for ther friendships the past couple seasons, thank the fans for there support even thou I was injured and couldn't perform every week, hopefully my boys will do well for ye next season..! Pre season at another club will feel strange but hopefully return to play against my friends soon.. :) #bees #friendship” (@DDennehy5)
Finally to McLeod – everyone knew he would be leaving at the end of the season. Fans from other clubs seem so shocked that we’ve let him go, what with being joint-top scorer for League Two, but it was plain to see his mind’s been elsewhere – ever since the January transfer window. He wasn’t the same player he was in the first half of the season, and after the speculation of “will he, won’t he” the goals dried up and his performances dramatically changed. Although it is plain to see he is a natural goal scorer, his ‘bigger than the club’ attitude and ego didn’t do much to win him over with fans. At the same time, wherever he ends up, he will continue to be a success. The club didn’t sell him in January, obviously because they wanted to retain his services for the rest of the season, but in the end, we didn’t really need him – with the likes of Holmes, May, Hughes etc…
I was shocked, however, to see Brill released. He wasn’t a bad keeper at all, and I’d have him as my first choice over the likes of O’Brien all day long. In my opinion the first job of the manager, when he is decided upon, is to find a first choice keeper – somebody with League experience at our level, and of a decent calibre.
Now onto the players we’ve managed to keep hold of: Mark Byrne, Ricky Holmes, Elliot Johnson, Steve Kabba, Clovis Kamdjo, Liam O’Brien, Mauro Vilhete and Andy Yiadom.
The pick of the bunch there, for me, obviously has to be Byrne and Holmes. I’m also oddly happy to see Kamdjo sign on for another year. For me, he has to be the most improved player of last season – his new role in the centre of midfield suits his own skills and attributes better. Kabba too, has clearly been a great influence on the younger squad members because of his experience, and despite not playing because of injury, he deserves to stay. Hopefully next season will see him back in an amber shirt, and he can remain injury free. The younger players constantly sing his praises; Sam Cox, in particular, never has a bad word to say about him.
Three players are still undergoing contract negotiations: Sam Deering, Mark Hughes and Jack Saville. The sooner all three can put pen to paper, the better. All three are big players that were crucial on survival last season. The official site states: “the future of Mark will lie in the hands of our new manager. The future of Sam is dependent on talks with Sam and his agent”.
With that first bit of news out of the way, I’m hoping the three that haven’t yet committed their futures to the club, do so. The next bit of news really needs to be the decision of the manager, as once that has cleared up we can get on signing new players ready for pre-season.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Match Report: Burton Albion 1–2 Barnet
(Barnet Fan’s Perspective)

The final day of the 2011/12 season and for the third consecutive campaign, Barnet’s fate was yet again, going down the wire. As the Bees travelled to Burton Albion, only two points separated them and Hereford (who were at home to Torquay) and really, anything less than three points would not be good enough. With McLeod on the bench (not fit enough to start the game), Scott McGleish partnered Ben May up front.
It was the home side that started the brighter and a mistake from Jack Saville in the heart of the Bees’ defence gifted an early opportunity to Calvin Zola. Dean Brill, at the second time of asking, saved his volley.
Any pre-match or early nerves from the visiting side were soon deterred with the opening goal coming after just six minutes. A free kick from 25 yards out, taken by Mark Byrne, got a wicked deflection in the Burton wall and wrong-footed Ross Atkins in the Brewers’ net.
Burton Albion 0–1 Barnet (Byrne ’6)
But instead of building on that lead, the visitors had a job of defending their one-goal advantage. Burton had a number of chances – first, Jack Dyer on the quarter of an hour mark, hit high over the bar; before Andy Corbett delivered a delightful cross and any touch from an Albion player would have resulted in a goal; however it deflected out of the area by a Barnet leg. Burton’s player of the season, Zola, then had a golden opportunity to level the scores – but for a great save from Brill between the Barnet sticks. An equaliser was coming, with the ball largely in the Barnet half and it came just before half an hour on the clock, through Jacques Maghoma.
Burton Albion 1–1 Barnet (Maghoma ’27)
As things stood, a point was not good enough – news from Edgar Street soon flooded around the ground, Hereford were winning 3–0. Just before half time, the turning point came… Corbett’s cross was missed by Clovis Kamdjo, who was back in the centre of defence, and Zola, the intended recipient of the cross, was bundled over tamely by Byrne; a penalty was awarded. After some arguing amongst the Albion players, Zola stepped up to take it – and skied it right over the bar!
1–1 at half time, and as things stood, Hereford and Barnet would swap places – a point not good enough.
For the second period, McLeod replaced McGleish up front and with 45 minutes to preserve their League status, the players looked a lot more determined, attacking from the off.
May had a shot early on, only managing the side netting, before Sam Deering really should have done better from six yards out – missing the follow-up, after another shot from May was cleared off the line. Barnet could have definitely felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty soon after – Deering the victim, shoulder barged to the floor by Nathan Stanton. “In desperation, they’d shout for anything” seemed a little harsh from the Brewers’ commentary team!
The pressure continued to pile on Burton’s defence and it paid off on the hour mark: a tricky run from Ricky Holmes allowed him into a crossing position, and when the ball was cleared to the edge of the penalty else, who else but ‘Captain Fantastic’ – Mark Hughes with what was a crucial winner, an excellent volley. A worthy winner if ever one was seen and cue jubilation from the away terrace. With half an hour to, the Bees were keeping their place in the Football League.
Burton Albion 1–2 Barnet (Hughes ’60)
Minutes later it emerged that Torquay had pulled two goals back at Edgar Street, although several cruel individuals started rumours of a 3–3 draw – and with that, the away end was rocking.
The game could have easily been put to bed, had McLeod remembered his shooting boots. But the last opportunity fell to home side – three consecutive corners late on, and the Barnet defence needed to remain resilient and fully concentrate on the task in hand. The first two corners were easily cleared by the defence, but the third required an absolute wonder safe from Brill, as he denied Patrick Ada – and Burton of an equalising goal.
And with that, the final whistle was blown and once again, the Bees had managed the ‘Great Escape’.
It was quite an afternoon with so many emotions felt in such a short space of time. The scenes at the end of the match were something else, with elation shared by players, staff and fans alike.
And so, our next League fixture, will be a Football League fixture!

Attendance: 3359 (away 992)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

My away day experience: Burton Albion

So it was the final day of the 2011-12 campaign and with our League status still firmly in the balance, why the hell wouldn’t I be going to Burton Albion to see if we could manage the ‘great escape’ for a third consecutive season? I had never been to the Pirelli, so it was also another ground to tick off – but, let’s be honest, there was no way I missing this one! And how glad am I that I didn’t?
8:30am – despite setting my alarm for 8:50 with the appropriate title ‘Survival Saturday – foooootbaaaawll’, I woke up earlier; largely down to the fact I couldn’t sleep due to a mixture of nerves and excitement! I had been awake previously at around 6, when I felt sick – it felt as if all my insides were in my mouth! On one hand, I was absolutely buzzing for the day ahead, but a part of me also felt anxious. I got ready, making sure my bag was packed and I had enough money and all of my train tickets – six of them – before having beans on toast, for breakfast.
9:50 am – I left home for Shenfield station, my mum (again!) being the one up early to drop me off. I had to collect my ticket across London beforehand, as I had pre-booked it, but there was no chance of me paying an extra £4.95 to have it posted (are the rail company having a laugh!?). With trains running regularly to Liverpool Street, I didn’t have long to wait before catching the train.
10:08 am – after missing one train by a matter of seconds, I caught the fast train, which only stopped at Stratford. I made quite good timing, arriving at Liverpool Street within 25 minutes or so. Although the train itself wasn’t that busy, and most people got off at Stratford, Liverpool Street was already heaving! I’d heard the Northern Line wasn’t running and there were a number of problems and delays with our services, with a lot of people standing around in confusion. I took the Metropolitan Line to King’s Cross, before arriving at Euston on the Victoria Line.
11:03 am – arriving at Euston 10-15 minutes prior to the departure of the train, I met up with James and Jack, before buying food and fanta. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up with the booking of the tickets and with a ticket inspector carefully guarding the train ready to leave; I jumped on the 11:03 alone, whilst the other two waited around for theirs – the 11:23. The journey, despite only being an hour and a half, was boring – my iPod battery ran out within 20 minutes, and although I had packed my phone charger, there wasn’t much to do. To keep myself entertained, I shoved an entire box of Daim Mikado in my mouth, much to the amusement of the man opposite me, and as soon as the clock reached midday I treated myself to an archers and lemonade!
12:28 pm – I arrived at Birmingham New Street after stops at Rugby, Coventry and Birmingham International. The train to Burton-on-Trent ended up being delayed by five minutes, and the platform was packed – I caught glimpse of a handful of Bees’ fans, and a massive hen party heading to Nottingham really stood out from the crowd, with their pink feather boas, and general noise! I met-up with the boys again on the train, and with there being no seats in the carriage, we sat in first class – jumping up when the ticket inspector arrived. We managed to get seats and a table, after he let the hen party go in the empty first class area – they were quite a bizarre group, the majority in their late 20s and 30s, and then a token girl who looked about 15! The train to Burton was no longer than half an hour, and more drinks were consumed.
1:18 pm – on arrival at Burton station, rumour had it a lot of Barnet fans were already at the Devonshire Arms pub, a five minute walk away. Despite it being a rather small and generally pokey establishment, there were a decent number of travelling fans there, all in good voice and spirits. As soon as we set foot inside, there were songs being sung, and plenty of empty glasses and bottles! But then again, who could blame them – you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Bud and a Malibu + coke for £4.20! We definitely created an atmosphere in there – much to the clear annoyance of what looked like a mother and son bar team! The police later on arrived to a chant of “Oh, Old Bill we love you” – although as soon as they left, the ‘love’ was soon changed to ‘hate’.
2:40 pm – we were one of the last to leave the pub, with groups of people coming and going when taxis arrived, and we arrived at the Pirelli Stadium within 10 minutes of kick-off. I managed to pay student admission costing me £12 for the terrace; although I wish I had tried to blag an under-18 at only £4 – bargain! I was slightly disappointed there were no paper tickets, but never mind… the terrace itself was absolutely packed with very little standing room, so I placed myself at the back, next to the aisle, ignoring the people that told me I “can’t stand there”.
Match report will appear soon
5:00 pm – after the match, the majority of fans stayed behind giving the team continuous support. The players came over to where we were behind the goal, to applaud us and vice versa, before returning to the dressing room. The Burton players then came out, but it was short-lived, as many of their fans had long gone. After some chanting for the Barnet players to return, they did – with cameras and reporters getting involved, I assume covering Monday’s Late Kick Off show. We must have stayed in the ground for a good 25 minutes, just taking it what we had just witnessed, before going back to the station – the singing continuing all the way!
5:49 pm – we left Burton station and were heading back to Birmingham for the changeover. A large group got off at Tamworth to head for a pub they previously frequented in the day and despite getting off myself, I quickly changed my mind as didn’t really fancy travelling back later – especially across London at 11pm or so! So two of us got the train from Tamworth to Euston, via Birmingham New Street.
7:49 pm – after arriving at Euston, I made my own way back to Liverpool Street – as everyone was heading for North London. After following the same route back as I took in the morning, I got the 8:35 train from Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria, stopping at Stratford, before getting off at Shenfield. Both the tube and over ground train were packed with Chelsea and Liverpool supporters fresh from Wembley and there were some Essex Liverpool ‘fans’ opposite me on the train home. I must admit I felt a bit bad constantly staring and grinning at them, but I was still absolutely buzzing! I got home just after 9, where I excitedly waited for the Football League Show – of course, their coverage was like any other week: shocking!

But what a day!

We are Barnet – we’ll never go down!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Two minutes with… AFC Wimbledon

Last Saturday saw the final game of the season at Underhill, as the Bees played hosts to one of last year’s promoted sides in AFC Wimbledon. The Mad Dog Effect was well and truly in force, with a bumper crowd at Underhill, and a massive win! Unfortunately with Hereford also winning at the weekend, it comes down (yet again!) to the final game to see if Barnet can survive in League Two for a third successive year. Wimbledon fan, Rob Ringsell, shares his day in this instalment.

Barnet 4–0 AFC Wimbledon
(Holmes ’33, Deering ’81, May ’86, Hughes ’90+2)
Attendance: 4,422

How did you get to the game?
We got to the game by the Underground. I jumped on the Northern Line at Morden and after a quick change at Stockwell met up with family and friends in Victoria.

What did you do pre-match?
Before the game we had drinks in the Wetherspoons at Victoria, The Worlds End at Camden Town, before briefly going to The Old Red Lion in Barnet.

Where did you sit/stand in the ground?
We got into the ground a little late and tried to squeeze into the terrace that runs along the side of the pitch. After walking up and down a few times we found a spot underneath a drippy pipe! But we had a good view of the action from there, although the weather was awful.

What did you make of the game?
We did try a few different players as we were safe, but shouldn't have fallen apart as we did near the end. The banter was fun with the home fans and the stewards were relaxed; however, the appearance of the riot police was a bit of a surprise towards the end. Not exactly the old firm was it?

Was the scoreline a fair reflection?

Barnet definitely deserved the thumping win, so yes, it was a fair reflection of the game.
Who, in your opinion was man of the match?

Barnet’s Ricky Holmes.
Who do you play next and how do you think you'll get on?
We play at home against newly promoted Shrewsbury Town and we will win 4-0. Hopefully the sun will finally dry me out from last week!

Thanks Rob

And you can read my match report from Saturday, here.