Monday, 29 April 2013

Two minutes with... 2012/13 results

Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for their contribution to this season’s ‘Two minutes with...’ posts, as I couldn’t have written them without you all. Thank you to everyone who continues to read them as well, they remain the most popular feature on my blog and I’m hoping to continue to write them next season, dependent on input. I’ve got to find myself some Conference fans first *SadFace*...
I’ve put these results together based on the scores each fan gave on the following aspects: cost of matchday ticket, purchases made at the ground, view, quality of football and overall experience (out of 50). Although you can click on the tab above to see each post from this season, and last, I’ve compiled the results in a table to see which team’s fans had the best experience at Underhill.
AFC Wimbledon
Port Vale
Dagenham & Redbridge
Bristol Rovers

Thanks again to the following people: Rhys, Kate, Mark, Ryan, Nick, Keiran, James, Damien, Myles, Sam, Dan, Danny, Jamie, John, Rob and Tracy.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Two minutes with... Wycombe Wanderers

Last weekend was the final home game of the season and the last at Underhill. Wycombe were the visitors and a bumper crowd of 6,001 turned out for a special, but emotional day. Wanderers fan Tracy gives her thoughts in the final Two minutes with... of 2012/13.

Had you been to Underhill before?
Yes, I’ve been several times. First went in the 1987/88 season and been in various parts of the ground over the years.
How did you get to the game?
On the official supporters’ coach.

The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
I sat in the away Family Stand.
What did you make of the game?
We were terrible! Your boys were up for the game and our keeper kept us in it when you should've been out of sight. It was just as well the penalty was saved because we didn't deserve it. It was only right that you should've won your last game at Underhill.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
Our keeper Matty Ingram for obvious reasons. David Stephens at the back for Barnet caught the eye.

Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
No you should've won by more.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
Our final game of the season is at home to Port Vale. They are bringing 4000 as they will officially be promoted. It'll be an emotional day as our manager Gareth Ainsworth will be hanging up his boots on his 600th game.

Cost of match day ticket ––– 10/10
(£30 for a family of four – bargain!)
Purchases made at ground ––– 6/10
(£5 for souvenir programme was fair enough but the choice and quality of food was poor. My pasty was rank!)
View ––– 6/10
(I was on the end of a row and had to peer through bars or crane my neck at times)
Quality of football ––– 5/10
(Rubbish game from our point of view)
Overall experience ––– 7/10
(was good to be the last opponents at Underhill even if we were crap)

Total ––– 34/50

And you can follow Tracy on Twitter @bluebellewwfc

Monday, 22 April 2013

Underhill Memories

In case you missed it, I was asked to write a piece in Saturday’s commemorative programme, on Underhill memories. I didn’t want to list a number of memories, because I wanted to try and make it a decent read (as opposed to ‘this date we played this team and this happened’) so here’s my recollection of thoughts as a Bee for 19 years. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

“Is it over yet daddy? Can we go home now please?”
My first words at Underhill, as I sat in the Main Stand, nestling inside my dad’s coat, sheltering from the North London cold. Even now, aged 23, the memories come flooding back. The sights and sounds of match day: the pitch in all its sloping glory, the differing opinions of the crowd, often loudly expressed, the strange smells of football food, the sheer buzz surrounding a live game.
The real highlight back then, as a four-year-old, was the half time treat: visiting ‘Mr Nut the Nut Man’ for chocolate peanuts and raisins, served in bags that seemed like sacks to this fledgling supporter. No doubt they kept me amused while my dad tried in vain to watch the drama unfolding on the pitch.
Between then and now, nearly 20 years on, oddly some things haven’t changed at all. I’m still – more or less - in the same seat (despite a sojourn in the family stand when my dad bought season tickets for both me and my brother), surrounded by much the same people.
Many of my favourite and most vivid memories are of Underhill – great contests, players I’ve met, goals that I’ve seen. One of my earliest memories is gasping in awe at the goal celebrations of Scott McGleish - probably my first favourite all-time Bees player. I was over the moon when he returned recently. Sadly the handstands had long been consigned to the history books – a bit like Scotty’s once legendary goalscoring prowess!
Of course promotion in 2005 will stay with me forever, I was a little older then, so understood the nature of the achievement a whole lot more. While fellow fans were celebrating in the stands and on the pitch, I dribbled one of the bright orange balloons into the back of the net on the North terrace. Get in!  A special moment on a very special day indeed! As always, the tight atmosphere and intimacy of the ground amplified the excitement in a way that would have been impossible in the cavernous halls of a Wembley or similar venue.
Fast forward a couple of years to July 21st 2007. We played Crystal Palace in a pre-season friendly. Unfortunately it is memorable for all the wrong reasons. We were late purchasing tickets, so ended up in the South Stand, back when the seats were green and the stand had no roof. Of course in typical British summer fashion, it absolutely poured down and everyone got drenched, forcing us to take shelter by the Durham Suite. Worse than that, we ended up losing the match 3-2 – I still have fond memories of the day though.
So what is it about this compact, ramshackle, seen-better-days North London footballing outpost that gets the goosebumps rising?  I guess there’s just something unique about Underhill – something that’s intensified when the floodlights are on. Even on the darkest, coldest Tuesday night, the place can seem electric. Whatever the competition, whoever the opposition, I always feel that same sense of excitement in the car journey from Brentwood – although travelling back after a defeat is never much fun! It’s that same sense of excitement I felt as a child. Nothing changes.
Suffice it to say I’ve grown up with the club, and as we prepare to move to pastures new, who knows what the future will bring. Wherever we finally end up one thing is sure; forty-odd years from now, if the old lady shuts her eyes and lets her mind wander just a little, the sound of the Dick’s dulcet tones emanating from the tannoy room, the murmur of a distant train and Guns ‘n’ Roses bellowing through the PA system will transport me back to a grassy slope in EN5. And believe me, that’s not a bad place to be...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

League Two round-up: 16.04.13

With the 2012/13 campaign rapidly drawing to a close, there were a handful of games on Tuesday night, including Saturday’s postponed clash between two relegation-threatened clubs, Torquay and Barnet.
A tense battle at Plainmoor saw the Gulls emerge on top and consign their opponents to a place in the bottom two ahead of the weekend’s penultimate fixtures. Elliot Benyon’s header separated the sides going in at the break before substitute Jake Hyde equalised with his first touch. Torquay restored their lead just minutes later – Billy Bodin lashing an effort home on the hour mark – before making it three, Brian Saah increasing the hosts’ advantage. Hyde bagged a second for the Bees to set up a nervy closing 10 minutes, but it remained Torquay 3 Barnet 2. Now sitting a point behind Torquay, York and AFC Wimbledon, the Bees have two games to mastermind a ‘great escape’ for a fourth successive season.
Aldershot remain rooted to the foot of League Two and four points from safety following their home defeat to Southend, who could still make the play-offs. Two second half goals handed victory to the Shrimpers – their first win under new boss Phil Brown. With 20 minutes remaining, Barry Corr was on hand to convert following a goal mouth scramble and the points were sealed with Britt Assombalonga converting a spot kick after he was fouled by Troy Brown. Four points now separate Southend and the play-off places, but a berth in the top seven looks increasingly unlikely at this late stage.
Also at the foot of the table, a much-needed win for Plymouth sees them edge closer to survival, after Argyle picked up maximum points against John Sheridan’s former club Chesterfield. A spectacular curling effort from Joe Bryan gave the Pilgrims the lead after 20 minutes and before the half hour mark their advantage was doubled – Curtis Nelson netting from close range. Guy Branston’s own goal halved the deficit in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. The Spireites remain 9th, level on points with Southend.
In Tuesday night’s Yorkshire derby, bragging rights finished with Rotherham, who also move up to third and the final automatic promotion spot, having defeated neighbours Bradford. The Bantams had two goals disallowed in the first half, which ended goalless, before Rotherham broke the deadlock 10 minutes from the final whistle. After Michael Nelson handled in the area, Lee Frecklington put away the resultant spot-kick and the win was sealed in the fifth minute of time added on, when Kieran Agard netted. Bradford continue to occupy the final play-off place.
In the only other game of the evening, Northampton’s hopes of automatic promotion were dealt a blow after they were held 0-0 by Wycombe at Adams Park.
Looking ahead, Saturday sees the penultimate fixtures for this season. Port Vale can secure automatic promotion with a win over Northampton while Plymouth and Rotherham meet at Home Park with both teams needing points at opposite ends of the table. Meanwhile down in the basement, Barnet host Wycombe (their final game at Underhill), Aldershot face Dagenham & Redbridge, Wimbledon travel to Gillingham and York entertain Southend, with five of the teams listed seeking to avoid the dreaded relegation trap door.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Down to the wire...

Following last night’s defeat to Torquay, the Bees find themselves back in the drop-zone with two games remaining. I used the league predictor on the BBC website to see where I think we’d finish and this is what my guesses reveal:
*I’d like to point out I was correct last season, with us finishing 22nd and Hereford joining Macclesfield in the Conference.
Our rivals in the relegation dog fight:
24th Aldershot
Played 44, Won 10, Drawn 15, Lost 19
Goal difference -17 ~ Current points 45
Last 5 games: L L D W D
Final fixtures: Dagenham & Redbridge (h) and Rotherham (a)
* Win for Dagenham & Redbridge would guarantee safety, Rotherham will want an automatic promotion finish (if available).
23rd Barnet
Played 44, Won 12, Drawn 12, Lost 20
Goal difference -11, Current points 48
Last 5 games: L L W D D
Final fixtures: Wycombe (h) and Northampton (a)
* Wycombe have nothing to play for, Northampton will want an automatic promotion finish (if available).
22nd AFC Wimbledon
Played 44, Won 13, Drawn 10, Lost 21
Goal difference -23, Current points 49
Last 5 games: D L L L W
Final fixtures: Gillingham (a) and Fleetwood (h)
* Gillingham already promoted but can be crowned Champions, Fleetwood could mathematically still make the play-offs.
21st York
Played 44, Won 10, Drawn 19, Lost 15
Goal difference -12, Current points 49
Last 5 games: W D W D L
Final fixtures: Southend (h) and Dagenham & Redbridge (a)
* Southend could mathematically make the play-offs, Dagenham & Redbridge could be safe by then.
20th Torquay
Played 44, Won 12, Drawn 13, Lost 19
Goal difference -9, Current points 49
Last 5 games: W L L L W
Final fixtures: Morecambe (a) and Bristol Rovers (h)
* Morecambe have nothing to play for, Bristol Rovers have nothing to play for.
19th Accrington
Played 44, Won 13, Drawn 12, Lost 19
Goal difference -15, Current points 51
Last 5 games: W D D W L
Final fixtures: Bristol Rovers (a) and Oxford (h)
* Bristol Rovers have nothing to play for, Oxford have nothing to play for.
18th Dagenham & Redbridge
Played 44, Won 13, Drawn 12, Lost 19
Goal difference -5, Current points 51
Last 5 games: L W L D L
Final fixtures: Aldershot (a) and York (h)
* Aldershot need maximum points to avoid relegation, York could possibly still be relegated.

Of those teams, I’d suggest that Aldershot have the worst final two fixtures with both opponents needing points for differing reasons. A win for Dagenham in their penultimate game would most likely see them safe and while Rotherham are guaranteed at least a play-off place, they will want the final automatic promotion spot if possible.
The easiest fixtures belong to Torquay and Accrington who face teams with nothing to play for. While their opponents won’t want to finish the campaign with defeats, there are more important games both weekends.

My final two predictions:
Barnet 1-1 Wycombe
Northampton 2-1 Barnet

Monday, 8 April 2013

Two minutes with… Chesterfield

Last Saturday was Barnet’s penultimate game at Underhill, where Chesterfield were the visitors. Spireites’ fan Ryan gives his thoughts in this instalment of Two Minutes With...
Had you been to Underhill before?
This was my second visit to Underhill, my first being two seasons ago which was Chesterfield’s last visit to Underhill too. We drew the match 2-2 after going 2-0 up which was very disappointing but gave Barnet a vital point for survival in the 2010/2011 season.
How did you get to the game?
Unofficial supporters coach travel.
The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
Like my last visit to Underhill I stood on the east terrace next to the segregation net beside the home fans. Loved the banter with the home supporters and the view was decent besides one pole which blocked off a small area of the pitch. Home supporters on the other side of the segregation were friendly as were the stewards.
What did you make of the game?
Since we won 2-0 I obviously really enjoyed the game but the score line probably wasn’t a fair reflection on Barnet’s performance for a good 60 minutes of the match. First half Chesterfield were poor, Barnet looked good going forward and had a few chances well saved by our goalkeeper Tommy Lee. Despite the home side going into half time the better of two we also had a strike from Togwell well saved by Stack. The second half I thought Chesterfield were much better and whatever Paul Cook said to the lads at half time it clearly worked. The first 10 minutes or so however Barnet threatened from a lot of consecutive corners and Jake Hyde also put a chance over from close range. Once we scored the goal from Jay O’Shea (what a goal it was too) Barnet heads seemed to drop and they began to fade out of the game, we became much better and eventually got that second goal through Togwell, excellent work down the right from Darikwa.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
As we kept another clean sheet I would nominate either Neal Trotman or Liam Cooper our CB pairing for the match. They had to deal with a lot of pressure from Barnet for a good 60 minutes and dealt with all 18 of Barnet’s corners very well. They looked strong, challenged well and very dominant in the air as usual. Very pleased with our defence again which is our strongest area of our team. Cooper perhaps just edged it for me.
Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
Taking into consideration all of Barnet’s pressure in the first half and the start of the second half and the chances they had probably not, I thought they were the better team for the majority of the match. However we defended well and had a few chances of our own before showing Barnet how to finish effectively. A point would probably have been a fair outcome for both teams but obviously I’m very happy with all three.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
After our 2-0 victory away to Barnet we have Bradford at home the following Saturday. Absolutely massive match for us as we are just three points off the play-offs in 9th position whereas Bradford are currently in 8th position with a point more and a game in hand over us. It is very important that we win and I think our home advantage will ensure we do just that. Also we currently occupy top spot in the form table after beating Barnet so I am confident, for once.
Cost of match day ticket ––– 8/10
My match day ticket cost my £16 which is a reasonable price for an adult ticket at any ground in league two, however it is not the cheapest ticket I have purchased this season.
Purchases made at ground ––– 8/10
I bought an official match day programme from the ‘Village Shop’ outside the away end for £3 which was of very good quality, the content inside it was very good. I didn’t purchase any food or drink within the ground although it all looked very nice and the prices were of good value so I was told.
View ––– 7/10
The view overall was decent although there was one pole which blocked off a small area of the pitch, however this is expected with the east stand being a traditional terrace. Luckily we scored both of our goals in the other net.
Quality of football ––– 7/10
(Chesterfield) - Poor in the first half but much improved in the second, scored two goals from two best bits of quality within the entire match I’d say.
(Barnet) – Looked good going forward but lacked that ‘effective finishing’ end product, forced a lot of pressure on the Chesterfield defence especially in the first half and beginning of the second which won Barnet a lot of corners.
Overall experience ––– 9/10
Ever since I heard the news that Barnet would be leaving Underhill at the end of the season I just had to make sure I was present at our final visit. Overall I was really pleased that I attended and very happy with the result. The match was very good to watch although the atmosphere from the away fans was a bit flat, our main singers decided not to make an appearance. Home fans friendly and the stewards were very helpful. Overall I’m glad we won at our last ever visit to Underhill; we had not won there since the 3-1 victory in 2008, a perfect way for Spireites to say goodbye to Underhill.

Total ––– 39/50
 And you can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryandickens_cfc

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

League Two round-up: 30.03.13

The first of the Easter weekend fixtures were played across Friday and Saturday afternoon in League Two. With things close at both ends of the table, it was a good opportunity for teams to build momentum going into Easter Monday’s games as well as for the remainder of the season.
On Friday afternoon, five goals were scored at Vale Park where promotion candidates Port Vale met Cheltenham, another team looking to go up to League One automatically. The narrow victory in the hosts’ favour meant the Rubies had to end the weekend with a place in the play-offs. Tom Pope’s hat-trick helped Vale secure maximum points, his first goal coming via a header in the opening 20 minutes. Cheltenham levelled after the break, Kaid Mohamed pouncing in the area, before going on to take the lead through Paul Benson’s effort. Vale equalised courtesy of a Pope volley and he completed his treble midway through the second period, increasing his tally for the season to 30. A neat chip over Scott Brown in the visitors’ goal secured the points.
A narrow win for Northampton kept them in the race for third place, while defeat for Torquay sees them continue their fight for survival at the wrong end of the table. Roy O’Donovan’s late strike five minutes from time handed The Cobblers victory – it was his third goal for the club since joining on deadline day in January.
There was also a Friday win for play-off occupants Rotherham, with a single goal separating them and AFC Wimbledon. Alex Revell’s 76th minute header handed Steve Evans’ side their first win in four, while the Dons still aren’t safe at the bottom.
Continuing with teams struggling at the foot of the table, Accrington recorded a surprise win over Wycombe, courtesy of an injury time goal. Three minutes into time added on at the end of the game, Lee Molyneux smashed the ball home for a vital victory which sees Stanley sit five clear of the dropzone.
Four goals were shared when Bradford hosted Southend on Friday afternoon and the draws didn’t stop there with a further six sides settling for a point apiece. At Valley Parade, the likelihood of either side making the play-offs now looks relatively slim, with Southend seven points off and Bradford a further point behind them, with just a handful of games remaining. The Shrimpers found themselves two goals up after just 11 minutes: Gavin Tomlin opened the scoring by tapping-in after Bilel Mohsni’s shot hit the post, before Britt Assombalonga doubled their advantage seconds later. The Bantams responded in the second half to deny Phil Brown a winning start as Southend boss. Zavon Hines pulled one back after 50 minutes before James Hanson’s header salvaged a point.
A goal each was the outcome when Oxford met Morecambe and relegation- threatened Aldershot travelled to Rochdale. At The Kassam, Oxford found themselves ahead via Alfie Potter’s effort on the hour mark, but Jack Redshaw’s added time header ensured it remained honours even. A point for Aldershot saw them move off the foot of the table, although they went behind at Spotland after George Donnelly broke the deadlock for Dale, early in the second period. When Josh Lillis couldn’t hold on to Ben Herd’s free-kick, Adam Mekki punished Dale midway through the second half, earning The Shots a point in the process.
The spoils were also shared on Good Friday between Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge. Despite a goalless draw, there was plenty of incident and the Bees left the field at the end with nine men. Loanee Karl de Silva was the first to be dismissed when he saw red three minutes from time for his foul on Luke Wilkinson. After the whistle, Keith Hill showed a red to defender Barry Fulller, following his verbal altercation with the official.
To Saturday’s games now, and Devon bragging rights were with Plymouth as they beat neighbours Exeter by a solitary goal. Jason Banton’s 18-yard strike handed Argyle the lead in first half stoppage time, putting them five points clear of the relegation zone. The Grecians stay in seventh at the end of the weekend, four points ahead of Fleetwood who sit outside of the play-offs.
The Cod Army had to come from behind twice to earn a draw against leaders Gillingham. Danny Kedwell opened the scoring for the Gills with his top corner attempt, with Jamille Matt equalising after half an hour for the home side. Charlie Allen nodded Gillingham back in front before the break but Matt doubled his and Fleetwood’s tally for the afternoon, capitalising on a defensive mix-up and slotting the ball home. Despite a single point, Gillingham are now six points clear at the top of League Two.
Burton missed out on the opportunity to move back into the automatic promotion places after their slender loss to Chesterfield. Drew Talbot’s 25-yard strike early in the second half separated the sides.
Meanwhile, York remain in the bottom two although they picked up a point against Bristol Rovers, who are reasonably safe now. The game at the Memorial Stadium ended goalless.
Round two of the Easter games continues on Monday, with a full programme in League Two.