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Another Year, Another Survival
It's getting easy now By: Eric Hitchmo 07/05/2012
Burton Albion A
05/05/2012   (Click date for match details)
League 2011-2012
W  2- 1
BYRNE '6
HUGHES '60
Attendance: 3359  (992 Away)
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Of course I was always going to get carried away and profess an undying love for Barnet Football Club as soon as another last day survival was complete. That's why I thought it best to let 48 hours pass in order to present a more balanced view on things, but the experience of Saturday is still staying very strong and it would be fair to say that I am still yet to come down from the euphoria that was Burton Albion away.

We had visited this place before. We are becoming the experts of this, though it's not something that you can ever get used to, nor would you want to. The temptation is there for all to see though, who wouldn't want to feel like they did when Mark Hughes' volley bounced into the net in front of us? Was it worth enduring the previous eight months for? Yes and no. Obviously, when an away end erupts like that, with 1,000+ of your companions all being sent into a fit of unbridled ecstasy, it's something you want to experience repeatedly. Not like this though. I have distant memories of when moments like that were commonplace, when we were winning often and terraces would be packed full of Barnet fans beside themselves with joy. I guess that Saturday reminded me of that, just like the Port Vale game did last season, but the journey to get there is no fun.

I suppose I am being a bit greedy. We can't do well every season after all. Unfortunately we're not doing well in any season, and we have fallen into a repetitive cycle of risks and near misses. Like everything though, if you want the good, like Saturday, you have to put up with the bad. It just seems though that we're getting an awful lot of bad of late, with very little good. What is it going to take for us to remove ourselves from this? We are continually relying on drastic measures to recover ourselves from avoidable situations. Does it need a complete overhaul or just a few tweaks here and there to provide what we all want so desperately? For now, two days from another survival, I'm prepared to let these questions wait for a while and just ride on the crest of the wave that still remains from a cracking day.

Aside from a brief jittery spell on Friday, my nerves remained largely steady ahead of a third consecutive last day escape attempt. The equation was simple, win the game and we stay up. It doesn't matter what Hereford do, though it was pretty clear that everyone would be fretting about the outcome at Edgar Street. I was dismissive of their chances against promotion chasing Torquay, just like I was when they travelled to Crawley. What do I know? With optimism renewed after the 4-0 drubbing of Wimbledon, I was confident that we could get this particular job done.

It was to be an early start as hordes of Barnet were expected to descend on the Midlands. A group of 20+, swelled by the importance of the trip were to set off from Euston via Tamworth to our final destination. The beers flowed well as they tend to do, and served well to offset the nerviness that would be imminent. Bizarrely, we were joined on the train by ex-Barnet and current Burton man Patrick Ada who was eventually coerced into joining us for a chat after much banter and chanting. To his credit he remained professional and was quite happy to talk to us. He was offered beer, which he turned down, before announcing his intention to win the game. An unexpected, yet welcome distraction as we pulled into Tamworth before midday. After a quick drink, we were straight off to Burton where we were joined by several others and some local pub was about to get very lucky. The Devonshire Arms was soon packed full of boisterous, boozy Barnet supporters. This was fun, just like the old days as the whole repertoire of songs were belted out around this tiny pub. A local sat bemused at what had surrounded him. No-one really cared. The staff, though rushed off their feet, were surely glad of the unexpected income!

Soon enough it was time to get to the ground. We were in pretty early, but a very healthy number had already made their presence felt around the place with the bar under the stand nice and busy. This was where the nerves really began clattering, despite the fair number of beers disposed of during the day. The familiar fear of relegation is one that we can never get used to, the next couple of hours were going to be difficult to deal with, and in true Barnet fashion it was to be exactly that way.

Predictably, a huge following had made the trip. Like I said after the Wimbledon game, Barnet fans can always be relied upon to turn up in times of need and this was no different. No official figure has yet been confirmed though estimations of around 1,000 would not be unrealistic. Voices were in fine fettle as Barnet were to once again enter this desperate battlefield.

It couldn't have got off to a much better start. A free kick was won twenty five yards out and Mark Byrne's low drive was deflected off the wall past a wrong-footed host goalkeeper. The away end goes mad. The perfect start to deal with the myriad of nerves so present amongst the Bees' faithful and to potentially deflate any hopes from our rivals at Hereford. That was the plan, but of course these things rarely follow the intended script and by half time, The Bulls were the ones that were going to be safe. As soon as news of their goals filtered through, the mood changed noticeably. My nerves were still shot to pieces. I couldn't tell you much about who played, how they played or of any passages of play aside from the significant moments. I do know that we weren't playing that well and that the occasion appeared to be getting to everyone. Indeed, things worsened as Jacques Maghoma's deflected effort pegged us back, and things were to get even worse as Calvin Zola was softly felled by Byrne. Zola dusted himself off and blazed his effort clean over the bar and into the happy crowd of Barnet fans. A huge lifeline, perhaps it was to be our day after all, though nothing was going to tell me that as the fear of relegation was palpable in my manner. Indeed, I was not the only one.

I don't remember much of half time, I may have taken a little wander around and a sit down to gather my thoughts for the upcoming 45 minutes. Either way it wasn't very nice, though the way the players came out, fear soon turned to hope and hope turned to expectation. Something had changed. Barnet were galvanised by something, and swarmed forward with purpose and invention. Burton were struggling and were there for the taking. Torquay pulled a goal back. They pulled another back. The tide was turning. Deering missed a sitter from just yards out and was soon denied an absolute clear-cut penalty when barged over in the box. Biased or not, it was more of a penalty than Burton's, however the official waved the protests away. The volume was increased with a mix of desperation and belief. Some cheeky little scamp spread a rumour that Torquay had equalised which sparked a big celebration. That was soon diffused, but soon enough, the celebration was to be justified.

Ricky Holmes was on his game once again, and his trickery produced a cross which was blocked and fell into the path of Mark Hughes who swung his left boot to send the ball flying beautifully into the net. I was right behind it, and I knew where it was going. The 'keeper dived despairingly, he was getting nowhere near it. It's hard to put into words the feeling at moments like that. Everything becomes a blur. Bodies bounce around, people scream and shout and hug people they don't really know. I'm convinced that football is the only place where you can go and stand next to someone you've never met and an hour later you're jumping around in a ridiculous embrace together. Of course, for that short moment, it would make anything worthwhile, and this moment will go down in the memories of everyone who was part of it. Mark Hughes gets a harsh press sometimes, but he led the team on the field like he has done all season and did the business when it mattered. He's a hero as far as I'm concerned.

Would we go on from here and make it safe or would we have to wait and hold on to the most fragile of leads for half an hour. There is only one way that Barnet do these things. Rarely is it ever in style, we have to do it by putting everyone through the mill. In truth, Burton were not interested and didn't even look like they fancied an equaliser, but trying telling that to any Barnet fan during the ordeal that it had become. We definitely solidly and did not allow Burton in, but any ball that went remotely near the box seemed destined to go in. The fear was etched into all and sundry as Hereford held on to their lead. They were fulfilling their part of the deal, all they needed was one slip, one miskick, one slice of fortune, one outrageous swing of a boot to preserve their league status at the cost of Barnet's. It wasn't to come, though they came mightily close in injury time. Three corners in succession were awarded, during the second, a deep ball was diverted goalwards by our travel buddy Pat Ada. As the ball looped towards goal, people screamed in fear, turned away, they couldn't look, like the perfect horrorshow it was. Dean Brill however ensured that this show would have its happy ending, and we have to thank his outstretched claw for knocking the ball wide of goal. Fuck. Off. Not often does the sound of a whistle be greeted so gleefully, but once again, Barnet had pulled it off at the last time of asking. All previous doubts and concerns were forgotten as joy and ecstasy were imparted onto the field in a cacophony of vociferous indulgement. We had done it again, and it was now time to stand loudly and proudly in support of the club we love so dearly.

The players celebrated in front of the away crowd and they were greeted with endless noise in return. For some fifteen or twenty minutes, the hordes stayed behind and chanted song after song until the players re-emerged from the dressing room to lap up yet more celebration. I was loving every second of it as relief swept over me. We did it again. We are Barnet, we'll never go down. Great chant!

We strode away singing and raiding the nearest off licence for some celebratory beverages for the journey back home. It soon became clear that the day had been a huge drain and I was soon on a train seat struggling to stay awake. These days do tend to take their toll don't they? It became largely quiet reflection for me on the way home, though I couldn't help but indulge again in more celebration throughout the journey. These days are not good for the health.

And so Hereford must drop back to the Conference as a result of our two wins. I couldn't see them getting anything from either Crawley or Torquay but they beat them both, and must consider themselves a tad unfortunate. The league table clearly doesn't lie however, and they must pay the price for a dreadful season. Ours was just marginally better, and the change in management was completely justified despite the understandable doubts with just three games remaining. With Hereford's results considered, we had to win two of the three in order to stay up. I can't see that that would have happened had we not changed personnel. The Magician simply would not have been able to do it, and we are in some ways fortunate that we have not been relegated under his tenure. Martin Allen did what Martin Allen does, and I knew he would. He is an expert in PR and anyone must admit that he's played his one pretty well, not only in terms of getting results but in deflecting away all attention from himself and focussing on the players. No gimmicks, no big press attention, just focus on the job at hand, and that is what the players have delivered.

For now though, a season review can wait. The look forward to next season can wait. Everything else can wait. There are many concerns to be had. How do we drag ourselves away from this continual struggle? Must we continue to be the laughing stock of the league whilst big clubs below us snap away at taking our place? Can't we invest more in the team? How about appointing the right man for the job? Let's allow that to lie for now as we can bask in the apparent glory that last day survival earns. Give it a week or so and we'll be asking those same questions in a bit more detail.

Whatever happens though, we always come back don't we? There would we some mileage in testing the average Barnet fan's pulse rate in the name of medical science. If not, our sanity could be tested at the very least. We'll be seeing you again in just over two months where this whole ridiculous rollercoaster will once more be open for business.




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All Articles By This Author:

Date 
24/04/2013 Farewell
19/04/2013 Underhill
03/04/2013 Away
02/02/2013 Questions
21/12/2012 Miserable
07/11/2012 Corner
21/10/2012 Win
15/10/2012 Burst
08/10/2012 Glimmer
04/10/2012 Same
12345678910...


Other Articles By Category


Date 
24/04/2013 Farewell
19/04/2013 Underhill
03/04/2013 Away
02/02/2013 Questions
21/12/2012 Miserable
07/11/2012 Corner
21/10/2012 Win
15/10/2012 Burst
08/10/2012 Glimmer
04/10/2012 Same
12345678910...

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