Saturday, 29 December 2007

In Attendance: Barnet FC v Chesterfield @ Underhill, Barnet - December 29th 2007

With the matches coming thick and fast over the festive period there is a danger of fans getting bored. Oversaturation can happen very easily. The Sports channels are pumping out the games at such a rate it's almost difficult to keep up. There are even those who championed the idea that this country should adopt a winter break during the football season...

Not me though!

Me and my mate 'The Mooch' have for a long time been talking about throwing our support behind Barnet as they are esentially one of our local sides here in wonderful North London. The Bees are currently languishing in league 2 so Me and Mooch hopped on the Northern Line (High Barnet branch naturally) to see if Paul Fairclough's side could show some signs of progressing beyond this level.

Having arrived at the Ground about an hour early, we thought we'd get tickets from what we thought was a ticket office. Let me set the scene: Underhill is essentially a football pitch surrounded mostly by corrugated iron... on a SLOPE! We approached a portacabin when people seemed to be queueing. When we got to the window they told us that we just pay at the turnstiles. Sheepishly we shuffled our way round to the East Terrace handed over our 15 quid (yes, 15 pounds stirling to watch 4th Division football!) and enter The ground.

The Theatre of dreams his was not.

The South Stand is currently being redeveloped while the North is uncovered and essentially protected by a fence so I can imagine the wind, if it's strong enough, having a major impact on the result.

As I said, we arrived early so we had the pick of almost the entire stand in which to take up a decent vantage point. We were soon to discover that our location had a restricted view of the corner to out left. D'oh!

I would like to say that the pre-match entertainment consisted of cheerleaders, a light show and a performace from Shakira but i'd be lying. We were However, privilaged to watch Hertfordshire's finest going through their pre-match warm up. We were literally spitting distance of our new heroes.

The Barnet side contained former Arsenal youngsters Adam Birchill, Nicky Nicolou and Joe O'Cearuill.

In contrast, the Spirites had lined up Jack Lester, Gregor Robertson and Keeper Barry Roche. All former Nottingham Forest players.

On that basis, I expected a dose of quality play from the Bees considering the lads were products of the Gunners' famed academy and having watched Forest for 3 years while at uni I have to say I wasn't excepting a great deal from Chesterfield.

Departing Striker Liam Hatch was named captain for he day as the Bees took the field. As is tradition, the home side played uphill on the infamous slope in the first half.

The game started out very scrapily. The away side seemed committed to giving the ball away at ever opportunity whereas Barnet employed the useless tactics of passing sideways a lot - that would be the Arsenal influence - before hoofing the ball up to the seemingly disinterested Hatch. Jason Puncheon, the Bees' hero on boxing day, showed some nice touches but his final ball was atrocious.

A lofted ball into box saw Liam Hatch completely mistime a jump as wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring.

He would shortly come to regret it as the hopeless Joe Devera - an accident waiting to happen - failed to clear his lines and a Jack Lester through ball allowed Adam Rooney (no relation) to give Chesterfield the lead on 20 minutes.

At the time, I suggested that Lee Harrison in the Barnet goal could have done better but on the evidence of the rest of the game, I decided that he probably couldn't have. This is the keeper who also picked up a backpass and failed to convincingly deal with any cross he had to face in the first half.

Chesterfield probably should have the opportunity to double their lead when Lester was seemingly hacked down in the box (Devera again unsuprisingly) but rather than a penalty, referee Mike Thorpe booked Lester for diving. Good to see.

The first half dragged on. It was like marching through treacle wearing concrete boots. The half time whistle couldn't come too soon. The fans had itchy feet and took to heckling the players to keep themselves entertained.

Barnet's one shot on target of the half came from the lively Puncheon cutting in from the right wing. It was simply catching practice for Roche.

At half time, Fairclough tried to spice things up by introducing the nippy Anthony Thomas for the dispassionate Hatch. Suddenly, Barnet decided to play football. It's obvious that the slope makes a huge difference.

However, despite the nice build up play and fluid passing, the home side seemed to completely bottle it every time they got into the final third. Nicolau and Gillet worked well together on the left side but their delivery let them down time and time again. Crossing was aimless to say the least. When Micheal Leary wasn't giving the ball away, he was scuffing his shots and crosses. It was no suprise when he was withdrawn for Ashley Carew on 70 minutes.

Barnet's wasteful play was to cost them. With just ten minutes to go, Spirites defender Janos Kovacs stabbed home a loose ball to make it 2-0 after a poor Chesterfield corner was dropped by Lee Harrison to the shock of absolutely no-one at Underhill. Game over.

Cue more more mishit shots and crosses from Barnet before the ref put everyone out of their misery by blowing the final whistle.

10 years ago, Chesterfield were famously denied an FA Cup final appearance by the fialure of the officials to spot the ball crossing the line. They didn't perform nearly as heroically today but got the result to help keep up their promotion push.

Barnet on the other hand were woeful up front and I very much doubt they would have scored if they were playing til NEXT christmas. The club are currently midtable and at times I got the impression that they were content with that. The Bees wont get relegated but they are unlikely to threaten Chesterfield on any of the other play-off hopefuls.

As me and Mooch strolled back to the tube station, we decided that we would certainly be back to watch the Bees again. Hopefully by then, they will have learnt to put the ball in the back of the net.

Final Score: Barnet 0-2 Chesterfield
Attendance: 2,346
Man of the Match: The ref

1 comment:

Milkman said...

Great blog, really informative piece on Barnet, if your watching a game why not stay in one of the many Barnet hotels.