Barnet 1-0 Rochdale (08:05:10)
- click on photos to enlarge image -
A rare Football League outing for these pages then. However, before you go running to tell my Mum, let me put some rhyme to this reason. We had a shoe in both camps here having befriended fans of both Barnet and Rochdale on previous *ahem* European Football Weekends. In this League Two finale, our pals from Dale were on the champagne, having already secured promotion, whereas our Barnet chums were in possession of sweaty palms as a defeat here could have condemned them to relegation.
Grimsby Town were the team Barnet were doing battle with in a bid to avoid the drop. They'd gone on a winless streak of 25 (25!) games between September and February, prompting a couple of infamous fan rants that had made laughs come out of supporters up and down the country. At that time, The Mariners were seven points adrift of safety and a whopping 13pts behind Barnet. However, four wins and a draw in their last six games coupled with a Devon Loch type collapse from The Bees had rendered this match the most important since records began - probably.
As in the norm on these occasions, pre-match beers seemed like a fair idea. The magnitude of this fixture had drawn in usual suspect Big Deaks as well as a Dutch contingent from the Doing the 116 website. The Old Red Lion is a stones throw from Barnet's Underhill Stadium so we met the Barnet, Rochdale, Willem II and Lewes fans in there. The Barnet lads had been out decorating their stadium for an ultra style terrace display and looked in need of a beer, unlike the chaps from Dale who'd already been drinking aplenty on the party bus down from t'north.
I'm just popping down the village shop darling, I'll be about 90 minutes...
.....actually make that 2hrs as it's quite busy.
A sign of the (Barnet) times.
As the beers flowed Chris Nashdog regaled us with some BCM's (Barnet Comedy moments). There were plenty, most going back to the Barry Fry days. Once in the early hours of Christmas Day, police were called as a drunk man (our Baz) was driving a tractor around the Underhill pitch. This is the same Barry Fry who once thought it a good idea to set some tyres alight and drag them around the pitch in an attempt to clear off the frost. The same Barry Fry who was sacked about 12 times and promptly reinstated.
Apart from Fry, the funniest game recently was a Herts Cup match at home to Ware. Steve Percy, a long grey haired Barnet fan who last missed a game, reserves included, in 1981, had won a competition for place in the squad. Martin Allen, in charge at the time, thought it a good idea to put him on the substitutes bench. The Ware manager got a bit narky about this, so with minute left Allen sent Percy on. He promptly nutmegged a Ware player, got kicked, reacted and all of a sudden it started a 22 man brawl with the bloke being sent off. As the Barnet fans bestowed their aching sides in the stand behind, the ballistic Ware manager went bonkers and offered them us all outside for a fight.
After another couple of beers in a nearby cricket pavilion (!) we arrived at the ground to be met by scenes of utter chaos. These were only resolved when a Bees season ticket holder and I had a word with the Barnet Chairman and got the turnstile operators to accept both cash and tickets. Fans were getting irate, monster queues were forming and the police failed to get a grip of the situation - in fact they just shrugged their shoulders. Common sense prevailed in the end though. I think I was the only one there who had seen a crowd before.
Hold on! Nine against Two? That's not fair sides ref.
Barnet bossed the match as Dale's recent poor form continued. Since promotion, Dale have been a bit lacklustre in front of goal. It was a shame for the Rochdale fans who'd travelled down in large numbers to salute the teams achievements. Many were wearing flat caps as a tribute to boss Keith Hill. Barnet got what they fully deserved in the last minute when Albert Jarret smashed home from 18 yards to send the home faithful into raptures.In truth, the sting had been taken out of this Bees match (see what I did there?) early on. This is 2010 and news of Burton Albion's thumping of Grimsby was filtering through the terraces via Twitter, Email, Facebook and eventually, what seemed like three hours later, on the Underhill PA System. That meant Barnet would stay up regardless and therefore the tension wasn't quite what it might have been.
Inevitably, a pitch invasion ensued at the final whistle. There was absolutely no malice in it though. The Barnet fans sprinted onto the turf in their hundreds, celebrated with the players, clapped the away support - who returned the compliment - before filing off in an orderly fashion to allow the players to return for a lap of honour. Full marks to both sets of fans. Not a single hooligan amongst them - how refreshing.So Barnet stayed up and in Grimsby, the whiff of fish has been replaced by the stench of relegation. Their 100-year Football League stay was over. More rants on the way from their fans then? I'm not so sure. Non-League Football is alive and kicking in my opinion. It really isn't the end of the world. When the volcanic dust settles and Grimsby are flying high in the Conference, they'll look back on yesterday with a cheeky grin rather than a rant.
Big Deaks pasty had been heated by molten lava from the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. It took a World Record 35 (35!) minutes to cool down.
Biggest crowd of the season by a country mile - tick.
The Hand of God? 1-0 to Barnet.
Please stay off the pitch.
I said please stay off the.....
It was buzzing at Underhill.
Read our feature on Rochdale AFC HERE