Barnet survive wind and Crawley fightback
Barnet 4 Crawley Town 2
Dembele (45, 52) Hancox (76)
Akinde (83, pen) Smith (79)
Young (85, og)
Football League Division Two
Not for the first time this year I was up at the crack of dawn and heading to Stafford station to catch the 06:48 London Midland service to Euston this morning. I could not believe that the temperatiure reading on the car dashboard was showing 14.5 degrees! The 19th of December and the temperature in the teens and daffodils showing their heads in the garden! Who says there is no sucjh thing as global warming?
With Stafford station still undergoing a major refit, once again my only reading matter was a stray copy of the Metro and as usual, despite reading it cover to cover, I didn't learn much from it! I did learn that Jose Mourinho will still get a weekly pay cheque of £250,000 for at least 40 weeks if he fails to land himself a new job, having been sacked by Chelsea and I learned that Red Bull F1 supremo, Christian Horner, is married to Geri Halliwell. They kept that quiet!
At one point in the journey the train came to a halt and an annoucement was made that a vehicle had run into a bridge a bit further down the line and the authorites were checking if it was safe. No sooner had the announcement ended though that the train suddenly accelerated away at top speed. I got the distinct impression the driver had decided: "Sod this I'm going anyway!"
I was walking along the banks of the Thames by 9:30am to fill in some time before retracing my steps to the Shakespeare's Head in Holborn where I was meeting a mate who was heading to the Chelsea v Sunderland game later in the day. We each had one of Wetherspoon's excellent large breakfasts and a pint of ale to set the day off on the right note. I then made the tube trip up to Canons Park, which is right next to the Hive, the current home of Barnet FC. The tube actually runs right behind the main stand and had I known that before we got there I would have had the camera ready. Sadly, I didn't and that shot went begging.
I met another mate, Adam, at the ground and we had a couple of beers in the excellent bar and cafe that overlooks the pitch. Everything at the Hive is brand new, or at least looks it; Barnet moved in here as recently as 2013, having spent the previous 106 years at their more famous Underhill ground. It is all very neat and tidy but of course, as yet, has no history or character; that will only come with the passing of time and with some heroic moments from the team on the pitch.
Adam and I were sat near the top of the West Stand, the biggest stand on the ground by far, and we were level with the 6 yard line at the south end of the ground. The tube trains rumbled behind us all afternoon. Unusually, the core support of both sides was also in the West stand; the Crawley fans, with an array of red and white banners, were at the opposite end of the west stand to us and the noisiest of the home fans were next to them; there was no sign of any trouble though.
The conditions were not anywhere near ideal with a strong wind blowing from the South and the very low roof over the south end terracing doing little to hold it back. It was really a day for keeping the ball on the deck but it took both these sides a long time to appreciate that fact!
Adam and I were just considering beating the rush for the bar when Barnet opened the scoring after an otherwise uneventful half of football. A left wing corner was floated in on the wind and Bira Dembele rose highest to thump a header into the top corner.
Early in the second half, Dembele was on hand again, this time nodding in a floated free kick at the back post. For twenty minutes, Crawley appeared to have given up the ghost while the home side went through the motions of trying to keep the two goal advantage. Barnet were still not giving the blustery wind enough respect though and it undid them in the 76th minute when Mitch Hancox curled in a cross which the home keeper completely misjudged and the ball struck the inside of the back post and flew in the net.
The boost of getting a goal back really rejuvenated Crawley but no one expected the howitzer of a shot that Jimmy Smith produced. He volleyed the ball into the net from all of 25 yards out for one of the best shots I've seen this season in any division. 2 - 2 and everything seemingly to play for but within 4 minutes Crawley pressed the self destruct button when Curtis Weston was hauled down in the area. John Akinde slotted the penalty home sending the keeper the wrong way.
With the home fans now finding their voices again having gone very quiet following the shock of seeing their side pegged back, there was a decent noise coming from the home ranks. And they had even more to shout about three minutes later as once again the wind appeared to play a part when a shot from Jose Clarke bobbled into the corner of the net off Lewis Young. 4 - 2 with only five minutes left and that was game set and match.
After a poor first half this game really came to life after the break and with some fine goals, some decidedly dodgy goals, the wind and the penalty we had pretty much everything. So, I'd managed to pick yet another goal fest for my 88th ground and my 77th game of the 2015 calendar year. I've now seen 203 goals in those 77 games. Four more grounds left to do now; Crawley themselves, Wimbledon, Newport County and Southend. They will all have to wait now until the New Year.