Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Hive Stadium, Barnet

Barnet 2-1 Crewe

March 30th 2018

My decision to take in The Hive Stadium on my latest trip south was, I am slightly ashamed to admit, down to less of a pressing desire to see the new ground (opened 2013), than to ensure I caught a league match there before Barnet FC dropped through the English Football League trapdoor.  Something which had begun to look more and more likely over the preceding few weeks.

Going into this match this afternoon, The Bees sat propping up the rest of League Two, some four points behind Chesterfield and, perhaps more pertinently, seven adrift of Grimsby Town in the safety zone.

I had hoped to see more of Jamal Campbell-Rice who had impressed me no end at Forest Green during Barnet’s opening day of the season draw, but learned only during my pre-match research that the midfielder had been shipped off to Carlisle on the last day of the transfer window.  One has to assume the club management knew what they were doing.

The rain which had dribbled on and off during my drive south stepped up to torrential mode by the time I crossed the M25, and I began to wonder if would be seeing any football at all this afternoon.  For I noted matches way to the west and east (at Yeovil and Dover, respectively) had already fallen foul of the downpour.  Looking at the pitch once I entered the ground, I pondered whether it had been a close run thing at The Hive, for there were clearly, admittedly small, patches of the playing surface completely waterlogged.

The Hive ticket office

The day truly was as grey and wet as these pics suggest...

...but the pics give no indication of the bitingly cold wind, which had blown in from
Murmansk or somewhere similar by the feel of it. 
I have rarely been so cold at a football match.

The Hive, Barnet FC

Panorama of The Hive, Barnet FC

Both sides slipped and slid their way through the opening 45 minutes, with little real goalmouth action to warm the bones of the 1,951 crowd.  I do so like it when the attendance at a match I attend ends in a 1.  It makes me feel important, and that my presence made a difference.

I can recall a shot from distance by Barnet's Alex Nicholls which missed the target by an inch or so, and then a stramash in front of the visitors' goal, the choreography of which would have done justice to Mack Sennett.  But that was sort of it for the first-half.   

One thing I had noted during that first period, was the difference in physicality between the two sides.  All of the Barnet players men.  Many of them big 'uns.  By contrast a number, by no means all, of the Crewe lads just looked like....lads.  

I am thinking here about the likes of Harry McKirdy, Callum Ainley and Perry Ng who all appeared – certainly when wet through - like bedraggled, undernourished waifs and strays.  The last named was particularly prone to tumbling over upon receipt of the lightest touch from an opponent – occasionally getting the benefit of the doubt from the ref, but generally not.

For the home lot, David Tutonda I liked; he appeared at times to be the only one on the park able to effortlessly control the ball in the treacherous conditions.  And experienced central defender Michael Nelson looked an assured individual, and a good man to have in your team during troubled times.

There are only half-a-dozen or so rows of seating in the East Stand.

Alex Nicholls tries his luck.

Crewe's James Jones & Ben Garratt

A first half corner for Barnet.....

.....which the aforementioned Jones headed onto the top of his own net.

From the resultant corner-kick we were treated to this delightful scramble... first Dan Sweeney (26) attempts to sneak the ball in... 

...but Crewe defender Perry Hg manages to snaffle possession (without falling over)...

... his colleagues somehow clear the ball to the edge of their six-yard box... 

...from where Simeon Akinola has an unsuccessful attempt to bash the ball through the forest of legs.
Phew !

Rear of the West Stand.

Terraced South Enclosure.

The North Stand is used to house away supporters at The Hive.
There were 379 Crewe fans at the match, 360 of which have gone for a half-time burger.

Panorama of The Hive, Barnet FC

Perhaps not unexpectedly the conditions played a major part in deciding the destination of the points up for grabs, as both Barnet goals came from second-half penalties given away by Crewe defenders (James Jones, then George Ray) who each really should have been wise enough to stay on their respective feet.  Both awards were confidently put away by John AKINDE.

In between these two goals, Crewe had fashioned a barely-deserved 70th minute equaliser; Harry McKIRDY latching onto a mistimed header by team mate George Ray.  This just moments after home keeper Craig Ross had pulled off a fine stop from an attempt by Crewe's Paul Green.

I was pleased for the home crowd at the end, for they had been unstinting in their support throughout – particularly the South Terrace dafties.  The only slightly jarring note had been the sight, during injury time, of a Barnet player (whom I shall not name) angrily snarling at a young boy who was attempting to return the ball to play, to “Leave it, Leave it !”  I do appreciate this was the dying moments of an important win, and that any second killed was a bonus, but to bully a child in such a manner appeared just a touch unnecessary.

Not to end on a negative, I really liked the quirky little Hive – those four contrasting sides a counterpoint to many of the identikit “smaller” new grounds one encounters these days.  I do hope Barnet can retain their place in the EFL, but as I write this BBC Sport is telling the tale of a subsequent bashing at Stevenage for The Bees.  This reverse simply jacking up the importance of the visit of Forest Green Rovers in a few days time a few further notches.  

That dreadful cliched term “Six-Pointer” springs to mind. 

John Akinde opens the scoring five minutes into the second half.

Michael Nelson - Barnet FC

Opposing managers Martin Allen (L) and David Artell (R)

Dan Sweeney - Barnet FC

Barnet v Crewe (March 2018)

Akinde's second penalty, three minutes from time, was also hit to the 'keeper's left, but this time high into the net.
Pretty much the perfect penalty.

A happy, if rather wet, Bees' fan.

I just noticed the Fire Bucket - probably the most superfluous item in the ground on a day like this.

If you are patient enough, the ball eventually comes back down.

Barnet's Richard Brindley and Crewe's Tommy Lowery get up close and personal.

Almost time-up.

At full-time Crewe captain George Ray is, I am assuming,
debating the fact he was penalised for the second spot kick.

The West Stand where I was seated does have a look of impermanence about it, as if it
could be removed in a day and replaced with a larger, or smaller, structure depending upon the club's
pyramidal progress (or otherwise)

Panorama of The Hive.