The intimacy of football at League Two's Barnet
The pitch slopes down towards the South Stand, the club are running a competition for the rights to sponsor this season’s shirt and the warm-up routine appears to consist of a friendly kick-about for half an hour.
The stadium is dwarfed by the terraced houses that surround it and the ball was regularly lost in the terraces of the stand opposite, to the street behind it, or in one instance in the front garden of a neighbours house, after slamming into an upstairs window, but far being negative points they added to the overall charm of the experience.
Devoid of the high gloss of the Premier League, football at Barnet’s Underhill stadium maintains a touchable honesty that includes the supporters in every kick and tactical adjustment made from the sidelines.
In the opening moments of the game left-back Jordan Parkes could be heard giving centre-back Daniel Leach a considerable earful and the constant barks of Barnet’s assistant manager Scott Barrett were always audible.
This intimacy with the players and the match created a friendly atmosphere amongst fans grateful to be looking forward to another campaign of league football after narrowly securing their status in the fourth tier with a last day win.
The friendly visit of Peterborough on Saturday, who finished 44 places above their opposition and currently reside in the division above, would provide a serious test for Barnet ahead of the opening league fixture on 7th August at Chesterfield.
With a new manager in the form of Mark Stimson and 14 new additions to a depleted squad, Barnet were looking for their newly formed collection of players to gel and improve upon last season’s performance.
Despite Peterborough enjoying much of the early possession, Barnet fought back and their hard work was rewarded after half an hour, when a ball into the box from left-back Parkes fell to Glenn Poole, who calmly slotted home.
The home support was buoyant and were pleased with what they saw, in particular the efforts of energetic front-man Steve Kabba, a summer signing from Watford, who appears already to be a firm fans favourite.
To and fro, the game always possessed energy and passion and some enthusiast of the lower leagues have been known to claim that that there’s a lot of good football played down in the bowels of English football.
This is questionable, but there is a lot of entertaining football played, something which referee Mick Russell was keen to be a part of when he handed the visitors a route back into the game by mysteriously awarding a penalty, much to the consternation of the home support, after Glen Southam appeared to legitimately clear the ball with his head, but Peterborough captain Grant McCann had no qualms and duly dispatched the spot kick.
Not to be outdone, Barnet raced up the other end and Mark Marshall forced a penalty out of Joe Lewis, but the former England Under 21 international saved low to his right to deny Poole his second of the game and keep the score level at the interval.
As the second-half wore on Peterborough showed their league superiority and closed out the game with two well taken goals in the last ten minutes to earn a 3-1 victory.
The game attracted 547 fans, a relatively minuscule amount compared to the excess of the Premier League and featured none of the glitz and Sky Sports added glamour of the top flight, but the supporters revelled in this environment where every chant and comment could be heard by the players.
Every fan is able to make a personal connection with the action and has a sense of belonging to the club and the game being played, as every Barnet supporter is there for the same reason, irrelevant of the surroundings, league position or financial constraints, they simply love the game for what it is and this simple fact in the face of adversity was a real joy to be a part of.
Tags: Barnet, League Two
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