Barnet (Very) Fair

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at the Hive

Barnet 1 Pools 3 (League 2) Saturday March 5th 2016

Barnet has always been one of my favourite away trips. I know they haven’t been a league club very long, and frequently go off for the odd season back with their old chums in the Conference, but I took to them in a way I haven’t with some of the other newcomers. 

Perhaps it’s because, like Hartlepool in Tees Valley, it’s part of London, yet out on the periphery, sort of semi-detached, with green fields nearby. And their Underhill ground was great. With a sloping pitch, a Meccano-set uncovered away stand and a big old pub round the corner, it had character. And in the days of the old printed Monkey Business it was a doddle to sell there, as everyone had to walk past you to get in, and being in London there were always plenty of ex-pat Poolies to sell it to.

Barnet's home-made stand with its token effort of a roof
However, times move on and Barnet had to leave Underhill and have now relocated to the Hive, their old training ground, which isn’t actually in Barnet, but about 6 miles away. The stadium itself looks a bit cobbled-together, with two tiny covered terraces at the ends, a decent modern stand on one side and a sort of home-made stand on the other, consisting of a few rows of seats against a wall. And overlooking the stadium is a railway embankment on which run frequent Underground trains.

One for the railway buffs, with the trains more visible than at the Vic.
Anyway, after having allowed enough time to cope with getting lost due to forgetting to set the satnav, I was able to park outside the ground, have a good look round what seems to be a neat sports complex, and have a pint while watching the second half of Spurs v Arsenal in the bar under the stand, which is more of a bar (with doors and windows and heating) than you get in most stadiums.

The obvious point of interest for Poolies was Rob Jones, the new man, who looked the part, like a taller Mirfin.

After the kick-off, Barnet didn’t seem too good but Pools were woeful, being unable to string two passes together, and also seeming half asleep, perhaps with one or two exceptions, such as Rob Jones and Lewis Hawkins.

Then Barnet’s smallest player danced through three tackles to give them the lead and we were all thinking “another hammering”. However we hadn’t counted on Lewis Hawkins, who produced a wonderful long-distance shot to equalise.
"Thomas’s goal put the lid on what was a comfortable victory after a shaky start."

That seemed to act like an alarm clock going off for Pools, and suddenly the game changed. After his league debut goal, Lewis Hawkins proved it wasn’t a fluke a few minutes later by repeating the feat from slightly further forward, and Pools more or less controlled the rest of the first half.

In the second half Pools continued where they had left off, and Thomas’s goal put the lid on what was a comfortable victory after a shaky start. The Poolie singing was excellent, too.

While I should be saying this was a team performance and that they were all heroes, in reality it was perhaps that Pools were good enough to beat a poor side.

I thought Carroll looked good while Magnay didn’t. Trevor Carson never noticed the Poolies were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him even though he had very little to do all afternoon. Bates was ok, as was Featherstone, and Thomas was a handful at times. Billy Paynter didn’t do much, and against Barnet a quicker player might have had more success.

Jake Gray caused problems everywhere, as expected. Luke James did his usual running about without achieving much. But the two star men had to be Rob Jones and Lewis Hawkins, both of whom rarely put a foot wrong.

While this is an encouraging result, the lethargic start following the thumping at Bristol makes me think that there will be a few more ups and downs this season.