Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Match report by ALREET at The Hive

Barnet 3 Pools 2 (League 2) Saturday October 29th 2016

The first difference on Saturday was that the weather was pleasingly mild compared with the bitterly cold visit last season. 

The next was that the original North Stand had been replaced by a larger, amber and black all-seater stand over the summer although not currently in use. Considering that their home gates are not far in excess of Accrington’s, I wonder how they see their future. I recall reading somewhere that the revised capacity for the ground now exceeds the maximum figure stipulated by the council; how very odd. 

Having read the Barnet message that visiting fans would need to go to the other end of the ground to purchase a ticket to get in, I found that I had wasted my time, being told that I could pay by cash at the turnstile. 

Barnet got the game underway by kicking off towards the new stand but Pools won an early corner which Thomas took on the left although the resulting shot was easily saved. The home team hit back and a quick break behind our defence saw their huge No. 9, Akinde power in a header from around five yards which brought a magnificent save from Carson. 

We were beginning to string several passing movements together and looking decent in possession but a long ball down our right just evaded the lurking Akinde. Another patient move saw Featherstone receive the ball from Carroll before transferring it on to Thomas who won a corner on our left. It was taken short and we nearly lost possession but we managed to produce a low short which was saved low down by their right post. 

Thomas made a good run along their line and won a corner but this was wasted. Alessandra cut inside from the left but his shot was blocked. Donnelly, on one of his runs, won a corner on our right which was taken short by Thomas. Receiving the ball back, he took a couple of paces and curled a chest-high shot into the goalmouth where one of their retreating defenders diverted it past his keeper and into the net. 

Thomas was again in the picture when he went on a long run before going over on the edge of their box but no foul was given. Alessandra latched on to a through ball but his left-footed effort was kept out. Barnet made a substitution. A good move saw the ball with Thomas but his cross went over everyone. 

Akinde picked up a yellow card for a late challenge from behind on Toto. We won a free kick on the half-way line but the ball to the far post was headed across goal with no one able to convert. One nil at half-time was a fair reflection of the game. 

"To say that the game turned on the penalty decision was a massive understatement."
We started the second half on the front foot and Amond put the ball just behind Thomas in their box. A neat move out to Thomas wide on the left saw him pass his opponent and his quick, direct cross into their six yard box split two defenders and was met by Amond whose downward header put us two goals ahead. 

Carroll gave the ball away but the Barnet shot ended up in our side netting. Barnet made two substitutions and Hawkins tried his luck from twenty five yards only to watch his shot pass over the bar. A through ball saw Akinde galloping into our box pursued by a couple of Pools defenders. It was difficult to see exactly what happened from the other end of the pitch but there was a tangle of legs which saw Akinde sitting on the deck and Donnelly being given a red card. The ref awarded a hotly disputed penalty although, tellingly, the home players hardly raised a protest at the tackle. After the aggrieved Donnelly made the slowest effort to trudge to the other end of the pitch, Akinde dusted himself off and casually rolled the ball home. 

Carson got himself booked for time-wasting and the home side made a further substitution. Thomas, who had earlier spent a short time down in the far area was now lying crocked at the other end. He was obviously in a great deal of discomfort but play had transferred to our end before any of the officials seemed to notice. There followed what can only be described as a Whitehall farce as it took three or four minutes for anyone to arrive with a stretcher. We then witnessed another lengthy spell before the unfortunate Thomas left the pitch during which time the home keeper removed two further stretchers and left them at the side of his goal. I heard someone say that they were the wrong size but, whatever, Richards came on as a replacement 

Their diminutive No.11 was neat and tricky and had caused us problems all afternoon. He received a ball out wide on our right, beat Featherstone and sent in a cross which bypassed everyone, including the flailing Carson, and ended up in our net for the equalizer. 

The same player, in a similar position, tried his luck again and this time, his cross cleared Toto and dropped at the feet of their attacker who had run unchallenged into our box and couldn’t miss from a couple of yards. Groundhog Day all over again, conceding three goals in a quarter of an hour but we rallied and started to exert some authority even though a man short. 

Hawkins was replaced by Deverdics and the announcer said that there would be ten minutes of added time. Deverdics sent in a ball from our left which was punched out while a good ball from Alessandra on our right found Carroll whose powerful left-footed drive was pushed away for what would have been a deserved equalizer. That was as near as we came and the ref called time on another extremely frustrating afternoon. 

Carson, having made an outstanding save at the beginning of the game was, unfortunately, all at sea with their second goal allowing a ball from distance to pass over his head. He doesn’t seem as secure as in earlier games. Donnelly put in another impressive performance. He was solid in defence, having been pressed into service on the right side of our back four and also looked useful when attacking down our right flank. His dismissal completely changed the complexion of the game. 

Toto was solid against some rather large opponents but is still poor with his pass selection and I thought Harrison started well and looked secure although he lost his man and allowed him a free run to score their winner. Carroll had an in and out match but was unlucky not to have found the net with his late strike.

 Featherstone played his usual role in front of the back four, saw lots of the ball in deep positions, picking it up and laying off neat passes but not offering much by way of protection to the defence. Hawkins put in another energetic performance in midfield while Laurent covered the pitch, closing down the opposition in defence and managing to link with the attack including a rising shot in the second half. 

Alessandra had a good afternoon’s work, constantly offering an outlet for the ball and providing opportunities for others. He provided an impetus after we went down to ten men. Amond ran and ran and was rewarded with a typical poacher’s goal. Thomas proved a handful to the home team, looking confident and contributing to most of Pools attacking moves. Apart from scoring one himself and making the other, he posed a constant threat to the home defence and it was obviously a huge blow when he went off injured. 

To say that the game turned on the penalty decision was a massive understatement. We were the better team for the majority of the game and were in control of it for long periods although not necessarily threatening. Walking back through the park to catch a local bus and chatting to a couple of Poolies en route, I caught the raucous calls of a group of Ring-necked Parakeets sitting in nearby trees. 

Following this latest surrender of points, my only consolation was that this was my one truly home game of the season and I was home within the hour.