Having watched football for so long, I’m pretty much used to the fact that however unlikely something seems, there is still a chance it will happen. The game between Barnet and Yeovil Town at the Hive Stadium was technically a dead rubber, given how the Bees were going to finish mid table regardless of the result, and the Glovers had already secured their place in the Football League. What followed was nothing short of spectacular.
The trip to Barnet from Lincoln was my final away day of the season, unless for some reason I turn up at a play-off match, and it also happened to be the furthest I have travelled for an away game this season. However given that we’d travelled 240 miles to Yeovil last week for a home game at Huish Park last week, 125 miles to Barnet felt like a breeze.
The first thing I ought to address is the price of the tickets. I have always said, and it is a well known fact that the price of tickets is too high. As an under 18, I paid £12 for a ticket to watch a League 2 match between two sides who haven’t scored a shed load of goals this season in a stadium that was half empty, which is just wrong. This was the joint highest price I have paid for a League 2 ticket this season, level with York, which in all fairness shouldn’t be compared to Barnet because £12 for that was an absolute disgrace.
The Hive was built in 2013 so has pretty modern facilities, but that didn’t stop them feeling it was time for them to totally rebuild the North Stand. Normally the away fans would be housed in there, but as it was totally flattened, we were given around 500 seats at the end of the Main West Stand, right next to the building site. The steepness of the stand allows fans to see what is going on without having to pull muscles in your neck to see over the head of the person in front of you. I don’t think there are many places in the ground where you get a bad view. But in all fairness, there weren’t actually that many places in the ground. There were only 2,379 fans there, and 455 had made the trip down from Somerset. Well that’s also not true, we’d come from Lincoln.
In terms of food from within the ground, it was probably the best I’ve had all season. However given that I paid £4 for a burger, I expected something pretty good, and it was actually very good. I must note however the absence of pies, that particularly angered one of my friends, who is sure to test out pies from every football ground he goes to. I mean come on, what football ground doesn’t serve pies these days? I also need to give credit to the programme salesman outside the ground, whereas most seem like it’s part of their community service, this guy was happy to have a chat and didn’t seem to care when two of us paid with £20 notes.
In terms of the match, it started pretty much as you’d expect from a dead rubber, both teams having a little bit of possession, but at a very slow pace with very few chances created. I would say Yeovil had a little bit more control of the game, so it was against the run of play when Michael Gash’s scuffed volley gave Barnet the lead after 20 minutes when the Glovers failed to clear a cross. Darren Way, who had actually come over to talk to fans before the start of the match, has said that these last few games would help him decide on who deserves a new contract at the club, and based on those first 30 minutes not many would. We did create a couple of chances before the half was out though, Matt Dolan’s over hit free kick hitting the bar, and Marc Laird missing a golden chance with a header from six yards out.
It’s clear that Barnet don’t specialise in half time entertainment, with that consisting of one child running round half the pitch and then back down the tunnel, which wasn’t really a tunnel and was actually just a set of double doors. The second half started as the first had ended, Laird missing another big chance just six yards out striking the ball straight at the goalkeeper, just 30 seconds after the referee’s whistle. However it was Barnet who added a second, John Akinde stroking home from the penalty spot after Alex Lacey was adjudged to have dragged him down in the box, even though the foul appeared to take place outside the area.
The two goal cushion lasted just three minutes, with Matt Dolan firing home an excellent strike from the edge of the area, which was only the third Yeovil goal I’d seen live in seven games this season, and it was by far the best. It was at this point where the midfield seemed to disappear from the match, with the game becoming end to end with both defences up against it. It was because of this that the third Barnet came about just seven minutes after Dolan’s strike, when Andy Yiadom’s long hopeful pass putting Akinde in behind again, and with Artur Krysiak stranded in no man’s land, he nodded home from about 20 yards out. It was the sort of pass where the Polish ‘keeper either had to stay at home, or come and take everything, man and ball.
This two goal lead lasted even shorter than the last, with Yeovil pulling a goal back almost a minute later. Nathan Smith arrived late at the back post to head home, just the second goal he has scored in his professional career, seven years after his first. Given that I have given Smith a lot of criticism when he had been playing at left back, as I think every Yeovil fan has, it has been refreshing to see him perform well at centre back, even if he still seems a bit lost with the ball at his feet sometimes. It was this knowledge of how poorly he had played in the past that led to chants from the Yeovil faithful of “How s**t must you be? Smithy scored a goal!” I can’t see his name appearing on the score sheet many more times in the future though.
It was at this point where a little bit of edge was added to the game from the supporters. One Barnet fan took it upon himself to launch a verbal attack on the Yeovil physio along with Lacey after he picked up an injury, leading to a lot of shouting from Yeovil fans. This resulted in the man running towards the away fans brandishing his walking stick, prompting the question as to whether he actually needed it, with the police having to get involved when fans headed for the barrier between groups of supporters. It was no surprise that he, along with a group of his friends, were thrown out, a move celebrated by opposition supporters with chants of “Cheerio, cheerio!”
On the pitch, the Glovers continued to push for an equaliser, with substitute Tahvon Campbell and Dolan both denied with shots cleared of the line. They got what they deserved with 15 minutes left however, Francois Zoko doing well to find space on the edge of the box before firing a shot low into the corner of the yet past Bees ‘keeper Jamie Stephens, who I must say was sporting the most ridiculous shirt and shorts combination. This led to mass celebrations among the Green and White army, much of it aimed at the home supporters.
Even with the game headed into injury time, it seemed unlikely to finish level. Akinde bullied the centre backs all day until he was wiped out by Lacey, but not before having a goal ruled out for either a foul or offside. From my view it looked offside, but some said it was given as a foul, which I didn’t pick up on. Lacey nearly conceded an unfortunate own goal with just a minute remaining, his mistimed header clipping the top of his own crossbar before going behind for a corner.
Barnet went all out to win the game, leaving just one back for the corner, and it was from the corner the winner was scored. Krysiak came confidently to claim the cross, releasing the ball quickly to set Everton loanee Liam Walsh away, before his pass in behind set up Harry Cornick to calmly slot home a 95th minute winner, causing absolute delirium in the away end. Cornick joined the dozens of fans who had made their way to the front to celebrate the goal, with every other Yeovil player on the pitch, including Krysiak, making their way over to join the celebrations. Way had asked for his team to show spirit, and in a dead rubber, that was something they certainly did.
This was one of those moments where we are reminded quite how special football is, because in no other sport would you see the players join with the fans to share their joy at winning a game so dramatically. I must have been to well over 50 football matches in my life, but none of them have had such a dramatic end, or such a dramatic comeback. This game sums up why I chose to support a Football League club in Yeovil Town, because where else would I be able to experience moments like this.
The full time whistle bought about a mini party in the stands, with Way coming over to lead the celebrations. That man became manager of this club in December when we looked set for non-league football, now we’re 14 points clear of the relegation zone with just one game to go. Even walking round the edge of the building site at the end with Yeovil players coming out for their warm down, my mate and I couldn’t resist but to surely become the first men to sing “Nathan Smith, he scores when he wants”. It even bought about a wave from the man himself.
Rating out of 10: Quite an incredible match, with a brilliant atmosphere. The only blemish being the cost of the tickets. 9/10