On the face of it, it seemed an idyllic location; the scrawly rain had recently cleared, the sun was shining in an almost clear blue sky through the early March blossom trees as the Oxford Canal flowed gently past the manicured green lawns of the car park. We were poised, stationary outside one of our favourite restaurant outlets, 30 miles north of our usual spot, too cautious to drive any further south, but not certain enough to call it a day and return north. There was a pitch inspection due and we weren’t taking any chances!
The day had started fine, a quick rush from work, a rendezvous with the usual suspects and before 1.00 pm we were already heading south down the M1. As we approached Leicester, Tesco Pete announced that he’d had a text from the Nuneaton Shayman, “It’s bashing it down,” he read, “proper torrential down here in London, it’s not looking good for tonight’s game.” In truth, Tesco Pete occasionally attempts to spin a yarn about pitch inspections (every week!) to wind up whoever is listening, but this time it was true. With Barnet confirming the hiatus on social media, we had no choice other than to divert off the motorway for an early tea and await the news at 4.00 pm. As luck would have it, we had a discount voucher worth 33% off our tea and lots of time to kill, I can’t say who ate most but we managed to save almost £27 in just over an hour!
With no further news at 4:30 pm we concluded no news must be good news and courageously headed south again; if the game was going to be postponed, we’d identified an exciting alternative venue, St Albans City v Western-Super-Mare. We know how to have a good night out! There was a real sense of elation when news finally came though that, subject to no further rain, it was game on. We were lucky though, the motorway on the northbound side was closed due to an accident and as we passed Northampton there was standing traffic for eight miles too. There was no going back at this point!
It was an idea first thought of a few months ago. The Greetland Shayman was after revenge after one too many of Tesco Pete’s pitch inspection wind ups. The idea was simple, we would get Tesco Pete to bring his giant flag weighing over 50 kg to Barnet, we’d tell him that we’d pay the £6 parking charge at the ground and it would be easy to haul his flag the short distance from the car to the ground. We had no intention of parking anywhere near the ground. In the end we managed to find a free spot on the main road miles way, the old boys on the back seat were ‘accidently’ too slow to get out of the car so poor old Tesco Pete had to carry his heavy flag all the way down the long driveway of the Hive Sports Complex and all around the ground to the away end. If that wasn’t enough, guess who had to carry it back after the game too. I guess they’re even now, though Tesco Pete is still oblivious to it all!
Barnet’s Hive Sports Complex is a wonderful modern football ground. It was opened in 2013 and has a capacity of over 6000 with three sides fully seated. The complex was originally Barnet’s training ground, but the move was confirmed when access to their former home at Underhill was restricted due to land ownership issues on surrounding drives and pathways. The ground has been developed gradually and is full of colour with bright orange and black seats mirroring the colour scheme of their nickname ‘The Bees.’ The floodlights are perhaps the best in the league illuminating the surprisingly green, lush and dry grass. The two main stands, behind the goal and down the pitch, dominate the ground due to their size. Each offers a terrific view if you dare venture up to the lofty back rows. The home fans have a small standing terrace available behind the other goal. The sports centre side houses the changing rooms and a few rows of black seats for the media and club members.
At half time Barnet led by a goal, it was fully deserved without the Shaymen showing too much to excite the 68 travelling fans in the corner of the main stand. The second half was more competitive, but Barnet should have sealed the win with a free header at the far post midway through the half. Even the Ripponden Shayman would have buried that one! Lucky for us the ball wacked the outside of the post and we all breathed again. The Shaymen equalised with a goal from energetic Devante Rodney towards the end of the game, he took it well and celebrated with the travelling fans. It was one of those games where a point is a great away result, Barnet were the better team.
Driving back and we soon checked the other results and tables and it’s turning into a positive season. We’ve not lost many games for ages and we’re now starting to work out just how many points we can get. It’s not that we’re getting excited; it’s just the realisation that 50 points was our starting point for the Goalometer. It was looking a safe bet a few weeks ago but with a run of good results, we’re not so sure now!
Next up and another early start, Dover Athletic on Saturday. C’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 6843, total league goals on the road: 15
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