It was dark and cold, the start of a brand-new year and our first away game of 2020. All the usual suspects were excited, engaged and fully prepared for the 200-mile journey south down the M1. Tesco Pete had forgotten his big flag (how can you forget a bag the size of a fridge?!), and the Ripponden Shayman (AKA the Navigator) was in charge of monitoring traffic news, “Don’t worry, it will all be clear by the time we get there” was his stock response as sat nav warnings beeped away. The Greetland Shayman was tasked with bringing the quiz….
Without a quiz, the topic of conversation was dominated by the 40th anniversary of the famous FA Cup game against Manchester City. The old boys on the back seat reminisced about how fast the last four decades had passed, with their memories still fresh as if the game was just last week. They described the build-up, where they had stood in the ground, what the pitch was like, the atmosphere, the goal and what they remembered about the manager and players. Football is strange, we watch hundreds of games live and on television and for the overwhelming majority of matches we see, we forget the detail. If you asked me the score of our games against Dagenham, Solihull or Eastleigh this season I wouldn’t necessarily remember (is it just me?) but just occasionally, football gives you a match you don’t forget.
After a 50-mile detour around Oxford, Maidenhead, the M25 and the busy centre of Watford we eventually made our way to Barnet’s Hive ground. It wasn’t that we didn’t know the M1 was closed from the time we left Halifax and that the A1 would have been a much better alternative, but we were strangely drawn to our favourite breakfast stop in Northamptonshire, and the advice from the Navigator was that the motorway would be open by the time we reached the incident. It’s fair to say that the Cantankerous Shayman who was following us in the car behind didn’t see the funny side of it… Still, at least we had a good breakfast and had set off early enough to reach our destination.
Barnet’s Hive ground was opened in 2013 following their move from the famous Underhill ground where they had played for over 100 years. The new ground has constantly evolved since it first opened with a current capacity of 6500 and planning permission for an additional 2000 fans. The north end of the ground usually reserved for big away followings has been transformed from a small covered terrace to a 2000 capacity all seater stand. The main stand runs the full length of the pitch and can hold over 2500 fans with a great view of the pitch wherever you sit. The home fans have the option of standing on a covered terrace behind the other goal for a much cheaper admission fee. This stand will be replaced as part of the next stage of development. The other side of the pitch has offices, a fitness gym, and changing rooms, media facilities and there six rows of seats. The whole stadium is neat with modern floodlights and bright orange seats.
At half time the Shaymen lead by a single goal, it was scored at the far end of the ground by Jack Redshaw and was perhaps against the run of play. Barnet looked quick and passed the ball well around the edge of the Shaymen’s penalty box for much of the half. Sam Johnson made a great save at one point touching the ball onto the bar but other than that, didn’t have too much work to do as the defence packed out the box. The 130 travelling Shaymen, accommodated in the end of the main stand, generated most of the noise in a very quiet stadium.
Barnet equalised in the second half as darkness fell, they probably deserved their goal on the balance of play. The Shaymen created a few half chances but never really put the home goalkeeper under any pressure. The home side looked the most likely to steal the points, but a draw seemed a fair result when the referee blew the final whistle.
Driving back and we were all content with a good start to the year. The Greetland Shayman provided us with a moment of excitement and entertainment when we stopped for facilities on the way back. He disappeared into the darkness at the side of the A1 to return 15 minutes later covered in mud and leaves. He managed to stumble over a five feet banking in the darkness and landed at the bottom of a farmer’s field amongst lots of litter. His calls for assistance we drowned out by the traffic noise as we waited in the warm car. Once he returned and cheered up, we reminded him how lucky he was that farmer Mable hadn’t switched on the electric fence at the bottom of the field too, now that would have been a day to remember!
Next up and we’re off to the seaside in the next round of the FA Trophy; it’s an early start as we head to Torquay. Let’s hope Tesco Pete remembers his flag this time.
Total goals on the road 18, total miles 5122 C’mon Shaymen!
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