They say that hard work and dedication always pays dividends in the end. Getting up at silly o’clock in all weathers, conditioning yourself to the rigours of the routine, and abstaining from other temptations along the way… “Good morning, table for four is it? We’ve reserved you our special table today with a view across the car park.” It’s the little things in life that make all the difference. We’ve always been regulars at our favourite Northamptonshire breakfast stop for a long time now, and finally they see us as regulars too.
Breakfast was great, not just for the food, but also for the opportunity to sit down and assess the comings and goings over summer. Who’s our best new signing? Who’s got potential and who’s going to play today? The other big question was are we going to win, lose, or draw at Barnet.
The roads were reasonably clear for our 200 mile journey south, just a short hold-up around Luton and we were rolling up to the ground shortly before 1.00pm. Parking is always a challenge at the ground. You either pay £8.00 to park on the official car park or try and squeeze the car into a residential spot. As we’re from Yorkshire, you already know which option we went for.
It was baking hot at Barnet’s Hive ground. It’s not had sustained rain down there for months, and the banking for the tracks of the London Underground that runs alongside the ground was straw yellow. The Misterton Shayman and his accomplice had posh, iced coffees and had set up an unofficial Supporter’s Club merchandise stall on a picnic table outside the club’s trendy coffee shop. You couldn’t get past unless you agreed to buy a car sticker or one of the new polo shirts.
The Hive stadium is still reasonably new. It was opened in 2013 and has a capacity of around 7000. The only remaining original standing terrace behind the far goal, has now been demolished with plans to replace with a much bigger all-seater stand. That will bring the capacity up to around 8500. The home fans were housed in a large stand down the side of the pitch, with the travelling 180 plus Shaymen being given a big stand behind the goal. It was steep but with a terrific view of the pitch. The changing rooms and media have a few rows of seats in front of the main administrative building at the ground.
It was a Who’s Who as the team bus arrived, and we stood and said hello to the players as they entered the ground. In truth, we recognised a few of them but after a quick natter amongst the travelling Shaymen around us, we agreed the identity of a few more too. It’s always difficult at the start of every season with change seemingly the only constant in football.
The first half was all Barnet; they led with a single goal at half-time but it could and perhaps, should have been more. We had a good view as the home side attacked the goal beneath us. They had already had one goal disallowed by the time they took the lead, and their players looked quick and adventurous. Our best attempt ended up in the back of the Barnet net, but the linesman had his flag up. As the team improved towards half time, we still had hope.
The second half was similar to the first. The referee reduced the Shaymen to 10 men with a second booking for Stott. It seemed a little harsh given a few free kicks from the home side had gone unpunished, but sometimes when a player gets spotted by the referee, it’s almost inevitable he’ll get his cards out again. Barnet scored a second with around 10 minutes to go, then rattled the bar late on. They thoroughly deserved their victory.
Driving back and all our pre-season optimism had vanished in the heat. The first day of the season always feels like the decider for the season. Of course, it never is but getting that first goal, first point, and first win is always important.
Next up and we’re off to Wealdstone. It’s just round the corner from Barnet too, C’mon Shaymen
Miles on the road 401, Goals on the road 0.
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