Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Gillingham vs Barnet

Summary: Although it may not have been pretty, Barnet came out of this match against league leaders Gillingham one-nil victors in what was a nail biting and memorable match for the Bees. Jake Hyde’s delightful goal from twenty-five yards out in the nineteenth minute proved to be the only difference between the sides and, even though Gillingham provided a late surge of energy in the last half hour, the Barnet defence stood strong with Iro and Stephens making numerous crucial clearances, as well as Stack pulling off a string of classy saves. It would be lying to say that Barnet dominated the match and cruised to victory, especially considering that Gillingham controlled 61% of the possession and, in total, had ten shots on target; nonetheless, the Bees were very committed in how they defended and once they managed to get the ball out of their own half, often played attractive football and quite possibly deserved the victory.
                I was feeling quite pessimistic as I travelled with my friend in the car on the long route down to the Priestfield Stadium; earlier this year, I had witnessed Barnet being whole-heartedly beaten by the Gills 3-1 when Barnet were at home. Logically, therefore, if the Bees had lost that badly with the crowd behind them, how would they fare when playing in front of seven thousand Gillingham fans? Even so, things had changed drastically since these two clubs had last met, such as, most notably, the fact that the world renowned footballer Edgar Davids was now part of the ‘Black and Amber Army’ and I felt that there was a very slight chance that Barnet could produce something very much against the odds.
                After a slightly long and arduous walk from the car to the stadium, we finally arrived at the stadium only to be greeted by a derelict Away Stand which did not look like it had passed its safety checks. In fact it made Underhill’s South Stand almost look upmarket*! To make matters even worse, it did not come with the luxury of a roof, so there was nothing to stop the inevitable rain pouring onto us.
                Once the teamsheets had been read out, my first worry was that Kamdjo was not even on the bench, so I assumed that he must be injured even though Barnet FC had made no announcements earlier in the week concerning the matter. Aside from this, the team seemed to be normal and I was pleased to see that Oster, who has been an influential figure this season, starting. The game began as one would expect from a League Two fixture and it was a rarity for two passes to be strung together. The game began to find its rhythm, however, and, on the nineteenth minute, Hyde received the ball on the half way line and dribbled it towards the edge of the area before unleashing, with great aplomb and panache, a fireball of a shot from twenty-five yards out that tor into the roof of the net. Not even this woke up the Gills who continued playing their direct, long ball game that posed no threat to Stack and simply led to chants from the Away Stand of ‘top of the league, you’re having a laugh’. Barnet, on the other hand, were now playing neat football which was confusing the home team’s defence greatly. Nothing came of all this build up play, though, and Barnet went into half time one-nil to the good with all the away supporters thoroughly satisified with the first forty-five minutes that they had just witnessed.
                Martin Allen must have given his team a very motivational team talk and Gillingham came out of the second half almost a completely different team. By the hour mark it was the team in red and blue that had complete dominance and had it not been for some excellent defending, along with some superb ‘keeping from Stack, Gillingham could have turned the game on its head. Ocassionally, Barnet provided some excitement on the counter attack but these usually came to nothing due to a sloppy pass at the critical moment. Furthermore, the rain was now falling down thick and fast, leaving most supporters looking like they’d just jumped into a swimming pool; it seemed as if Gillingham would grab a last ditch equaliser and, maybe, even go on to win it. The home supporters were beginning to get very vocal, a medley of whistles echoing through the stadium every time Stack took more than ten seconds on his goal kicks. The Away supporters were silent as they watched their team fend off attack after attack. Fortunately, the Bees kept up their stolid defensive display and, in spite of all this pressure, did not crack under the strain and held on by the skin of their teeth for a one-nil win.
                Everyone in the Away Stand was euphoric and almost unbelieving in what had just happened. It was a great moment and was a consolation for all the suffering that Barnet followers have had to endure in recent seasons. Overall, it was a great day out and one to remember!

*I stole this comment from South_Belfast_Bee on
Graham Stack (MOTM) - 9:  Made a number of great saves and seems to be a on a very good run of form.
Elliot Johnson - 7.5: Another promising display. Apart from a few small mistakes he played very well.
Andy Iro - 7.5: His performance against Burton was not received with rave reviews but he had a solid game and did what was needed of him and more.
David Stephens - 8: Constantly stopping Gillingham attacks. A very useful asset.
Barry Fuller - 8: Now one of the most consistent performers in the team who was also useful going forwards.
Andy Yiadom - 7.5: Played well once he had settled into the game. Ran at the defenders with pace.
John Oster - 8.5: An assured figure when on the ball who distributed intelligently and played well with Davids.
Edgar Davids - 7.5: Sometimes off the pace but he linked up well with Oster and played some good balls.
Ricky Holmes: - 7.75: Was very effective in the first half but overdid it a bit in the second half and lost the ball a bit.
Mark Byrne - 7.25: Although anonymous at points, he made some critical challenges.
Jake Hyde - 8.5: Wonderful goal, as well as good hold up play.
Curtis Weston - 7: Didn’t look too bad when he came on but there was not enough time for him to have a major impact.

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