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All Together: Better
A good crowd, Playoff consolidation and the Amber Batallion, Max Bygraves talks through another win and clean sheet. By: Max Bygraves 21/11/2022
Torquay United H
19/11/2022   (Click date for match details)
League 2022-2023
W  1- 0
Attendance: 2153  (264 Away)

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Following a glut of productive but not-attended away games, it feels like a very long time since penning the last article in the wake of a disappointing evening at home to Southend. The collective mood has changed considerably in the past few weeks and at the time of writing, we now are nestled firmly in the play-off places. Who’d have thought it three weeks ago?

The reaction to a few positive or negative results certainly feels heightened these days. Discussing this during the game yesterday, a sensible offering on the matter was it being down to the sheer desperation of those fans who’ve stuck by the club through this recent troubled era. People are so desperate for things to work; they’re hugely celebrated when they do. Conversely, it can very quickly get extremely ‘the end is nigh,’ on the basis of a few poor performances. It’s certainly a shift from times gone by where there was maybe a little more measure to either being happy with doing well or more often, just accepting we’re Barnet and not very good.

Torquay are an opponent on the fixture list that spark very evocative memories for supporters of a certain age. That relegation face-off in 2001 is now fairly insignificant in the tale of both clubs over the past two decades, however, as a one-off game at the time, few surpass its magnitude. I’m sure I’m not alone in having the odd flashback to that fateful May afternoon, even all these years on.

Despite justified cries of frustration and anguish from many online during the week about yet another home game not publicised to attract new fans, on approach to the ground it looked as though a healthy crowd was on the cards. Evidently, many free tickets had been given to local kids and their parents – perhaps with this in mind, the club chose not to push for more. The reality is that if we went much over the sort of numbers from this game, the matchday infrastructure gets shown up again. Things are running more smoothly, but it never looks far from a crisis.

I understand there were some turnstile issues. We arrived at around quarter to, with queues beginning to build, but went through the usual one on the far-right hand side with relative ease. There was even time for a quick pint. This not such a success, with the flattest Estrella anyone has ever been presented with having to go back and be swapped for something else. The staffing of the bar has increased in number but it’s fair to say they weren’t in any great hurry, especially at half time.

Let’s not miss the chance to once again suggest they PRE-POUR PINTS. IT’S NOT DIFFICULT!

Heading up to our seats, a friend in Block D had a few of his regular companions absent so invited us to join him there. In the event, we would have struggled to take our usual place due to the expanded Amber Battalion taking up much of the back section of Block E. I’m all for what these youngsters are trying to do although want my spot for the next home game if there are fewer empty seats close by!

The opening exchanges gave a rough indication of the two club’s league positions. Torquay showing several signs as to why they may be bang in trouble for a possible second spell in the sixth tier. Shaky at the back with little going forward. When Marvin Armstrong notched his second Bees goal in the 9th minute, optimism was high that this could be an afternoon to really improve the goal difference.

It wasn’t to be the case, however. After this bright start, Torquay came back into it and whilst many clear chances were at a premium, the rest of the half was fairly balanced. A number of shouts for penalties for the Devon side were turned down, one in particular we appeared pretty lucky to have avoided.

Whilst the game’s quality drifted, the efforts from the young lads in Block E didn’t waver. It’s very easy to scoff and be cantankerous about young people doing something you might not (now, that is) and enjoying themselves but with that perspective in mind, massive credit where it’s due. The Hive sounded more like a football stadium than it has in the home end for...well, a very long time.

The chant of ‘Torquay get battered,’ certainly felt somewhat tongue in cheek given how the second half panned out. Very well put by my regular fellow attendee who described it as a second half performance like we played it with 10 men. We hung on though, several thanks yet again having to go in the direction of Laurie Walker. In the first half, he’d made a few uncharacteristic flaps at things but was back to his assured best in the second and was vital to the win. His left-hand post also saving us in the closing stages.

At full time, the reaction of several players showed what a big win this was. We dug in, stayed strong at the back, rode our luck a little but most of all, won (and kept another clean sheet) without playing well. Kabamba’s enthusiastic fist pumping and roar at the end epitomised the widespread feeling nicely.

Players were going over to younger fans to sign autographs and pose for photos. Many stayed behind to applaud the side off after the huddle too. To hit the on-brand word, there was certainly a sense of ‘togetherness’ about the place. The boisterous Block E boys came bounding out of the ground, still singing as the crowd dispersed into the car park. Intrigued as to where they’ve appeared from; presumably these are the first of the generation of Barnet fans with no memory of or link to Underhill. Canons Park locals? Perhaps the fanbase is no longer only ageing.

It’s still early days, a contrasting run of not such good fortune could happen at almost any time still, but for now there is plenty to enjoy. It really felt like a significant moment yesterday and building on this when we return to league action will be key.

The FA Cup next weekend provides a welcome break and nice distraction. Accrington had a good win at Cambridge this weekend to stop a recent slide. But it doesn’t seem beyond the realms, does it? Hat well and truly tipped to those who will be making the journey. Never again, thanks.

The World Cup, pleasingly, doesn’t have to feel like an escape from routine football for now.

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