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In The Nicke Of Time
A last gasp goal spares a real case of the January blues... By: Max Bygraves 09/01/2023
Gateshead H
07/01/2023   (Click date for match details)
League 2022-2023
D  1- 1
KABAMBA '87
Attendance: 1417  (61 Away)




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We’ve had a fun few days on our social media platforms sharing memorable Barnet goals of years gone by. You’d be hard pushed to say Kabamba’s equaliser in this one will live long in the memory, but it felt like a big goal in the moment, and prolongs the unbeaten run. The classic late goal to make a draw feel like a win.

Had we not grabbed a late equaliser, it would have been hard to have had much positive to say about a pretty tough watch against Gateshead. It was a hideous January afternoon; the first Saturday into the New Year, rain lashing down against a dark sky from early afternoon in not the most attention-grabbing of fixtures. Until the 88th minute, it all felt quite bleak.

The game started at pace - briefly - the away side denied an early chance thanks to a superb last ditch challenge by Sam Beard, recovering from an initial error. After that, despite wracking my brains, there’s not too much more I can say about the first half. It happened and it really wasn’t pretty.

It felt pretty flat all round. A smaller crowd than we’ve began to get more accustomed to, a quieter atmosphere (than we’ve also begun to get used to) and very little to get excited about on the pitch. It wasn’t the ideal celebration of the manager’s new long-term deal.

That news that broke on Thursday, regarding Dean Brennan signing a contract until 2026, has been met with widespread joy from pretty much all Barnet fans who've cared to pass comment. It's certainly a change of direction to see the club tie someone down for such a long-time and should offer much-needed stability - something missing since the Fairclough days in the mid 2000s. 

I acknowledge that I'm very much in the minority, but must admit that the first thought I had was 'is that not a bit too long?' Perhaps a bit cynical, but arguably that comes with the territory. There's no doubt Brennan has done an exceptional job this campaign with the recruitment being nothing short of outstanding, given where we find ourselves. My only caution to the news is that three months ago there were some cries for his head and we were conceding goals for fun; in addition to him overseeing several results we'd like to forget about last season. Hopefully the pattern since early November is the one we'll continue to follow, but I suppose the big thing now is that if we do hit another sticky patch this season, next, or even further on, perspective and patience will be required by all. 

More praise than we've seen for the chairman in a long time, in the wake of this news, too. It's fully understandable to some degree, but again, perspective is key here. There is a very, very long road for the man at the top to walk to get on to any sort of parity with a large chunk of our support. Many still don't attend games largely due to his decisions and actions of the past. Whilst I have no complaints about the on-field offering this season thus far, I won't be cheersing to our Tony anytime soon. Let's just hope this and some other recent actions such as ticketing initiatives are a start - but I won't hold my breath. 

Anyway, back to Gateshead, and any thoughts of dry January had long disappeared by the 39th minute of a turgid first half with the bar looming. It's fair to say, it's not the liveliest place at the best of times but even by its usual dingy standards, probably compounded by the football and weather, it felt even darker and sterile in there at half time than normal. The TVs not showing football until several requests that were made to the rather intense lady running the bar were finally met didn't help. Hopefully the 'Barnet-ifying' plans the Supporters Association have liaised with the club on for a while will come to fruition soon. It's got great potential as a space. Not to be too doom and gloom, the serving times continue to show improvement although you had to feel for the new trainee stuff getting well and truly put through their paces and every pint pour cross-examined by the aforementioned bar manager. Still, it's good to see standards being set! 

The second half was an improvement in terms of the viewing spectacle. We started more on the front foot, bringing Moyo on at half time and for the first time I can recall this season, going with two up front. A few half chances and 'pressure' was the best we could muster. 

It was interesting to see Powell given a go from the start although as with the only other time that's been the case this season (Dorking at home, in identically miserable conditions) it was hard to see what had merited his inclusion. I'm sure there's a player in there, but perhaps the injuries and difficult first year at the club have taken their toll. He's not offered much whenever I've seen him and it's criminal Shields now can't even get in the squad, given that was the starting spot of earlier in the season he was filling. I can only assume he's on a decent wage and Brennan wants to get some value out of that. I'd argue it's not one we can afford to be overly patient with. Shields or Hall must be given a start at Solihull next week. 

Gateshead took the lead through a horrible goal that, at the time, was slightly against the run of play. One of those you could feel was going to be a goal before the ball even went in the box. With just over 20 minutes to go and given what we'd seen so far, it was hard to be too optimistic about our chances of avoiding a disappointing defeat. The only source of some light relief was the confused celebration of Gateshead's number 42 who naturally ran towards the away end, only to realise his team mates had gone the other way. He gave a half-shrug, half-celebratory fist pump before sheepishly running to his mates across the pitch. 

After this, Gateshead understandably used every timewasting trick in the book. Naturally, it was met with much disdain from the home supporters although it was hard to blame them. They looked they were set to execute a very decent away performance and result. Kabamba missing a glaring chance with a little under ten minutes to go felt like the sign it really wasn't our day, having also forced a decent save with a header. 

In the 86th minute, Gateshead made a substitution; their goal scorer departing with the slowest walk off the pitch imaginable. Having followed his slow trudge, I noticed that as he approached the bench, both he and the sub replacing him gave a big fist shake of triumph at a job well done. Oh dear. Lads, never go too early. 

Two minutes later, a lovely whip by centre back Danny Collinge led to a strange half-deflected header and ball looping into no-man's land in the six-yard box. A fantastic quick reaction and agile finish from Nicke Kabamba made amends for his earlier misfire and grabbed what had felt like an unlikely equaliser. The relief was palpable. Not the best result, but an awful lot better than a loss. 

It can't be great every week and again, this was another sign of the team showing resilience and fight to get something when it had all the hallmarks of 'one of those days.' 

The Wardrobe was unable to make this one (sorry to disappoint his legion of fans), so I was joined by a Fulham supporting mate who had never been to Barnet before. Always interested in the feedback of an outsider, I asked for his summary on the journey back. He said he'd enjoyed it and there were lots of positives about the experience but the location was the only downside for him. I promise that wasn't a pre-prepared answer. As if to compound this, for genuinely the first time ever, my Sat-Nav took me via Barnet Lane and even Westcombe Drive to get home. Nicke's goal really doing a great job at keeping those January blues at bay... 

A break from league action next in the FA Trophy. It would be great to go far in that competition, but given the league position, it does feel like the pressures off this one. Win and it's exciting, lose and there's something else to quickly focus on. Likely we'll see a couple of changes with one eye on Yeovil after that. Things are still looking good, but it helps to be guarded. This is Barnet. The key word for everything as we bring this to a close - perspective.




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29/01/2023 Buzzing
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04/01/2023 Wynter Warmer
04/12/2022 836 Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
21/11/2022 All Together: Better
02/11/2022 Outnumbered
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