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Coming Up Roses, At The Stones
Laurie Walker is most definitely adored. By: Max Bygraves 13/03/2023
Maidstone United A
11/03/2023   (Click date for match details)
FA Trophy 2022-2023
D  2- 2
MOYO '37
Attendance: 2120  (437 Away)

This article has been viewed 418 times.

I’ve been writing these mostly in the evening straight after games lately, but in the interest of coherence and composure, I had to sleep on this one before penning it. It was a memorable afternoon in Kent for the 437 vociferous Barnet fans as we took another step towards that Wembley appearance that’s eluded several generations of supporters.

An anxious tube journey in to town, having criminally underestimated how much time I had meant a scramble at Victoria to just make it onto the 12:55 train with The Wardrobe. Is there much better than the train to a local away game, sat having a chat and a few lunchtime beers? Easily the most relaxing part of my week.

We arrived at Maidstone East just before 2pm and made our way to meet the others who’d made an earlier start at The Flower Pot pub a few minutes away from the town centre, past the ground. Didn’t see an awful lot of Maidstone itself but on the evidence gathered, it’s not somewhere I’d rush back to. What is it about Kent and its populous?

Following some rather pacy pint consumption, we made it to the ground a few minutes ahead of kick off in jovial mood. The terrace felt absolutely packed, which added to the sense of occasion even further.

Early on, it felt very much like what we’ve come to expect in this kind of scenario down the years when the hosts took the lead through Roarie Deacon. This following an almost immediate exit for Harry Smith with an injury before a ball had barely been kicked. Not the start we’d hoped for. On the back of a pretty dismal showing at Dorking on Tuesday, you could have been forgiven for fearing the worst. However, the character alluded to after Southend thankfully once again came to the fore.

Just eight minutes after going behind, a Finley Potter header from a corner levelled things up. You could see the confidence lift immediately and the rest of the first half was very much controlled by Barnet. Reward for the dominance came from another corner on thirty-seven minutes; David Moyo poking home after another Potter header was saved to make it 1-2.

Cue bedlam in the away end as the players came over to celebrate. Not sure if I’m looking forward to the highlights of that one or if I’ll be watching the footage of me giddily celebrating down the front through my fingers. I offered Moyo a hug, but he decided not to come that close. Look, it was all very exciting, ok?

An entertaining first half ended with more chances at either end. Mark Marshall involved in much of their attacking play. One of a plethora of ex-Barnet players on show for the hosts. He did a good job for us prior to his sour ending. Jerome Binnom-Williams (from the season we don’t talk about) was their captain. Fair play to him for taking some of the comments about his size with a good-natured chuckle towards the away end.

As makeshift bars go, the programme stand with pumps on it at The Gallagher Stadium was certainly up there for most rustic. Some nice local beers on sale though and these were being consumed in a very positive atmosphere by those under the stand at half time. Lots of old faces out for this one. Everyone being warmly greeted back into the fold. This really is a good time supporting the club again.

I’d love to continue on the trail of positivity here but the second half was an abomination. The scoreboard clock seemed to go backwards at points as the game turned into a dull, turgid affair.

The highlight of the second half for me was a youngster behind having a go at his mate: “You’re on Snapchat! What are you doing on Snapchat? It’s the Quarter Final of the FA Trophy!” If I was fourteen in this day and age, I could well imagine coming out with something like that in horror that someone could take their eyes off the game, no matter how bad it was. Loved the enthusiasm but couldn’t really blame his friend for trying to stay entertained.

The home side made it 2-2 a little before the hour. An outrageously confident panenka penalty from Sol Wanjau-Smith (who’d come on late in the first half to replace their injured first goal scorer) levelled the scores. That kind of behaviour in a game of this significance is the sort of thing you really want to see come back to bite someone later…

Not much else to report in the ninety minutes. A tough watch and arguably, if anyone deserved to nick it, it would have been the hosts. We looked pretty devoid of ideas and the game finished up as a cagey affair with both seemingly deciding to take their chances and rely on penalties.

This was my first experience of being at a game that went straight to penalties without extra time. It was quite a mindset shift to go straight into the all or nothing of a shootout lottery, following such a drab second half. The nerves kicked in quickly. Penalty shootouts are absorbing in any context, but with emotional investment and right before your eyes, it made for a very intense and draining period of time.

The first four penalties were all well taken and scored. Maidstone, having gone first, then missed their third. The nice chap who dinked the equaliser past Walker during the game once again cleared the Barnet keeper, but also the target, and his effort hit the bar.

De Havilland scored. Advantage Barnet. Then 3-3. Idris Kanu stepped up next and coolly slotted into the bottom corner. 3-4.

Jack Barham, another ex-Bee, made the long walk from the centre circle. The away support reminding him of his ‘Barnet reject’ status as he steadied himself, having been negative (“He’s missing…” about every single one of our players on the walk up!) to that point, it did feel this was going to end how we wanted.

It did. Walker went the right way, saving well and the bundles which ensued were just spectacular.

The delirious Barnet players made their way to the corner and celebrated wildly with fans. ‘QUE SERA, SERA,’ boomed down onto the pitch from the stand. Many had gone to the front but The Wardrobe and I remained at the top and very much lapped up the scenes below. Absolutely brilliant.

In the early stages of the shootout, Laurie Walker (staying true to his shithouse reputation) had thrown their goalkeeper’s water bottle with information about our player’s likely penalty choices into the stand. This had been caught by our mate, meaning his eleven-year-old son went home with a unique memento from the day. The friend in question very much one of the post Underhill non-attending group of fans (this only his 5th Barnet game in a decade) - think it’s fair to say his boy is going to be want to be back for more, following this experience.

I’m trying not to be overly gushing about this, but the scenes at the end yesterday really remind you why you go to football. Why you invest the time, emotion and finance into it all. The Wardrobe and I dancing around hugging each other after the penalty save, with him bellowing in my face, “THIS IS WHY WE CAME BACK!”

I’m writing this on Sunday night and have genuinely felt a buzz about this for the entirety of today. There were many more hugs, handshakes and delirious joy sharing with others as we made our way out of the ground following an extended celebration with the team in front of us. With time tight for the original planned train back, a couple of very sweet tasting Morettis were enjoyed in The Market House pub instead before getting on the 18:13 service back to London.

On the walk to the station, watching a guy in a hi vis being extremely heavy-handedly turfed out of a Wetherspoons summised the vibe of another of Kent’s beautiful towns. Thanks for having us, guys.

The train took me back to the good old days. It seemed to be nearly exclusively Barnet fans and many a song was sung as we headed back to the capital. Some got off at London Bridge and songs about Wembley could be heard echoing up the platform steps as we headed for the final destination of Charing Cross.

I got home a little after 8pm, certainly not needing any more to drink and spent the rest of the evening half watching the tele whilst revelling in the result via WhatsApp and the various excitable ramblings on Twitter. Glorious.

I started going to Barnet in 1999. In my time, this certainly feels like the biggest prospect of a trip to Wembley we’ve ever had. I’m sure we’ll all be finding a way to listen to TalkSport2 at 3pm on Monday afternoon.

Other plans already that weekend mean an away trip would be off the cards for me, given the location of all potential opponents. Please let it be a home tie. If a quarter final win felt like that, can you imagine the possible feeling at 5pm on April 1st?

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A huge thank you also to Rob Cavallini whose Barnet history books set the basis for our journey to complete all statistics back to the start of Barnet FC.

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