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Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
It’s Happened Again. The Playoff curse bites for a sixth time. By: Max Bygraves 04/05/2023
Boreham Wood
1 2
Playoffs 02/05/2023
2022-2023 Attendance: 3733 (877)

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It's taken 24 hours to sit down and pen this one. I thought about doing an in the moment reaction on the night, but definitely worth letting the dust settle. Here we are again. Barnet. Play Offs. What might have been...

With reasonable perspective (which I don't think I've quite yet got, but I'm imagining), Tuesday night isn't the end of the world. However, I would be lying if I said it hasn't stung. In fact, I can't remember the last time I've felt this disappointed about a football result as an adult. I wasn't at the Gateshead game, in fairness. I didn't think we were going up, but perhaps had at least convinced myself of the fun day out in Nottingham over the Bank Holiday to celebrate an enjoyable season. And then still, who knows? Maybe. Hope is a cruel thing.

Barnet's play-off troubles are well documented. It's now six incredibly unsuccessful campaigns; with not one final appearance amongst them. With this in mind, prior to the match, I didn't have perhaps the level of nervous energy or anticipation I have in the past. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't counting down the hours at work on Tuesday - but the occasion hadn't fully got to me.

From the moment I stepped through the turnstile, that changed.

I didn't go to the Wrexham game, so this was my first experience since 2015 of seeing the ground anywhere near full. I don't hide the fact I still find it difficult to feel much warmth to the place we have to make do with as 'home', but from 7-8:05pm last night, it really was buzzing. Navigating our way through the monstrous bar queues (surely a beer tent out the back, even selling lukewarm cans or something would have been sensible and an additional earner for the club?) for a pre-match pint, it was like a who's who of Barnet folk.

Our group's numbers were strong, but I saw other people I hadn't seen in years. One old friend on their first ever visit to The Hive. Three of my mates with their young children; people's wives along to see what the fuss was about; proper old school Barnet faces at every turn. One well respected Barnet chap of a certain vintage greeted me with a warm embrace before telling me he'd just managed to drink three pints in fourteen minutes. It was all beautiful. Standing out the back of the stand in the mild May early evening, I did allow myself a moment to think how great this coming together of people and circumstance was.

In the stand - I don't say this lightly - it was electric in that opening quarter of an hour. There were other moments through the evening too, but that collective roar urging the team on and the almost tangible passion in the air was really something. We started brightly on and off the pitch. An early goal would have almost definitely made for a very different evening and story for now. It would have gone off.

Turning attention to the on-pitch events, things sadly unravelled quite quickly. It was a dominant beginning from Barnet, but not one of any real clear chances. Corners and Cropper throws but no end product. Just when it was becoming worryingly apparent that we were trying to play the biggest, ugliest, anti-football shithouse team at their own game, we then gifted them an opening.

Finley Potter has been an outstanding addition on loan. He has played beyond his years and looks to have a bright future ahead of him. It was such a shame he made his one costly error of his whole spell with us in the defending for Lee Ndlovu's opener. It was all a mess; even the finish itself. If he'd struck the ball how he wanted instead of scuffing it, I'm not sure it would have gone in. A horrible goal, a horrible moment. And one from which we never really recovered.

From 0-1, Wood could take the sting out of the game and absorb whatever we chucked their way. Increasingly, this wasn't much. The goal knocked a bit of the stuffing out of us and we looked less threatening. As it later transpired, even an injury to their inspirational lump in goal, Nathan Ashmore, wasn't exploited.

The one time the big lad in the net was called into action was in the latter stages of the first half. Idris Kanu, who had one of his best performances in months, cut inside from a lovely run and unleashed a powerful shot towards the roof of the net. A fine acrobatic save saw it go for another corner. We just didn't look a threat from set pieces. Smith and Kabamba were marked out of the game and we looked devoid of any different ideas.

The sucker punch came right on half time. Another defensive disaster saw the impressive Ndlovu assist himself off the inside of the post to make it 0-2 at in first half stoppage time. A miserable half time bar beckoned.

The ghastliness of football hope. Fittingly, Harry Pritchard, one of the most consistent assets to the team all season, fired in a response from Barnet early in the second half. A fabled early second half goal at 0-2 down. We couldn't, could we? Optimism renewed, noise increased, and worst of all, belief intensified. Briefly.

For a short spell, we attacked with a bit more purpose and it did feel like the pendulum was beginning to swing, but this wasn't for long. As in much of the first half, we seemed desperately short of ideas and simply played into their hands. The officiating of Darren Middleton, a somewhat surprising choice for this one given his history (with both teams) didn't help but it's not a reason we can cite for why we didn't get what we wanted. I do wonder how many players would have been left on the pitch if it had been a Premier League game with VAR, though.

I'm not going to pour over the details of the last twenty minutes. They were a tough watch. We were all crying out for Rob Hall. Dare I say it, even David Moyo may have been more impactful or at least logical than what we got. That's not slagging the manager off, but the substitutions were not inspired. The clock ran down and aside from the brief moment of collective hope where the whole side of the ground stood up leaning towards the pitch in anticipation of a Laurie Walker equaliser from a 96th minute corner, that was that.

Much as I tried not to look, it was pretty galling watching the away end go bananas at full time. Luke Garrard's enthusiastic reactions were not great viewing. A Barnet boy done good, just not for us. You can't dispute his quality as a manager at this level - I sincerely hope a football league club take a punt on him sooner rather than later.

It was a sorrowful applause by those that stayed for the home side, after one final on-pitch huddle for this season. They deserved an ovation for the bigger picture, despite the frustration of last night. We shuffled away from the ground, quieter, in fragmented groups now and said our goodbyes before heading for various cars.

Dropping one of the boys back to Barnet, the two of us decided to stop for a quick commiseratory one in The Weavers for old times' sake. The place was completely empty. It all felt a bit sad, somewhat symbolic, but not how this was all meant to be.

Driving to work the next morning, trying to shake off the disappointment, I reminded myself of the heartbreak and anguish the Shrewsbury defeat in the semi final of 2004 had caused me. Granted, I was a teenager with different priorities. I can distinctly remember trying to persuade my Dad to let me have the day off school to recover from the trauma. It didn't work. As I drove through the school gates as a member of staff nineteen years on (on the Shrewsbury anniversary, if we want to be really morbid), I had that familiar 'I don't want to go to school' post-play off feeling. Two Boreham Wood supporting colleagues certainly were no help to that, either.

It wasn't to be and once the emotion has gone out of it, it'll just be another Barnet disappointment to shrug the shoulders at. The journey to last night was a good one. Dean Brennan and the players deserve a lot of credit for the enjoyment they've given us this season.

We'll do a broader end of season round up/review/ramble in the coming weeks. It's been a bloody brilliant 9 months following Barnet again and, as they're very good at reminding us, the lows make the highs that bit sweeter. In the cheesiest way imaginable, having this relationship with my football club again after all this time feels like a truly significant success from this season, on a personal level.

Thanks for reading these over the course of the season. Somehow, via a mix of late nights and finding pockets of time in often unusual contexts to formulate them, there's been a write up of every game attended (a whopping 23 - my most since 2011/12). The feedback and comments we receive on social media for them are hugely appreciated. Even when you don't like what we've got to say; the contributions are welcome, and we try and disagree respectfully! Writing these has become an oddly enjoyable hobby and part of my match attending cycle, so thank you for your engagement along the way.

Oh and Lego, sorry for not mentioning you in Saturday's article as promised. It was beers, wasn't it? Hope you've read this far. Love ya man!

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All Articles By This Author:

13/06/2024 How It All Began
13/05/2024 Togetherness
29/04/2024 Outfought, Outthought, Out Of Ideas
10/04/2024 Nearly There
25/03/2024 "A Game Of F*****g Demolition"
20/03/2024 Another Step Closer
09/03/2024 Tepid
06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
21/02/2024 Shot Down
14/02/2024 Simon Clist

Other Articles By Category

13/06/2024 How It All Began
07/06/2024 A Barnet Story
13/05/2024 Togetherness
29/04/2024 Outfought, Outthought, Out Of Ideas
21/04/2024 The Best Of The Rest
10/04/2024 Nearly There
25/03/2024 "A Game Of F*****g Demolition"
20/03/2024 Another Step Closer
17/03/2024 Card Bored
09/03/2024 Tepid

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