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Wood You Watch That Every Week?
Back again from Ireland with the bandwagon fully in tow. By: Eric Hitchmo 03/09/2023
Boreham Wood
0 1
League 02/09/2023
2023-2024 Attendance: 1962 (816)

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Boreham Wood doesn’t stand out on the list of summer holiday destinations. However, with a child on the way and opportunities to come home soon at a premium, what better time to pop back and watch a Barnet side who had enjoyed a largely excellent start to the season and spend some time with friends. If I’m going to be a bandwagon jumper, might as well start early in the season.

This fixture has rarely produced much joy. Even during my stubborn non-attending years, I managed to take in this fixture in a couple of times over the Christmas period. On both occasions, it was a turgid, entertainment-free affair. Goals were scarce, save for a late Wood winner in the 2018 meeting. I’d have to go way back to the days of pre-season friendlies and a Herts Senior Cup tie to remember seeing us score there, or even have a shot on goal.

We were an OK team back then, but now we are a different proposition. Boreham Wood however are still their unattractive selves. Ugly, in fact. Say what you like though, it’s a style of football that has not only kept them in the division but seen them seriously compete despite their limited resources. Whilst we all love results, watching that every week hardly fills me with much excitement but it is something that a lot of Barnet teams in recent years have not been able to work out hence a pretty miserable record against then home and away since we started competing at the same level.

For various reasons I’ve not been able to watch many of our games from Ireland so far this season but everything I read and hear is almost unanimously positive. We still have some issues with defending but there is clearly some very nice football being played at The Hive these days. We built a very decent core last season and with some more than capable additions over the summer, we are quite the outfit. There now seems to be an air of expectation around the place. This brings its own problems, but given where we’ve been over the last few years, I know where I’d rather be.

As is protocol for local away games, I arrived in The Railway Bell at 11am for some breakfast before sauntering over to the Tavern. As usual, you spot other groups of Barnet fans congregating as the day wears on. Members of the Amber Battalion were seen nervously huddling around a few legitimately purchased pints hoping not to be found out. We normally travel pretty well to Boreham Wood and today was to be no different as 816 of us enjoyed some early September sunshine, a far cry from the usual dark and miserable setting in this small, unspectacular corner of Hertfordshire.

Meadow Park is a neat little setup these days. Undoubtedly helped by income from Arsenal, whose youth and ladies teams play matches there, the stadium has moved on a lot over the years. Only the uncovered away end has not seen some form of change since I first went there nearly 20 years ago for that infamous Herts Senior Cup defeat. You had to be there. The pitch is immaculate too. You have to assume that Arsenal have a good deal of influence here, with a terrace called the North Bank and all. It would appear that they have also told Wood not to mess up the pitch too much, hence why they play such ugly long ball shit.

Their crowds have also increased fivefold in that time, although they still have the lowest support in the division. They suffer from the same issue as Barnet where support is so hard to muster in an area overrun by Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

For most of the first half, Boreham Wood did what Boreham Wood do. Did we really expect any different? Unlike years previous, we do have the tools to break this down. We absolutely dominated the ball from start to finish. I’d quite like to see some accurate possession stats. Progress was slow however, with most of the passing going sideways or backwards, and it felt that Ade Oluwo was on the ball for about half an hour. We were largely limited to potshots from distance, one of which from Dale Gorman troubled the hands of our nemesis Ashmore in the home goal. There was a slight air of impatience creeping around the away end as well as a fear that Wood could hit us on the break, but in truth this never materialised.

Supposedly they are in a bit of an injury crisis. Clearly, the XI they put out wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been but the usual suspects were there being physical and making it very hard work for us to break down. They didn’t appear to have much interest in winning the game, perhaps trying to steady the ship after a rocky start to the season and a 4-0 beating at newly promoted Oxford City last time out. They did have one good chance when Oluwo failed to marshal the ball out of play, but Walker was equal to the task from a few yards out.

Our approach play was neat, but indirect. There was a reluctance to get the ball in the box (in fairness, they are massive and can boot it clear every time) and there always seemed to be one pass too many. Frustration began to build as our continual prodding and probing was flatly rebuffed, and there didn’t appear to be any substitutions on the horizon. When it did come, the introduction of Callum Stead and Idris Kanu gave their tired legs something to really think about. Nicke Kabamba didn’t get much luck or change from the home defence but I was impressed with Stead’s determination and willingness to chase the ball down and throw himself into challenges against players double his size.

In the end, it was a set piece that did the trick. Ben Coker sent a high hanging ball to the edge of the six-yard box where Oluwo rose highest to headbutt the ball past a motionless Ashmore and into the back of the net. Great scenes behind the goal as Oluwo corrected the direction of his celebration and jumped into the main bank of jubilant Barnet supporters with several others by his side.

I’m not normally one for crowd-filmed footage, I’m one of those “in the moment” bores, but the clip from Duncan Young doing the rounds on Twitter is the sort of thing you just don’t get bored of watching. You’ve got the Battalion lads bundling away, Idris Kanu directing himself straight into the outstretched arms of my very excited DSH colleague as others pile-on behind. Even the younger kids are bouncing and running around to get involved in what we refer to these days as “limbs”. I absolutely love it. Yes, I’m aware that I’m a fully grown man. There’s also some great photos from the club Twitter that capture the moment perfectly. Was there a yellow card given for that? Don’t care. It was a great moment and the sort of stuff Barnet fans have been starved of in recent years. Those who stuck with it when it got really bad deserve this. All I’ll say is, enjoy it while it lasts!

These are the sorts of moments that are so crucial to the future of the club. I often wondered and have questioned where the next generation of supporters are coming from, but I think we can consider that answered. It felt like a very decent proportion of our support was around 11-16 years old. I remember being that age and the thing that really hooked me was the goal celebrations and atmosphere on the East Terrace. The kind of scenes there yesterday may just have done the same for this new generation of support. As a couple of smoke bombs landed on the pitch we did wonder how they got past the slightly OTT security check outside the ground. Sneaky! More please, Deano.

The goal galvanised Boreham Wood to come out of their shells and attack. Or at least you’d think it would have. They still didn’t appear to be in any rush, presumably as a result of looking absolutely knackered. A couple of corners and long throws into the box threatened to spoil our party, but we held firm. You could forgive us for being a little nervous given our track record of losing leads so far this season. At one point, Wood countered after we should’ve had a corner which wasn’t spotted by a linesman who struggled to keep up with play. The ball was more or less in the crowd, mate. If that had led to a goal I suspect there would’ve been more than a few choice words directed towards him.

In any case we were solid and maintained the keep-ball approach that had served us well throughout the 90. As the final whistle sounded the 816 travelling fans sang that Alice Deejay classic once again as we reached the top of the league on goal difference. 16 points from the opening 7 games is a very good return for what was a tricky looking opening set of fixtures.

As we slowly filtered out of the ground with the sun on our backs and three points in our pockets, I couldn’t help but take a moment to appreciate it all. I have freely admitted that my loyalty to Barnet has well and truly wavered since we moved to The Hive, but as I have said before the passion still runs deep. As I live in Ireland my attendance options are of course limited, but I hope that more of the people who took a similar viewpoint to myself can find it within themselves to bury the hatchet, as it were, and get behind this team.

While the 107 bus taking the first batch of Barnet fans back home looked like it could’ve been rowdy, we took the car route with the windows down blaring out Alice Deejay. It was back to the Tavern for several who enjoyed plenty more beers before the night was done. Perhaps this reporter had a couple more than was necessary given a 9am flight back to Dublin this morning, but we made it. For those of you there, it’s definitely my round next time. Sorry!

Dean Brennan was typically uncompromising in his post-match interview. He was fairly sparing with his praise but pointed out several areas of improvement. For the most part, I like that. The bar is high and he is demanding more and more from the squad he has assembled. It’s clear what the goal is, and on the evidence so far we have the weapons to go all the way against anyone in the division.

My options will be even more limited with a Christmas baby due, but I will try and sneak back once more for a dose of football before my life is flipped on its head. It’s likely that at this rate, I’ll be needing a newborn sized Barnet shirt to go with my own.

Before I go, if you haven’t already seen the vlog of the day from The Football Stadium Show on YouTube, it’s well worth a watch. Impressive stuff again from the young man in front of the camera.

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