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Harder work than necessary, but a win’s a win… By: Max Bygraves 20/09/2023
Aldershot Town
2 1
League 19/09/2023
2023-2024 Attendance: 1321 (174)

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Thicker socks, jeans for the first time in months and the ‘is it one for the big coat yet?’ conundrum. An autumnal feel in the air and very much football under the lights from the off. Thankfully a result to keep those end of summer blues at bay.

Saturday’s loss at Rochdale was something of a reality check. After Altrincham, we were all perhaps getting a little carried away that this season was going to turn into a procession. For our many strengths, conceding more than we should is still something of a thorn in our collective side. Disappointing not to continue to stretch the unbeaten spell, but with fixtures now coming thick and fast over the next three weeks, plenty of opportunity to put things right.

Aldershot at home looked as good a chance as any, on paper. The Shots have become stuck in something of a rut in this league over the past few years. A lack of investment and an apparent growing apathy amongst their fanbase; they don’t give the feeling of a club on the up. I quite fondly remember our clashes with them in the early 2000s when we were both at the top end of the Conference. They feel a long way from that now.

For balance, I also recall some horrible creature attempting a drive-by glassing of one of my mates outside La Fontaine pub near their ground after a 1-1 draw on Easter Monday 2009. And a load of little cretins following us to the station there in dense fog after a Tuesday night game was abandoned in 2011. So, forget any sympathy, fuck ‘em.

Their rather muted 174 fans were given little to get excited about during the first half. As we’ve become quite accustomed to at home this season, Barnet were very much dictating the play and comfortably on top. However, where this did differ from ten days ago was the final ball and decisive bounces weren’t quite happening. There have been worse spectacles but there wasn’t an awful lot of beauty on show for much of the opening forty-five.

As the half went on though, there was a sense that a goal was not too far away. Similar to Ebbsfleet a few weeks back, just before the half time whistle, an opening was forged. Danny Collinge took his tally to five for the season, level with Chesterfield’s Will Grigg, with a fine header.

Superlatives are beginning to run short for this now prolific, free-wheeling centre half. As the game progressed, he was involved in most of our attacking play that looked like it may have an end product, as well as providing the usual solidity and calmness at the back. Another outstanding display.

It’s a nice going in at half time feeling confident you’re on the way to another three points. Aldershot had offered very little and with a goal when we’d scored it, this confidence didn’t feel misplaced. It was encouraging also that the raft of changes, presumably forced by the crowded fixture schedule rather than on performances alone, had little impact on our rhythm.

Whilst only just over 1100 home fans were in attendance, from our little group it was a good showing. Regular readers will be familiar with The Wardrobe by now. I’d like to use this piece to also introduce The Secret Season Ticket Holder. SSTH, if you will.

This is a mate with a long association with Barnet (of varying degrees of interest it’s fair to say), but someone who hadn’t been to The Hive between his only prior visit in April 2015 and the Play Offs last season. Having borrowed my season ticket for the opening day of this season when I was otherwise engaged, in a hit of excitement, he then purchased the seat next to me. All quite reasonable, if a little spontaneous. However, he gets the SSTH title on account of not telling his wife any of this. Last night was his third game of the season and we are all in great anticipation if he’ll make it four on Saturday. Let’s see what he can spin. You’ll have to read on Sunday to find out.

Anyway, he’s another with a new lease of Barnet life. Also in attendance, a mate who now brings his two little ones who I can’t think of a suitable public nickname has also now fully come back after extended absence, but won’t admit to himself that the commitment of a season ticket is where he is. Yet. And for those of you familiar with our podcast work a few years ago, the third member of the DSH trio made his first trip to The Hive in just shy of a year for this one.

Sure, we’ve been asking him along every week and he attended yesterday only when an opposition supporting work colleague was going, but it’s a start. Those familiar with the man in question who were in attendance greeted him warmly. This one might be a tougher ask, but hopefully another returner is in our midst. We’ve added him to the WhatsApp group, anyway. It’s good to be Bees, as the song goes.

It certainly was in the first few minutes of the second half as we started with real purpose and intensity. A brilliant burst down the right flank from the impressive Hall-Johnson saw a whipped low ball beautifully connected with by Kabamba to make it 2-0. A fantastic sweeping goal and cool finish from a player in Grazioli-esque start-of-a-Conference-season goal scoring form.

After such an emphatic second half opening, it felt inevitable we’d kick on and really kill them off. This unfortunately didn’t prove to be the case.

One can only imagine the thoughts and mutterings of Dean Brennan watching the next ten minutes after our second goal. We allowed them to come onto us and after a few good saves needed by Walker, a looping header from their young Swiss striker, Tolaj, inexplicably got them back in the game.

As time wore on, absence of certain individuals was definitely more evident. Ben Coker’s left foot was a notable absentee and a lack of Dale Gorman in the middle also an easy spot. You won’t find a bigger advocate for all things Harry Pritchard, however, it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll continue unmoved from the team in the coming games.

Okimo did a fine job off the bench of shoring things up at the back. Chances for Armstrong and a cameo for Senior were arguably not made the most of; less debate particularly about the latter. More impact needed. On that note, what’s happened to Sam Barratt? Is he injured? It’s not been the start to life at his new club he would have anticipated. An opportunity for impact there would be interesting to see.

It was a nervier ending than it needed to be, although the defence did remain solid and Aldershot were never given a real opening. The latter stages were well managed with Gorman coming on to help slow things down. The continued endeavour and hold up play from Kabamba was excellent, as we’ve come to expect. It was good to have Kanu back for a full ninety, although on Saturday, he’s got to be pushed forward and Coker come into that slot.

A win’s a win and whilst it could have been a lot more resounding and aesthetically pleasing in places, it’s important we grind these ones out when it doesn’t all flow. It was disappointing when the news filtered through that Chesterfield had once again grabbed a stoppage time winner, but for now, the focus doesn’t really need to go on anyone else. We are doing our bit.

5 consecutive home wins to start the season for the first time since 1976-1977. Let’s see how long we can keep that going.

Halifax on Saturday will certainly be a test, as shown by how close they ran the league leaders last night. They don’t score many but are a hard side to break down. An ugly 1-0 would be just fine, thanks.

A closing point; Aldershot’s manager went for the full suit and tie look. It was discussed in the stand that you don’t see that often these days. At any level, but especially this one. Then it was considered, when have we ever really seen that at Barnet? Peter Shreeves was the only shout for consistent dugout suit wearer. The Magician (Sanchez) was partial to an open shirt and smart trousers, too. Just needed a top hat and cape. Anyone else? Answers on a virtual postcard, please…

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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
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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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