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Barnet & The FA Cup
Magic or tragic? By: Max Bygraves 30/11/2023

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A respite from league action is most welcome after a miserable November. Our last bit of joy coming on 4th November at Curzon Ashton in the FA Cup 1st Round.

That gritty victory with ten men on Tameside set up a Second Round clash away at Newport County of League 2. Whilst recent form doesn’t send us into this one with too much hope, stranger things have happened. By the end of this week, we could be looking forward to a 3rd Round trip to one of the country’s biggest teams in January. Or, more likely, be shaking our heads and saying ‘at least the FA Trophy next week will give us a proper break from it all,’ after a disappointing loss in South Wales.

To generate maybe a bit of excitement and perhaps even some positivity,despite my disappointment at not being able to attend a game in my childhood stomping ground (soft spot for Newport very much dropped for Saturday), I thought I’d take a look at Barnet’s FA Cup story…

Newport County are significant opponents for us in this competition. Not for the fact we owe them revenge for a home defeat at this same stage in December 2015 - although a wrong that would be good to right.

Back in November 1970, a Ricky George (scorer of a hat trick) inspired Barnet hammered Newport County 6-1 in front of just shy of 3000 fans at Underhill. At the time, Barnet were in the Southern League Premier and Newport in the lower reaches of the Football League. To this day, it remains the record highest ever victory for a non-league over football league side in the competition. An honour shared with Carlisle United who inflicted the same scoreline on then Lancashire League outfit, Wigan Athletic, in the early 1930s.

Going right back to the beginning, the first recorded FA Cup encounter of anything resembling the modern day Barnet FC appears to have taken place in the 1908-09 season, when the club was still known as Barnet & Alston. The formative years between 1888-1912 are a little patchy and can get slightly complex with versions of the club folding, merging and so on.

According to sources away from the safe confines of my editor’s hours of piecing things together for the database we have (which leaves me nervous to share), the first recorded cup tie was a 4-1 victory over Shepherd’s Bush at Underhill in 1908. The dream died next when Exeter City made the exceptionally long journey in those days, but it proved worth it for a 0-3 win. Allegedly.

Our website records begin in 1912 when things appear a bit more straightforward. In September that year, Luton Crusaders were seen off in the 1st Qualifying Round and the wonderfully named Luton Reliance were comfortably dispatched 5-2 in the next round. The dream ended in November of that season as Tufnell Park came out victorious at Underhill, 0-2 winners. A disappointing afternoon for Percy Chandler in the Barnet goal. The sort of name you imagine all footballers had 110+ years ago.

With an interlude due to World War I, progress was rather slow in getting anywhere in the competition. The 1925/26 season saw our first advance beyond the qualifiers. A 1st Round Proper tie at Third Division South Brentford ended in a 3-1 defeat. George Sparrow featured for Barnet; a player who scored 235 goals in 273 appearances but that afternoon he was kept quiet. History would repeat itself scoreline-wise at the same venue in more recent times.

Pre World War II, there were three more forays as far as Round 1. All came to an abrupt end against Brighton, QPR (3-7!) and Cheltenham respectively. A low point surely ranks as the 1935-36 Preliminary Round exit to Leavesden Hospital. Though we did get revenge there at the same stage three years later. Have that, you stethoscope weirdos.

Post War, Round 1 ties were two legs in the first season back. An aggregate 8-3 defeat to QPR again spelled the end of that adventure. In 1946/47, we made it one step further with our first Second Round appearance. Southend United rolled into town and handed out a 2-9 reverse on the slope. This was enough to put us off venturing too far for another few years.

Two highlights during an otherwise rather barren run through the 50’s and 60’s: In 1954, we recorded our biggest FA Cup victory. An 11-0 hammering of Royston Town in the Preliminary Round set us off on a run to Round 1 without conceding a goal. When we got there, nearly 6000 turned up to see Third Division South Southampton beat us 1-4.

Then, a full ten seasons later, we made our FA Cup 3rd Round debut. A storied run against many local adversaries of the era culminated in a replay victory over Enfield in the 2nd Round proper. A 4-4 draw at Southbury Road on Saturday 5th December was followed by a Tuesday night replay at Underhill. A crowd of 9330 packed in to see a Lester Finch brace and one from Roger Figg as our North London counterparts were dispatched 3-0. Heritage names for a heritage moment.

Preston North End were the visitors for Underhill’s biggest FA Cup day to date with 10861 officially in attendance. The season before, the Lancashire side had made it all the way to the final, narrowly losing to West Ham United at Wembley, 3-2.

The scoreline would be the same at Underhill on the second weekend of 1965, but this time Preston would unfortunately be heading back north on the right side of this result.

It looked like it would be far less close than this, with the visitors taking a two goal lead within five minutes. Instead of a long afternoon from that point, the Bees weathered the storm and kept it to 0-2 at the break.

An incredible start to the second half saw Barnet back on terms by the 54th minute thanks to goals from Figg and Whyte. Yet a late own goal from Terry Casey broke Barnet hearts as Preston survived a real scare to progress to Round 4.

Something of an FA Cup golden era followed between 1969-1973. A minimum of the 2nd Round reached in each of these seasons.

Another 3rd Round appearance came in early 1971 when on the run that followed the rout of Newport, we bowed out to Division 4 side Colchester United 0-1 at Underhill. An exceptionally Barnet thing to do. The visitors would famously go all the way to the Quarter Final, beating Don Revie’s Leeds in Round 5. No shame in the end, but I can only imagine the frustration walking up Priory Grove after that missed opportunity. Revenge would follow a few generations later.

In 1973, a third appearance at the 3rd Round stage saw us again paired with QPR. We fared better than previous showings, holding out for a gutsy 0-0 draw at Loftus Road and bringing them back to Underhill. An official crowd of 10919 saw us defeated 0-3 in the replay.

Two defeats to Peterborough United in the early proper rounds were the best we managed towards the end of the 1970s and into the 80s.

1981/82 saw us again in the spotlight of Round 3. A 0-0 draw at home to Brighton & Hove Albion was followed by a 3-1 replay defeat at The Goldstone Ground in front of more than 15000. The goals from this are on YouTube with a young Martin Tyler on commentary. Barnet wearing a very yellow number.

The next run of note would come in the fabled 1990/91 season. Not only was this the year the club made it to the promised land of the Football League following several near misses, a 3rd Round appearance was also secured. Having gone all the way from the 1st Qualifying Round back then, defeating six teams en route, Division 2 Portsmouth taught us a lesson, running out 0-5 winners at Underhill.

Again, highlights of this can be found on YouTube. Des Lynam talking through the teams before Barry Davies takes the mic. Stardust.

The early to mid 90s proved the club’s best spell since 69-73 in the competition. Our first year as a Football League Club and with the gravitas of our starting point being in a ‘proper’ round for the first time saw another journey to Round 3. That culminated in a 3-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic who were groundsharing at Upton Park at the time. Highlights here.

The real story from that run however came in Round 2. The final competitive meeting (well, or technically most recent) between the original Enfield and Barnet. A Mark Carter hat trick in front of 5120 at Southbury Road left the Bees with eternal bragging rights ahead of our neighbours demise through the following decade. A trip to Enfield Town would be fun one day.

During the turbulent 1993-94 season, amidst all the off-field turmoil and challenges of playing at our highest ever level (the old Division 2, League 1 in new money) with a threadbare, rag tag side, the cup provided some solace.

Perhaps our most high profile fixture of all time saw us pit our wits against Chelsea in the 3rd Round. The tie was moved to Stamford Bridge under police instruction. It also set up a potentially much needed bigger windfall from tickets. 23200 turning up says so.

Whilst not the Chelski super power they would soon become, Barnet got a very credible 0-0 draw in the official ‘home’ fixture. Lots of online footage for this if you can bear to see Kelly Haag stretch but not reach to connect with a late chance to what have secured the most famous of victories. The replay ended 4-0. Must have been that home advantage. Chelsea would go on to make that year’s final before losing by the same heavy scoreline to Manchester United.

The following two seasons saw 1st Round Replay defeats to non-league Woking. The same team twice. Normality resumed before the rest of the decade petered out with some pretty tough 1st Round opposition such as Watford and Burnley spelling early exits.

The new millennium didn’t bring a new era of FA Cup glory initially. Quite the opposite in fact. Painful home defeats to Tiverton Town in 2002 and Bath City in the last minute when obliterating the Conference in 2004 were lows.

2003/04 had seen a run to Round 2 and a trip to Yeovil. Martin Allen hyped us all up to wear red to match the team; cue hundreds of Santa hats on the open terrace behind the goal. We lost 5-1 and were truly annihilated. Yeovil got Liverpool at home in the next round on my birthday weekend. I had to settle for Halifax away instead. Won 2-1 and I had the first goal scorer in the scorers’ draw on the coach, swings and roundabouts.

During a rather unremarkable league campaign in 2006/07, cup history was made as Barnet ventured as far as the 4th Round for the first time.

An away day for ages at Gainsborough Trinity in Round 1 (3-1), followed by a sensational demolition job of League 1 Northampton (4-1) saw us into the 3rd Round for the first time since 1994. Our reward wasn’t the glamour of Chelsea, but as alluded to earlier, gave us a chance for revenge for 1971 against Colchester. At the time, the U’s were in their best ever era, punching above their weight in the Championship. It felt like a bit of an unlucky draw.

The Saturday game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, so when the match was played, it had the feel of a cup replay under the Underhill lights. Jamie Cureton fired the visitors ahead in the first half but the second forty five proved to be an Underhill classic. Ismail Yakubu equalised on the hour, before a stunning late strike from Jason Puncheon sent the East Terrace into utter delirium. Great scenes at the end. I had to sit an exam the next day exceptionally hungover. Did not go well.

Our reward? Plymouth Argyle at home. So cruel. Despite Paul Fairclough’s pre-match billing of his warriors now being ‘the immortals,’ the dream was to die at the end of January 2007. The Championship side ran out 0-2 winners, the second an unbelievable individual goal from a young Scott Sinclair.

After years of FA Cup dross, lightning was to strike twice. Having waited almost 100 years for a first 4th Round appearance, the second one came just twelve months later.

An incredibly anti-climatic tie at home to League One Bristol Rovers (who beat Premier League Fulham to get there) finished 0-1. Puncheon missed a penalty early and Rickie Lambert scored their winner. It was a miserable Barnet on the big occasion in the extreme.

I’m afraid we can’t move on from the cup run of 2007/08 without acknowledging our meeting with Swindon Town in the 3rd Round. Another stinker of a draw but 640 Bees made the trip West in hope of history repeating itself. On that day, we had to settle for a draw, though settle is definitely the wrong word. Five minutes from time, Adam Birchall scored a stunning curling strike, down our end, to create bundles that are still yet to be topped in all my Barnet-watching time. Pandemonium.

We then beat them in a replay on penalties. The first game the new South Stand was opened. It was christened in style with a slightly surreal 2-0 penalty shootout victory. Rob Beckwith in the Barnet goal the hero, as Swindon missed all of theirs and we missed two. For all that to end in the Bristol Rovers disappointment felt very unjust.

As seems to be the Barnet way with this competition, after two years of incredible moments, we went very much the other way for a prolonged period. The following season, I had the privilege of being amongst the 62 lunatics that saw us bow out in the 1st Round in a replay at Rochdale on a Tuesday night. A 3-2 defeat in extra time, having led 0-2.

2009/10 saw a chance to face Fulham missed after a bitterly disappointing replay defeat at home to Accrington, having forced a replay in stoppage time up there. There were to be no more great Underhill FA cup days or nights - Swindon 2008 the last of those.

November 2012 saw a 0-2 1st Round defeat at home to Oxford United; a sorry final FA Cup game for Underhill to have to host and endure. Only memorable for Collins John ‘playing’ 59 minutes up front, after which he was never to be seen again.

Our first FA Cup game at The Hive came in October 2013. A comfortable 3-0 win over Concord Rangers in the 4th Qualifying Round in front of a crowd of 1373.

2018-19, our first season back in non-league following a tumultuous first few years away from our spiritual home, proved to be the backdrop to our most exciting FA Cup performance to date.

A 1st Round Replay victory at Bristol Rovers set the cupset tone. Stockport were narrowly dispatched of in Round 2, setting up a tie at Sheffield United. The Blades were enjoying a fine season, sitting at the top of the Championship, on course for promotion to the Premier League (which they went on to achieve).

A first half Shaquille Coulthirst penalty was enough for Barnet to pull off our greatest ever FA Cup shock; holding on for a magnificent 1-0 away victory. The Brammall Lane crowd applauded the team off at full time. Not a bad start for Darren Currie in his first fortnight as manager. Memorable scenes.

For the third time in twelve years, and indeed our entire history, a place in the 4th Round beckoned. Again, the draw could have been kinder, with fellow Londoners and Bees, Brentford (then in The Championship) heading to The Hive.

The game was chosen for TV coverage and certainly didn’t disappoint. Trailing 0-1 at half time, a goal fest of a second half ended in a 3-3 draw. A sublime free kick from Dan Sparkes the pick of the Barnet goals. Had a contentious penalty awarded to the visitors thanks to some theatrics from future England international Ollie Watkins not been given, another scalp would have been claimed.

By forcing the West Londoners to a replay, this instantly became the greatest run in the club’s history. The carrot dangled to pull off another miraculous result wasn’t the greatest. Swansea City away the prize for the Bees with the best sting. We used our cup draw luck up with Chelsea in ‘94 and Manchester United in the Carling Cup in 2005, didn’t we?

A spirited performance was not enough at Griffin Park. A goal to cheer about but ultimately, a 3-1 defeat saw our hopes end there. Wouldn’t go as far as to say we captured the nation’s hearts, but we made our moment count, at least.

I was personally in something of a ‘distant’ moment in my relationship with the club during all this and also happened to be living 8000 miles away in Malaysia.

However, I managed to watch the Sheffield United game on my phone late on a Sunday night thanks to a dodgy VPN. Telling my half asleep wife I didn’t really care but refusing to turn it off at gone midnight with the screen was lighting up the room. I watched the first half of the Brentford game at 3:45am on a Tuesday morning before work. I happened to be going on a trip where I had to leave for the airport at 5am so missed the second half. Didn’t miss much at least… Barnet’d myself, you could say.

Our return to the FA Cup the following October saw us under the glare of the BBC red button. Potters Bar Town away, a local derby only ever seen in the Herts Senior Cup before, caught the broader imagination. A stoppage time equaliser for the hosts caused much embarrassment and a return fixture at the Hive. Backed by a considerable following, the Scholars couldn’t repeat their heroics and we saw them off by three goals to one.

Since then? Not much. Peter Beadle (who Downhill Second Half would like to make explicitly clear we still absolutely love for his contribution up front for three months, twenty years ago) had his finest moment knocking Burton out 1-0 in front of no one at the height of COVID footballing misery.

Beadle’s finest hour didn’t have much longevity however. A 2nd Round defeat to MK Dons ended the brief respite from the most atrocious of league seasons.

Last season, we made it this far only to lose 1-0 at Accrington Stanley. Then two leagues higher. It was a decent effort but an ultimately disappointing ending.

Will this weekend’s trip to Rodney Parade be one to add to the memory bank or another ‘almost,’ moment?

If you’ve enjoyed this nerdy ramble through time, I’d very much recommend the ‘competitions’ stats page my learned colleague has set up here which provided much of the information. It’s healthy to have hobbies, right?

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06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
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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
06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
21/02/2024 Shot Down
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  All materials on this site copyright Downhill Second Half and its individual authors. Content may not be reproduced without prior written permission. Special thanks to Chris Holland for use of photography and John Snow, John Erroll and Tony Hammond for statistical compilation.

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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