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Stuck In A Jam
Two points dropped are hard to shoulder... By: Max Bygraves 17/12/2023
Ebbsfleet United
Barnet
1 1
League 16/12/2023
2023-2024 Attendance: 1488




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The joy of supporting a team like ours is that you can wake up on the morning of a game, home or away, and make the call to go along if you fancy it.

I hadn’t planned on attending this one but as the week went on, with work stressful and a window of Saturday afternoon opportunity from family commitments seemingly opening, more and more consideration was given. The outlet that going to football provides is something I never used to really think about but have come to acknowledge and be really appreciative of as my age tallies up.

A quick text exchange on Saturday morning to confirm others were going, the green light at home that said window was indeed ajar and I found myself Kent-bound at about 1:30pm. I’ve allowed myself to get so deeply back into this, haven’t I?

My sat nav app indicated that it may take a little longer than the initial estimated journey time but the ETA still had me making kick off. With music blaring, I was in pretty good spirits en route. A Saturday afternoon out at a venue I hadn’t been to since my youth. Nostalgic memories of one of our most impressive displays (the second half, anyway) in the title winning season of 2004/05 very vivid. I was perhaps setting my expectations a little high, given recent form.

At about ten past two, I found myself in standstill traffic. Only 15 miles away but with the time of arrival extending and extending. During this time, I was able to see on my phone that the game had been delayed due to the team coach also being at the mercy of the M25.

Quite quickly, hopes of making kick off began to fade with the mid December daylight. I found myself still on the approach to the Dartford Crossing at 3:25pm, listening to the BBC Radio Kent commentary of the game I should have been at. Not ideal.

Gambling on getting a spot as close as possible, I wheel spun into Northfleet just before 3:45pm in desperate search of a parking space. Trying my best to appreciate the picturesque surroundings of the Costa del Thames Estuary, I was in luck. A free space in the middle of a charming industrial estate just behind the away end. For free. Things were looking up - sort of.

A light jog through the factories before dodging the puddles on the mud track entrance to the away end and I’d made it. Despite arriving 32 minutes after kick off, I was still very much frisked by security and my ticket thoroughly inspected. They did offer sympathy about “that bloody bridge,” at least.

Stonebridge Road is a dump of a ground, but it’s one of those dumps that has a loveable character to it. Subjectively speaking, I can appreciate it’s not to everyone’s taste.

Aside from the new stand to the right of our vantage point behind the goal, everything was much the same as my last visit here nineteen years ago this week. The fact the stand to our left is officially called ‘The Old Stand’ is enough for this to be very much in the ‘wonderful shithole’ bracket, in my book. They’ve even still got that little quaint wall behind the goal.

Quaint not being a word for much else at this ramshackle venue. Tired, brutal, bygone all adjectives that spring to mind. The surrounding area also really is an assault on the eyes. For a fairly mild day, the breeze from the nearby Thames could certainly be felt and the lack of a roof seemed to only plummet the air temperature further.

Have I done a good enough job of filling the first third of the game that I didn’t actually see? We can have the above to cover the full first half, in fact. Nothing to report as the teams went off. Feeling like this day had to turn for the better eventually, shooting our end second half gave hopes of having something to actually watch.

Indeed, just two minutes into the second half and we had something to cheer about. A fantastic finish on the turn from Kabamba saw him notch his 20th goal of the campaign. Quite the feat pre-Christmas. Former Barnet keeper Mark Cousins might have done better, but it was a clever reaction and skilful dispatch from Barnet’s number nine. Not sure what he was aiming for with the celebration, mind.

For a reasonable amount of time after the goal, we appeared to still be in the ascendancy and looked the more likely to score. Gorman was pulling the strings and undoubtedly was our strongest performer. Ben Coker also made a decent contribution in his first start for some time (with what happened later aside).

On the flip side to this, it was another frustrating afternoon from Zak Brunt. A talent but perhaps one becoming very much in the mercurial category. His dip in form showed little sign of ending in this one. Endeavour was there but end product was sadly lacking. Many a pass went astray and a decent chance for a free kick on the penalty box line was side-footed wide. He was hauled off late on. Not sure what the answer is to this problem - but one is needed quickly for all concerned.

Brunt’s near miss from a set piece was the closest we came to a legitimate second. Just prior to this, Kabamba had cushioned a header past Cousins, only for the linesman’s flag to be raised. No one noticed this for a while. A very justified ‘whheeyy’ moment for the home fans there at our incorrect celebrations. Not that we heard it. A ground maybe with character but certainly no hint of an atmosphere.

Although we’d been well in control of the second half, on 80 minutes, we threw things away once more. It was hard to see exactly what happened from the opposite end of the ground, but it didn’t look altogether brilliant in terms of our defending. The ball ended up going in off Ben Coker. A feeling we’d got complacent in not having to experience all too often for a while, becoming ever familiar again.

It was clearly a bit of a sucker punch to the players. Whilst we didn’t let our heads totally drop, barring one chance from a corner shortly after their goal where they might have won it, we kept them very much at bay. The frustrating thing was, we didn’t look at all like getting a winner ourselves.

Hooper and Cropper were introduced to limited effect. Penny for Callum Stead’s thoughts on that bench. The sideways passing continued and maybe in some way the limited stoppage time was a blessing. It had been a long enough afternoon already.

A clearly animated post-match huddle took place in front of the away end for those that decided to stay. Applause before and after this was largely warm, although a few comments went the manager’s way. Expectations have been raised and frustrations at how a blip has turned into a pretty dire run are understandable.

An interesting comment made by a friend at full time, during Brennan’s rant at the players, was a fear of things turning the way they did when Ian Hendon was manager. The same approach and same players being stuck with and told the same messages, in the same passionate way, with the same solutions to problems. Back then, eventually, these stopped working over a prolonged period of time.

This isn’t to say that this is the course things will take now but it’s hard to dispute a change of approach, tactics and in some cases, personnel, is going to be needed. It all felt quite stale towards the end and at full time today. We’ve gone from title challengers to having gained a single league point since October 29th (allowing for cup games in that time, of course). The traffic jam on the way to this one falling very unfortunately into metaphorical place. We look stuck currently.

For what it’s worth, the drive home took just the hour the initial journey should have done. Definitely take the high speed train to this fixture in future would be my suggestion.

Onto a busy Christmas period from next Saturday. Boreham Wood are showing some signs of improvement and always make things difficult for us. Southend may also be in various turmoil but you wouldn’t back us to find life easy against them. You feel those two home games have got to be two wins. Although let’s be optimistic and dream of one of those much sung about, fabled and dreamy nine point Christmases…

History will look back on 2023 as a largely positive year for the football club. However, when looked at a little closer it’s full of near misses and what might have beens. Let’s hope we can end the year with results to lessen the chances of more of those miserable questions in the next one…




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06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
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