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Nine Point Christmas
Cropper’s long throw gives us reason to chuck it By: Max Bygraves 31/12/2023
Southend United
1 0
League 30/12/2023
2023-2024 Attendance: 4041 (1795)

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In the late 90s, we had a few decent clashes with Southend. There was never a rivalry as such, but some high tempo games and a bit of needle, certainly. Who can forget Greg Heald’s dust up and subsequent tunnel chase with Martin Carruthers?

The Boxing Day ticketing fiasco at Roots Hall and subsequent social media slanging since set this one up nicely.

Southend’s troubles are well documented and it’s pleasing to see them seemingly finally coming out the other side after a torrid few years. There’s no doubt they’re a decent Football League club in their make up although some of their supporters have perhaps lost sight of the fact that supposed level and a big fan base counts for very little on the grass.

They’d sold out their 1750+ allocation almost two weeks ago. They don’t hang around buying tickets like us. Their support is impressive and I have to say, I’d much rather play opposition like this and for there to be any element of grudge here than the nobodies and pretend rivalries of Wealdstone or Boreham Wood.

A 4000+ crowd is impressive in any context for a Barnet league game. Edging them on numbers, it was good to be in a busy stand ahead of what felt like a proper occasion.

We were very much the better side in the first half, but as proved to be the story for much of the afternoon, any real chances were hard to come by. For either side. Our initial sense of urgency dropped and whilst it wasn’t a terrible watch, there was little to report from the first forty five.

The linesman pulling up injured on 35 minutes was about the most notable thing in the first half. A dramatic wheelchair exit to an incredibly loud boo from the away end was an amusing anomaly. It looked a bit much in terms of a response, but wish him well nonetheless.

Another anomaly occurred in the bar at half time. I went to make the normal purchase of three pints of Estrella (for 3 of us, I’m not an animal) only for the card machine to ask me for £19.20. I showed my season ticket in something of a state of shock although shouldn’t have been that surprised when the total still came in at £17.28, given the discount is only 10%. I’m aware pints out aren’t cheap these days, but this is quite a change compared to just a few weeks ago.

£6.40 for a pint in a plastic cup. £5.76 with the discount. I think the season ticket discount thing is an absolutely brilliant initiative by the way (although the girl serving initially also tried to tell me the QR scanner wasn’t working). Additionally, I had to politely request our gold-plated refreshments were handed over more than three quarters poured, following a very half-hearted attempt at filling. The bar was staffed in greater numbers but efficiency was questionable.

As recently as the Oldham game in November, a round of three pints (one was a cider on that occasion, different drinks for different needs) cost £14.13. Last week against Boreham Wood, the same round of drinks as that came in at £16.69. Quite an increase in a month. I’ve never queried the price of a drink in the ground or seen a list at the bar with the figures - but its a little unnerving when it now feels like it’s a lucky dip as to what number is going to go on the card reader.

Was any of this communicated by the club and I’ve missed it? Whilst there is very little competition in the way of where else to have a pre match drink, the reasonable prices have been a good incentive to use the bar in the past. Roll on dry January, then!

Suitably refreshed, watching most of the second half was enough to make anyone want to reach for several more beverages. A classic it was not.

The visitors very much took control of things for a time and it did feel like the large, loud contingent behind the goal were going to suck the ball in.

Following a shaky patch in form, when the team as a whole also weren’t brilliant lately, Laurie Walker was outstanding in goal. A fine one on one save kept things all square. An effort from former Bee, Wes Fonguck, was comfortably saved and others were driven wide.

Maguire-Drew, Kanu and Cropper were all introduced as we looked to freshen things up and exert some pressure. A stubborn Southend defence was proving hard to unlock. Some nice build up play consistently failed with the final ball - we needed something different.

On 84 minutes, Jordan Cropper launched an arrow of a long throw into the box. Chaos, confusion, the epitome of ‘stick it in the fucking mixer.’ In said mix, big Ade Oluwo rose highest to direct a header into the top corner. What a moment.

It really had looked like this wasn’t going to happen. One of the most satisfying goals of the campaign so far. It’s great to win when you don’t play all that well.

Stoppage time was a nervy experience. Southend pushed for a leveller. Video evidence suggests they perhaps should have had a penalty. Laurie Walker also made an absurd double save which was almost celebrated like another goal. Still unsure how that one was kept out.

Had we been more decisive on the break, we may have got a second on the counter to wrap it up. Kanu had probably our best chance of the game with a late one on one but fired straight at the keeper.

One of those real roars of relief at the final whistle. The atmosphere after the goal did really pick up today and with so many people in the ground, it did feel all a bit more ‘proper’ than it often does. A nine point, triple clean sheet Christmas is proper, indeed.

A shame at the end that a contingent of the away following decided to rip advertising boards off like last season. This year in anger rather than celebration. Sure there are many reasonable Southend fans out there, but some of the creatures in that away end and continuing to pop up on Twitter don’t paint the best picture. Having visited the town for football and non-football, basic people from a basic place probably surmises it well.

There was a touch of expected class was shown by their assistant manager - Darren Currie - who made a point of giving the home end a quick clap after acknowledging the away support.

It was one of those games that the feeling of satisfaction at the result takes you right through the evening. Imagine not liking football!

It’s been a hugely successful week after a bumpy spell. Hopefully we’ve had our bad patch now ahead of a very tricky January. Lots of miles and lots of tough opponents lie ahead in the first month of 2024. We play the same four opponents we lost consecutively to in November between January 20th - February 3rd. Where we are after that should act as a reasonable gauge of how things may finish.

Happy New Year to you all (even you angry Southend fans that have found your way to this article). Despite some frustrating near misses and disappointments, 2023 has been the best year to be a Barnet fan in some time.

Personally, I’ve seen more games in the past twelve months than any year in over a decade - and I’ve bloody loved it. Loads of good moments on the pitch but my highlights have been all in enjoying it with the people I go with.

Gradually, more and more old faces have come along this year and it’s been great celebrating scenes like Oluwo at Boreham Wood, the Dorking comeback and even yesterday’s winner (straight out the top drawer of man hugs) with those I used to get similarly giddy with watching Barnet in my youth.

My accomplice yesterday, the third member of the Downhill Second Half tribe, who it’s taken a little longer to get back involved stated on 75 minutes that if we got a winner, he’d get a season ticket next to us. Hurry up with those half season tickets, BFC. Plus one on the crowd for 2024!

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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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