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An afternoon to forget all round. By: Max Bygraves 04/02/2024
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League 03/02/2024
2023-2024 Attendance: 2861 (921)

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I imagine that many Wealdstone fans woke up this morning with a stinking hangover but a sense of huge satisfaction.

Their games against us mean an awful lot to them and they’ve had two moments to savour this season - albeit yesterday’s only ending as a draw - but one that must have felt very much like a win.

It’s hard not to look at this one in reverse order, such are the ‘headlines’ and forefront memories of an afternoon that won’t live too fondly in the memory.

The scenes that followed Corie Andrews (always stings when a Football Manager stalwart does you a bad one in real life) last gasp strike were ones of initial jubilation for those in blue but turned very ugly, very quickly.

The moronic gremlin who ran onto the pitch to goad the Barnet fans will hopefully not be seeing a live football match again for a very, very long time. A custodial sentence might even be a possibility given the extent of his actions. The pitch invasion and wind up perhaps could be attributed to a combined moment of madness but the abhorrent assault of the poor (and only) steward who intervened was a really grim watch. A very public example will hopefully be made of this individual, you’d hope.

All credit to the Barnet fan who entered the pitch to drag this cretin off the steward. Rather than any thought of a sanction for him for breaking the rules, I would hope the club recognises him for doing something no one else seemed bothered about doing - stepping in to help the poor bloke out.

A wider conversation and questions need to be asked of the safety practices at The Hive. We have seen warnings of issues like yesterday at other games this season and it’s very apparent that much of the setup is simply not fit for purpose. Some of the images of the stewards’ ‘prevention’ attempts as fans entered the pitch yesterday would be laughable had they not opened up the potential risk through such collective incompetence.

The stewards are very quick to be on someone’s case for putting their feet on the seats but not so fast to support a colleague in trouble or actually stop individuals intent on causing actual issue.

A friend was there with his 12 year old son who’d brought a friend along to attend his first ever live match. Can you imagine the conversation around that dinner table last night about how the kids’ first experience of a football match was? Given scenes against Southend and Solihull recently too, there is a danger of actions of these nature becoming seen as the norm for our younger supporters.

Whilst beyond the remit of the club, the policing yesterday was also a complete farce. Several officers could be seen well-positioned guarding absolutely nothing outside as the game ticked into stoppage time. The sight of several of them darting down the touchline some time after the incident on the pitch was reflective of the quality of their contribution to events. Pointless.

Before we go back to the football match that also took place, yesterday was also an unfortunate re-emergence of a wealth of issues for home supporters.

Problems with turnstiles continue to plague entry for many. Upon arrival, you’re also still met with a ‘no Southend fans in the home end,’ poster at the turnstile. Whilst a number of their fans have become very keen to continually interact with Barnet on twitter since December, I’m not sure their obsession levels would have meant they were planning to gatecrash home matches with Dagenham and Wealdstone since. How hard is it to take a poster down? Advertisements for long since past events around the toilets and bar being further examples of this. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it reflects a complete lack of pride or care in the place.

The queue for a beer at half time was embarrassing. Four staff on for one of the bigger home crowds of the season. An exceptionally slow one by one queuing system and a continued insistence to pour each pint as they go. The bar also didn’t have the scores on the half-working TVs. Basic, basic things.

I didn’t visit the tea bar for anything but apparently only one was open. Do the club not want to make money? The only waste they are suffering by not pre-pouring drinks is wasted potential revenue as many will have seen the queues and given it a miss.

I would much rather not be banging the same drum as many times before here - but a visit to The Hive still remains largely one of endurance rather than enjoyment when it comes to most things around the match (this is of course, also, often included - but that’s the case wherever we play. Not location exclusive). How things can continually be handled so poorly is exasperating. It’s only so often you can continue to turn the other way and block it out.

Back to the actual football and it was another game where we walk away extremely frustrated at not having capitalised on chances.

A dominant first half could have seen us 3 or 4 goals clear by the interval. Hall-Johnson and Maguire-Drew both went close with early headers. Pritchard scuffed a fine opportunity and Maguire-Drew went very close with a chipped effort that was headed off the line.

Somewhere in all of that, Stead tucked away Coker’s drag back from close range - but this should have been the start of an onslaught. There’s no doubt Kabamba was a big miss. Stead did well but is not an out and out number 9. Several times through balls were not chased onto as despite much endeavour, individuals looked a little lost trying to play roles they’re not accustomed to.

A positive of the afternoon came in the form of a solid debut from new defender Adam Thompson. He looked composed and assured on the ball and should be a good addition. A trivia question for him - can there be any other player out there with a longer gap between their first and second appearance for a club? Eleven years and twenty nine days between appearance one (v Bradford, 5th January 2013) and two. This one was more impactful, I’d say.

Ben Coker had a fine game down the left hand side and prior to going off injured, Maguire-Drew certainly added a spark on the other wing. Luke Freeman’s cameo from the bench was less impressive but no judgements to made yet on a player that is undoubtedly an impressive coup to have on board.

Harry Pritchard’s penalty miss deep into the second half will obviously be the unfortunate take away from his afternoon. The keeper won the battle of mind games on that one. Aside from this, Pritchard put in a captain’s performance. He ran himself into the ground and didn’t hide after that painful disappointment. He’ll bounce back and make big contributions going forward. We are lucky to have him.

Let’s not dwell on the goal too much. Keeley is an easy target for criticism, especially from those of us in the Laurie Walker camp but it doesn’t gain the extra two points highlighting this obvious error. Had we been out of sight like we should have been by that point, it would have been irrelevant anyway. It appeared he misjudged the flight of the ball and anticipated a lob. Instead, he was made to look silly as the ball trickled under his springy star jump. A cruel moment for all in amber.

It was one of those rueful scenes you witness as a fan where the ball goes in in slow motion - the opposition able to celebrate before it had even crossed the line. In the 100th minute. As a disbelieving supporter shook his head and said to me on the way out: “Where did he get nine minutes from?!” Quite.

It was a frustrating departure whilst the travelling contingent celebrated their dramatic point long into the night. Swept up somewhat in the emotion of it, I may have let two of the statuesque members of the local constabulary on the corner of the Camrose Avenue entrance know my thoughts on their deployment and contribution across the afternoon. I got back to my car having been well and truly football’d.

It is more than possible that fate could conspire to bring Barnet and Wealdstone together once more this season in the FA Trophy. Both sides will be favourites for their round of 16 matches this Saturday. Let’s hope we do our bit at least to make sure we’re in those latter rounds.

Harry Pritchard to score the winner or Josh Keeley to save the decisive spot kick in a Trophy semi-final shootout? Funny old game, football…

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All Articles By This Author:

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
06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
21/02/2024 Shot Down
14/02/2024 Simon Clist
04/02/2024 Unpleasant

Other Articles By Category

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
06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
21/02/2024 Shot Down

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