Season Review: March to May
Feature by Jaybee
Updated Wednesday, 20th July 2011
Barnet Mad looks back on the dramatic climax to last season
At the end of March, Bees’ fans were shocked at the news that former Barnet manager, Martin Allen was to take over as manager until the end of the season in a last effort to maintain the club’s football league status. The decision came out of the blue and it was well known that Allen and chairman, Tony Kleanthous, had had differences in Allen’s previous spell at the club. Another surprise was the appointment of Barnet favourite, Guiliano Grazioli as Allen’s assistant.
Allen brought in experienced defender, Jude Stirling from MK Dons and Chelsea youth team goalkeeper, Sam Walker prior to the next home match which was at home to divisional leaders,Chesterfield. Before kick off there was a surprise in the team line up with the impressive Sam Deering relegated to the benches and Tommy Fraser coming in. Barnet were a goal down at half time and Deering was brought on as a substitute. Early on in the second half, Chesterfield went 2-0 up but Deering pulled a goal back for the Bees with a stunning strike from 20 yards and then, with time running out, scoring with cross come shot from the right hand bye line which deceived the keeper. Unbelievably, the Bees nearly clinched the match seconds from the end.
However, as good a comeback as it was it still left the Bees 2 points and five games away from Burton Albion who were next up for Barnet.Burton were not making the most of their games in hand but even so still looked pretty safe. However, Barnet gained a rare away win at a vital time, winning 4-1 in stunning fashion, Steve Kabba scoring all the goals. The win left the Bees still 2 points adrift of Burton who had 3 games in hand.
The following Saturday, Barnet entertained Crewe Alexandra and gained back to back wins for the first time in over a year with a 2-1 win, Daniel Leach and Izale McLeod scoring for the Bees. 7 points in 3 games had not lifted Barnet out of the relegation zone but they were now level on points withBurtonwho had just two games in hand now and the Bees were just 2 points adrift from Northampton.
However, in the week following the win over Crewe, Martin Allen announced that he leaving the club to take over as manager of League One, Notts County, a decision that, understandably, angered the club and the supporters. Grazioli was placed in temporary charge with Anwar Uddin as his assistant, but the mood of the club, which had lifted over the recent upsurge in form, was downbeat.
On the following Saturday, the Bees travelled to high flying Bury and lost 2-0, a defeat which left the Bees 3 points adrift of Burton and Northampton with just four matches remaining.
Next up was a very difficult trip to play-off challengers,Gillinghamand a meeting with former Bees, Andy Hessenthaller and Ian Hendon. Barnet gave a stunning performance and ran out 4-2 winners; Izale McLeod scoring a hat trick (and missing a penalty) and Mark Byrne scoring the other. The win left the Bees just a point adrift of Northampton and three points below Hereford and LincolnCity who were now in freefall.
Easter Monday saw the Bees host Oxford United and despite leading twice in the game, they had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw, Mark Hughes and Clovis Kamdjo scoring for Barnet. The draw saw Barnet just a point below Northampton and two adrift of Lincoln City with Stockport County looking doomed as they were now 5 points adrift of Barnet.
On the Saturday, Barnet travelled to Accrington, who were chasing a play-off place, and things were so tight that results could have seen Barnet relegated. As it was,Northampton won after a going a long time without a victory, and so were safe. The Bees lost 3-1 to Accrington with Mark Marshall scoring the Barnet goal and were thus dependent on Lincoln not winning at Oxford. At one point, the Imps were a goal up but Oxford came back to win 2-1 leaving the Bees to fight another day.
Barnet’s last match was at home to Port Vale while Lincoln were at home to Aldershot. Barnet needed to win in order to stay up and for the Imps not to win. If Lincoln drew or lost and the Bees won then Lincoln would go down. The Barnet side for this crucial game was; Walker, Kamdjo, Devera, Leach, Parkes, Deering, Hughes, Byrne,Marshall, Midson, McLeod.
Barnet fans were keeping tabs on how Lincoln were faring as the Bees took the game to Vale creating a number of opportunities with Mark Marshall and Mark Byrne coming close to scoring, amongst others. It has to be said though that the best chance of the half fell to Vale’s, Louis Dodds who headed over when very well placed to score. The Bees dominated though and would have been frustrated not to have lead at half time as they went in with the match goalless and no doubt hearing that the score was the same at Sincil Bank.
Almost from the restart though the situation changed in Barnet’s favour when Izale McLeod went on a mazy run past two defenders before being tripped in the penalty area and a spot kick was duly awarded to the Bees. McLeod stepped up for what was clearly one of the most important penalty kicks in Barnet’s history and, despite the Vale keeper getting a hand to it, Izzy’s shot found the back of the net to put the Bees ahead and take Barnet out of the bottom two for the first time since February.
Not long after McLeod’s penalty, news filtered through that Aldershot had gone ahead atLincolnmuch to the delight of the Barnet fans. Meanwhile, the Bees tried hard to extend their lead with Marshall and Byrne coming very close. A Vale equaliser at this point could have sent Barnet down.
News began to come through thatLincolnhad gone 2-0 down against the Shots and it was clear that Barnet just had to keep a clean sheet to complete a remarkable escape from relegation to the Blue Square Premier. Barnet’s fans were made to wait anxiously while 6 minutes was added on after the 90 minutes but with no real scares from Vale, the whistle for the end of the game finally went with news from Lincoln that they had lost 3-0 and that the Bees were safe after having taken 14 points from their last 8 matches.
After the whistle, the Bees’ fans flooded onto the pitch as everyone at the club celebrated the club’s football league survival with chants of Grazioli ringing around the ground. It was fitting that the man whose goals were largely responsible for the club reaching League Two in 2005 should be the man to keep us up 6 years on. Roll on next season.