Barnet In The Conference: 2001/02 (Part Two)
Feature by Jaybee
Updated Monday, 9th July 2012
The latest in Barnet Mad's exclusive new series
The new management team of Peter Shreeves and Martin Allen began their Barnet career with Barnet in 14th place in the Conference and only 7 points above the relegation zone. After being 3rd in the table just before Christmas, the Bees had gone 7 games without a win and taken just two points in that run.
Shreeves and Allen’s reign began at struggling Hayes but as the Bees had lost recently to struggling Scarborough and Stalybridge, a win was anything but certain. Their first line up was as follows; Harrison; Gledhill, Heald, Arber, Flynn; Gower, Brown, Doolan, Berkeley; Toms, Purser.
Barnet started well and by half time were two goals up with the first coming from a deft header by Frazer Toms, playing in the unaccustomed role of striker. Danny Brown added the second after being put through by Wayne Purser and the Bees held on to win 2-0 to give Shreeves & Allen a winning start.
The following Saturday, the Bees showed that it was not just a fluke as they defeated highly placed, Morecambe 1-0 at Underhill, the winning goal; scored by teenage substitute, Toby Oshitola late on in the game. Wayne Purser had created a chance for Oshitola minutes earlier, but the youngsters shot had just gone wide, but when Purser put over another cross, Oshitola found the net the second time for Barnet’s second win in a row; their first back to back wins since November.
Unbelievably, those two wins took the Bees up to 8th in the table and the following Saturday, the Bees made it three wins in a row with a 1-0 win at top five, Southport; Wayne Purser, in sparkling form for the Bees. Grabbing the winning goal after Mark Gower had missed a penalty. Three games, nine points for the new dream team and the Bees moved up to 6th just a point outside the top five. Had there been any play-off places that season in the Conference, Barnet would suddenly have been in contention.
Three days later and top of the table, Dagenham & Redbridge were the visitors to Underhill. The Daggers were in a tight contest with Boston United at the top of the table to see who would win promotion to the football league. Both clubs were far too far ahead of Barnet in terms of points for the Bees to have any hope in catching them up but the Bees could play a part in deciding who would win the Conference title and they definitely did some real damage to the Daggers’ hopes as they thrashed them 4-0 in one of the most impressive performances seen at Underhill during the club’s second spell in the Conference.
In fact, Dagenham had looked like they would overrun the home side in the early stages creating a number of chances and striker, Mark Stein was proving a real handful. But once Frazer Toms had put the Bees ahead with a shot from the edge of the penalty area, the Bees were on top and three second half goals; one from Neil Midgley and two from Gower firmly settled the issue as the Bees won their fourth match in a row. Gower’s first goal was stunning drive from outside the area and was voted goal of the season by the Bees’ fans.
That win took the Bees up to fifth in the table and further emphasised the dramatic turnaround in the club’s fortunes since the beginning of March when Shreeves & Allen took over. So it was a bit disappointing, but perhaps to be expected, when the Bees form slumped a little.
A goalless draw at home to Telford united was followed by a 3-2 defeat at Stevenage Borough, though the Bees, 3-0 down at one point, almost grabbed a draw with a fine fight back with goals from John Doolan and Toby Oshitola. The Bees that night were missing Mark Arber who was at Stockport County discussing a reported £150,000 move. However, it fell through. The game also saw the first appearance of one Ismail Yakubu who came on as a substitute.
However despite that defeat Barnet remained in the top five and they got a very good draw in their next away match at leaders’ Boston United with Danny Brown grabbing the Bees’ goal. Sixteen year old, Yakubu made his first start.
Two home defeats by Nuneaton Borough and Forest Green Rovers followed but with a fine 3-1 win at Woking in between; two goals from Wayne Purser having a fine spell and one from Frazer Toms also on form.
After the initial four consecutive wins, Barnet had taken just 5 points from 6 matches and had slipped back to 7th place in the league, but a fine 2-1 win at well placed, Yeovil Town, courtesy of goals from Purser (again!!) and Midgley saw Barnet back in the top five and they were to stay there until the end of the season.
A comprehensive 4-1 win at home to Margate followed but at the cost of Wayne Purser being carried off with a broken leg. Purser scored one of the goals. Stuart Niven also scored one with Neil Midgley scoring the other two.
The loss of Purser, who was voted supporters’ player of the season, didn’t deter Barnet from their winning streak as they defeated 3d placed, Doncaster Rovers 2-0 at Underhill, Mark Arber scoring both goals and the Bees rounded off the season with a second four win run, winning 3-0 at Northwich Victoria; Frazer Toms, Greg Heald and Danny Brown getting the Barnet goals a the Bees finished the season in 5th place, a position that the following season would have earned them a place in the play-offs.
In just a couple of months, Shreeves & Allen had completely turned around the team’s situation and without making any new signings. Eight wins in 14 games and 26 points. Everything pointed to a real push for promotion next season where there would be play-offs and two promotion places at stake.