Barnet In the Conference 2001-05
Feature by Jaybee
Updated Friday, 6th July 2012
2001-02 (Part One) The first in an exclusive new Barnet Mad series
Barnet In The Conference 2001-2005
So after 10 years, Barnet's first stay in the Football League came to an end with the 2-3 defeat at home to Torquay United in May 2001. Now Barnet had to prepare for life in the Nationwide Conference as a non league side, their hard won, precious league place gone.
Inevitably, there were departures. Wing wizard, Darren Currie moved to Wycombe Wanderers for £200,000; full back Sam Stockley signed for Oxford United for £150,000, while striker, Tony Richards left for Southend and Warren Hackett to Grays.
However, the squad for the new season consisted of players that were already at the club on that fateful May afternoon. Lee Harrison and Danny Naisbett continued as the club's two goalkeepers. At right back, young Lee Gledhill replaced the departed Stockley, with Lee Flynn on the left and Mark Arber and Greg Heald in central defence.
In midfield, manager John Still, who had returned as Barnet manager, following the departure of Tony Cottee, for the end of the previous season could call on promising youngsters such as Warren Goodhind, Leon Bell, Stuart Niven, Danny Brown and Mark Gower, all of whom had already played for the first team as well as the experienced John Doolan, Austin Berkley and Frazer Toms. Stevie Searle was still out with a long term injury. Of course, Currie would be missed. Up front it was largely youth again with Ben Strevens, Wayne Purser and Neil Midgley, who had arrived from Ipswich Town in March.
The Bees opening day fixture was away at Hereford United, a club that had also only recently slipped into non league football. Doolan, Berkley and Purser were all out through injury and the opening day line up was; Harrison; Gledhill, Heald, Arber, Flynn; Goodhind, Niven, Gower, Bell; Strevens, Midgley.
However, it was not the start that Barnet wanted to their first season back in the Conference. The Bulls were two goals up in 18 minutes and though, former Spurs youngster, Mark Gower pulled one back a minute later and Harrison made a fantastic penalty save in the second half, Hereford ran out 2-1 winners.
Happily for the Bees fans, Barnet got off the mark in their opening home game against Dover Athletic with a 2-0 win with goals from Ben Strevens and Neil Midgley.
However, as the early part of the season progressed, the bees were not setting the league alight. At home, form was only average with a 3-1 home win over Chester City, in the middle of draws against Scarborough and Southport, while away from home, the poor form that lost Barnet their league place continued with only one point from the first four away matches.
Finally, after 18 matches without a win away from home, on the 15th of September, Barnet got 3 points from an away trip. The venue was the New Buck's Head stadium, home of Telford United. The visitor took the lead in the 29th through a penalty when Ben Strevens had his shirt pulled in the penalty area. Mark Arber smashed home the penalty to give the Bees the lead, but it only lasted 9 minutes until Telford equalised through Mark Albrighton heading in at the far post. Barnet pushed forward, but at half time the scores were still level.
As the game was nearing the end, neither side seemed to be able to get the winning goal. In injury time, Albrighton was sent off after receiving a 2nd yellow card and then Neil Midgley was pulled down in the penalty area almost right on time and Telford's Paul Moore was also sent off. Arber stepped up to take his second penalty of the game, but the Telford keeper, Price, pulled off a great save only for Arber to smash home the rebound to give Barnet a long awaited 3 points from an away win. This match was to prove the last appearance in a Barnet shirt for Warren Goodhind, who shortly after moved to 2nd division side, Cambridge United for £130,000.
This win proved something of a catalyst for the Bees as they went on to win their next three games; 3-1 at home to Hayes, 1-0 at home to Northwich Victoria and a second consecutive away win, this time a 1-0 away win at Margate. After this fine mini run, their form evened out somewhat with four wins and two defeats in their next 9 games. The wins though included fine performances at Doncaster Rovers with two Lee Flynn goals and one from Wayne Purser in a 3-2 win and a Ben Strevens hat trick at Nuneaton Borough with the Bees again winning 3-2. During this period, Barnet signed striker, Roy Essandoh, who was formerly with Wycombe wanderers, on a short term contract and he picked up a few goals, including scoring on his debut at home to Yoevil Town.
In the FA Cup, Wayne Purser scored a hat trick in just four minutes in the 4th qualifying round replay at home to Havant & Waterlooville, just 3 days after Strevens' hat trick at Nuneaton. In the next round, however, Barnet went down 1-0 in a replayed first round cup tie against 3rd division side, Carlisle United.
However, in the LDV trophy, Barnet were making great progress despite being drawn against some tough opposition. In the 1st round, goals from Robbie Sawyers and Essandoh were enough to see off 2nd division Bournemouth, 2-1. In the next round, at home to Northampton Town, a Lee Flynn goal won the game for the Bees and in the quarter finals, another 2nd division side, reading, were dispatched 4-1 at home, with 2 goals from Ben Strevens and one apiece from Greg Heald and Austin Berkley.
By the time that Barnet travelled to the Crabble to play Dover Athletic, 10 days before Christmas, the Bees were a healthy 3rd in the table, 8 points behind Boston United, with Dagenham & Redbridge second. A good Christmas and New Year and maybe….maybe fans could be thinking about the side pushing for an early return to league football the following August.
Barnet had a young settled side with Lee Harrison in goal; a back four of Lee Gledhill, Greg Heald, Mark Arber and Lee Flynn; a midfield four of Robbie Sawyers, Stuart Niven, Leon Bell and Mark Gower; and a front two of Wayne Purser and Ben Strevens.
Dover were struggling near the bottom of the table and in the first half, the Bees were well in control, Mark Arber missing from six yards after just six minutes. Then, after Wayne Purser had a good shot saved by the Dover keeper, Mark Gower missed with a header from close range with the rebound.
After 28 minutes, Lee Flynn went off injured, an injury that was to prove very ominous in the coming weeks and was replaced by Frazer Toms. Purser missed another good chance, before Toms put Barnet ahead a minute before half time with a low left foot shot from the left hand side of the penalty area into the corner of the net. There was still time for Dover to nearly equalise before half time but Leon Bell cleared off the goalline to stop Scott scoring for the home side.
Early in the second half, Purser missed another opportunity before Dover equalised after 66 minutes through a Strouts shot high into the net and 6 minutes later, the home side went ahead through Leberl with a header.
Dover had Barnet on the rack, but the Bees were given a lifeline when a cross from Mark Gower went in off a defender, ten minutes from time. But the loss of two valuable points against lowly opposition proved to be the beginning of a very poor run in the league. Barnet were to lose their next five games on the trot, a run that saw them sliding alarmingly down the table as fears grew about another relegation, this time, unthinkably, to the Ryman League.
In the LDV Trophy, Barnet lost 2-0 away at another 2nd division side, Cambridge United despite a very brave performance. A 5-0 FA Trophy win at Southern League, Fisher Athletic was followed by defeat in the next round to Scarborough on penalties after a replay. Mark Gower had missed a last minute penalty in the first tie.
On a wet night in the middle of February, Barnet gave an inept performance at home to Farnborough Town losing 0-3, John Still resigned as manager and a new era was ushered in with former Sheffield Wednesday and Spurs manager, Peter Shreeves and former Reading coach, Martin Allen taking over.
(Next: Recovery under Shreeves & Allen)