Barnet see promotion snatched away from them by Lincoln

After finishing in second place the previous season, Barnet were looking to go one better in the 1987/88 season by winning the Conference and gaining the holy grail; a place in the Football League. Before the season started there were two main signings; the former Coventry and Luton full back, Kirk Stephens and the former Enfield midfield player, Noel Ashford who arrived from Wycombe Wanderers for ₤12,500. Another acquisition, who had a brief stay at Underhill, was former Gillingham striker, Graham Westley, the future manager of Stevenage Borough and a figure well known to the East Terrace at Underhill.

Barnet started the season off with a demanding fixture at home to Lincoln City, who had been relegated the previous season from the Football League. The Imps, determined on a swift return to league football, had spent ₤100,000 on new players and gave a very physical display in the opening game at Underhill. Barnet however got the season off to a winning start with a 4-2 victory, Dave Sansom scoring a hat trick, two of them from the penalty spot and Nicky Evans scoring the other. Two 2-2 away draws followed at Fisher and Macclesfield, Graham Westley scoring his only Barnet goal at Fisher, before a convincing 5-2 home win over Welling, Sansom scoring twice.

The following home game against Telford brought Barnet's first defeat of the season, the visitors winning 2-0, but the Bees bounced back with a 1-0 win at Bath City, Kirk Stephens scoring his first goal for the club.

In the next match, away at Wycombe Wanderers, Barnet gave what was to be, perhaps, one of their greatest displays in non-league football, winning 7-0 with Nicky Evans scoring 4 goals, Dave Sansom got 2 goals and Robert Codner one. The Bees were on fire now and followed this up with two convincing home victories; 4-1 over Northwich and 4-0 over Kettering, with Evans scoring twice. Barnet went top with these two wins and the Bees largely maintained this form during the next few months.

A Robert Codner goal brought a 1-0 win at Sutton and following a 2-2 home draw with Stafford, Barnet won 3-1 at home to Altrincham who were managed by the legendary former Chelsea and Manchester United manager, Tommy Docherty.

Meanwhile, Barnet were also making progress in the FA Cup. In the 1st Qualifying Round, they won 3-0 at little Witney Town, who were to be finish at the bottom of the Southern League Premier Division that season, thanks to a Nicky Evans hat trick. In the 2nd round they defeated Irthlingborough Diamonds, who were later to evolve into Rushden & Diamonds, 4-0, Evans scoring twice. In the 3rd Qualifying Round they were drawn away against a side from the Isthmian League, Division Two North, Berkhamsted Town and they won 3-0. Next up, in the 4thQualifying Round, were Willenhall Town, who like Witney Town, were relegated from the Southern League Premier at the end of the season. Barnet saw them off emphatically winning 6-0 at Willenhall, Keith Bowen scoring the only two goals he was ever to score in his short Barnet career.

Barnet also progressed in the GMAC Challenge Cup, a competition for the Conference clubs and other leading non-league clubs. They beat Isthmian League club, Carshalton Athletic, 2-1 after extra time with goals from Ian Fergusson and Dave Sansom.

Back in the Conference, at the end of October, Barnet lost their first match since early September, going down 2-1 at Lincoln City in a match that has been labeled as disgraceful. Barnet had two players, Noel Ashford and Herbie Smith sent off both for retaliating after a series of crude tackles by the home side. Lincoln's winner came from a dubious penalty and despite everything, Barnet's nine men came close to grabbing an equalizer after they pulled a goal back through a rare Kevin Millett goal.

However that defeat proved a minor blip and Barnet finished October winning 1-0 away at Runcorn thanks to a Dave Sansom penalty. November proved a fruitful month. It started with a 3-1 win away at Southern League Premier Division promotion hopefuls, Dartford. In the league, Bath City were defeated 4-0 at Underhill and then came the only defeat of the month when Barnet gave a rather flat performance at home to Hereford United in the 1stRound of the FA Cup and went down 1-0.

They picked themselves up though and the following Saturday won 2-0 away at Cheltenham Town with two goal from Nicky Evans. Three days later they drew 1-1 at Kettering and they finished the month with a powerful 5-1 home win over Wealdstone with two goals apiece for Robert Codner and Nicky Evans. However, they were to lose Evans around this time with a serious injury that was to keep him out for a few months.

December opened with a goalless draw at Dagenham and the defeat at Enfield in the 3rdround of the GMAC Cup at Enfield, where the Bees lost 2-1. Barnet then won three home league fixtures in a row. A Dave Sansom goal gave the Bees a 1-0 win over Boston and then the Bees won both of their Christmas fixtures. Firstly, on Boxing Day, they beat Enfield 3-0 with two goals from Keith Alexander and another from Robert Codner. Two days later, they thrashed Sutton 6-0 with Codner scoring again, Alexander grabbing a hat trick and Noel Ashford getting two. In the FA Trophy, a Keith Alexander gave Barnet a 1-1 draw away at Isthmian League, Windsor & Eton.

As 1988 opened, Barnet progressed to the 2ndRound of the FA Trophy with a 2-1 replayed win over Windsor & Eton with goals from Sansom and promising young winger, Lee Payne who had signed from Hitchin Town. Back in the league, Barnet were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Cheltenham Town but got back to winning ways with a 3-2 home win over Dagenham, with Sansom scoring twice.

Barnet then, surprisingly went out of the FA Trophy in the 2ndRound, losing to Southern League club, Bromsgrove Rovers. They were held to a goalless draw at Underhill and went down 3-1 in the replay after extra time. However, Barnet bounced back at the end of the month, winning 4-2 at Telford, new striker signed from Welling, Gary Abbott scoring a hat trick. Barnet were leading the Conference at this stage, but Lincoln were keeping well in touch with the Bees.

However, Barnet started to stumble during February winning just one match out of four, a 3-2 home win over Weymouth with new signing, Steve Parsons scoring twice. March started badly too, with a 2-1 defeat at Maidstone, but the Bees' form then took an upturn. They defeated Fisher 2-0 and Macclesfield, 2-1 at Underhill and then thrashed Wealdstone 6-0 away, with two goals apiece from Abbott, Evans and Herbie Smith.

During this period, Barry Fry signed a player who turned out to be a great servant for the club, Paul Wilson, a midfield player from Barking. He also signed Nicky Bissett.

With Kettering Town and Lincoln on Barnet's heels, the Bees suffered from an attack of nerves. They dropped two points with a 1-1 home draw with Kidderminster and then lost 2-1 at Boston at the beginning of April. However, Lincoln's form was also inconsistent at this point.

Barnet won 2-0 at home to Maidstone two days after losing at Boston but then proceeded to take just 2 points in the next four matches which included defeats at Northwich and Kidderminster. Kettering crashed 3-0 to Runcorn, with future Barnet hero, Mark Carter scoring twice and when Runcorn arrived at Underhill at the end of April, Barnet were still ahead of Kettering and Lincoln and would win the Conference and promotion to the Football League Division Four if they won their last two matches; the home match with Runcorn and an away match at Welling.

A huge crowd of 5,143 packed Underhill for the match with Runcorn. Barnet controlled the match but were finding it difficult to get that all important goal and then Runcorn went ahead just before half time. A brilliant Steve Cox header leveled the scores for Barnet and the Bees laid siege on the Runcorn goal, only for Mark Carter to break away and score to send Barnet crashing to a 2-1 defeat.

Despite a 2-1 win in the last match at Welling, Lincoln won both of their last two matches, clinching the title in front of a record crowd of 9,432 at home to Wycombe. Once again, Barnet had dominated the season, only to see success snatched away from them at the death.

SCORERS

PLAYER

 

League

 

FA Cup

 

FA Trophy

 

GMAC Cup

 

Total

 

Nicky Evans

 

22

 

7

 

 

1

 

30

 

Dave Sansom

 

19

 

3

 

2

 

3

 

27

 

Keith Alexander

 

12

 

 

1

 

 

13

 

Robert Codner

 

11

 

 

 

 

11

 

Gary Abbott

 

7

 

 

 

 

7

 

Noel Ashford

 

5

 

1

 

 

 

6

 

Glyn Creaser

 

3

 

1

 

 

 

4

 

Nicky Ironton

 

1

 

1

 

 

1

 

3

 

Keith Bowen

 

 

2

 

 

 

2

 

Ian Ferguson

 

1

 

 

 

1

 

2

 

Steve Parsons

 

2

 

 

 

 

2

 

Herbie Smith

 

2

 

 

 

 

2

 

Edwin Stein

 

1

 

1

 

 

 

2

 

Kirk Stephens

 

2

 

 

 

 

2

 

Francis Awaritefe

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

Steve Cox

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

Kevin Millett

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

Lee Payne

 

 

 

1

 

 

1

 

Graham Westley

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

Own Goals

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

Lincoln

 

P42

 

W24

 

D10

 

L8

 

F86

 

A48

 

Pts82

 

1

 

Barnet

 

42

 

23

 

11

 

8

 

93

 

45

 

80

 

2

 

Kettering

 

42

 

22

 

9

 

11

 

68

 

48

 

75

 

3

 

Runcorn

 

42

 

21

 

11

 

10

 

68

 

47

 

74

 

4

 

Telford

 

42

 

20

 

10

 

12

 

65

 

50

 

70

 

5

 

Stafford

 

42

 

20

 

9

 

13

 

79

 

58

 

69

 

6

 

Kidderminster

 

42

 

18

 

15

 

9

 

75

 

66

 

69

 

7

 

Sutton Utd

 

42

 

16

 

18

 

8

 

77

 

54

 

66

 

8

 

Maidstone

 

42

 

18

 

9

 

15

 

79

 

64

 

63

 

9

 

Weymouth

 

42

 

18

 

9

 

15

 

53

 

43

 

63

 

10

 

Macclesfield

 

42

 

18

 

9

 

15

 

64

 

62

 

63

 

11

 

Enfield

 

42

 

15

 

10

 

17

 

68

 

78

 

55

 

12

 

Cheltenham

 

42

 

11

 

20

 

11

 

64

 

67

 

53

 

13

 

Altrincham

 

42

 

14

 

10

 

18

 

59

 

59

 

52

 

14

 

Fisher

 

42

 

13

 

13

 

16

 

58

 

61

 

52

 

15

 

Boston

 

42

 

14

 

7

 

21

 

60

 

75

 

49

 

16

 

Northwich

 

42

 

10

 

17

 

15

 

46

 

57

 

47

 

17

 

Wycombe

 

42

 

11

 

13

 

18

 

50

 

76

 

46

 

18

 

Welling

 

42

 

11

 

9

 

22

 

50

 

72

 

42

 

19

 

Bath City (R)

 

42

 

9

 

10

 

23

 

48

 

76

 

37

 

20

 

Wealdstone (R)

 

42

 

5

 

17

 

20

 

39

 

76

 

32

 

21

 

Dagenham (R)

 

42

 

5

 

6

 

31

 

37

 

104

 

21

 

22