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Underhill Stadium  - Barnet
Tuesday December 8th, 2009
V Accrington Stanley, FA Cup 2nd Round, 7.45pm
By John Hubble

With a couple of spare days holiday owing and with these needing to be taken by the end of the year, I decided to fit them in during a week where there were some games taking place. Noting a few FAC 2nd round replays were being staged this week and looking down the fixtures for a ground I hadn't been to, Barnet stood out in this respect so with 11 needed for my current 92, a trip to Underhill was the obvious choice.

Being a midweek game and therefore no chance of getting a train back home to Birmingham via Kings Cross in time to catch the last connecting train to Solihull, I decided to drive. The journey down took just under two hours and the ground was easy to find. Arriving at 2.00 ish I parked up in High Barnet tube station car park as and then went round the ground to take a few pictures. The ground is tucked away in a small residential area at the bottom of a hill leading out of the town centre and is very much non league in appearance.

I purchased a ticket for the South Stand (16 pounds..a bit steep considering so close to Christmas and a cup replay as well) which is the designated Family Stand behind the goal. With a few hours to spare I went into the local chippy which came recommended by the lady in the ticket office and then had a beer in the Queens Arms nearby. I then took a walk up the hill and had a nose round the town centre before having another pint in The Old Red Lion which is the nearest pub to the ground at the bottom of Barnet Hill. I had only been in there 10 minutes or so when a family of 'Barnet Dingles' (Emmerdale fans will know the type!) entered the pub and proceeded to sit at the table next to me. They made it obvious to everyone in the pub  they were there, and so finishing my beer quicker than I had intended, I left and made my way to the ground as the gates opened. Took a few piccys inside before any 'crowd' had formed and bought a programme, three quid, full issue which was commendable considering the game was a cup replay and they had another home game on the Saturday against Crewe. (MK Dons please note…v Exeter a couple of weeks before!)

The game kicked off in front of a very sparse crowd, with Accrington looking the better side from the off. Barnet had 11 regulars out for various reasons, and with Accrington on a bit of form recently and with no obvious sign of them putting out an under strength team, I had decided to have a 20 quid bet on them to win in 90 minutes at 11/4 the day before. Accrington took the lead on 16 minutes and then for the remainder of the first half proceeded to miss at least 3 guilt edge chances to comfortably lead. Barnet by comparison struggled to get a foothold on the game with Paul Furlong spurning a difficult chance towards the end of the half which was Barnet's only real effort so far.

The second half was nothing but a catalogue of missed chances by Accrington. They could easily have notched up half a dozen but a combination of poor finishing, bad luck and a couple of excellent saves by the Barnet keeper Cole kept the score down to one nil, didn't help my nerves with 55 quid riding on the result.. but at least the win paid for the day's expenditure.

The 80 so Accrington fans made all the noise that was there..considering the distance and it being a Tuesday night, they were a credit to the club. Barnet’s fans by comparison and probably expecting a difficult game given the number of regulars out were pretty silent throughout. I was sitting next to a Colchester fan who used to live in Barnet up to a few years ago and it transpired he works for a Hospital quite close to Colchester's new ground and was telling me that staff at the hospital regularly get free tickets to some of their home matches. Having said to him that the Weston Community Stadium was one I had still to do, he gave me his phone number and said when I decided to visit, to give him a ring and he'll give me a couple of freebie's.. A proper fan and a true Gent!!

The low key atmosphere of the game meant that the stewards were not called into action and the evening passed off without incident. Underhill is one of those grounds that a few fans would call 'a ground with character'. The club are struggling for funds and with no hint of any substantial Director wealth, nor local land on which a new ground could be built, it would seem the Bees are to remain at Underhill. It reminds me very much of the Manor, Oxford's old ground with stands seemingly put together in a ramshackle way with bits and pieces added on here and there and with the slope evident from one end to the other. (The Manor Ground I think had a side to side slope). Still, nonetheless it is a welcome change to some of the Flat packed, modern, characterless grounds which have sprung up over the last few years.

I left the ground at the end…glad the game didn't go into extra time..and was away on the road home within 10 minutes arriving home just before 11.30pm. An enjoyable evening, even more so as I had a few extra quid in my pocket and a lie in the next day to look forward to..

 

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