Wednesday, December 13The Voice of London

Barnet borefest can’t dampen love of the game

The Wembley arch is visible in the distance from the platform at Canons Park tube station. But then, so is The Hive.

England hosted world champions Germany at the national stadium on Friday night, but it was the game a mere four miles north that was to capture our attention.

Barnet vs Colchester isn’t an attractive or prestigious fixture in anybody’s eyes. But as the only match in any of England’s top five leagues taking place in London this weekend (no, we’re certainly not counting Boreham Wood), The Voice of London decided to go along.

The view of The Hive from Canons Park under ground station, with the Wembley arch faintly visible in the distance.
Copyright: Étienne Fermie

Now in their fifth season at The Hive, Barnet have overseen steady progression since the move, despite being around six miles from their old home, the beloved Underhill.

This year however, has seen an extremely poor start to the season, and having not won a game in over two months, there is a palpably sombre mood among the sparsely gathered supporters as The Voice of London takes its place on the South Stand terrace just fifteen minutes before kick off.

“Sort out the fucking defence Jamie.” One fan shouts towards Jamie Stephens, Barnet’s returning number 1 goalkeeper, who had been injured since August.

“I’ll try!” the 24 year old responds with a grin. A tall order given that his side have kept just two clean sheets in 21 games prior to this one.

Stephens isn’t the only returning player for The Bees. Talismanic striker John Akinde, having hardly featured all season is back in the starting eleven, and as the game gets underway, you can sense the excitement every time he gets the ball. Sadly it’s too few and far between for The Bees.

The players taking their places ahead of kick off.
Copyright: Étienne Fermie

After a turgid 45 minutes, both sides head in for the break with the score unsurprisingly reading 0-0.

But with a hot chocolate now in hand and the safe knowledge that the tickets had only set The Voice of London back a tenner each, we retake our places and hope for a better second half.

Ah. The second half begins with a Colchester player misjudging a bouncing ball, allowing it to fly farcically over his head, before a Barnet player fizzes a pass straight into touch.

“Well that is absolutely fucking shit.” One Bees fan observes behind us. The Voice of London concurs.

The battle for supremacy wages on and on without either side really looking like breaking the deadlock, aside from one rare Colchester effort being cleared off the line. The Us fans are incensed, believing it was blocked with a hand. Frankly The Voice of London doesn’t have a clue, other than about the fact that the sun has gone down and that the temperature has dropped even further.

The groans are clearly audible as the number nine is shown on the fourth official’s board, signalling the end of John Akinde’s afternoon.

As the clock begins to tick down, and with their talisman Akinde now sitting on the bench, Barnet start to retreat deeper and deeper as mid-table Colchester eventually start to show signs of life.

And then it finally comes. After robbing The Bees of possession, substitute Sammie Szmodics curls a gorgeous left footed strike into the corner of the net and it sends the Colchester fans sat opposite us into absolute delirium.

As strictly neutrals, The Voice of London can’t help but raise a smile as Colchester fans start piling down the steps to celebrate with their heroes. With 83 minutes on the clock, The Us have a precious lead.

The substitutes finish their warm ups as the second half nears.
Copyright: Étienne Fermie

Barnet try desperately to get the ball forward, shoving the biggest of their back three Ricardo Santos forward for stoppage time, and even sending goalkeeper Jamie Stephens forward for a late set piece. But it just will not fall and The Bees succumb to yet another defeat.

The 600 or so Colchester fans leave in delight as they see their side go within two points of the League 2 playoff places. Such heady heights feel a world away for Rossi Eames and his Barnet side at the moment, and they now sit precariously close to the relegation zone.

As The Voice of London prepares to board the 340 bus home, we can’t help but reflect that days like today illustrate just what being a football fan is about. The closeness to the pitch, the interaction with the players; the joy of seeing your team walk out at 3 o’clock on a Saturday. The agony of seeing them be shockingly inept for 90 minutes.

We don’t know when Barnet will win a football match again. But what we can take from that afternoon is that football is an addiction, and one we at The Voice of London have no desire to shake, even after an afternoon like this.

 

Words: Étienne Fermie | Subbing: Reuben Pinder

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