Monday, 28 October 2013

Barnet 3 v 0 Concord Rangers

Saturday 26th October 2013
FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round
The Hive, Edgware
Admission: £8.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 1373
Match Rating: 2

Today's visit was primarily motivated by the opportunity of seeing a game at Barnet's new stadium at half price - I have no desire to pay their usual prices of £16 for standing and at least £21 for seating for non-league football - with the potential magic of the FA Cup on offer too.

The Hive, Barnet's new stadium developed in the last year on their existing training complex after finally admitting defeat in realistically ever being able to sufficiently modernise their previous stadium Underhill, is conveniently located just a ten minute walk from Canons Park underground station, walking mostly along a footpath through training pitches on the complex. The Hive is almost the complete opposite of Underhill, which is not entirely a good thing. Whereas Underhill oozed character and old-fashioned charm with its cobbled together basic facilities wedged between housing, The Hive is spacious, has good facilities and offers excellent viewing wherever one chooses to watch. Its appearance is quite unique but it's a stadium that is difficult to fall in love with. The largest stand is all seater and in club colours of orange and black - its too large for the local council, who have insisted that its height must be reduced - one would have thought that Barnet of all clubs would have known better than to chance things with the local council. Along the other length are about a dozen rows of seating with only the middle section covered, with the seating backing onto a building housing the clubhouse, changing rooms, club shop corporate area amongst others. Behind both goals are identical stands of terraces. The programme, a reduced edition of 32 pages today with a third off the usual price, was perfectly adequate and informative, although the quality of the paper wasn't the best if one was being highly critical.

Today's game would be an interesting one, between a club that was relegated from the Football League at the end of last season and managed by Dutch legend Edgar Davids, and a club newly promoted into the Conference South - so now a division below Barnet - with just six seasons having passed since they plied their trade in the Essex Senior League. Today would also break new ground for Concord Rangers, having never previously progressed this far in the FA Cup. It would also be the first time Barnet have had to qualify for the First Round proper in nine years. As for league form, Barnet were in eighth place interest Conference Premier with 25 points from 16 games, whilst Concord Rangers were in 14th place in the Conference South, with 13 points from 11 games.

On a very dank afternoon with frequent squally showers, the underdogs started very comfortably, playing some good football and probably looking the stronger of the two teams, and it was out of nothing when Barnet took the lead on 19 minutes. The ball was played low from the right wing, a defender couldn't cut out the cross and the ball fell to Keanu Marsh-Brown, who took a touch before placing the ball low inside the post. Barnet doubled their lead nine minutes later when a ball was chipped in from the left and was headed in at the near post by Daniel Lopez. It was a scoreline that slightly flattered Barnet, and one felt that the visitors were still very much in the game despite a two goal deficit at half-time if they could just pose more of a threat in the final third.

Into the second half and Barnet did a very good job of squeezing the life out of the game, playing a passing game which rarely allowed Concord Rangers to get up a head of steam to attack but which also made the game rather dull to watch. The game was put to bed on 73 minutes when an excellent passing move from their own half eventually saw a low cross come in from the left and Lopez steered the ball into the net from a central position for his second of the game. Barnet could have extended their lead further and Concord Rangers tried to mount attacks but the scoreline remained 3-0 at full time. No question Barnet deserved to go through, as Concord Rangers, for all their good approach play, never looked capable of scoring today. Goals today meant that I have now gone a complete year and 87 games since watching my last Goalless draw.

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