Bees buzzing at The Hive

Saturday 31st August 2013
Barnet 3 Hyde 2
Skrill Premier
At: The Hive, Camrose Avenue, Edgware
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £23 (seat in West Stand); Programme: £3 (70 pages)
Weather: warm and sunny

I felt a sense of excitement walking up Turner Road from Queensbury tube station towards The Hive, the recently-opened new stadium of Barnet FC. At the same time, a sense of trepidation also filled my mind as well because the lack of cashpoint machine amongst the parade of shops near the station had left me perilously short of cash for the full set of seat in the stand, programme and badge. Why did I potentially ruin my trip to The Hive? Of course I wished I’d buzzed towards a bank as well as, or instead off, sampling Sharp’s Doom Bar and Lancaster’s Ginger Snap in two previously unvisited Cask Marque pubs around Warren Street.

Again whilst walking, I thought about Barnet FC and the fact that it was over 41 years since I saw them lose to Stafford Rangers in 1972 FA Trophy Final, my match number two. I’ve got fond memories of Underhill, the stadium with the famous sloping pitch and assortment of stands which Barnet FC called home for 106 years until the summer move across North London to the Borough of Harrow.

Perhaps, the highlight of my seven visits to the old ground came in April 1986 when Bob Mountain scored a spectacular volley which clinched an aggregate victory for Stafford in a two-legged Bob Lord Trophy Final.

My nerves increased somewhat on arrival until a ‘BFC Helper’ pointed me in the direction of the ticket office at the south end and settled down when the chap behind the ticket office window told me that debit cards [and I guess credit cards as well] were accepted. The West Stand appealed especially with the position of the sun and for £23 I got a really good view of the action from Row E Seat 82, almost bang on the halfway line.

Now, suddenly with more than enough cash, a visit to one of the programme sellers returned to the agenda and I even could chance my luck with a 50/50 draw ticket as well. Badges could wait until after the game.

Originally the complex was part-developed as a new home for Wealdstone FC on what was the Prince Edward Playing Fields. Work stopped in 2004 and Barnet secured a lease two years later for their training ground and centre of excellence. The Hive stadium has what I would call a classic layout for a lower-league football – seats down both touchlines and covered terrace behind both goals. The West Stand with a capacity of 2684 seats is the dominant feature with the Jubilee Line running behind. Opposite the smaller East Stand is the ‘main stand’ even with a quarter of the capacity of the big stand. A big difference between Underhill and Hive is that the new pitch is as flat as a pancake with not a slope in sight, and a beautiful manicured playing surface as well.

Relegated from League Two at the end of last season, Barnet (1st with 11 points from 5 games) have started their first season back in the ‘Conference’ – now known as the Skrill Premier – in spectacular fashion. Fans could chant ‘We are top of the league’ following Monday’s 3-0 win at Braintree Town. In contrast, today’s visitors Hyde (21st with 2 points from 5 games) arrived at The Hive in the relegation zone having lost 8-0 at Forest Green on the opening day and subsequently drew 2-2 at Wrexham. Former Stafford Rangers striker David McNiven had the number 19 but hadn’t featured in any of Hyde’s games this season.

Attacking towards their own fans in the South End, Barnet got the game underway and didn’t take long to take the lead in the 5th minute. Curtis Weston fed Keanu Marsh-Brown on the right who raced into the area and steered a low shot wide of the diving David Carnell into the far bottom left corner of the Hyde net.

Barnet undoubtedly dominated most of the first half, the only surprise being it took them until the 40th minute to double their lead. Carnell blocked Jake Hyde’s initial shot and Mark Byrne fired home the rebound.

My bad luck and near misses with raffles and 50/50 draws are well documented. As the winning ticket number of today’s draw was announced, a sense of ‘it could be me’ grew as first “4”, then “3” then “1”, then “5” only to have a decent cash prize snatched for me with the revealing of the final digit “9” rather than a “5”. Damn – four numbers tickets after mine. At least it wasn’t the second ticket the seller tried to tempt me to buy.

Perhaps as an indicator of what was to come, one supporter sat behind me commented during the first half: “Hyde playing a little better now they’ve settled down”.

By my watch it took Hyde just 50 seconds to reduce the deficit at the start of the second half. Liam Tomsett, from fully 35 yards out, thumped a long range shot past Graham Stack.

The visitors were very much back in contention and another long range shot from Tomsett in the 78th minute got them back on level terms.

“They’ve had two very lucky long range shots,” said someone nearby in the stand. I thought they were better than that, once they’d settled down.

Barnet made a double change in a bid to score the winner and it turned out to be an inspired substitution. Harry Crawford had been on the field barely two minutes when the sent a low right-foot shot from the edge of the area into the bottom left corner of the net.

The drama wasn’t over as Louis Almond’s right-wing cross picked out unmarked Scott Spencer who ballooned his shot over the bar.

Relief for Barnet at full-time with a 3-2 win from a game they should have had sewn up long before Tomsett’s second-half double.

Walking away from the ground, I overheard that Cambridge United had won 3-0 to regain the lead, dropping the Bees to second on goal difference.

Reading Wikipedia, Barnet first team’s stay at The Hive could be a short one if ambitions to return the team to their home borough come to fruition. Their 10-year lease to play league football runs until the end of the 2022/2023 season.

Barnet (amber/black/black): 29. Graham Stack, 2. Andy Yiadom, 30. David Stephens, 5. Anthony Acheampong, 23. Jordan Brown, 17. Roberto Garcia Casabella, 8. Mark Byrne, 4. Curtis Weston, 7. Keanu Marsh-Brown, 11. Luke Gambin, 9. Jake Hyde. Subs: 20. Mauro Vilhete (for Villa, 82), 19. Luisma Villa (for Gambin, 28), 10. Harry Crawford (for Marsh-Brown, 82), 6. Jack Saville (not used), 13gk. Nick Jupp (not used). Head Coach: Edgar Davids.

Hyde (blue/blue/blue):1. David Carnell, 2. Josh Brizell, 22. Ben Dennis, 5. Luke Ashworth, 3. Adam Griffin, 6. Liam Tomsett, 16. Matty Mainwairing, 8. Alex Brown, 9. Scott Spencer, 10. Tom Collins, 15. Danny Carlton. Subs: 4. Will Haining (for Davies, 54), 11. Connor Hughes (for Mainwairing, 85), 7. David Poole (not used), 18. Louis Almond (for Collins, 71), 21. Adam Blakeman (not used). Manager: Scott McNiven.

Referee: Declan Ford
Assistants: Neil West and Rob Smith
Fourth Official: Jason Richardson

Attendance: 1669 (including 31 away fans)
Duration: first-half: 46:00; second-half: 49:40

1-0 Keanu Marsh-Brown (5)
2-0 Mark Byrne (40)
2-1 Liam Tomsett (46)
2-2 Liam Tomsett (78)
3-2 Harry Crawford (84)

Barnet: Andy Yiadom (YC, 67), Curtis Weston (YC, 76)
Hyde: Liam Tomsett (YC, 74)