Barnet FC vs Hungerford Town, 4/7/15, The Hive, Match 1
The idea for this blog was first planted in my head due to a Facebook comment from my dad, I’d just been to watch Airbus UK play, and he commented on a photo asking me if I was planning to visit every Welsh Premier League ground, and that is the aim. But there are only 12 Welsh Premier League grounds, so this would be a very short blog if I were to only visit Welsh Premier League grounds. So with a passion for football, a Ford Focus and a supportive (understanding) wife, I’ve set out to visit as many grounds as possible in the next season.
It was rather apt that my dad would be the person to choose the first ground for me to visit. It’d been a choice of three grounds, but eventually after much discussion Barnet’s The Hive ground had won over Wembley FC’s Vale Farm and a friendly between Hanwell Town and Wealdstone being played at the Brunel University 3g Pitch.
As a former London based Shrewsbury Town fan, most of my away games would be spent at grounds in and around London, with Barnet’s Underhill stadium being my favourite, narrowly beating Brentford. I had read about Barnet’s departure of Underhill, and had been disappointed to see that the council seemed to be against Barnet playing in Barnet, and with that in mind I was interested to see what facilities Barnet would now have at The Hive.
Now I don’t mean to upset any Barnet fans, but The Hive is soulless, with it lacking the charm of Underhill, and it just appearing to be a glorified Mechanno set, this however was my view at the start of the game, by the end of the game, I must admit that I felt slightly envious of the facilities, with Barnet not having just one but two bars for supporters, the Jubilee Bar wasn’t open for today’s match but the Hive Bar was, and inside I found enough room to move in, unlike the PowerLeague bar at the Greenhous Meadow. We didn’t stop for a drink as it was 2.40pm and time to head into the ground to find somewhere to sit. However on the way out, I was surprised to see that they served Starbuck’s coffee. Starbuck’s Coffee. At a football ground. I’ll stop there.
On arrival at the turnstiles I was presented with a complimentary teamsheet which would be taking the place of a matchday programme, and instructed to scan the QR code on my ticket to gain access to the ground. Whilst it was impressive and modern to be able to gain access in such a way, I did miss having a chat with someone on the turnstiles. Upon entering the ground we found ourselves by the East Stand, the only stand that was meant to be open for the game. The only problem there being that the sun was shining in the sky and straight into the eyes of anyone sat in the East Stand. The tannoy announcer was already instructing people to keep well-hydrated (at the cost of £1.50 for a bottle of water.), and my dad wondered why they hadn’t opened the South Terrace, which was shaded.
Upon finding seats in the shade, I was delighted to find myself sat by the dugouts, and was looking forward to seeing Martin Allen, who I had yet to thank for writing the Shrewsbury Town team talk in 2007, for the League Two Play Off Semi Final Second Leg. But the Hungerford coaching staff sat in the dugout closest to us, and Martin Allen sheltered at the back of the stand. By the 4th minute I began to wish that we hadn’t sat near the dugouts, as the Hungerford manager used the word “Better!” for near on the 300th time (I might be exaggerating). His team however started brightly, and pegged Barnet back for the first couple of minutes before Barnet’s quality began to shine through. It took 14 minutes for Barnet to open the scoring with big John Akinde, breaking through the Hungerford defence before he was fouled, with the referee blowing for a penalty, John Akinde was the man to net the penalty.
Five minutes later John Akinde made it 2-0 as he powered home a header from a Gavin Hoyte cross. To Hungerford’s credit they kept going, and only let themselves with the final ball, if they’d been able to get the ball into the box then they possibly would have had a few more chances. However John Akinde had other ideas and in the 21st minute he netted his hat-trick, as he chested the ball down and side-footed it into the net. Now at this point, I would like to say that I fully expect John Akinde to do very well in the goal scoring charts in Barnet’s first season back in the league.
In the 30th minute Stefan Brown earned Hungerford a consolation goal as he capitalised on a defensive mix-up, rounded the keeper and slid the ball home. Luckily for Barnet this was only a pre-season fixture as an error like that in a league match could be costly.
My choice for goal of the match came in the 42nd minute as Sam Togwell spotted the Hungerford keeper off of his line and lobbed the ball over the keeper’s head from the halfway line.
The half was ended prematurely in the 44th minute as the sprinklers turned themselves on, and the referee decided that he wanted a break anyway.
Half Time: Barnet FC 4-1 Hungerford (J Akinde 14, 19, 21 and Togwell 42 – Brown 30)
Feeling hungry a trip to the tea hut was in order, and a hotdog was the option I went for, wincing slightly as I read the price of £4. Yeah £4. To be fair it was a nice hotdog topped with onions, but £4? No, just no.
Now, my dad and I had been complaining about the heat, and the fact that the sun was in our eyes, and we had just sat down when we realised that common sense had prevailed and that the South Terrace had been opened. Fearing that it would soon be overrun by those wanting to escape the heat we quickly made our way over, and sheltered in the shade. This is where common sense really prevailed though, for some reason the decision had been made to only allow a quarter of the terrace to be opened, people questioned why and received an answer from the steward of “I’m just doing as I was told.” And then it happened, Anthony Kleanthous, Barnet FC Chairman, made his way round to the terrace and questioned why we were all bunched together, the steward responded that he was following orders, and the chairman whipped out his phone, made a quick call, and the next thing I knew, the rest of the terrace was opened.
Barnet FC fielded a whole new line-up for the second half, with Hungerford also making a couple of changes. This meant that the game seemed to lose its edge with Hungerford labouring in the heat, and Barnet seemingly losing their ability to create chances.
The 72nd minute bought a contender for goal of the match, with Mathew Stevens meeting the ball acrobatically with an overhead kick, sending the ball over the fingers of the Hungerford keeper.
Sam Akinde, John’s younger brother, finished off the game in the 89th minute, as he beat the offside trap and proved that he was just as good a finisher as his older brother, by rolling the ball past the keeper and into the net.
The referee ended the game before the sprinklers could, and Barnet ran out comfortable winners.
Full Time: Barnet FC 6-1 Hungerford (J Akinde 14, 19, 21, Togwell 42, Stevens 72 and S Akinde 89 – Brown 30)
Leaving the ground I encountered something else which made me jealous of the facilities, as I popped to the toilet, and found toilet’s where you could actually see what you were doing, with enough space to actually use them.
The final act of technology was the token-operated gates which allowed you out of the car-park, the token cost £5 and further cut down on the need for stewards.
All in all I was impressed by The Hive, and look forward to going back there for a league match, hopefully with Shrewsbury, as long as it is in League One.