Tuesday November 12th 2013, KO 19:45pm.
The Skrill Premier.
Barnet (Amber/Black) 0-0 Welling United (Red/Red), att 1,274.
Admission 21.00, programme 3.00, pukka pie 2.70, coffee 1.50.
‘The Hive’ had been a long time in the planning, and finally this summer Barnet got to move in to their plush new home. Without doubt, the old Underhill ground, its charming quirky nuances aside was well past its ‘use by’ date for hosting crowds at football league matches in the modern era.
So I’m sure the new complex looks and feels like a large slice of juicy apple pie to many Barnet fans. Although one does wonder what they think about the six-mile journey across a busy North London to Edgware, especially for mid-week games after work?
Perhaps the attendance to tonight’s game part answered that question, as somewhere between one and two hundred had travelled across from North Kent, and yet only a crowd of just over twelve hundred was declared, their second lowest, the smaller crowd also being for a mid week fixture.
I shall certainly have a keen eye on the attendance for their attractive Saturday fixture v league leaders Cambridge United this coming weekend.
The new stadium and it’s training pitches behind is most impressive. Dominated by a large stand down one side that towers over the rest of the venue, my only criticism is that I’d like them to have built up one of the terraced ends a little steeper. But the sheer size of the complex took me by surprise. As well as the aforementioned all-weather training pitches behind the right goal, in use continually during the game I might add, in front of that was an enormous car park, similar to that at Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium.
The main stand has an excellent rake, with plenty of leg room and comfy seats to boot, so all in all the ingredients were in place for an exciting nights entertainment on a smooth looking pitch.
Sadly, although not a bore draw, the game never really exploded into life. Having said that, both teams tried to play attractive football, and as both my friend Dave Lewis and I agreed, the football on show was light years away from the quality on offer in this league back in the 1990s when I regularly used to get along to Gander Green Lane to watch Sutton United. The professionalism in this league has definitely been ratcheted up a few notches since then.
Barnet, coached by ex Netherlands International Edgar Davids, played a neat slow passing style, that was attractive and frustrating in equal measure. A little more urgency in the final third may have allowed them to pressurize without so many Welling players back behind the ball?
Whereas Welling themselves when advancing up the Barnet end were more incisive and played with a little more pace.
But ultimately the defences were on top, and I lost count of the number of last-minute blocks or deflections for corners.
Although Barnet shaded the game, Welling were solid and have made a most impressive start after promotion from the Skrill South last season.
On reflection, I thought Barnet, relegated from League Two last season certainly look good enough to make a bid for a play off place, and I would say I’d be happy to return to the Hive to watch again, but my evening was rather soured by a couple of angry stewards, in the minority I think, who seemed intent on sending spectators home with a flea in their ears.
Snapping at people because they were hovering in the massive sterile area (between the stand and the terracing) in injury time, “Either sit down in a seat or go home” one barked, whilst another informing me I couldn’t take a photo of the main stand. “No photos, no photos” I was told.
IMHO, it’s this sort of behaviour that’ll send the casual spectator to other local venues in the future rather than spend their money at the Hive, after all over twenty pounds to watch level 5 football is not a cheap night out!
With the rather alarming turnout tonight, I’d say this is something they should nip in the bud, and soon, as to be one of the big fish in this league these days you really need to be pulling in 2K + plus attendances on a regular basis.