The final day of the 2011/12 season and for the third consecutive campaign, Barnet’s fate was yet again, going down the wire. As the Bees travelled to Burton Albion, only two points separated them and Hereford (who were at home to Torquay) and really, anything less than three points would not be good enough. With McLeod on the bench (not fit enough to start the game), Scott McGleish partnered Ben May up front.
It was the home side that started the brighter and a mistake from Jack Saville in the heart of the Bees’ defence gifted an early opportunity to Calvin Zola. Dean Brill, at the second time of asking, saved his volley.
Any pre-match or early nerves from the visiting side were soon deterred with the opening goal coming after just six minutes. A free kick from 25 yards out, taken by Mark Byrne, got a wicked deflection in the Burton wall and wrong-footed Ross Atkins in the Brewers’ net.
Burton Albion 0–1 Barnet (Byrne ’6)
But instead of building on that lead, the visitors had a job of defending their one-goal advantage. Burton had a number of chances – first, Jack Dyer on the quarter of an hour mark, hit high over the bar; before Andy Corbett delivered a delightful cross and any touch from an Albion player would have resulted in a goal; however it deflected out of the area by a Barnet leg. Burton’s player of the season, Zola, then had a golden opportunity to level the scores – but for a great save from Brill between the Barnet sticks. An equaliser was coming, with the ball largely in the Barnet half and it came just before half an hour on the clock, through Jacques Maghoma.
Burton Albion 1–1 Barnet (Maghoma ’27)
As things stood, a point was not good enough – news from Edgar Street soon flooded around the ground, Hereford were winning 3–0. Just before half time, the turning point came… Corbett’s cross was missed by Clovis Kamdjo, who was back in the centre of defence, and Zola, the intended recipient of the cross, was bundled over tamely by Byrne; a penalty was awarded. After some arguing amongst the Albion players, Zola stepped up to take it – and skied it right over the bar!
1–1 at half time, and as things stood, Hereford and Barnet would swap places – a point not good enough.
For the second period, McLeod replaced McGleish up front and with 45 minutes to preserve their League status, the players looked a lot more determined, attacking from the off.
May had a shot early on, only managing the side netting, before Sam Deering really should have done better from six yards out – missing the follow-up, after another shot from May was cleared off the line. Barnet could have definitely felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty soon after – Deering the victim, shoulder barged to the floor by Nathan Stanton. “In desperation, they’d shout for anything” seemed a little harsh from the Brewers’ commentary team!
The pressure continued to pile on Burton’s defence and it paid off on the hour mark: a tricky run from Ricky Holmes allowed him into a crossing position, and when the ball was cleared to the edge of the penalty else, who else but ‘Captain Fantastic’ – Mark Hughes with what was a crucial winner, an excellent volley. A worthy winner if ever one was seen and cue jubilation from the away terrace. With half an hour to, the Bees were keeping their place in the Football League.
Burton Albion 1–2 Barnet (Hughes ’60)
Minutes later it emerged that Torquay had pulled two goals back at Edgar Street, although several cruel individuals started rumours of a 3–3 draw – and with that, the away end was rocking.
The game could have easily been put to bed, had McLeod remembered his shooting boots. But the last opportunity fell to home side – three consecutive corners late on, and the Barnet defence needed to remain resilient and fully concentrate on the task in hand. The first two corners were easily cleared by the defence, but the third required an absolute wonder safe from Brill, as he denied Patrick Ada – and Burton of an equalising goal.
And with that, the final whistle was blown and once again, the Bees had managed the ‘Great Escape’.
It was quite an afternoon with so many emotions felt in such a short space of time. The scenes at the end of the match were something else, with elation shared by players, staff and fans alike.
And so, our next League fixture, will be a Football League fixture!
Attendance: 3359 (away 992)