Being the secretary at a grassroots football club doesn’t give you much time to get out to watch other football so with Barnet’s FA Cup Second Round tie moved to a Sunday which coincidently happened to be my birthday, it seemed like the ideal present to myself! And with tickets prices just a tenner, Stockport County fans took full advantage bringing close to 1800 supporters and filling the impressive North Stand.
Having to follow your team from afar is never easy, highlights don’t tell the full story and social media gives everyone a platform to express opinions to the world and his wife more so than before.
It’s fair to say that coming up to the end of 2018, it hasn’t gone to plan for the Bees. Relegated back to the National League they left three years, it’s been far from plain sailing at The Hive for a club expected to be in the shake up for promotion. Instead, an injury list which has rivalled previous years has left John Still’s side well adrift of the play offs and he knows it will take an extremely good run of results to get the team into challenging shape.
The FA Cup though has provided much needed respite from the league performances and after dispatching Braintree and Bristol Rovers after a replay, the Bees were one win away from the all important third round, where the ‘big boys’ come into play, and with it being over a decade since the last time they made it that far Sunday’s game against lower opposition was seen as a good chance to end the hoodoo and progress to a glamour tie.
An early header from Dan Sparkes gave Barnet the lead and for a while it looked as if the goal was going to give Barnet the impetus to take the game by the scruff of the neck and really go to town. Sadly, it never happened as County backed superbly by their huge support edged back into the game and certainly made their presence felt across the pitch despite not really testing the Bees keeper Mark Cousins.
Barnet looked more content in defending their lead than pushing for a second goal to put the tie to bed, and County certainly sensed there was at least a replay in it for them, but despite some late pressure with a succession of corners, immense performances at the back from Dan Sweeney and Callum Reynolds ensured the Bees were in the hat on Monday evening.
Maybe I was expecting a little too much, but the performance felt laboured and slow, lacking in energy and some strange substitutions! Both Josh Walker and Wes Fonguck who came off looked to be two of the better players on show in black and amber and their replacements did little to suggest it was worth them getting off the bench. Byron Harrison looked well off the pace, almost disinterested at times, was it just a case of still feeling his way back from injury? Benefit of the doubt maybe there.
The draw itself, Sheffield Utd away. Not one of the very big boys but a bigger team than some we could have drawn and a new ground for most to visit. Chance of an upset? Well, their eyes will of course be on promotion to the Premier League and there are suggestions there will be a lot of changes for the hosts as this isn’t high on the priority list so anything is possible it’s the magic of the FA Cup after all……….