Exactly five years ago today, Barnet Football Club were on the verge of a return to the Football League. Having been relegated back 2013 on the final day of the season the Bees were in the driving seat to regain league status with just two games left in the season and one point better off than Bristol Rovers who were aiming for an instant return to League Two. So, how did they get to that point? Well here goes the story………….
Martin Allen was the man in charge once again at The Hive having been appointed before the previous season had ended for a fourth time and wasted little time in shaping the squad he wanted as he prepared an assault on the Vanarama Conference League title. The final signings of Sam Togwell and Lee Cook were to be instrumental amongst a very talented squad of players.
Indeed it was Cook who scored twice on his debut as Barnet romped to a 5-0 win at Chester on the opening day of the season. Rovers themselves were given a harsh introduction to non-league football at The Hive as the Bees recorded a 2-0 win with goals for John Akinde and Charlie MacDonald. Despite the first defeat of the season coming at the weekend at home to Lincoln, Allen’s men then rattled off five straight wins including a 3-0 midweek success at Dover in front of the live TV cameras and a hat-trick for Cook against Dartford which meant Barnet ended the month at the top of the table, shades of 2004/05 coming into play.
By the end of September Barnet had lost just two league games and were setting the pace at the top of the table but had their lead cut to just two points by second placed Halifax. Only Wrexham came away with three points in a month where goals were certainly not hard to come by, no less than nine separate players scored as the Bees rattled up fifteen goals and fourteen points. That month also set the pattern for the season where Allen’s team never went more than two games without a victory, a stat that would prove crucial as the run in entered its final stages.
October came and went with only one further defeat and Allen had strengthened the squad with the loan signing of Sam Hoskins from Yeovil Town. It also the month Luisma Villa played his way into the team and notched four important goals to keep Barnet top of the league, a lead of eight points.
November saw the Bees lose two games in a month for the first time this season with Bristol Rovers gaining some revenge for their only season defeat with a 2-1 win, the only game goalkeeper Graham Stack was to miss all season, while Torquay beat an off-colour Barnet team 3-2 at The Hive. Rounding off with a 3-1 win over Macclesfield the Bees were still eight points clear at the top after another six goals from Akinde and three more for Villa.
An unbeaten December ensured that Barnet went into the New Year as firm leaders of the division. Akinde matched November’s goal tally and a crucial equaliser at The Hive against Dover in a game where the visitors had controlled a majority of the game, Bristol Rovers cutting the lead by a point to seven as 2014 came to an end.
Despite two big losses in the middle of January and the pressure being kept up by Bristol Rovers Barnet remained on top. Allen announced the arrival of Michael Gash to support Akinde up front as more of a target for Akinde to work off. Consecutive defeats to Lincoln and Grimsby threatened to briefly derail the title charge but normal service was resumed with four goals put past Southport at The Hive to extend the lead over Rovers to eight points again.
Consecutive losses again in February gave Rovers a glimmer of hope once again, wins over Woking and Altrincham sandwiched defeats by Wrexham and Grimsby again, Gash scoring his first Barnet goals at Altrincham while Connor Clifford arriving on loan from Southend to add fresh legs to the midfield, also opened his account against Grimsby, the Bees having now been caught by Rovers and dropping into second place.
March began with a third loss in five games but a resolute performance away at Eastleigh with goals from skipper Curtis Weston and Akinde once more delivered the points despite ex-Bee Ben Strevens pulling a goal back, Barnet returning to the top spot on goal difference. That win put Barnet on a seven match unbeaten run through the remainder of March and into April. Indeed the defeat at the beginning of March to Forest Green at The Hive would be the last time Barnet tasted defeat in this campaign and coincided with skipper Weston coming into his own playing just behind Akinde and providing three crucial goals alongside four from the striking talisman. The 1-1 draw at Alfreton gave the Bees a slender one point lead as we entered the final month of the season.
And so to April! Back to back 1-0 wins over Easter thanks to Akinde and Weston kept the Bees in front of Rovers as we neared the end. Halifax were dispatched at The Hive 3-0, both players again on the scoresheet adding to Mauro Vilhete’s early goal, two games to go one point the difference between Barnet and Bristol Rovers. Rovers headed to the Kent coast to take on Dover while the table topping Bees headed to Kidderminster. Drama unfolded and it wasn’t even the final day! The Bees conceded first, 1-0 down at half time while Rovers were still drawing 0-0. Mid-way through the second half Rovers took the lead and went back to the top of the table while Barnet were still behind. Ten minutes after the Rovers goal, Barnet drew level through Villa but were looking like heading into the final week of the season behind Rovers, but…. hold my beer says Ricky Modeste!
The Dover winger wrote his name into Barnet FC folklore with an 88th minute equaliser which prompted a bunch of Bees supporters to sponsor Modeste for the following season! That goal ensured Barnet would go into the final day with fate in their own hands, Gateshead visiting The Hive next Saturday, the Bees one point clear of Rovers and the Vanarama Conference title awaiting them, didn’t someone once say ‘Destiny always takes over’ or words to that effect……….