With an interview with former Barnet player and manager Ian Hendon to come later this week I thought it’s the ideal time to take a look back at the 2004/05 season for Barnet FC. The season before had seen Martin Allen take the team into the play-off positions before leaving for Brentford.
Paul Fairclough took the reins alongside Hendon and Danny Maddix, the senior players asked to step between Allen and Fairclough, the club losing out to Shrewsbury in those play-offs on penalties.
Fairclough was appointed as manager full time after the season’s conclusion and set about shaping the squad to suit dynamic fast following football. With that came the signings of Nicky Bailey, Dean Sinclair, Ritchie Graham and Dwane Lee and a conversion to centre back for Simon King.
The season started well enough for the Bees, an opening day 3-1 win over Forest Green Rovers with two goals for talisman striker Giuliano Grazioli. Despite an uneventful 0-0 draw at Farnborough in midweek, one of the games of the season took place just a few days after where a trip to Halifax brought of the best and the worst in the squad. A poor first half saw the Bees 2-0 down at half time where a few choice words and tactical changes made all the difference as Barnet scored three times in the second half including a measured lob from Grazioli sealing the win on 69 minutes.
Normal service was resumed the following Saturday as Grazioli and Liam Hatch both scored for the second week running in a 4-0 win over Northwich Victoria, Hendon and Sinclair notching the others. Two days later the unbeaten Bees headed to Essex and a Sinclair winner in front of the away end at Canvey Island took Barnet to the top of the table as August finished, a lead that wasn’t to be lost all season, but little did we know how the season was going to unfold.
September began in style! Morecambe arrived at Underhill and kept the Bees scoreless at half time. The northerners even took the lead with 10 men, but Barnet for the first time in evidence just stepped up through the gears and promptly dispatched five past the Shrimps, two more for Grazioli, and once each for King, Hendon and a first in club colours for Bailey. This was the game where I genuinely thought we could win the title despite it being very early on in the season, so much so that me and a mate stuck a tenner on us to win at 15-1, not bad odds! The reason for thinking that was the ease in which we just motored past Morecambe as if they just weren’t there, one of the defining games of the season for me.
With further comfortable wins over Tamworth and Gravesend & Northfleet, Burton Albion inflicted the first defeat of the season on the Bees at Underhill followed by Scarborough heading home with a point, the month ending with a debut for new goalkeeper Scott Tynan in an LDV Vans win over local rivals Stevenage.
October began with two more Grazioli goals in a 2-2 draw with Woking, the third successive game without a win. What followed that was another season defining game in my opinion, a trip to fellow promotion hopefuls Exeter City. My reason for this one being on the list is the side Fairclough sent out was devoid of any senior players, I believe Dwane Lee at 24 was the oldest player to feature that evening, the average age of side being around 21! The way they just dismantled the home team without a care or fear in the world reinforced the view this side could comfortably win the title despite it being only three months into the season.
Two goals from the returning Hendon against Dagenham in a 5-0 rout in front of the TV cameras set up things nicely for a trip to closest challengers Carlisle Utd, the club who decided themselves they were going to win the title as they were the biggest club! Hendon led a very young Bees side missing both main strikers in Hatch and Grazioli, but such was the confidence running through the team you wouldn’t have known they were missing.
In front of the then record crowd for this level of 9215, Barnet went in front through a Hendon penalty inside the first five minutes and doubled the lead through an own goal on the half hour, that second goal had been coming with constant chances for a team missing their first choice strikers. Despite the hosts pulling one back on half time, Lee secured the win with a third goal 12 minutes from time and no less than Barnet had deserved, the Cumbrians not expecting to have been played off their own patch and the Bees extending their lead at the top over their northern rivals. A 4-0 win over York City at Underhill the following Saturday rounded off the month and a more than comfortable lead at the top of the table.
November brought another unbeaten month in the league, a 1-1 draw at Hereford was followed by wins over Accrington and Aldershot where King’s superb late winner left the Bees seven points clear at the top of the table.
A second hard fought win in a week heralded the beginning of December as goals from Bailey, Grazioli and Lee Roache saw the Bees to a 3-2 win over Leigh RMI. The midweek trip to Crawley provided the travelling Bees with three goals of the highest quality, two strikes from Grazioli, a deft finish on the volley and a sublime chip over the keeper but the goal of the night was saved by Sinclair in injury time from all of 35 yards crashing into the net for a 3-1 win. The scoreline was repeated at the weekend, Gravesend on the wrong end of it this time, Bailey, Hatch and Sinclair keeping the Bees clear of Carlisle at the top of the table.
The Cumbrians sensed a small ray of hope over the next two games, as Barnet recorded back to back defeats for the first time this season, a somewhat surprising 3-0 reverse at home to Tamworth was followed by a 2-1 Boxing Day defeat to local rivals Stevenage. However, the year finished with a win, Roache coming off the bench to score the winner in a 1-0 success over Scarborough.
As the New Year arrived, Barnet went into 2005 with a healthy lead over Carlisle Utd who were desperately hanging onto the coat tails as Stevenage headed to Underhill on New Years Day looking for a double………..