For most football fans (those who don’t support the big four) following your team is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster with, usually, more downs than ups. As the high points are often so rare, they feel all the more special when they occur.
Imagine then how great the fans, players, coaches and staff of Barnet FC felt, on 7th May, as the team’s victory against Port Vale saw them retain their League 2 status after an astonishing end of season recovery. Imagine also though, the tension throughout Underhill as everyone knew that a late Port Vale goal would turn joy to despair and drop them out of the league. Life as a fan often operates on such fine threads.
Football pundit Adrian Chiles, who’s had his emotions strained supporting West Brom, hit the nail on the head saying “it’s the hope that kills you”.
Barnet have spent a large chunk of the season in the bottom two staring the Conference in the face. Had they been cut well adrift the fans, though gutted, disappointed and despondent, would have reached the point where they accepted their fate.
But Barnet’s fans were given that hope back in March when Chairman Tony Kleanthous, in “the last throw of the dice", turned to former Barnet boss Martin Allen and asked him to try and save their season. Martin Allen is an extraordinary football character with unorthodox methods and, despite staying with the club for only 3 games, he began an incredible turn around which continued under caretaker manager Giuliano Grazioli.
So to the last match of the season, the fans have been given that fragile hope, the fight for survival is between Lincoln and Barnet. For Barnet it’s simple – they must win but a home win for Lincoln would see them survive instead. Lincoln have been on a terrible run though and lose their match comprehensively.
Barnet, in front of nearly 4,500 fans, lead 1-0, they come achingly close to a second and, as the game draws to a close, the referee indicates 6 minutes of injury time. One slip, one mistake in the wrong place and defeat can be dragged from the jaws of victory. The tension is agonising. But that tension, that hope makes the joy so much the better when the whistle goes and Barnet have done it.
A fantastic achievement for everyone involved with the club. Tony Kleanthous summed it up perfectly saying "There is no doubt that here at Barnet we love a drama."
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