Our ascent to League Two means proper Football League London derbies once more, with the Dons facing both Dagenham and the subject of this update, Barnet. And to give the game a little extra significance, the Bees have appointed the man who won us the FA Cup, Mr Lawrie Sanchez, as manager. I can only imagine, as a regular visitor to Kingsmeadow, Sanchez either joined too late or had no say in Barnet arranging a friendly with Them, still their visiting support should boost his budget for the season (if he’s looking to bring in a new tea lady for a few hours a week, that is…)
Alongside Sanchez is bona fide Barnet legend Giuliano Grazioli, who had a short spell on loan at the Dons in ’07 which its fair to say didn’t entirely work out as planned. Grazioli’s short spell as caretaker saw the Bees safe, but Barnet have left it late to secure League football for a couple of seasons on the trot now.
Similar to many clubs formed in London’s suburbs, Barnet’s early years comprised a mish mash of mergers and name changes. The club website recognises the year of formation as 1888 although the club seemed to have played under a couple of other names from as early as 1882.
Skipping through the complications of the early years (more for the sake of keeping it brief) the Dons first encountered Barnet Alston in the final season before they changed their name to simply Barnet FC. By this stage the Bees had joined the Athenian League, a membership that lasted over half a century and saw them lift the title seven times. It was during this period (1946) that Barnet lifted the FA Trophy, beating Bishop Auckland 3-2.
From 1965 until the beginning of the Alliance Premier League (forerunner of the Conference) Barnet spent all but three years in the Southern Premier League. In 1979 a manager that would go a long way towards shaping the Barnet we know today joined the club. Barry Fry’s first spell in charge saw midtable security, after a short spell at Maidstone Fry returned to turn the Bees into a major force in non-league football.
By this stage renowned ticket tout Stan Flashman had bought the club, and from 1986 onwards the club finished second in the league three times in four years, missing out on the first few years of automatic promotion to the Football League. Finally, the 1990/91 season saw Barnet pip Colchester to the title by two points.
This wasn’t the end of Barnets rise, however. Two seasons later they gained promotion to the third tier of English football, by this stage Fry had moved on after one too many disagreements with Flashman. Barnet only stayed at the third level for a season, falling all the way back to the Conference in 1997. Even then it only took four seasons for them to return, after a failed playoff campaign Paul Fairclough led the Bees to their second Conference title.
Since then Barnet have rarely troubled the promotion places in League Two, in fact requiring last day victories in the last two seasons to avoid a second drop back to the non-league game. Struggling with crowds hovering just above the 2,00o mark, with much bigger clubs on their doorstep (problems the Dons know all too well), Barnet are perhaps fortunate to have a chairman such as Tony Kleanthous, one of football’s better administrators and perhaps the reason Barnet have seemingly punched above their weight seeing much larger clubs fall through the trap door to the Conference.
With new manager Mark Stimson raising a few eyebrows signing the likes of Ricky Holmes and Glen Poole (the latter released by the Dons during the summer), a season of struggle always looked likely, and a bad start didn’t entirely help, including a 0-7 defeat at Crewe. A first victory of the season at home to Cheltenham saw Barnet rise out of the bottom four for the first and only time that season. By New Years Day the Bees were stuck in the bottom two, costing Stimson his job.
Paul Fairclough took over, but with wins still hard to come by Barnet took the decision to appoint Martin Allen on 23rd March. Allen presided over three games, a draw with top of the table Chesterfield and victories over Burton and Crewe gave the Bees some hope. Still, they were still in the bottom two, and his controversial departure to Notts County seemed to have dented their chances.
But decent end of season form, including a superb 4-2 win at playoff chasing Gillingham, coupled with the continuing poor form of Lincoln, took the survival battle to the final day. Aldershot easily beat a demoralised Lincoln, but Barnet still had to beat Port Vale, and a 1-0 victory was enough to keep them in the division for another year.
Barnet have had a real headache bringing Underhill up to League status, having seen previous relocation plans blocked, and their local council not exactly bending over backwards to assist (fancy that, a London Borough obstructing the progress of a small football club?). Still, a new stand has risen at the South End of the ground (its capacity of 1016 might give visiting Dons fans an idea of what the KRE stand at Kingsmeadow will look like…).
The visiting support will occupy the northern end of the East Terrace. A temporary 240 capacity seated stand sits next to the small North terrace for visitors seating. A view from each area of the ground can be found on the stadium plan at Barnets website here (we should have something like this too…).
Comparison refers to Barnets 10/11 prices. Note Barnet are able to offer seating behind the goal. This is a comparison of home ticket prices and admission for visiting supporters will be updated closer to our visit.
(Dons price in brackets)
Terrace – Adult £15/£13 (£15), Concessions £12 (£9), U14s £8 (U16s £2)
Seating – Adult £20/£16 (), Concessions £12 (£11/£10), U14s £8 (U16s £7/£6)
Barnet also offer a Family ticket for their South Stand, two adults and two U19s for £30.
The Dons haven’t faced Barnet yet in a competitive fixture in the AFC era, but did meet in a memorable friendly in preseason 2004. The Dons, fresh out of the CCL, defeated then Conference Bees 3-0 mainly due to some kid called Rob Ursell, who turned up on trial and spanked a wonderful hat trick. The rest was history as far as Urse and the Dons were concerned, whereas Barnet went on to return to the League at the end of the season.
All time Dons/Barnet
The Dons first met Barnet Alston on 14th April 1919, with Wimbledon running out 2-0 winners.