Authored by Max Bygraves
A lot of our away days can be described as ‘absolutely ridiculous’ for the various escapades we embark upon, but yesterday was just that all round, including the events on the pitch at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium. Promotion chasing, unbeaten in sixteen Gillingham TWO – Relegation threatened, circus-like off the pitch of late Barnet FOUR. What!?
With recent results going against us in terms of the teams just above us seemingly picking up a bit of form, the outlook was a little bleak going into this one. It did feel like we had to win and no one was in any denial about the size of the task ahead, away to a decent Gillingham team. Either way, the plan all along (like any away day!) was to have as much fun as possible and if it was to be one last football league jolly up on the train (Accrington’s not going to be, regardless!) then we might as well make it a good one.
Myself and DSH’s Eric Hitchmo arrived at Kings Cross just after 10am and made our way to the O’Neill’s on Euston Road in the baking hot sunshine. We were shortly joined by a couple of others as the standard fry up and pint to kick things off was done.
Slowly but surely the numbers increased and increased and by lunchtime there were at least 20 of us stood in the glorious sun sampling plenty of alcohol. Everyone seemed in a fairly good mood, as I said already, it was all about enjoying the game, at this stage I’d barely given the actual football a thought.
Given what a total cesspit Gillingham is, we’d decided on a late departure, allowing more drinking time in London. We eventually set off for Kent on the 13:25 out of St Pancras. Not before making a quick de-tour to Kings Cross station, where there was a cash machine printing out free money. No need for accumulators, literally money for free! A good find by one of our lot, that.
The train only took about forty five minutes, but we managed to upset the train driver somewhat, between the various little groups of us. We’d split into three different carriages, with the chaps who’d come dressed as knights of the realm (St George’s day, you see) prompting a number of tannoy announcements by a seemingly humourless train driver about their behaviour. Not to be outdone or show any form of maturity, three of us decided we’d see how he’d react to us climbing in the luggage racks, normally an event left for journey’s home. Sure enough, an announcement came over and he called us “idiots.” Childish? Yes. Amusing? Very.
Our train pulled into Gillingham at 14:09 and plenty of Barnet got off and made their way up the road to the ground. I’m glad it’s not a long or complicated walk to the ground from the station, my word it is an unpleasant, grotty town. The street where the ground is was particularly grim. It did have an off licence though and we maybe did buy a cheeky ‘coca-cola’ as it were, to take into the ground. We hadn’t done that for ages and it was a few of the boys first away in months, so, why not?
It was a decent turn out from us, or looked it anyway, though I suppose 399 could have been improved on a bit. There was a good buzz in the away end before kick off though; the sun puts everyone in a good mood I suppose. There was certainly a buzz when pretty out of the blue Mark Byrne fired us into a 14th minute lead. Carnage. Everyone hugging each other, jumping about, just general mayhem. The pre-match alcohol consumption for a lot of us, combined with the goal being down our end seemed to add to it. COME ON!
Unfortunately Gillingham got an equaliser about fifteen minutes later and you wondered how we’d deal with this, collapse or fight? Just before half time, we got our answer. Big Juuuuuuude’s header across goal was latched onto well at the back post by McLeod, 1-2, bloody good timing – a lead at the break.
Half time was one of the most entertaining one’s I think we’ve had. Everyone under the stand having a drink with Westy doing the hi de hi, slightly bizarre scenes, but all good fun. We knew we had a massive 45 minutes ahead, but for now, we were bloody enjoying it.
To put this quite simply, Barnet came out for the second half and were flipping monumental. Just seven minutes after the restart, Izale McLeod notched his second of the afternoon, a pretty unique chested goal, looping over the ‘keeper. They all count! Once again, mental.
Time was ticking away and we didn’t really look in too much danger. 1-3 would have been superb, but then it was like Burton Albion away all over again. FOUR! Byrne was clearly fouled in the box, penalty. McLeod’s chance for his hat trick... lovely penalty! Myself and several others celebrated by diving all over the netted segregation on the seats in the away end, others ran up and down the steps, some stayed where they were – it was mental.
This all felt a bit too good to be true and it should have got even better, not long after the 4th, the Bees were awarded a second penalty after Midson was hauled down. Izale stepped up again, now with the chance to emulate Stevie K’s four goal smash at Burton three weeks ago. Barnet could have gone 1-5 up, all useful for goal difference purposes. So did McLeod do? Got too cocky and chipped it tamely over the bar. Very annoying. Just so stupid.
Even at 1-4 it still didn’t quite feel safe, this is Barnet after all, and it was going to be a nervy finish, made even more so by Barcham getting his second for Gillingham with a little less than ten minutes to go. 2-4. They put a little bit of pressure on us, but in truth, it was safe. Barnet thoroughly deserved the three points, an absolutely astounding display away to a very good side.
Great scenes at the end as the travelling support applauded the team and Graz off the pitch. You could see how much it meant to him, how we’d love him to be the hero that keeps us up. Certainly got a chance after this result!
Coming out the ground we were maybe a little boisterous, but we’d just witnessed a stunning win. Some of the locals didn’t like it and what seemingly started as ‘banter’ between fans threatened to spill over into something a bit more serious, but our ever so wonderful football intelligence actually did their job properly and made sure nothing happened. We made another quick stop in the off licence en route to the station, before just making it onto the 17:20 service back to St Pancras.
The train journey home seemed to take no time at all. Lots of singing, laughing and people just (I’ll say it again!) bloody enjoying themselves. Superb. When we got into St Pancras, as usual, people split off into their own separate groups. My lot visited a not at all sketchy establishment in the local Kings Cross area that goes by the name of The Flying Scotsman. If you know what it is, shame on you. If you don’t, probably best that way.
Really quite drunk by now, but some of us managed to keep going through the evening and ended up having it in the Electric Ballroom in Camden until about half two. A proper all day away day...and we won!
Absolutely ridiculous, but absolutely bloody fantastic. Three games left, it’s gonna be interesting how this turns out!
Grazioli’s Black & Amber Army!!!