In our time, we’ve come up against teams who couldn’t imagine we’d catch ’em – let alone overtake ’em. Barnet are one example. For a long time, we probably weren’t even on their radar. Our lowly starting point down in the United Counties League meant there was some daylight between our standings in the pyramid. As the Bees set their sights on overhauling Watford as the county’s number one side, up Boro’ came; putting Hitchin and Stalebuns in their place on the way. Could we do the same to the Bees? You betcha…
You can also argue that Barnet are Hertfordshire when it suits; North London otherwise. If they want to have that existential question mark hanging over them, so be it.
Who are Barnet?
The tale of the Bees dates back a long way; the original club founded in 1888. But it’s not as simple as that. In the 1901-2 season, they quit the London League; their record wiped from the slate as ‘Barnet Football Club’ ceased to exist. It gets a little bit complicated now because the current side are either the second or third incarnation. It depends how you’re looking at it. And we’ll explain why.
Basically, another side called ‘Barnet Avenue’ took on the old club’s name in 1904. But, in 1912, this club merged with Barnet Alston (formerly Alston Works); the origins of the Bees’ amber and black colours. Going under the name ‘Barnet & Alston’, this lot were one of the Athenian League’s founder members that same year. World War One then got in the way; the club returning in 1919 as plain old Barnet – the team that we know today.
Two paragraphs just to set the scene. Ouch. We’ll have to zip through the decades now.
Thankfully, it’s pretty straightforward after that; the Bees staying in the Athenian League until 1965. In that time, they won seven championships and one FA Amateur Cup. League titles six and seven came in successive seasons and probably convinced them it was time to move on. So – they did; joining the Southern League. After racing up through Division One, they became a strong force in the Premier Division – but for two terms in the mid-1970s.
Why do we know Barnet?
The 1975-6 season was one of those two campaigns and saw the Bees take on Stevenage Athletic in Division One North. But what about Boro’? By the time we formed and took the leap into senior football, the Underhill side were now in the Alliance Premier League; the forerunner of the GM Vauxhall Conference. It was quite a gap we’d have to close if we were to ever meet as equals. To start with, however, we wouldn’t have to.
Enter the Herts Senior Cup.
Our first-ever encounter came thanks to the 1985-6 Herts Senior Cup final. As the newly-crowned Vauxhall Opel League Division Two North champions, we’d be just two divisions apart. Would we be able to land a blow on them in the county cup final?
What is our record against the Bees?
The Bees cruised to victory in the final; crushing us 4-0 and asserting their status as one of the leading lights of Hertfordshire football. It was five years between that day and a chance for redemption; again coming in the Herts Senior Cup. This time, it was the semi-finals. But we were again looking to close that gap down to two divisions as Cloughie set our sights on the Vauxhall Opel League Division Two North title.
Alas, the Bees got the better of us again. It was much closer; the tie going 2-1 in their favour. But a defeat is a defeat. And they made sure our two-division gap stayed put too; promoted at the same time as Boro’. They claimed their first-ever Conference crown – and it brought with it promotion to the Football League for the first time. They let us know about it too in the following season. Any gains we made on the Bees were wiped away in January 1992.
Yet again, the Herts Senior Cup paired us together – though much earlier in Round Two this time. They were also growing in strength under Barry Fry. And they absolutely demolished us on our own patch; 6-0 the damage. Thankfully, it wasn’t the case almost a year later when we again met them at the same stage of the HSC; 3-1 a much kinder score – isn’t it?
Meeting the Bees as equals
So, four HSC matches had delivered four defeats; us scoring twice and conceding 15. But, believe it or not, we’d closed the gap on them. The Bees didn’t manage to climb any higher than the old Division Three, despite two appearances in the playoffs. We’d got as far as the Conference ourselves, meanwhile. That gap was now wafer thin. And it’d have disappeared completely if we were allowed up after our 1995-6 title win.
The 2000-1 season saw things go badly wrong down at Underhill; relegation ending their decade-long stay in the Football League. Exciting times for us! For the first time ever, we’d compete with the Bees on equal terms. Not so much a sign of their demise; much more that we’d climbed so far. And boy did we enjoy it; winning 3-0 at Underhill on Boxing Day 2001 and then completing the double in a Jean-Michel Sigere-inspired 3-2 win at home.
Our time together in the Conference was laced with so much drama. After swapping wins away from home during the 2002-3 campaign, the 2003-4 season saw the blue touch paper lit. First, Boro’ squandered a one-goal lead at Broadhall Way as Giuliano Grazioli came back to haunt us in a 2-1 win for the Bees. All hell then broke loose at theirs. After Lionel Perez suffered a career-ending injury, Ian Hendon and Dino Maamria saw the red mist descend – and both saw red cards for their trouble.
Not bad for a 0-0 draw.
It carried on into the 2004-5 campaign too. The Bees were on a promotion charge by the time our festive double-header came around. GW stoked the flames after our 2-1 win at Broadhall Way on Boxing Day. Of course, the Bees now had Paul Fairclough in the dugout too. And it’d be Cloughie celebrating after the return; Andy Woodman’s late, inexplicable error helping turn one decent point into zero humiliating points.
And history will record the Bees won the war that season. By clinching the title, they were back in the Football League; Cloughie deservedly reaching the promised land himself. We made the playoffs, of course. And we seem to recall, for some reason, Phil trying to argue that it was better to go up via the playoffs than as champions. Yeah, we’re not sure on that one. Either way, it didn’t matter. We failed in the playoff final and Barnet were gone…
Back on terms in the Football League.
After a five-and-a-half year hiatus, relations were restored in 2010. The Bees had started making a habit of two things. First, they came within four points of relegation at the end of the 2009-10 campaign. Second, they were hiring ex-Boro’ gaffers. This time, it was Mark Stimson. And it didn’t go well. Our 3-0 win at Underhill was almost too simple. Stimmo was sacked two days before our 3 January date and Cloughie was care-taking.
It didn’t change the prevailing trend, however. Boro’ won 4-2 – helped by a rather brilliant Grant Basey OG. We almost forget what happened in the rest of the game.
As Boro’ went up at the end of the 2010-1 campaign, we confirmed that we were now the second biggest footballing force in Hertfordshire. The Bees, meanwhile, continued to faff about at the bottom of League Two until finally giving in to the inevitable in 2013. For one season, it meant there was one clear division between us. But the Bees would be back in League Two soon enough. And we’d be there waiting for them.
For a brief moment at the top of the 2015-6 season, it looked as if they might reclaim the bragging rights with a 3-2 home win. But it’d be the last time (to date) that we’d be on the wrong end of the result. After a goalless draw at home in one of Teddy Sheringham‘s last outings as Boro’ gaffer, we got a grip in time for the 2016-7 season. The next four games between us all went in our favour; culminating in a 4-1 win in April 2018.
Barnet: Boro’s Record
Our head-to-head: P 21 — W 10 — D 2 — L 9 — F 33 — A 34 — Pts 32 — WR 48%
Our last tango: Stevenage 4-1 Barnet, 02 April 2018
What happened to them?
The Bees – alongside Macclesfield Town – might hold the record for most Conference title wins; winning the competition on three occasions. But it means they’re the only team to be relegated from the Football League three times. Their first campaign back in non-league is little to write home about; ending up marooned in mid-table and only just nearer the playoff spots (14 points) than the relegation zone (16 points).
On the face of it, things weren’t looking all that much better as the 2019-20 season met its abrupt end. The Bees were keeping tabs on the promotion place – but were still at the top end of mid-table. Their league position was in double digits! But the magic of PPG played right into their hands. With a spattering of postponements putting them behind the number of games that most others had played, the Bees were lifted up into seventh position.
It slightly miffed Stockport County, who were there at the time the curtain tumbled. But the Bees failed to make good of their extraordinary opportunity; losing to Notts County in what we guess are the semi-finals, having ended Yeovil Town’s hopes in the initial playoff ties.
It ain’t the only slice of good fortune to come the Bees way in recent times, however. After revelling in our own misfortune and eventual survival at the end of the 2019-20 campaign, they decided to have a “hold my beer” moment. As we write, the Bees sit second-bottom of the National League table; 12 points from 20 games, two ahead of Dover Athletic, and with the worst defensive record in the division.
The caveat? The Kent side do have five games in hand; furloughing their entire staff and not being able to fulfil their fixtures. The North and South divisions have already declared their seasons null and void – but the main league is limping on. And that decision to end the seasons in the feeder divisions means there’s unlikely to be promotion and relegation up or down. So, for as bad as the Bees have been, it looks like they’ll be spared the drop.
Not that we’ll criticise them for staying up on a technicality. They wouldn’t do it to us…
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Barnet club profile