Sunday, 26 August 2012

Barnet 1 York City 3

In the same way it’s difficult to find anyone willing to bad mouth lazy summer afternoons, cute kittens and Sir Elton John, it’s rare to find any dissenting voices about the City of York. 

Everyone who visits there comes away saying how beautiful and historic it is, talking about how nice the Minster looked against the glow of the sunset, how quaint it was to take afternoon tea in Betty’s and how invigorated they felt after strolling along the city walls. 

I’m no exception and in three years of university study there not one day passed when I didn’t think how fortunate I was to live in such a wonderful place. Doing a history degree made me appreciate the city even more because it just drips history at every step, turn and glance. 

I adopted many things in York and the football club was one of them. I watched them at every opportunity for all three of my years there and walking down to Bootham Crescent at half past two on a Saturday afternoon was a nice treat, if not just for the pre-match fish and chips in town or a cheeky ale afterwards. 

So, when the chance arose on Saturday to go and watch the Minstermen at Barnet, it was too much to refuse. 

That’s not to say my visits to York City weren’t without incident. I once had a run-in with the Jorvik Reds fan group after calling them a ‘firm’ in a match report for the student paper. 

An indignant comment was left saying that ‘firm’ had all kinds of negative connotations and that they’d prefer to be referred to as an ‘English Ultras group’ - something which made me laugh given that, on the continent, it’s never those in the posh seats who start the trouble.

I did some digging and went on their forum where, sure enough, my article had been linked to under the title ‘Student muppets’. In the thread, someone had threatened to ram a flare down my throat if they ever caught me on the David Longhurst terrace again - kind of very nicely proving my point. 

I went to many City games after that and, as Alan Partridge might say, had the last laugh. 

And then when Boston won 1-0 at York in the FA Trophy in December 2010, some of the locals didn’t take too kindly to me wearing my Amber and Black colours when drinking with some mates in the city centre afterwards. 

Apparently when the ITV Digital crisis was at its height a decade ago, and York were seemingly within hours of financial meltdown, some Boston fans thought it clever to wave paper money in their faces and mock their dire predicament. 

Given Boston are now in the Conference North following their own financial collapse and York, under the very able stewardship of Gary Mills, are now back in their rightful home of the Football League, we can equalise the last laugh count. 

Anyway, with all forgotten and forgiven I arrived at Underhill and located the away terrace down one side of the ground. To me, Underhill just conjures up images of Hobbits and their habitats and it’s certainly an old ground full of character, if sharing many similarities with Dagenham’s in being a little too high than its non-league station. 

It is a hotch-potch of terraces and stands, with a long open terrace behind one goal with nets to prevent the ball flying into people’s back gardens on the street behind. The pitch had a noticeable slope towards the newest of the stands - a smart all-seater - while the 496 away fans had a choice of standing or sitting in a very makeshift looking gazebo stand. 

Barnet, who seem to be perennial relegation candidates and yet always seem to survive (one time at the expense of Lincoln lest we forget), are bound for a new arena called The Hive next season, so I was actually quite pleased to visit Underhill while the opportunity allowed. 

The weather forecast looked capricious and I was dressed in my usual inappropriate t-shirt, jeans and smart but not especially waterproof footwear. York were attacking towards London in the first-half and commandingly so, allowing us plenty of chances to marvel at the humungous electrical storm brewing overhead. 

On the pitch, York were fast as lightning in their attacks and had the lead on seven minutes when Danny Parslow - one of the few surviving names from the teams I used to watch - drilled home from long range. There were great scenes of celebration around me, particularly since York were chasing their first victory since returning to League Two. 

On 16 minutes, Ashley Chambers exposed a poor Barnet backline to make it two and the afternoon couldn’t be going much better. Then, totally against the grain of the game, Jon Nurse pulled one back for the home side on the half-hour. 

Not to worry. Back came York to make it 3-1 on the brink of half-time through Michael Coulson and any resistance from the Bees was thereby exterminated. 

They may have had the slope in the second-half but quite absurd monsoon conditions made playing decent football almost impossible - how I pitied those on the open terrace behind the goal who had nowhere to go as the weather lashed relentlessly into their faces. 

Poor Nurse had to be stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask and neck brace, which led to nine minutes of stoppage time. With the thick black clouds starting to bubble and cracks of thunder getting nearer and nearer, I wisely decided to make a dash for the station after three of those. When I got there, the heavens opened again and I had missed nothing more in the game. 

I certainly hope to watch York again when they play in and around the Capital this season. 

Next Match: Possible midweek League Cup tie or otherwise something next weekend, when Boston are again at home