Destination: Barnet

CHARLIE Hempstead headed to the Hive on Tuesday night for Argyle's 1-0 loss to Barnet. Relieve the game with him - and his underutlised GPS...

IT is not often that Argyle’s extremely well-traveled followers get to go to a brand new ground, but Tuesday’s visit to the Hive, Barnet’s new home, was just such an occasion for the 1,002 members of the Green Army in attendance. 

As with any new journey, preparation is key. These days, that essentially means having the technology. 

Postcode look-up online? Check.

Smartphone at the ready for directions? Check.

Fuel in the car? Obviously.

However, there are a couple of additional things that are worth knowing for this particular trip.

Firstly, and fairly crucially, Barnet FC are no longer in Barnet. Although a passing crow would tell you that it is only a bit over 5 miles from the Bees’ former home at Underhill to their new nest in Edgware, London rush-hour traffic dictates that those 5 miles will be covered at rather less than walking pace. 

Now, this should not matter if you are driving from PL2, as Barnet is not on the way to Edgware. Unless you were unwise enough to drive to Barnet before taking out said smartphone to guide you through what you thought would be the last mile. 

Secondly, the location on Google Maps is known as simply The Hive, London. While not as grandiose an address as Number 1, London, the home of the Duke of Wellington, or Number 1, The Thames, a 19th century fort in the mouth of the estuary off Sheerness (you learn stuff reading these ramblings, you know), it still sounds rather more imposing than your average 5000-seater football stadium. More importantly, the name doesn’t give you much indication that it is the home of Barnet FC, or indeed a football club at all. 

The combination of these two factors led to an increasingly nervy journey, as Barnet receded further and further in the rear view mirror, while The Hive, London, if indeed it proved to be a football stadium rather than a luxury hotel or health spa, was taking an awfully long time to come into view.

But come into view it eventually did, and mighty impressive it proved to be. 

Located on a site which has been home to the club’s training ground for a number of years, the stadium is now the centre piece of a large, modern complex that includes banqueting and conference facilities, a gym and even a medical centre. A far cry from Underhill. 

And a lot flatter.

There is still an appreciable diagonal gradient to the playing surface, but nothing to match the north face of the Eiger on which Underhill was built.
Interestingly, the same was true at Huish Park last Tuesday, where the pitch in Yeovil’s new stadium seemed to have been laid deliberately unevenly as a nod to their famously sloping old ground. 

It did not take long to conclude that the new venue was not going to be labelled a happy hunting ground for the Pilgrims, as Jordon Forster and Ryan Brunt were both stretchered off with serious injuries in the first half hour, setting a record for this and probably any other ground of 14 minutes’ added time at the end of the first half.

With the slope in their favour and the wind at their backs after the interval, Argyle looked to make the elements count. Shots rained in on Jamie Stephens in the home goal, most of them from the left boot of Craig Tanner, but the scoreline remained resolutely blank.

At the other end, Barnet’s little-and-large combination of Luke Gambin and John Akinde presented a sporadic threat. Gambin’s strength is his trickery when running with the ball, while it is customary to say that a player of Akinde’s physique and talent ‘has a good touch for a big man’, as if somehow large stature and ability to control a football are mutually exclusive concepts. Maybe it’s because of the greater distance from a tall man’s brain to his feet that the message takes longer to get through. 

Whatever the logic behind the cliché, Akinde does indeed have a good touch for a big man, as he demonstrated in the build-up to Barnet’s goal in the 69th minute, scored with some aplomb by skipper Andy Yiadom. 

Perhaps buoyed by the memory of their come-from-behind victory in the first fixture between the sides at Home Park, Argyle showed no signs of letting up in their pursuit of at least a point, so much so that Curtis Nelson moved into an advanced midfield role and Daniel Nardiello was thrown into the fray.

Despite all the pressure, however, there was no sting in the tail at the Hive, as the Bees held on for a victory that enhanced their already impressive home record, while Argyle were left to regret their ill fortune with injuries and the loss of crucial points in the promotion race. 

Now, where’s that smartphone? It’s a long drive home, even without going via Barnet.