May 5th 2001 is one of the more memorable days in Football League history. What is now League Two saw two sides draped in history, Barnet and Torquay United embroiled in a winner takes all relegation match.
Barnet stood just a point behind Torquay United as the two met at Underhill on the final day of the season, with the winner retaining their place in the Football League.
Three early goals from Jason Rees, Kevin Hill, and David Graham all but kept Torquay up as a Darren Currie missed penalty saw Barnet fall short in a 3-2 loss.
A good friend of mine, who saw his Torquay side victorious on the day, has called the day the best of his life and has spoken at length of his admiration for Barnet and their supporters at Underhill.
He also recalled the two sets of supporters embracing and swapping shirts at the end of the match, to mark the historic occasion.
While Torquay went on to gain promotion to League One a few years later, Barnet battled away in the Conference, a relegation that many would debate re-vitalised the club’s fortunes.
Crowds began to rise again, and after a succession of new managers Paul Fairclough came in and made an instant impact.
He won promotion in his first full season as Barnet went up as champions of the Conference with 86 points in 2005.
The promotion eclipsed the disappointment the club had endured in missing out the season before in the lottery of the play-offs, as Shrewsbury Town turned around a 2-1 deficit to win 5-3 on penalties.
With Fairclough in charge Barnet hit the ground running, and found themselves in 3rd after their first five games in League Two.
With attendances peaking over 3,000 the club were firmly back where they thought they deserved.
Comfortably staying up in their first season back in the Football League they followed it up with several mid-table finishes, as their foes from five years ago Torquay were condemned to relegation after a desperate season.
Since securing promotion things had been pretty bright for Barnet, and with three sides enduring points deductions for this new season, the Bees could look forward to another season in League Two.
Things haven’t quiet gone to plan however, with Rotherham overcoming their 17-point deduction and overtaking Barnet, while Bournemouth, who were deducted the same amount, lying just five points behind after this weekend.
The Bees' current form has done nothing to aid their relegation battle as they have one win from their last 21 games, relegation form at best.
In fact, their last win came against Bournemouth while Fairclough was still in charge, something that has contributed to their downfall.
With the man who got them back into the Football League gone, its been left to assistant Ian Hendon to steer the club through to the end of the season, something that is becoming a struggle.
Hendon’s introduction, while a gamble due to his lack of experience, was always going to sit well with the fans after six years of loyal service as a player.
The new man is yet to pick up a win in charge, and things haven’t been made much easier as his side threw away more points at home to relegation rivals Grimsby Town.
The home team led 2-0 and 3-2 in the match, but still contrived to throw away three points, against Mike Newell’s defiant side.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Notts County left the side without a win since Boxing Day, Fairclough’s final game in charge.
Hendon knows they aren’t the only side in this predicament with Grimsby, Accrington Stanley, Chester City, and of course Bournemouth embroiled in a tight relegation battle.
You could say they have their fate in their own hands; the Underhill club host both Bournemouth and Chester before the end of the season.
Attendances have dropped to the levels of their last relegation and with fortunes not much better and knowledge of the resurgence they encountered last time they were relegated, would dropping down a level actually be a way of moving the club forward?
I’m not for one minute saying relegation would be a good thing for the club and with the history of financial problems at Underhill, it could leave Barnet threadbare.
We’ve all seen what relegation has done to the likes of Rushden and Diamonds, and Barnet will be keen to stay away from those issues.
However can you see a way out for Barnet? In my mind, no. Bournemouth have previous experience of a relegation battle, an unsuccessful one at that but they put together six wins in their last eight last season, so they have handled a run-in before.
Barnet are sure to be pushed all the way this season, and if they are relegated it could be the change of fortune they’ve been waiting for, a certain side from Devon might argue the same.
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