Date: 24th July 2007 at 11:48am
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Barnet’s pre-season centenary-celebrating game against Crystal Palace turned into the most entertaining friendlies of pre-season training for clubs as Barnet gave supporters two very very different performances either side of half-time leaving fans know what they are capable of, in both ends of the spectrum.

The Bees came out of the dressing rooms at 3:00 wearing the nice smart 1907 replica kit for the first time this season.

Luton Town trialist keeper Rob Beckwith was given his opportunity between the sticks, whilst Ian Hendon played at right-back, covering for the injured Joe Devera. French left-back John Glele was also given another chance to shine having had a fine debut against QPR on Wednesday.

Barnet started off brightly in the opening 5-10 minutes of the game with shots from Ashley Carew on the edge of the box and Liam Hatch who fizzed a shot 20 yards out over the bar. Jason Puncheon was, again, magic down the left flank but Barnet players could not get on the end of his crosses. But from then on, the rest of the half would be dominated by the Championship team.

Soon after, disaster struck for Barnet when one trialist headed past another. An innocent cross came slowly into the box and Glele, attempting to gently head it back for his keeper to collect, headed the ball too powerfully, with Beckwith unable to stop it bouncing into the bottom left corner of the net.

Meanwhile, during play near the touchline, Carew got angry at ex-Barnet striker Dougie Freedman and Paul Fairclough was forced to take him off to calm him down. Max Porter came on for him, as the central midfielder was put in the right side of the pitch. Liam Hatch was also taking a lot of stick from the referee for his challenges with numerous warnings going to him.

Palace began to pile on the pressure, with Beckwith having to save from close-range before Watson scored a brilliant drive from 25 yards out, as it punctured the top left of the net, Beckwith standing no chance.

It was yet another defensive mistake that led to the third goal, Crytal Palace again capitalising when a long ball from Lawrence confused Beckwith and stand-in skipper Ismail Yakubu; Ifil nipping in between the two and easily scoring for the Championship’s side’s third of the game. Ifil was having a great game, and had two other good chances to score but both missed.

So Barnet entered the dressing room of a very angry Paul Fairclough at half-time who had to sort things out for the second 45 minutes. Hendon, who was to play in the London Masters later that day, was taken off and Porter was now given the position at right-back. Adam Birchall came on for Anthony Thomas and Nicky Nicolau, who in my opinion was the pivotal substitution, replaced Glele.

In the second half, Barnet came out of the blocks fast and were to dominate from start to finish, contrasting their poor first-half display. Puncheon shot wide a few minutes after the restart and moments later sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal but nobody could get on the end of it, which would’ve certainly pulled a goal back. Puncheon was again at the heart of the action when he won a free-kick 25 or so yards out, with Michael Leary shooting quickly into opposite bottom corner forcing a good reflex save from the Palace goalkeeper.

Puncheon had a couple of near misses before he switched sides with Carew on the hour mark and that seemed to do the business. A run from Carew down the middle the field, holding off a couple of Palace players, he fed the ball out wide to Puncheon before he crossed and Carew finished off his own move from 6 yards.

Michael Bostwick replaced Leary in the middle of the park before Carew had a good chance to double his lead, shooting from just outside the area over the bar. Stefan Seanla and Stefan Honor, a midfielder and striker, respectively, on trial, joined the scene late on.

Birchall sent a cross from the right across goal and an own goal from the away side, this time, was nearly converted with defender Cort and Hatch sliding in in attempt to reach the ball. It went inches wide as Cort got to it first. Birchall shot as he swivelled on the spot and forced Flinders into a good save as he tipped the shot around the post whilst at the other end sub Moses was put one-on-one with Beckwith, with the youth striker shooting wide.

Yakubu made up for his mixup in the first half by scoring in the dieing minutes as he headed from a corner. By this point the the rain was thunderous above them and pouring vertically and heavily on the players but they carried on. Carew almost knicked the draw in injury time but he headed wide.

This really did live up to the famous footballing phrase ‘a game of two halves’ with a disappointing, error-stricken Barnet in the first-half with no real desire that gives you that 5% to be committed to everything, but turned in a second-half that Barnet fans will be very proud of against a strong Championship team who, unlike all other friendlies they’d play, didn’t change the entire team at half-time and left many first-teamers playing on.