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By Iain Dalziel
Barnet's pre-season got off to a bad start as Premier League Champions Arsenal hit double figures to win 10-1 at Underhill.
With all Arsenal's Euro 2004 stars rested, Wenger otherwise fielded a strong team of players ho weren't at the championships. Barnet made a few changes from last season's general line up. The Bees began the first half with a totally new midfield.
On the right, Cameroonian trialist Khumbla (?), in the middle new signing Nicky Bailey partnered ex-Lincoln midfielder Ben Sedgemore, who is currently playing to earn a contract. Finally on the left Barnet's other signing, twenty four year old Richard Graham, brought in from Kettering Town, where he was player of the year last season.
The sell out Underhill crowd of 4674, mainly Arsenal fans gave the teams a warm reception as they entered the pitch. However, despite being heavily out numbered it was the 'home' fans that were making the most noise.
Arsenal started strongly, Jose Antonio Reyes causing Plummer a lot of problems at the back. The opening ten minutes were generally controlled by Arsenal, but for a short spell after Barnet decided to get forward and have a go. Young Lee Roache, who has been tipped by Fairclough for big things in the coming season, was looking sharp, giving Arsenal centre back Senderos all sorts of trouble.
Although Barnet were now coming at Arsenal it didn't appear that the Gunners new 'keeper Manuel Almunia was going to really be forced into action. However in the twelfth minute he was called upon, but couldn't do anything about it. A pass from Sedgemore to Lee Roache was cleverly dummied by the bees forward.
Arsenal's American defender Daniel Karbassiyoon was completely caught out and allowed the ball to get behind him into the area. It was unlikely the Bees would get many chances so they knew they had to make the most of them when they came. So seizing the opportunity new signing Richard Graham got round the back, beating the offside trap, and cooly side footed the ball past Almunia to give the Bees a shock 1-0 lead.
Though it was only a friendly it's not everyday the Bees lead the unbeaten champions and little pockets of wild celebrations were sparked off throughout the ground.
Unfortunately for Barnet these were short lived. The goal gave Arsenal a wake up call and they began to show what they can really do. Seven minutes after going behind the exciting Reyes rounded Gore to make it 1-1.
Two minutes later and Reyes was on hand again, meeting Pennant's low cross past Gore with a well struck shot. Barnet were now under intense pressure as Arsenal continued to increase the tempo.
In the twenty ninth minute Arsenal got a third, debutant van Persie unleashing an unstoppable shot from just inside the box into Shane Gore's far top corner.
Just after van Persie's strike Fairclough took off the rather unimpressive trialist Khumbla and brought on transfer listed Simon Clist.
Arsenal were looking stronger by the minute, and three minutes before the interval Reyes completed his hat-trick with a great individual strike, this goal surely ruled out any chance of Barnet getting anything from the match, bar a minor miracle. The goal was superbly taken, a superb bit of skill meant he got the better of Plummer, before turning and firing into the bottom corner from just inside the penalty area.
Arsenal were still not done though, a minute before half time they made it 5-1. Reyes this time was provider, the young £17 million Spaniard laid the ball to Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp, who cooly side footed home from the edge of the area.
A minute later the half time whistle blew. If it was any consolation to the Bees fans Bergkamp's goal was more or less the only clear chance he had got in the first half, mainly due to a solid defensive display from Yakubu.
At the break both sides made changes. Barnet most noticeably changed the front two, replacing Strevens and Roache with Liam Hatch and last season's top scorer Giuliano Grazioli.
Yet it was the change in the Gunners front line which proved most effective. Francis Jeffers, after a poor season on loan at Everton, scoring just once, was surprisingly brought on for van Persie.
Within eight minutes of his arrival Jeffers showed he was determined to make an impression. A beautiful pass from Bergkamp gave the scouse forward a great chance from close range, which he fired past half time replacement Ricky Millard.
Then just two minutes later Jeffers struck again. Arsenal trialist swung in a cross and Jeffers nodded in his second and Arsenal's seventh, after just fifty three minutes.
Though it was against a side five leagues below Jeffers was finally showing why he had been given the tag 'fox in the box' when he'd first arrived at Highbury. He completed an eleven minute hat-trick after putting away Parlour's cross with a neat finish at the back post.
At 8-1 it was already becoming very embarrassing for the Bees fans, but just a few minutes after Jeffers completed his hat-trick Arsenal got a ninth. After Lopez gave away a free kick on the edge of the box Bergkamp stepped up. The experienced Dutchman who is now in the final season of his time at Arsenal curled a brilliant effort into Millard's top corner, giving the young goalkeeper no chance. Straight after the goal Bergkamp was one of many Gunners to be subbed.
Yet Bergkamp's departure still didn't mean the scoring was over totally. Another Arsenal Dutch striker, eighteen year old Quincy Owusu-Abeyie took Barnet's North London neighbours into double figures. A low ball from the left was not dealt with properly and the young Dutch player, who tasted first team action in last year's Carling Cup, poked the ball home from all of six yards.
With twelve minutes left and at 10-1 down Barnet brought on another debutant. City worker and (apparently) Gillingham fan, Jeremy Aves came on up front wearing number thirty one on his back. Like last season Barnet had auctioned off a place in the squad, and he had won it with an undisclosed four figure bid. As expected he got a lot of encouragement from both sets of fans, but failed to really do anything except for a few touches.
Luckily for Barnet, Arsenal's goals had finally stopped and the ref brought the game to a close at Barnet 1 Arsenal 10. On the day the class difference was incredible. However, this game is really of no importance to the Bees a they can now go into their other pre-season fixtures expecting a challenge but a better result and a fairer basis to make judgements of new players on.
As for non-money spinning pre-season friendlies go Barnet's campaign begins on Wednesday. Obviously the revenue from this game was good for Barnet Football Club, but really it was more of a day out for the Gunners fans who aren't able to attend first team games.
With the visit of first division Ipswich Town on Wednesday, followed by interesting trips to AFC Wimbledon and Conference South side St Albans City, along with a home game against Northampton Town on July 31st and finally a short trip to Boreham Wood on August 7th, Barnet will know they still have a lot of time and games to prepare themselves for the new season.
Iain Dalziel's Man of the Match
(1st half) Gore, Hendon, Plummer, Yakubu, King, Khumbla (Clist), Bailey, Sedgemore, Graham, Roache, Strevens
(2nd half) Millard, Plummer, Maddix, Yakubu, King, Lopez, Sedgemore, Clist (Aves), Graham, Grazioli, Hatch
Arsenal: Almunia (Taylor), Lauren (Manu), Karbassiyoon (Skulason), Parlour (Spicer), Senderos (Hoyte), Cygan (Simek), Fabregas (Marco), Pennant (Svard), Bergkamp (Larsson), Reyes (Owuse-Abeyie), van Persie (Jeffers)
Referee: P. Taylor
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