It was the first competitive game of football played in England in 2014. But Barnet’s match at Luton Town was farcical from start to finish.
Heavy rain before and during the game left the pitch sodden and virtually unplayable. However, the match went ahead and Luton opened up a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Andre Gray and Paul Benson.
Conditions deteriorated throughout the game but, despite the refereeing halting the contest on the hour mark, it continued.
Jake Hyde pulled a goal back for the Bees in what had effectively become the deep end. Barnet’s coaching staff remained adamant the game shouldn’t continue.
But it did and Luton were able to lock down the hatches and seal victory that keeps the Hatters top of the Skrill Premier.
Barnet’s players were understandably frustrated at full time given that the pitch was almost unplayable from the kick off.
But the referee deemed it fit for purpose and Luton took just two minutes to open the scoring.
Luke Gutteridge put Gray through on goal. He held off the challenge of Jack Saville before slotting the ball past Graham Stack.
The Bees tried to keep possession and move the ball through midfield. But several passes held up in standing water and threatening runs were halted on a number of occasions.
Luton adapted to the conditions and played a more direct game. Gray flicked a header narrowly wide before Barnet were forced into an early substitution.
Elliot Johnson, no doubt wary of the circumstances, hit a strong pass back to Stack. He rushed his clearance and immediately signalled to the bench that there was an injury problem. Despite his attempt to continue, Stack was replaced by Nick Jupp – who made his Barnet debut.
Chances continued to be created. Jake Hyde fizzed a shot wide for the Bees and Steve McNulty headed a corner narrowly past the post. From their next attack, the Hatters scored a second.
A cross dropped to Benson at the back post. He quickly controlled and drilled his shot past the onrushing Jupp.
Marsh-Brown curled a shot wide as Barnet looked for a reply and the Bees thought they should have been awarded a penalty when a cross appeared to strike the arm of Scott Griffiths. The visitors’ appeals were waved away.
The conditions in the first half were atrocious. After the interval it was a farce. If the game wasn’t being shown live on BT Sport, would the referee have called off? Who knows?
The ball spent the majority of the half in the air or in a puddle between frustrated players.
Brief moments that resembled football did break out. Jupp did brilliantly to get down and save a low shot from Gutteridge but Keanu Marsh-Brown was made to look very foolish as he swung and missed the ball in the area.
On the hour mark, the referee decided to call a halt to the game. After speaking to the managers, players and officials the match bizarrely continued.
Edgar Davids wasn’t happy with the decision but with 20 minutes remaining, his side pulled a goal back.
Marsh-Brown surfed down the right flank before crossing for Hyde. The striker judged the pass perfectly and swept past Mark Tyler.
Luton had a chance to add a third as a back pass from Marsh-Brown held up in a puddle. Benson collected the ball but Jupp got down well to deny the striker.
Saville moved up front in the final minutes as Barnet hit several long passes forward but Luton defended well and were able to see out the game and claim their second 2-1 victory over the Bees in the space of a week.
Luton Town: Tyler; Henry, McNulty, Davis, Griffiths; Robinson, Lawless, Guttridge, Howells; Gray, Benson.
Luton Town substitutes not used: Wall, Cullen, Justham, Whalley, Mawson.
Barnet: Stack (Jupp 23); Yiadom, Stephens, Saville, Johnson; Weston, Byrne; Marsh-Brown, Villa (Cadogan 76), Lopez (Crawford 59); Hyde.
Barnet substitutes not used: Abdulla, Acheampong.