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Preview: Burton Albion v Barnet
Barnet will this weekend apply their masochistic approach to critical end of season fixtures by putting their fans through an emotional roller-coaster as they try to avoid disappearing from the Football League.
It could be called a cliffhanger. A nail-biting showdown. Or simply the third season in a row when Barnet have left it to the last 90 minutes to scramble to safety. They’ve succeeded in the last two years.
So Saturday’s match away to Burton Albion could confirm they play a very dangerous game - or they’ve run out of luck.
Bees’ fans could be forgiven in asking why their team put them through this agony.
Three seasons in a row could sarcastically be called consistent.
In the nine months since Barnet began their League Two campaign with a win at Morecambe, it’s been a turbulent season of missed-chances, faltering displays and, on occasion, matches where the Bees looked anything but a relegation threatened side.
Cynics would argue that parachuting in Martin Allen to offer salvation with only three games to play was a sign of panic. At least Lawrie Sanchez - the man he replaced - thought it was.
A lacklustre 3-0 defeat against Southend United in Allen’s first match back was followed by a slightly flattering 4-0 victory for Barnet against AFC Wimbledon.
While the Bees travel to Burton on Saturday, just over 150 miles away Hereford United - the only team that can deny Barnet safety should they lose - take on Torquay United who need a win to keep their chances of automatic promotion alive.
On paper Allen’s men have an easier match against a side with little to play for, though he’ll be taking nothing for granted at the Pirelli Stadium.
"When it gets to this time of the year anything can happen. Club’s up near the top can freeze. They get a bit jelly-legged and the supporters, players and manager get anxious. And teams near the bottom, like us, can come in and steal."
He continued: "I would never say a team’s season is over. There are always players who can go into the team who are playing for their futures or for new contracts.
"When you are playing in front of your own supporters you have to give a good account of yourselves. So it is not in any way, shape or form an easy game. Every professional football match is a hard game and Burton will be.
"But we will do our best to prepare properly and hopefully we can put in another good performance."
Bees captain Mark Hughes was involved in last season’s final day win over Port Vale.
He knows Barnet must not just rely on results elsewhere and believes every player will be focused on taking the three points.
"Again it is going down to the last day. We knew it would never be easy so what we have to do is to beat Burton.
"We have a two point advantage which puts more pressure on Hereford and keeps it in our hands. But we are not going to be going to Burton hoping for a draw because that may not be good enough."
"So we are looking forward to it now and have to make sure we are well prepared for it."
No matter what happens on Saturday, the most pressing question all diehard Bees fans will be asking on Saturday evening is: ‘Why did it come to this once again?’
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