“You’re just a small town in Barnet”, was the chant that came from the end and a half of the ground swelled with fans in orange and black. It may not strictly be accurate but Borehamwood is just a few miles from the border of the London Borough of Barnet. The National League helpfully throws up local derbies over the Christmas period. This one was perhaps the most local of them all.
These two sides had never met in a league fixture before despite their proximity to each other. This Boxing Day fixture could perhaps be the beginning of a brand new rivalry. Just under 2000 people from the part of the World where London fades into Hertfordshire shook off their food comas for the National League meeting of Boreham Wood and Barnet.
Competition: National League
Ground: Meadow Park
Dogs spotted: None
Who are ya, Boreham Wood?
The Wood were formed in 1948 following the merger of Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez. The club adopted the old name of the town which comprises Boreham and Wood as separate words, it’s since changed to one word. They played in local leagues until they joined the Spartan League in the late 1950s. Boreham Wood finished as runners-up twice before joining the Athenian League shortly after England won the World Cup in 1966. They were league champions in 1974 and then joined the Isthmian League the following season.
The Wood’s 30 years in the Isthmian League
They gradually progressed up the table at step two, eventually finishing second in 2015. Havant & Waterlooville and then Whitehawk were defeated in the promotion playoffs seeing them make the National League for the first time. The Wood finished fourth last season, made the playoff final but were unfortunately beaten by Tranmere at Wembley.
Ground 98: Meadow Park
Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park is just a few minutes up the road from the town’s famous TV studios. Unlike the home of shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Pointless, however, the football ground is much less conspicuous. It’s set back from the road and behind the local park. The only indicator that we’d arrived at a football ground were the long queues of Barnet fans waiting to enter via the away fans turnstile.
For home fans, at this segregated local derby, a walk through the park and down an alley was required. When you finally arrive at the ground it’s impressive for the level. There are two large seating stands on each side as well as standing at each end. The impressive new stand on the far side was opened by Arsene Wenger in 2014. The stand was built thanks to money provided by Arsenal, whose women’s and youth sides play at the ground, the local council and the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.
This brand new local derby clearly appealed to the locals as 1,894 fans crammed into Meadow Park. It’s comfortably the Wood’s largest crowd of the season, they’re currently averaging only 800. There was a real sense that this could soon become a more established rivalry. The atmosphere was lively throughout the game. The home fans had clearly prepared a few chants about Barnet’s move to their new ground ‘in Edgeware’. The away fans, on the other hand, focused on their apparent discomfort of having to visit Borehamwood at Christmas.
The Wood strike late for first derby victory
There wasn’t much between the sides prior to kick-off as they were as close in the table as they are geographically. The Wood were two places and three points ahead of Barnet in midtable. Boreham Wood had drawn their last two games 1-1 following a televised 1-0 win over league leaders Leyton Orient. Barnet had only lost once in December, a 1-0 defeat at Ebbsfleet. The Bees beat Dover in their last game before Christmas. They also had FA Cup and FA Trophy wins in the last month over Stockport County and Bath City respectively.
The game started a little slowly as you might expect the day after Christmas as the players ran off their turkey dinners. Barnet perhaps had the better of the early exchanges. Coulthirst had the first effort of note but his header went wide. The home side began to settle as the half wore on and started to inject some tempo into their play. Ugwa, on loan from Chesterfield, had their best chance of the half but his header was well saved by Cousins for the visitors.
The first half ended with a brief scuffle between Sweeney and Shaibu. Both sides came out with renewed vigor in the second half but neither were able to create too many clear challenges. Murtagh went close with an effort from distance for the home side and Ugwu had a few half chances but they couldn’t trouble the Barent goal. Coulthirst was taken off for Barnet after appearing to pick up a knock. They struggled to create many opportunities after he left the field.
Ash came onto the pitch for the Wood. He quickly made an impact with a few dangerous runs at the tiring Barnet
Boreham Wood take the local bragging rights in the first league game between these two local rivals. Barnet, however, won’t have to wait long for a chance at revenge. The two sides meet again in the return fixture at the Hive on New Year’s Day. There are sure to be a few songs about the ground’s Edgware location from the visiting fans.