(GET IN! Barnet’s Dan Sparkes celebrates bagging the Bees’ third goal, inset below, after Shaq Coulthirst had opened the scoring. PictureL PA Images)
By Matt Badcock
Dan Sparkes had a good feeling when he lined up a Barnet free-kick with the Bees trailing Brentford – team-mate Byron Harrison had taken a leaf out of Nostradamus’ book and predicted it beforehand!
With 15 minutes left of their FA Cup fourth round tie with the Championship side that had swung back and forth, substitute Sparkes had their chance.
What followed was a sublime set-piece that curled over the wall, crashed off the underside of the bar and dropped over the line to make it 3-3 and send the Hive – and manager Darren Currie – wild.
“During the game Byron said to me, ‘You’re going to come on and score a free-kick,’” Sparkes told The NLP. “I said, ‘Do you know what, I think you’re right!’ I don’t know why we said it but he nailed it on the head.
“JT (Jack Taylor) is a great set-piece taker as well, but I said I fancied it, he said, ‘Go ahead’, and thankfully it went in.
“I scored a similar one last year for Dagenham against Woking. But, obviously, in front of the cameras, FA Cup, against a Championship side, you don’t really get much better than that.
“As soon as I hit it I knew it had a chance. I had my vision blocked a bit by the wall but I saw it hit the bar and then everyone went crazy.”
As did Sparkes’ phone after the game.
“I’ve had friends ring me saying they’d heard me on the radio or they’ve got into work and all their mates are talking about the goal,” claimed Sparkes, who was making his comeback from a muscle strain suffered in December.
“It does feel weird. To me, that’s my job and I’ve scored free-kicks in the past! But this one was a bit more special because of the FA Cup and more people are going to see it. I thought I’d get the odd text, but I’ve had thousands of messages and tweets!”
Brentford took the lead through Ollie Watkins before quick-fire strikes from former Tottenham starlet Shaq Coulthirst put the National League side in front.
A controversial penalty award got the visitors back into the game through Neal Maupay and they led again when Sergio Canos fired home.
Currie’s men get a second crack at the other Bees on Tuesday thanks to Sparkes’ wonderstrike – with the winners travelling to Swansea City – but they will arrive at Griffin Park full of confidence they can spring another surprise.
So far this FA Cup run has seen them past League One Bristol Rovers, negotiate a tricky home tie with Stockport County before a third round win at Sheffield United.
That result came under new boss Currie, who took the reins with John Still retiring upstairs before subsequently returning to the dugout with Maidstone United.
Former Braintree, Torquay and Dagenham attacker Sparkes says Currie has hit all the right notes in his first managerial job.
“Since he’s come in he’s pretty much changed the way we play and what he wants from us, and it shows,” Sparkes said.
“The ability in the team suits passing the ball and I think performances have shown that.
“We’ve got young players, good players, who are going to play higher – I’ve got no doubt about that.
“Daz has played at a high level as well and he wants us to get the ball down and play in the right areas.
“When we’re passing he wants us passing with a purpose rather than for the sake of it.”
“We haven’t had it easy so far,” Sparkes added. “Most of the team haven’t got to the third round, let alone be in the hat for the fifth.
“When Histon beat Leeds I was 17 that season and was breaking into the team. I was around the lads without having any involvement.
“The gaffer wants us to play with no fear. You can see that showed the other night and it showed at Sheffield United. He’ll be asking for the same.”