Port Vale: Match report v Barnet
YOU have to take your hat off to Edgar Davids.
The bloke must have a bob or two in the bank and could probably afford to spend the rest of his days smoking big cigars in his slippers.
But the Dutch master, who lit up the European stage with the likes of Juventus and Inter Milan, has somehow wound up in altogether less illustrious surroundings.
And his decision to ignore any kind of easy option to instead begin his managerial career at a struggling League Two club can only be applauded.
So it was a shame to see Barnet's player-coach, who has been there and done the things that most footballers can only ever dream about, looking to add to his bulging trophy cabinet by picking up an Oscar.
Vale substitute Sam Morsy might have accidentally caught the 39-year-old with the back of his hand as the visitors pressed forward during the second half of Saturday's goalless draw at Underhill. But the way Davids reacted was pure theatre.
The veteran midfielder went down as if he had been shot before rolling around in the style of a true drama queen. It's amazing what you can learn in Italy.
His ham acting having been completely ignored by referee Graham Salisbury, Davids was predictably on his feet seconds later, swearing at anyone who would listen, and well within earshot of the main stand. He even had a pop at Micky Adams and Rob Page, in the opposition dug-out, before returning to the action.
You'd have thought a man with his experience would be better than that. Maybe his glasses had steamed up.
It was an unsavoury incident that left a disappointing taste in the mouth and which did little to enhance what had been an otherwise impressive performance, both by Davids and his team.
The 39-year-old waved goodbye to his best days as a player some years ago.
But he still has a certain swagger and his central midfield partnership with John Oster and Mark Byrne had Vale on the back foot for most of what turned out to be a surprisingly difficult afternoon.
In fact, it was a good job for Adams that his defenders and goalkeeper were at the top of their game as the table-topping visitors were given a good old-fashioned work-out by opponents who looked anything but relegation material. Barnet's pitch slopes fully eight metres from one end to the other and it looked as if they would be the ones facing an uphill task before kick-off as the leaders strolled into town looking for their fifth win in six games.
Instead, it was the home side who made most of the running and Vale were perhaps fortunate to escape with a point in the end.
Outnumbered in that central midfield area, the unchanged Valiants never truly got a grip on the game and it was a sign of things to come when the excellent Darren Purse had to head away an Andy Iro effort from almost under his own crossbar in the ninth minute. Oster, who grew increasingly influential, cracked a shot only just wide from 20 yards, a free-kick on the left was skilfully headed over his own bar by Tom Pope and Jake Hyde was high and wide following a short corner routine as the Bees did plenty of buzzing.
Adams was ranting at his players from the touchline as Davids continued to direct the Barnet traffic in a first half-hour which had fellow reporters trotting out the old 'which team is at the top' line.
It took Vale 32 minutes to mount their first attack of note and it was almost worth waiting for. Pope slid in Jennison Myrie-Williams, whose shot across keeper Graham Stack was dragged only inches wide of the far post.
Barnet were soon pressing again though, and Andy Yiadom's shot five minutes before the break was deflected towards goal by Hyde only for keeper Chris Neal, in the right place at the right time, to make the save diving to his right.
Purse had to head clear under all sorts of pressure before Neal came to the rescue again, clawing out a Yiadom effort from the left before scrambling across goal to keep out Oster's follow-up at his near post.
You imagined Adams would be going bananas in the dressing room at half-time and that normal service would soon be resumed.
Yet it was still all Barnet after the break.
Yiadom was only just squeezed out of it as he bore down on goal following a great pass over the top from Davids, then Hyde had a great chance in the 51st minute only to be denied by a spectacular save from Neal, who palmed his stinging shot over the crossbar.
Adams had seen enough and the introduction of an extra midfielder in Morsy, who replaced striker Lee Hughes after only 55 minutes, made a big difference.
That Davids incident, halfway through the second half, was the only thing the dread-locked Dutchman did of note thereafter as the Valiants at last gained some kind of momentum.
Pope's clever touch, after 72 minutes, gave Doug Loft the chance to drill in a shot from 20 yards that was well saved by Stack and, when the ball was returned from the left, substitute Calvin Andrew headed over under pressure from close range.
And it was Pope who went closest of the lot with 15 minutes to go, rising highest in a crowded penalty box to thump a header from Richard Duffy's right-wing cross against the post with Stack beaten.
The heroic Purse was flattened after running into one his own posts following a pushing match at the other end, but it was Vale who finished the stronger as Barnet legs tired.
The leaders seemed to sense blood and there were plenty of white shirts sniffing the chance of an unlikely three points towards the end of the game.
That, though, would have been cruel for Barnet and particularly tough on Davids, who didn't deserve to finish on the losing side, despite those unnecessary histrionics.