Golds march on at the top of the league

As the autumn and winter months start to draw in along comes the slowdown in midweek matches. Granted it is the time of the year cup competitions in the lower reaches of the pyramid start to begin but slim pickings it becomes between now and Christmas.

Tuesday night didn’t throw up too many possibilities without dropping work in the afternoon so the choices were head to Horsham, fresh from their weekend FA Cup win, or stay very local and walk through town to see Littlehampton take on Broadbridge Heath.

The latter won as my football buddy for the evening in Steve Watson had a late finish at work, off to the Sportsfield where I’d been so many times already this season.

The Golds have had an impressive start to life back in the Premier Division of the Southern Combination with just one defeat in their opening fourteen league games and also putting in some impressive performances in the FA Cup against higher league opposition whilst the Bears have been on a very decent run themselves and having already seen them in action at Pagham earlier in the season I was expecting a fast flowing game complete with goals.

And there was no disappointment! The visitors were quick out of the blocks and with the hosts struggling to settle they took the lead through Charlie Parmiter after 12 minutes, no more than their early attacking play deserved.

However, with Joe Benn leading the line for Littlehampton and with over twenty goals already this season there are always going to be opportunities for efforts on target. Less than five minutes after the opening goal Town were level through Benn, finishing off a George Gaskin cross and a goal that seemed to settle down the home side.

As per the game I saw for the Bears at Pagham, playing three at the back allowed the full backs to push on, especially down the left hand side through Charlie Gibson. Town’s defence were just about doing enough to repel the ball coming into the box, both Parmiter and Jamie Taylor unable to fashion chances to restore the visitor’s lead.

Just as we seemed set for a level scoreline at half time, the home side went in front. A Gaskin free kick bobbled a bit in the box, but eventually fell to Benn who composed himself, sidestepped and calmly slotted the ball past Dan Law.

Heath started the second half the stronger as per the first, but Town settled more quickly this time trying hard to get the ball out wide on both flanks as often as they could and with the Bears trying to play a high line opportunities were starting to open up.

The flow of the game was only interrupted by the referee who was quick to whistle throughout rather than wait a second or two for an advantage to be played and this led to a niggly period mid-way through the second half trading fouls and yellow cards.

The Bears however came up with an equaliser 20 minutes from time, substitute Tyler Simonds hadn’t been on the pitch long but took advantage of a defensive mistake and ran through unchallenged to slot past Genty Poda.

The lead however lasted only three minutes as Town came back down the flanks, Dion Jarvis fed in down the left, crossing for Mo Jammeh to slide the ball home past Law.

The Gold should have made sure of the points twice within the final five minutes, Benn beat the offside trap racing through one on one with Law only to put the ball the wrong side of the near post while both Gaskin and Jammeh had chances themselves to put a more comfortable slant on the scoreline.

Town’s defence held firm through stoppage time as the crosses rained into the box from the flanks and numerous corner kicks but Heath were unable to muster another goal and Littlehampton hung on to move five points clear at the top having played a game more than most, but more importantly back to winning ways after consecutive 3-3 draw’s.

A very entertaining game which the visitors will feel they should have gotten something out of it, they certainly made Littlehampton work hard for the three points and the hosts will be pleased to get back on the winning trail once again.

Another impressive performance from Benn which should have resulted in a hat-trick, still scratching my head to work out how he didn’t hit the target! With over twenty goals already this season as mentioned he’s going to keep attracting more attention than he’s getting now so remains to be seen if the Golds can keep him at the Sportsfield.

Jammeh’s direct running and quick feet certainly caused a few problems in the second half and Jarvis became more influential as the game went on whether it was through the middle or on the left wing.

 It was probably the most nervy I’ve seen the home defence and from rough calculations it’s the sixth or seventh time I’ve seen them since mid-July, but at the same time there does always appear to be goals in the team to win games.

A break from league action for Littlehampton at the weekend as they face Moneyfields in the FA Vase, a trip to Lingfield awaits the Bears as they aim to get back to winning ways and push higher in the table.

Cupsets galore but not done yet

Sometimes sitting at home and watching the day’s football unfold across numerous teams and leagues seems just as enjoyable as watching one game take place in front of your eyes.

When it also happens to be FA Cup weekend it’s almost a double bonus. Those of us non-leaguers know the competition started way back in early August, not the First Round proper when the TV companies become a bit more interested and not the Third Round when the Premier League sides introduce their second string to the nation.

Making it to the Fourth Qualifying round when the National League sides enter for the first time is the final time it’s solely about non-league but 90 minutes away from being in the draw to entertain a Football League side.

The draw had pitted the chances of numerous upsets among the sixty-four teams, some made it, some went very close and some found the gulf in class and depth against them.

Starting closest to me in Sussex, Isthmian League Premier Division Horsham in front of a crowd a shade under 2,000 shocked National League Woking with a solitary late goal to book their place in Sunday’s draw. League form definitely went out the window with the Hornets struggling to get going so far this year whilst the Cards had picked up some great results over the past few weeks.

Not to be outdone Bowers & Pitsea from Horsham’s division also knocked out National League opponents in Aldershot whilst Harrow Borough who reside in the Southern League also at Step 4 sent National League South Chelmsford City packing having been 2-1 behind on the hour mark.

Two more South sides in Dartford and Bath City found themselves on the wrong end of score lines, AFC Sudbury accounting for the Darts while Banbury Utd needed just a single goal to dispose of City.

Some sides came very close to an upset, Corinthian Casuals Step 3 Isthmian Premier were denied victory by a last minute St Albans equaliser while Folkestone Invicta from the same division let a 3-0 half time lead slip and also conceded the equaliser from Eastleigh in the final minutes, Spitfires boss Ben Strevens no doubt with a huge sigh of relief they’re still in the competition.

Marine, who enjoyed a fantastic run in last years competition before finally going out to Spurs were seconds away from knocking out the big spenders of Wrexham. Hayes and Yeading looked as if they would account for South division Dorking Wanderers but a replay is needed to separate the two sides this coming week.

Both Chertsey and Hungerford took the lead against National League opposition but Southend and Bromley proved too strong in the end with 4-1 and 2-1 win’s, respectively.

Talking of replays there are fourteen happening this week, where in all bar two of those ties there are twelve more chances for an upset and of course those sides will know by then who they face in the First Round Proper.

Watching it all unfold this afternoon was actually pretty good fun having taken in Grimsby starting the day off with a 5-0 away win at Bromsgrove Sporting but back to watching the live stuff this midweek and next weekend.

Taylor rescues late point for Arundel

Having gone for distance on Saturday with a trip to Dover, it was time to stay local on Tuesday night despite the lure of one or two games which would have meant a late drive home.

A local derby between Wick and Arundel in the Southern Combination Division One was my destination with Gareth Spinks and Steve Watson. Both sides I’d already seen in action this season, Arundel on the opening day back in July and Wick at Mile Oak on a rare Friday night outing.

Whilst this season is a re-building project under new Mullets boss Jason Mines, Wick under Lee Baldwin are expecting to challenge for promotion to the Premier Division, both sides however occupying places below mid-table the visitors arrived at Crabtree Park in better form than the hosts.

But it was Wick who got off to the perfect start on a pitch that saw a few struggles with the length of the grass, Conor Bull sliding the perfect ball into the path of David Crouch and the striker made no mistake with the finish, Wick in front after just three minutes.

Despite going behind the goal didn’t seem to shake the Mullets and they set about playing with the ball on the floor, probing and trying to draw the Wick backline into making a mistake.

A majority of the good work coming from the visitors went through Monroe Hector in the middle of the park, Wick finding him quite elusive to mark throughout the first half but the Mullets not quite finding the way through to test home keeper Keelan Belcher.

The visitors did find an equaliser seven minutes before half time however, a free kick swung in from the right hand side saw a Mullets effort pushed out by Belcher to the feet of Kenzie Oatway who made no mistake from a few yards out.

Just as we seemed set for a 1-1 scoreline at half time, Wick took the lead again one minute before the break, a deflected shot from Bull wrong-footed Mullets keeper Jack Hickman and nestled in the back of the net.

Arundel continued to keep the ball down in the second half and tried to pass it through Wick whilst the hosts were fairly equal and content to play on the counter to nick a third goal.

Neither keeper had very many efforts to save and at times a few tasty tackles were going in, the hall marks of a feisty local derby with referee Mark Spence just about keeping a lid on things and twenty-two players still on the park.

With one or two tackles going in leading to free kicks, it was no surprise that this led to the second equaliser for the Mullets, a free kick whipped in from the left this time with Belcher unsure whether to come and claim it or not, Ben Taylor headed home with five minutes left on the clock.

Neither side were able to find a winner in the time left and the bragging rights were shared, in all fairness the right result as neither side did quite enough to win the game.

Both sides remain in the bottom half and with a surprise 2-1 win for Storrington at promotion chasing Roffey the sides below are beginning to catch up.

Wick head to league leaders Midhurst on Saturday whilst Arundel will hope to extend their unbeaten run to seven games as they host Forest Row at Mill Road.

Unbeaten run extends to four games for Brennan’s Bees

Dover away this year meant the chance to banish last season’s memory, one of the many ‘minging’ performances under Tim Flowers. A side who were struggling last season along with the Bees dismantled Flowers’ side with ease in the pouring rain.

My first ever visit to the Crabble Ground situated on top of a hill above the rugby club was back in the pre-season prior to Barnet’s Football League debut, a 1-1 draw I believe which was then followed by another first, a meal in a Chinese restaurant not that I can remember where exactly the place was in Dover and I doubt it still exists!

My last visit to Crabble was live on TV, a 3-0 Tuesday night win as Martin Allen’s Bees were on the way to the league title, no such aspirations for Dean Brennan’s Barnet, merely trying to gel after a very poor start under Harry Kewell.

Dover meanwhile haven’t been able to make too many in-roads into the minus twelve points they’ve started on, a tough ask for ex-Bee Andy Hessenthaler having seen his side go part time over the summer months whilst battling to survive at National League level.

With a couple of Bees suffering from midweek knocks, there were starts for both Dan Powell and Rob Hall while Wes Fonguck was named on the bench after starting during the week at Kings Lynn. There was a change in goal with Aston Oxborough coming in for his debut, mindful of Sam Sargeant’s loan spell from Orient unlikely to be extended nor cup-tied next weekend.

A bright start from the Bees saw the ball in the back of the net after just a minute, the lively Powell crossing for Mason Bloomfield to slot past ex-Barnet loanee Adam Parkes in the Dover goal only to be ruled out for offside. However, nine minutes later there was no mistake and the visitors were in front.

Ephron Mason-Clark, who was a constant threat all afternoon down the right flank, saw his cross headed back across goal by Ben Richards-Everton for Bloomfield to direct his header past Parkes for the opening goal.

Oxborough was called into action twice after as Dover looked threatening down the left flank, two superb saves from Koby Arthurs and Matt Bentley kept the Bees in front, Arthurs looking like providing the biggest spark for the home side.

Neither side had many clear cut chances in the remainder of the half, Mitch Brundle heading wide from Josh Payne’s clipped free kick, whilst Dover trying to exploit a shaky Barnet backline didn’t really trouble Oxborough giving the Bees a half time lead.

The second half had the Bees shooting into the goal where most Barnet fans congregated behind but to begin with did little to trouble Parkes. It took until just before the hour mark as Barnet started to turn the screw a little, Bloomfield playing Powell through on goal to notch the Bees second and seemingly control of the game.

But this is Barnet after all and nothing comes easy. Pretty much out of nothing five minutes later, the home side were back in the game as Aaron Cosgrave was allowed to stride forward unchallenged and arrowed a shot past Oxborough, the keeper not at fault and unable to get anything on the ball.

The goal certainly invigorated Dover and their supporters in the crowd of 885 and the Bees had to defend their penalty area against a good few waves of attack over the final 20 minutes.

There were chances for the visitors to make the game safe, Kian Flannagan was unlucky to fire just over the bar moments after coming on and the same player hit the side netting after working himself into a good position despite better placed team mates.

A late flurry of balls into the Barnet box failed to trouble Oxborough and the Bees came away with the points and now on a four match unbeaten run under Brennan.

Not a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination but three points is three points and that’s the most important thing at the moment. Brennan is doing a fabulous job of managing minutes for a lot of players who didn’t complete a pre-season, namely Powell, Hall, Fonguck, Marriott and possibly more.

Sensible as well to bring in Oxborough ahead of the FA Cup tie next weekend, Sargeant has turned in some good performances despite a shaky start and it’s unlikely his loan spell will be extended with Aymen Azaze now recovered from injury.

Stand out performers for me, Bloomfield was excellent once again at both the hold up play and his twists and turns, Mason-Clark and Powell were constant threats down the flanks whilst Joe Widdowson was solid at left back.

Hall flittered in and out of the game, some very good touches and I think as he picks up match fitness he’ll have more influence on games as time goes on. Debut from Oxborough was on the money pretty much, his kicking though was a little suspect at times but can’t fault his saves nor the ability to come and claim the ball.

Free hit next week in the FA Cup, underdogs on current league positioning to Boreham Wood but another chance to put in a good performance with another free full week of training.

Feel for Hessenthaler and Nicky Southall, two guys with huge FL experience and hearing a section of the crowd calling for Hess’s head I’m not quite sure what else they’re really expecting this season, it’s almost a waste of a year for them when demotion to the South division would have been in their better interests and to also level up all three divisions at 22 clubs, but hey what do we know compared to the National League board!

I’m not quite sure someone else will be able to do a lot better having seen an almost brand new part time squad arrive over the summer but I could be wrong in that respect, as said above it’s almost a nothing season for Dover other than turning up for 40 odd games if they don’t soon pick up two or three wins.

It’s actually nice to see the managerial speculation shifting away from us towards Southend, the attention needs to be on the team, gaining points and getting some consistency, I’m not sure I’d be putting my money on appointing a successor to Kewell anytime soon……….

Playing the waiting game

Being out of a job as a football manager can be a lonely time. Out of the spotlight and seemingly forgotten about, there is little you can do apart from keep applying for jobs left, right, and centre if they come up.

Last season was particularly tough with only the National League completing their season in full and with that in mind there was very little managerial movement unless you were in the Barnet hot-seat.

That of course was understandable across football given the lack of income going into clubs, very few could have afforded to sack a manager and pay him off along with the coaching staff and with no relegation on the cards anywhere no reason to either.

This season has already seen some movement in the opening couple of months and it’s not surprising given clubs needing to operate at the levels they are now and not dip down into the relegation places.

A settled season we so desperately need for clubs, players and managers to revive aspirations and ambitions, another year of stagnation for nearly all clubs is not good for the game.

Speaking to Neil Smith and Darren Currie, two current ex-National League managers out of work, over the summer both were waiting for someone to be doing a bad job to get back into the game. Not the nicest thing to be wishing on anyone but that’s of course how the management game works in some respects.

Neither have yet returned to the dug-out, a sign there aren’t enough vacancies yet or the right job hasn’t appeared if indeed they’ve considered some. On top of those two, Kevin Watson returned to the ‘unemployed’ pool earlier this week. Having only gotten back into the game earlier this year, his few months at Billericay Town interrupted by the null and void decision of last season and a start to this current one that just didn’t take off.

Junior Lewis, who was Currie’s assistant at Barnet, has only just got back into the game at Welling Utd under Peter Taylor, again having to wait for the Wings to start badly and Steve Lovell resigning.

Those on the outside will be looking closely at those clubs in or around the relegation zone and that goes for a majority of the non-league pyramid at all levels.

We’ve seen in recent weeks as well as Billericay both Aldershot and Barnet relieved their managers of their duties along with Gloucester City in the North, the fear of getting stuck into that rut of not winning games and the return of relegation haunts boardrooms. Those two I doubt will be the last of course and there will be guys out there like Smith, Currie and even Watson wanting and itching to get back into the game, I’m sure it can be a hard place without the feeling of a nine month season playing and training.

Hopefully, these guys won’t be out for too much longer but it’s very much a case of the waiting game for them all and I haven’t even touched on others I know such as Ian Hendon.

As we’re only around just over two months into the season there will be more manager’s losing their jobs one way or another, it’s part of the game and when it happens the ball starts rolling for fifty candidates at the top level to a chairman’s phone ringing off the hook at Step 5 or 6, glad it’s not me chasing the job or wanting to drop the phone in the bin……………..

Supporters are the lifeblood of every club

Being innovative in football is something you have to constantly be. Finding new ways to promote yourself, your club, your brand has to be done in order to avoid stagnation unless that’s something you’re happy with.

Since the interruption of non-league football over the past two seasons there is a clear eagerness from top to bottom inside clubs to play, to enjoy things a bit more and just as importantly to attract not just the loyal supporters from before but new blood as so to speak to ensure clubs keep on surviving.

There are many ways depending on the size of the club that you can attract new supporters but at times also rewarding those who’ve been coming for a long time, it’s not just about getting new support, retaining what you have is just as important.

I’m picking up on this with a range of different things I’ve seen, witnessed myself and heard from supporters of other clubs over the opening couple of months of the season.

A quick start at National League level and back to the summer, Bromley trying to over-extend their season ticket prices and after much disgruntlement quite rightly amongst their fanbase given the huge rise, they backed down and not surprisingly the price went to a point supporters were comfortable with.

I take my club Barnet charging £22 to sit down, no terrace option, it’s that price or nothing. Personally I believe £20 is more than enough, throw in the £8 parking as well and that’s me seeing almost three Isthmian League matches for that price only two levels lower.

Whilst the club might argue it’s reasonable for the level etc, lack of communication meant no reasons were delivered and quite understandably supporters start to shun and vote with their feet, it’s so easy now to find something else to do which no doubt some people did over the course of the last 16 months.

Effective communication is the bottom line, so many channels available these days there is almost no excuse. Clubs raising beer prices which can be understandable if the brewery has done so, but not finding out until you buy that first pint of a new season is likely to come as a shock, again look after your regulars via a membership scheme or something similar, if new supporters want to come more often and save money they’ll join it trust me!

Just over a week ago I saw National League South Hungerford Town come up with a fantastic offer. £20 got you match entry, a programme, a meal deal of either chicken, sausage or pie with chips and a pint, now it’s impossible to follow every single football club on Twitter, but please tell me if you can find a better deal than that, it’s superb!

Now, not content with rolling it out last weekend which then prompted me to mention it on our Premier Non-League Podcast (available to listen to on all the usual listening platforms twice a month) they’ve gone for it again this weekend in the FA Cup and during next week I will try and catch up the Town chairman Patrick Chambers to find out how much of an impact it’s had on attendances.

I’m not implying here every club has to do the same nor bankrupt themselves whilst doing so, it’s not something you can repeat every single game but surely offers are worth a try throughout the season are they not?

Simple things like a free hot drink as the weather begins to turn, kids for a quid over half term week or the Xmas holidays, small but effective if marketed well.

 I did see as well during the past week Dorking Wanderers in the same division offering a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids) FA Cup football for £20 which was available all week until midnight on Friday, again great value to try and get a few more in through the door.

Going back to Barnet once again I would like to see a £2 reduction if you buy a match ticket before matchday, with £22 being the price being bought on the day, Hungerford have this option at least for their FA Cup match thankfully not at that price to begin with. That way you’re committed to going and it might only be a couple of quid but the next time it might encourage you to buy earlier.

Another one I’ve seen is Wealdstone offering match tickets for £5 for their BT Sport live game against Solihull Moors next Tuesday if you buy online with Under 14’s free with a paying adult; a great idea to see a packed stadium while the nation’s camera’s are watching instead of 200 sitting at home on the sofa seeing the game. You can almost guarantee it will attract some floating fans and pretty sure they’ll spend more once inside the ground too.

The key is looking after the newbies whilst not getting the backs up of those who regularly attend, but it’s easy to do and if marketed right then you’re onto a winner and hopefully some bigger attendances going forward.

As I’ve noticed since the season began crowd figures have been very impressive and have continued to maintain themselves at most clubs which is fantastic to see, but why not go that one step further and gain a few extra, that should keep the club treasurer with a smile on their face………..

Brennan gets the Bees off the mark

I’m sure being a Barnet fan you achieve more highs and lows in one season than some fans can find in a lifetime, granted it’s more lows than highs to be honest, one thing you can’t deny is there is hardly ever a dull moment!

It was about two weeks ago I blogged the pressure was on Harry Kewell, one more loss and almost a week later he was gone. Not seen really as a surprise across the footballing world although there were a few of us who expected the ride to last a little bit longer.

I was expecting the Australian to be given two games, Bromley away and Weymouth at home. The latter coincided with the only time bar Bank Holiday Monday in August when a trip to The Hive was possible, so armed with Nick Patel that was to be the game before Kewell was out the door.

Enter stage left, Dean Brennan Head of Football. Many believe it’s now set up for the Irishman to take the main job and potentially with it the end of the structure so sought after within around six months of its inception.

Kewell seemed at times stuck in his own little bubble, his interviews pre and post-match were bland, full of nothing and details of injuries kept hidden in his back pocket.

Brennan on the other hand straight off on Friday, boom we knew who hadn’t a chance of making the game and how long they’re out for, not sure what Kewell was trying to achieve but didn’t endear himself with the Bees faithful.

Kept off the bottom only by Dover’s minus points, there is only one way to go. Reports of training and the whole week feeling like a cloud had been lifted over the Harrow complex tells you the story of maybe the past seven games, the fact that despite whatever was going to happen at The Hive on Saturday Peter Beadle’s side of last year had more points at this stage something was badly lacking.

Brennan’s decision to go with Josh Payne as a defensive midfielder at the expense of a second striker was a good choice, leaking goals for fun and if you can’t outscore the opposition then of course you must shore up your own backline.

Having watched Weymouth the week before against Dover, I was expecting the visitors to control a lot of the possession and they didn’t disappoint. Sam Shields was a constant menace down the Bees right hand side and despite getting balls into the box the Barnet centre halves of Ben Richards-Everton and skipper Harry Taylor dealt with most backed up by keeper Sam Sargeant.

Despite only playing with the one striker in Mason Bloomfield, the balls up to him were sticking and being quite a release from defensive pressure, for a big guy he has a very good touch and get’s his body in-between ball and the defender.

It was clear to see the Bees had done some work on set piece delivery during the week, corners into the box from Payne were causing the visitors a few issues, a rehearsed move of finding Richards-Everton at the back post nearly produced a goal from his header back across, Ephron Mason-Clark eventually shooting over.

It was from a corner the Bees took the lead just after the half hour mark, Payne’s delivery found Mitch Brundle unmarked in the box and his free header gave Ross Fitzsimons no chance in the Terras goal.

A set piece again nearly brought a second goal for the home side in first half stoppage time, Payne hitting the post with Fitzsimons beaten all ends up, Barnet heading into the break in front, hugely against the wall in possession stats.

Both Brundle and Mason-Clark had early chances to increase Barnet’s lead but Fitzsimons was equal to the efforts and from there on both sides traded chances without too much testing of either keeper.

The visitors found an equaliser 20 minutes from time, Shields’ cross into the box wasn’t dealt with and found it’s way to Brandon Goodship to touch past Sargeant, a taste of Barnet’s character to come for the remainder of the game.

Neither side seemed content to settle for a draw, the visitors though once again controlling possession mostly but changes for the Bees proved to be influential.

Daniel Powell on for David Sesay stole the ball from the dithering defender, powered towards the penalty area and slid the ball to fellow substitute Adam Marriott who calmly drew Fitzsimons out of his goal, and slotted home for the Bees.

Five minutes from time the home side made sure the three points were staying with them, Sam Beard’s high hanging cross was headed towards goal by Richards-Everton, crashed against the crossbar and over the line, the assistant referee signalling a goal as Marriott made sure the ball ended up in the back of the net, the defender with the goal however to give the Bees their first win of the season and a great start under Brennan.

Having heard about the different atmosphere around the training ground during the week as mentioned, the result possibly wasn’t a surprise and generally the new manager bounce as well, however had Weymouth scored first then we would have needed to see some resolve appear from the men in black and amber.

Credit to Brennan for the right substitutions at the right time, that won the Bees the game effectively. Taylor and Richards-Everton looked better as a central defensive partnership than anything else so far this year, Bloomfield as impressive leading the line as he was against Chesterfield a couple of weeks ago.

The win however means nothing if it’s not backed up with another home game this coming weekend and followed up by two sides in and around us, much work still to be done and at least we’re finally off the mark……..

Bees search again after Kewell departure

Barnet FC. The gift that keeps on giving whilst appearing a laughing stock to the outside world and the inability to stop the revolving door to the manager’s office at The Hive.

Only last midweek was I blogging that Harry Kewell was already under pressure six games in and without a win kept off the bottom only by Dover Athletic on a minus points score.

Two games I believed he had to buy some breathing space for himself, his staff and his squad. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bromley at the weekend, another side who hadn’t started well, didn’t look at all promising and the lack of a post-match interview from Kewell despite his touchline ban for a sending off at Grimsby saw his assistant Paul Butler not pull any punches.

Talking to fellow Bees fans over the weekend and others I felt he had this weekend’s home game with Weymouth to save his job, even that might not have been enough and as sure as night follows day Barnet are looking for yet another manager/head coach before we’ve reached the end of September after news broke on Monday lunchtime that the club and Kewell had parted company.

At the very beginning of this structure appointment I wanted this to work. Not necessarily for Kewell but for what was put in place and for us fans to see that things can work properly at The Hive. Being a famous name with a good reputation in the game doesn’t always translate into a good sideline coach and as we saw with Tim Flowers last year it didn’t end well.

Kewell I felt was in last chance saloon in this country as a head coach, a poor record across Football League jobs, a final opportunity maybe to succeed and if not that was him done, that will remain to be seen over the next couple of years if it’s the case.

Having spoken to people in and around the game the dynamics didn’t appear to be working between Kewell and Dean Brennan, was that Tony Kleanthous name drawing from a hat and seeing if it works or fits together? The squad to me looks a mismatch of players wanted by both, signed half and half. I could be miles out there but that’s how it looks from the outside.

To work out that regardless of the result this coming Saturday that Peter Beadle’s side would have accumulated more points than Kewell’s tells you all you need to know because six different managers before Simon Bassey tried to get a tune out of those players and thirteen games restored a little bit of pride, since demolished once again.

Just to think how many players and managers have been through those doors at The Hive since Darren Currie and Junior Lewis left the club last August makes my brain hurt. Tony’s right we do have a reputation in the game, it’s an embarrassing one at best and at the moment we’re not exactly pulling up trees to change that around are we?

The amount of money that has been wasted paying off managers and coaching staff as well in that short space of time, if there were shareholders in the club, surely they would be wincing at the balance sheet every few months, its crazy to think we must be paying off now no less than three managers and numerous others.

So what now? Well in my opinion leave Brennan to get on with appointing someone he can work with, someone who knows the division. That might limit a few being that Brennan was a National League manager in his own right just a season ago, will some see it as him lurking and waiting for the job himself?

The biggest answer would be for Kleanthous to eat humble pie and get Currie back in, that’s what kickstarted this mess in the first place. Would he want to come back? Would he want to work under Brennan? Personally I don’t believe anything more than a 1% chance of it happening, I’m stoked if it does but I’ve got no money on that at all.

The second would be to eat the same humble pie and get Bassey back to build on what he started last season, again something I don’t see happening although it would be the dream team in place that was touted to be coming in last March.

My realistic appointment is Neil Smith. Yes I know him, yes I trust him. But I also know what a passionate footballing man he is who knows this level. You don’t spend ten years at one club by luck I can assure you. This next man HAS to know how to bring the fans onside, Smudger I know will do that and if he chucked in a cheeky assistant like Ian Hendon, well you might just take the heat off yourself Tony.

27 years of supporting the Bees has never been dull ever, but quite frankly the embarrassment tag could do with dropping itself. I was already heading to The Hive on Saturday afternoon before the new broke, no doubt there will be more to come over the next few days before the weekend, just no silly appointments please………………….

Pressure starting to mount on Kewell and winless Bees

Every season when the fixtures come out there’s a list of ones I want to get to, be it Barnet, Worthing or random other clubs. Some are to meet up with mates who live further away, some are catching up with players and managers who’ve given their time for other blog pieces.

Chesterfield vs Barnet was on my list to do after the friendship struck up with Scott Loach during the ill-fated efforts of last season. We’ve kept in touch since and while it’s quite a trek from Littlehampton to the Technique Stadium on a Tuesday night I decided it was going to happen anyway!

Given the two sides respective starts to the season I definitely wasn’t expecting Barnet to come away with anything unless Loachy was going to have a mare and chuck a few in for us.

Fragile confidence inside a poor set of results so far meant it wouldn’t take much to knock the Bees over, games littered with red cards, goals conceded from needlessly given away free kicks and leads squandered so far.

The last time I saw these two sides play each other one was already relegated to the National League and other joined them 90 minutes later, neither has regained Football League membership since.

Straight from the off you could sense the Spireites were going to run at the Barnet back four and it really wasn’t a surprise when they opened the scoring just six minutes in, Kabongo Tshimanga tapping in at the far post after the ball found it’s way across the six yard box to the unmarked striker.

Now when you concede the next job is to keep it tight and get a foothold in the game, not so for the Bees. Just a minute or two later, Ben Richards-Everton was caught the wrong side of Stefan Payne and tripped the striker in the box, a yellow card for his troubles and Tshimanga giving Sam Sargeant no chance from the penalty spot for his and Chesterfield’s second.

The striker signed late on from Boreham Wood should have completed his hat-trick by the time ten minutes were on the clock, but flicked Calvin Miller’s cross over the bar.

The Bees first effort on target came five minutes later through the bright Kian Flanagan but straight down the throat of Loach. Worse again should have come Barnet’s way straight after, a lazy back pass didn’t reach Sargeant, Sadou Khan nipped in and rounded the keeper before shooting into the side netting instead of the open goal.

Pressure was only coming from the Spireites, the only outlet ball for the Bees was to David Sesay down the right flank who looked a little on a one man crusade to get the visitors back into the game.

Sargeant was again called into action ten minutes before half time with a superb double save from Tshimanga and Miller, a combination of the keeper’s smart stops and poor finishing preventing the home side racking up a cricket score by half time.

Then, out of nowhere came a mad five minutes before the half time whistle went. Serhat Tasdemir who hadn’t offered too much so far from the left hand side cut inside and saw his shot deflected in the net wrong footing Loach on the way in dead on 45 minutes.

Whilst unexpected it was a welcome way back into the game and three minutes into first half stoppage time the scoreline was undeservedly level. Sam Granville shot from distance and the deflection on this one also took the ball past Loach and into the net to give the Bees a 2-2 scoreline going into the break, something that wasn’t being contemplated amongst the 49 travelling Barnet faithful.

With an unexpected turn in the match you would have expected the Bees to have been told to come out and take the game to the hosts given the momentum was with them at the end of the half, but they failed to do so.

The home side went back in front just after the hour mark, Joe Widdowson giving away another sloppy penalty from the Barnet perspective and Tshimanga completed his hat-trick from the spot. The likelihood was coming that the home side would be the ones to notch more goals and Payne did have the ball in the net 17 minutes from time but ruled out for offside.

But it didn’t take long for the Spireites to score again, a needless free kick conceded outside the penalty area to Sargeant’s left and Calvin Gunning’s effort deflected off the wall and past the keeper to put the seal on another three points for the home side, substitute Ephron Mason-Clark forcing Loach into a save three minutes from time in what was the only on target effort for the visitors in the second half.

The ease in which the home side tore into the visitors defence proved the Bees back line is as porous as any time last season prior to the arrival of Simon Bassey in March, a clean sheet doesn’t seem to be in Harry Kewell’s armour but the midfield is not strong enough to keep creating enough chances to outscore teams.

The 4-4-2 set up in my opinion was wrong given the defensive frailties and to then take off the second striker after going 3-2 behind is slightly baffling. The other substitutions didn’t make a lot of sense either, can only think those coming off were either carrying small knocks or not match fit enough to do the full ninety.

Sesay did look good before running out of steam, Flanagan suffering from not having an experienced head alongside him, Sam Granville really not effective enough to make a difference. Great to catch up with Loachy too although we do speak occasionally on the phone as well, nice touch to clap and acknowledge the Bees fans before heading off to celebrate another win.

Kewell is running out of time to deliver for Barnet, granted the opening set of fixtures weren’t the kindest but that aren’t very many fixtures on the calendar you would expect to bank on three points, it needs to be worked on and delivered.

You can’t hide behind injuries forever, all teams suffer them and there is a squad of players to pick from, most of which are new this year.

Whilst reading currently a book on AFC Wimbledon at the moment, it of course documents well Bassey’s 17 years there and have just gotten to a point where Bass had his first caretaker role, remarking how simple he made things, went back to basics and got the players to believe in themselves again, sounds very similar to the 13 game spell at the end of last season’s disaster, I can’t help but think Tony Kleanthous made a huge, massive mistake in not tying that man to the club to continue what he started, time will tell, more likely sooner rather than later…….

Sevenoaks stunned by Redhill comeback

Midweek football took me to Sevenoaks for an FA Cup replay against Redhill, perfect timing with needing a trip to Tonbridge to pick up the youngest daughter’s birthday cake sometimes these fixtures just fall into your lap!

Sevenoaks is my home town, growing up in villages around there and actually living a 5 minute walk from the Bourne Stadium (or Greatness Park) for some of my life.

I did make it there last season to watch Oaks take apart Three Bridges on a sunny Saturday afternoon, my first visit since moving to the South Coast some 15 years ago.

Two on their coaching staff in Jason Bourne and Julian Leigh, guys I know from Otford Utd and Tunbridge Wells days in the past always assure you get a friendly welcome and their boss Micky Collins has been kind enough to provide a few bits for blogs in the past, always grateful for that.

When it comes to blogging the first port of call is the team board, now I’m not sure if this is available at all clubs from Step 4 upwards but I was directed to a pile of team sheets to help my cause, the gentleman I believe was called Ray, possibly Ray Miles a former manager of the first team in years gone by, but very helpful this was for me.

After a 1-1 draw at the weekend, tonight was replay night and thrown in a little bit for me, a bit of scouting for East Preston this coming weekend, Redhill’s opponents in the FA Vase.

Sevenoaks would have hoped to hit the ground running and see the tie through and a place in the next round away to Phoenix Sports, but it took a little while for both sides to settle into the game despite some good movement from both sides across the pitch.

Redhill were the first to threaten, Nathan Hogan forcing a save from Ben Bridle-Card a couple of minutes in while on 10 minutes a surging run from Stefan Wright saw Jack Minchin get a hand to the ball, defenders scrambling the loose one away from the line.

It did threaten to spill over early on with one or two niggly tackles from both sides but the referee seemed to manage to calm the situation with a few yellow cards issued.

Just before the half hour Oaks went in front. On a quick counter attack Bradley Schafer shot’s was out of the reach of Minchin and went in the net via the inside of the post.

Sam King thought he had pulled Redhill level within a minute with a fine hit from distance but Bridle-Card was equal to it.

Six minutes later the Lobsters suffered again, another break at pace from the home side and the livewire Louis Collins skipped past two or three challenges before firing past Minchin. Collins spent last season at Dover Athletic until they finished for the season and looks a cut above at this level.

The home side were in cruise control three minutes later, Collins darting run down the right crossed for Jason Thompson to tap home, nine minutes, three goals and seemingly one foot in the next round before half time with the visitors unable to cope with the quick break football.

The two half time team talks must have been of complete contrasting words, for the early part of the second half it still didn’t look like Redhill were going to find their way back into the game but suddenly a lifeline appeared.

11 minutes into the half Aiden Brown poked the ball home after the ball pinged it’s way around and you could sense the Lobsters felt there was still a chance to get the game going their way, Sevenoaks just feeling they needed to find a way to close the game out.

Collins had that chance after the hour, his pace taking him clear of the defence but forced slightly wide by Minchin and hitting the post instead of opening up a three goal lead once again.

Brown would have felt he should have reduced the deficit minutes later but his shot went agonisingly wide of the post as momentum was starting to build for the visitors.

Thompson though had the chance to put the tie beyond Redhill with 17 minutes to play, forced to backheel the ball towards goal it didn’t quite have enough on it and was cleared away, Collins unable to get there quick enough to help it into the net.

Three minutes later and the Lobsters were finally back in the tie, Hogan’s cross from the left found an unmarked King in the penalty area and he scored to set up a nervy last 14 minutes for the home side, a case now of stick or twist?

Seven minutes from time the visitors got the equaliser, King put clean through to finish past Bridle-Card and complete what looked to be a remarkable comeback and send us all into extra time, at the very point of the game when the rain, thunder and lightning was at its height.

A minimum of five minutes of stoppage time went up on the board, but the visitors only needed two of those to complete one of the most unexpected comebacks, Hogan finding Brown who turned one way and then the other before unleashing his shot into the back of the net much to the delight of the visiting support whilst groans around me from Oaks fans.

With the final few minutes played out without incident Redhill had completed what seemed pretty impossible at half time, outplayed and 3-0 down but great character to believe they could do it and to use the cliché it was most definitely a game of two halves.

The FA Cup has certainly pulled up some results for me, a 5-4 at the weekend and a 4-3 on Wednesday evening, the next game I go to has got to have something special to match that I feel!