Saturday, a tiny bit of normality returns to the non-league football world for me. Actually, it’s here on Friday evening, although I am writing this before Boreham Wood take on Halifax Town in the first eliminator of the 2019/20 National League play-offs and in two weeks’ time one of six clubs will be promoted to the Football League.
I’m off to The Hive to watch the game on screens in the Legends Bar with like minded folk happy the Bees are back in action, its been a long wait. It’s not Huish Park of course but it brings back the fact that despite us knowing this virus might be dampening down a little its not going to fully go away these are to me the green shoots of recovery coming through in the non-league game.
By 5pm on Saturday though my tenner on @ 8/1 could be dust, or it could be going on for another week! This two-week battle for promotion is going to be a lottery regardless of what any fan says from the six clubs. A cold start for everyone, different squads and teams for some since lockdown began in March, there is no form to consider. My own club Barnet were on a superb run of one defeat in 17 games, a scintillating performance last time out at Woking in March but now that counts for nothing. Our opponents Yeovil Town were enjoying a fine campaign and along with Notts County, it’s the first time I can remember the seasons previous relegated clubs both in with a shout of returning at the first time of asking.
A first full season for Bees boss Darren Currie saw his side take the final play-off spot by virtue of points-per-game (PPG). The argument of those games in hand due to the weather curtailing games on what was a poor Hive pitch for most of the season should actually bring a few plaudits to Currie and his team, trying to ping the football on the ground is the way we play, Currieball, and credit should go to them for still playing that way on a surface that wasn’t fit for purpose.
There are a couple of losses from the squad which could hurt Currie’s plans, Dan Sweeney and Callum Reynolds have both chosen to move on, but the return to fitness for Ricardo Santos is a massive plus in that area and with cover alongside him from both Harry Taylor and Charlee Adams with Elliott Johnson expected to line up on the left hand side of a back three. Cheye Alexander and Dan Sparkes are two other departures from the club, but with Mauro Vilhete able to fill in at right wing back and Sparkes being a bit part player since his arrival the club those two departures shouldn’t be felt.
In attack is what excites me! The lack of playing games has allowed both Alfie Pavey and Shaq Coulthirst to get themselves fit after long term injuries, whilst Paul McCallum has returned to the club as agreed within his loan spell to add to the firepower already provided this term by Simeon Akinola and Josh Walker.
With a lack of match sharpness for all a concern across the six clubs these games may come down to punishing defensive mistakes and these five in black and amber are the reason I feel Barnet have just the edge over their opponents, at least for this weekend.
There are no advantage to being either home or away as we’ve seen in both the Bundesliga and Premier League when it comes to fans being behind the team, it’s down to ninety minutes of pure football, boy have I been waiting for this!
Adams Santos Johnson
Vilhete Taylor Dunne Tutonda
Subs: Pavey, Mason-Clark, Coulthirst, Matrevics, Elito, Fonguck, McBurnie, Vasiliou, Edwards.