It’s a strange feeling going into games now not expecting Barnet to come away with a four or five goal thumping such has been the progress in just a few games under the stewardship of Simon Bassey and Dave Anderson.
A trip to Gander Green Lane to face a Sutton Utd side who were seen as champions-elect only a few weeks ago with a mammoth number of games in hand was seen as a very big test of how far this side had become despite the fact the hosts hadn’t been in the best of form recently.
Bassey made one change to Saturday’s victorious eleven, Ben Richards-Everton back in at centre half at the expense of skipper Liam Daly possibly to counter the pace threat of former Worthing winger David Ajiboye should Sam Beard need the cover.
As expected the hosts started the brighter, the need for the three points probably emphasised emphatically by Sutton boss Matt Grey to his players to keep up their title challenge, but despite a lot of early possession and pressure they didn’t test Bees keeper Aymen Azaze.
The game looked very similar to last Tuesday, hosts make all the running whilst Barnet looked to soak up the pressure and break on the counter in order to get something from the game. An early booking for Themis Kefalas didn’t give the youngster much scope for error for the remaining 81 minutes but sensible play from the QPR loanee ensured the Bees kept a full compliment on the pitch for the fifth game running.
Ephron Mason-Clark was at the centre of anything likely to happen for Barnet and indeed had the first Bees effort of the night after 14 minutes, but saw his shot blocked by the Sutton defence.
Neither side were making the most of their set pieces, Barnet defending well once again whilst Alex McQueen’s delivery into the opposing box lacked quality throughout the game.
The game for the Bees became a little irrelevant in first half stoppage time as Azaze raced out from his goal only to be clipped in the face as he denied the on-rushing Sutton forward, the young Belgian goalkeeper stretched off as 16 year old James Callan came on for his first team debut, news on Azaze still awaited at the time of writing although believed to be a fractured eye socket and cheekbone.
After going into the break level, the home side knew they needed to up the ante in the second half especially with a young untested goalkeeper and started the same way as the first half, Callan called into early action but comfortably claiming the ball from a Sutton head following a corner.
Moments later Callan was in the action again saving from Harry Beautyman whilst the Bees Lee Vaughan managed to get Courtney Baker-Richardson in behind the U’s defence, but the striker was unable to keep the ball goal bound after rounding the keeper.
The game was broken up a little over the following ten minutes, a raft of bookings as the game started to drift a little until a golden chance for substitute Tomi Adeloye on 67 minutes saw the striker unable to toe poke the ball past Sutton keeper Dean Bouzanis.
Two minutes later the home side finally had their goal, corner in from their right hand side was pushed out well by Callan only for the ball to fall at the feet of striker Omar Bugiel and the former Worthing front man lashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Whilst the goal knocked a bit of stuffing out of the Bees, there was still time to grab an equaliser and with Michael Petrasso on for the industrious Sam Skeffington there was every chance for Barnet to create something but the home side defended well to stop the Bees getting the ball down the flanks and into the box.
Little goalmouth action followed in the remaining ten minutes and Bassey tasted defeat for the first time since arriving at The Hive, but no disgrace in losing to a good Sutton side who have been in the title race for the best part of the season.
Plenty of positives last night, Matt Preston looking stronger game by game after returning from injury, Beard not allowing Ajiboye much of a kick all evening, the energy of Skeffington across midfield whilst Callan at such a young age coped well with anything that came his way.
Best wishes to Aymen Azaze and now it remains to be seen before the weekend which route the club go down, Scott Loach to return from furlough, Callan to continue until Azaze is fit with no sub keeper or an emergency loan from the EFL or NLS, the former I believe out of the question so it’s between the other two options in my opinion, long term Barnet’s goalkeeping department looks in good hands……..