Goals galore as Worthing progress

As the season edges towards the winter months, the midweek game offerings become a bit thinner. Without cup progress for most, it’s pretty much down to playing Saturday’s only.

With a few other things going on at weekends currently my watching is restricted to Tuesday nights for a few weeks and with it this week Worthing vs Seaford Town in the Sussex Senior Cup.

It was a few weeks earlier this time last year that the Rebels played Three Bridges in the same competition and turned out that 2-1 defeat was the final competitive game they played last season.

For Seaford it was the chance to look for another scalp having knocked out Southern Combination Premier Division side Loxwood in the first round a few weeks ago.

Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood went for a youthful look to his side and bench, surrounded by one or two older heads who needed minutes and with Saturday’s FA Trophy tie against National League South Dorking Wanderers in mind.

Seaford were happy to let Worthing push the ball around the pitch but pressed hard not to make it easy for them in the opening quarter and looked very pacey when breaking on the counter attack.

Indeed it was from the visitors pressing that Will Seager scored an own goal to give Seaford the lead on 26 minutes. The lead however was very short-lived as the Mackerel Men were level just two minutes later, a corner from the right landed nicely at the feet of Tom Chalaye and he slammed it past Seaford keeper Mike Platt for the equaliser.

There were a couple of half chances for the home side but Seaford kept them at bay and the sides went into the interval level as possession wasn’t converted into goals for the Mackerel Men.

The second half was an expectation of more of the same, but it was Seaford who had the best chance after the re-start but sent the ball wide of Harrison Male’s far post.

With that scare of almost going behind Worthing stepped it up a notch and ten minutes into the half were awarded a penalty after Platt upended Dean Cox, Chalaye making no mistake from the spot with a thumping drive past the keeper to put the Mackerel Men in front.

Two minutes later and the net was bulging again, good work from Kyle O’Brien down the left found Marvin Armstrong in the box who finished for the home side’s third goal and second in three minutes.

Mo Diallo then got in on the act on the hour mark sliding the ball under Platt from Darren Budd’s pass to seemingly put the game out of reach with half an hour still to play.

Seaford though had other ideas and reduced the deficit three minutes later through Piper to bring it back to 4-2 and cast just a little shadow of doubt in the Worthing minds despite the flurry of goals just before.

Diallo removed any doubt four minutes later with his second and the home side’s fifth, slotting home calmly and adding to the second half goal fest. As the visitors understandably tired, Worthing won another penalty two minutes from time as Luca Cocoraccio was brought down in the box.

Cox looked set to take the spot kick originally despite both strikers being on a hat-trick but handed the ball to Diallo who promptly smashed it against the bar and seemingly missing out on the match ball.

But the striker did bag his third a minute later, clean through once again to add a sixth goal for the home side and in the end a comprehensive victory and a place in the next round for the Mackerel Men.

Some competitive minutes for the likes of Budd, Cox, Armstrong and Pat Webber and a chance for the younger members of the squad to catch the eye and make a claim for the first team spot.

Well taken goals for all six of the home side’s efforts, Seaford played their part too only tiring towards the end and then the three division gap started to show a little, it’s certainly not easy to get the ball off this Worthing team once they get into full flow.

Another cup game awaits this weekend and a different test coming up, as previously mentioned above Dorking Wanderers visit Woodside Road with the home side this time looking to cause a cup upset and a place in the next round of the FA Trophy.

The National League isn’t disappointing many

The National League is showing no signs of stopping throwing up the odd result or scoreline that makes you raise your eyebrows.

At the beginning of the season I reckoned there were 14 of the 23 sides harbouring hopes of either challenging for the title or getting into the play-offs. There are probably two or three of that 14 who will feel they’re a little bit further away than they wanted to be, but for most putting two or three results together would propel themselves into the thick of the race.

There is of course plenty of time left to make a move with over half the season to go and constant unpredictability from week to week does make it hard to pick winners in an accumulator!

Having watched Grimsby host Southend on Friday night the Mariners looked nervous despite the perfect start of an early goal and their current league position and had the visitors been able to show some potency in front of goal they certainly would have deserved to come away from the game with something.

The only two sides above Grimsby are two very good sides. Just three defeats between Boreham Wood and Chesterfield so far this season but neither side have pulled away from the rest. Kabongo Tshimanga who moved from Wood to the Spireites in the summer will be the difference when it comes to the final shake up, 16 goals already so far coupled with a strong defence that has registered nine clean sheets, they are the team to beat in my opinion.

Luke Garrard though knows Wood can compete with these big budget boys despite not getting the support through the turnstiles their position dictates they should. Despite the loss of Tshimanga’s goals they’ve shared them around a bit more and still plundered 25 in their 16 games.

Underneath them Bromley and Halifax continue to impress, the former unbeaten in nine now and seemingly having kept hold of manager Andy Woodman. Neither side can claim to do battle on budgets, but like Bromley Pete Whild does a fantastic job with team spirit at The Shay they constantly defy the odds and compete at the top end of the table.

Once you get beyond the top five comes the inconsistency, Notts County the prime example of pulling off the expected result and then fail to click away to Eastleigh. Taking nothing away from Ben Strevens’ team, they are strong at the Silverlake Stadium with only a single defeat so far this season.

You can also add Dagenham, Stockport and Wrexham to the inconsistent pile, the Red Dragons quite an enigma. Unbeaten at home but only five goals scored, yet on the road 24 goals in the net. County of course will be looking to stabilise and become more resilient under Dave Challinor.

Solihull under Neal Ardley are right on the cusp and after a good run to put them in the play-off zone they haven’t won in three, the win at the weekend for Chesterfield at the Moors putting them back on the top of the table.

Altrincham have lost their way a little over the last few weeks and dropped to mid table but a fine win at Weymouth might kick start their season once again, as stated above two good results this week puts them back in the mix as we enter December.

The same goes for Woking, Yeovil and the already mentioned Eastleigh, two wins by next weekend they’re knocking on the play-off door. If the Spitfires can improve their away form which is their achilles heel it will put them in great shape, consistency or the lack of is what’s holding all three back so far this season.

Barnet under Dean Brennan are in play-off form, averaging two points per game in his eight game spell. Clean sheets however are few and far between and without an abundance of goals raining in, the Bees do need to tighten up and start to put games to bed when on top.

Just underneath them the common theme is a lack of away wins holding back about four teams. With a round of midweek games though to come there is opportunity along with the games next weekend to make some movement but they are the sides currently at the wrong end of the form table.

As we’ve seen though on enough occasions there’s likely to be one or two results you don’t expect in each round of games.

The bottom four are a little adrift of the rest and although Southend should have added a point to their tally they know more bodies are needed in the building. Their ask to make the play-offs is too great and the aim surely must be to avoid yet another relegation to the National League South.

Dover have a heck of a lot to do with no wins after 15 games and with minus nine points to make up, it’s a totally wasted season for them and their supporters and no wonder they’re not attracting much more then 500 fans per game.

Kings Lynn will be wondering how they didn’t pick up a third away win at Bromley, leading twice but coming out with a 3-2 defeat. Unable to win at home so far the Linnets are certainly struggling this season and haven’t won in their last six games. Just above them Aldershot aren’t fairing much better, only a little improvement if any since the sacking of Danny Searle and it’s looking like a long season for the Shots. Once again the budgets are doing some of the talking in certain parts of this table, but as shown by some it’s not impossible to compete, you just need that rub of the green.

What will make Macclesfield

The other week just watching something on the TV, an advert for a programme caught my eye. Of course it was football and titled ‘Making Macclesfield’ I thought that might be worth a look at. One of my podcasting mates mentioned before we recorded earlier this week that he’d watched it.

Now I know to a lot Robbie Savage would put them off viewing and possibly also the fact the Silkmen might have been starting down at Step 5 instead of maybe one or two steps lower but with a stadium that has graced the Football League and had some major investment too.

Savage’s involvement will be the reason they got the show no doubt, similar to the involvement of the Class of ’92 when they bought Salford City, but to watch these you have to look beyond that famous footballer outlook and into the club itself.

I’ve been in the same place as a Macclesfield fan having been a Maidstone Utd supporter a very long time ago, when they failed to last past three seasons in the Football League and consequently went bust. That day in the early 1990’s saw them placed right at the very bottom of the ladder playing park football teams, no disrespect to the very heart of grassroots football but clubs since then have been able to reform and begin at a much higher level.

The supposed still involvement of Jim Thompson as chairman or owner of the new club was the believed reason for the lowly beginnings, an example being made of Thompson’s running of the defunct club by the FA in my opinion. That lost me as a fan, especially as they resigned from the league after the season began which meant a whole year wasted.

I was interested to watch it from the point of view of having had involvement at Step 6 in a club in various roles and from the view of how an ex league club with a considerable stadium do things at that level.

I was surprised at the sum of money needed to be spent on the stadium including a new 3G pitch, I had heard it wasn’t anywhere near a good place and with new people new ideas of how to make it a money making venture it needed considerable money to be thrown at it and I don’t think Rob Smethurst is getting that back!

It’s very easy to under-estimate these levels of football on and off the pitch as a smaller club, when your in the position of Macc and even Bury people expect more and quicker too.

One thing that struck me during the programme was the game against Congleton Town and the crowd trouble between two sets of local rival supporters, Savage remarked afterwards to the match officials that despite a much bigger stewarding presence they weren’t asked to segregate.

As we know and we love, non-league below the National League is the joy of changing ends at half time and no segregation but having read through the excellent AFC Wimbledon book by Erik Samuelson, they encountered problems when they were in the Combined Counties League, also at Step 5, due to their high supporter levels and even used to take stewards to away games to help the host club.

I don’t believe leagues themselves are set up to deal with these scenario’s, I appreciate they don’t happen often but when the FA place clubs down at Steps 5 and below to re-start, why on earth aren’t they providing more guidance to help things go more smoothly?

We’ve seen this season as well since it began attendance levels across the board are in most cases trending upwards in a good fashion and don’t show signs of stopping so maybe the governing body could pull their finger out and suggest a few options for unique situations, I mean the same thing is going to follow them to Step 4 and they won’t be the last club to re-start at Step 5 or 6 that will have a large support base.

Back to Macc, their budget will always dwarf anyone else in that division and a good chance for the next two years if they gain successive promotions, but when you can attract 2000 plus for every home game then you can spend it. Just like Salford they will get the publicity with Savage’s involvement and for clubs going there or playing them at home it’s going to be called their cup final, pressure is all on the Silkmen to deliver and to do it quickly.

Stones draw first blood

Saturday featured my third Barnet awayday of the season compared to one visit to The Hive this season. Wealdstone away was one on the calendar for a few Bees fans, for the home side they had been waiting for this one for a long time.

As stated in my preview on Friday evening there is a lot of bad blood between the clubs and managers, but it was three points on offer during the afternoon, no more or no less and of course early season bragging rights.

Both sides went into the game at opposite ends of the form table, Barnet under Dean Brennan one defeat in seven whilst Stuart Maynard had presided over one win in seven.

A record attendance for the Stones on the afternoon of 2662 including what must have been close to the 800 allocated for Barnet fans in the away end, saw more than a few comments about the state and size of the ground.

Barnet comfortably settled the quicker on the decent playing surface and with Aston Oxborough in command of his box early on the Bees fans expected much but as with most local derbies plenty of passion and commitment but very little showing in the end product.

Adam Marriott had a good chance to open the scoring on 16 minutes, forcing Stones keeper George Wickens into a fine save. The dual wing combo of Rob Hall and Ephron Mason-Clark was looking to be the route into the game for the Bees, but resolute Stones defending sent away any dangerous ball into the box.

Mason-Clark thought he had given the Bees the lead just before the half hour mark after rounding Wickens but the ball skewed off the outside of the post to keep the scores level.

Despite the Bees again enjoying more of the possession and getting balls into the box, neither side did enough in the first half and the scores were level at half time.

Both sides traded chances early in the second half but neither managing to cause either keeper too much trouble and despite both managers making substitutions to try and get something going in the game it still looked to have 0-0 written all over it.

Wes Fonguck looked bright when he came on for Hall and did look as if he might spark something in the final third for the Bees, certainly more urgency was injected.

Sam Beard’s fierce effort on 74 minutes was deflected away when looking likely to give the visitors the lead and as the game looked like it was drifting away towards the 0-0 draw, the inevitable happened.

As Oxborough came racing out from his goal and clashed with Beard, Rhys Browne nipped in on the loose ball and gave the home side a priceless lead with 12 minutes to play.

The visitors did start to play with a bit more intensity needing to find an equaliser and thought they had it with a minute to play. A goalmouth scramble saw the ball end up in the back of the net but the referee with a view from a few yards away sought the advice of his assistant some 15 yards the other way and promptly ruled the goal out.

Jamie Turley and Mason-Clark had chances in stoppage time to rescue a point but the Stones held out and picked up a valuable three points to lord it over their visitors until the return at The Hive.

I wouldn’t say either side deserved to win, moments of quality were few and far between and with the winner coming from a defensive mix up it wasn’t a surprise.

The Bees should have really taken the game by the scruff of the neck in that first half but failure to be more clinical once again in the final third is becoming an achilles heel. For all the good work Mason-Clark does down the flank, the end product is lacking severely and work needs to be done to just get the ball in the box.

Good to see Turley finally on the pitch and no surprise he was blowing after about an hour, Sam Woods had his best game yet which is no surprise as his fitness levels are picking up.

Great to see a lot of new friends there and lots of others I’ve known for a long, long time as well, too many mention or I’ll be here all night!

Whilst criticising the officials might sound like sour grapes and up to you if you read it like that, the amount of blatant shirt pulling was beyond belief. It’s not the first time, seeing both Beard and Mason-Clark with ripped shirts after the Aldershot game suggests the National League should be picking up on this, but then we’re not likely to see the chairman at a game on a Saturday to point some fingers at what’s going on, too busy elsewhere for that……….

Wealdstone vs Barnet preview

When I opened up the floor on Twitter for blog pieces, this was another one I added to the list but one that needed to be written closer to the time rather than ‘lost in the post’ a week or so ago.

Wealdstone vs Barnet this weekend has a lot riding on it, three points essentially but of course it goes much deeper than that. I think it’s fair to note there is a fair few grudges held, namely over what is now The Hive and home to Barnet FC.

There is the bad blood between the current two bosses of both clubs to give it that extra edge and then the recent thumping the Stones dished out to the Bees last season which finally caused Tony Kleanthous to sort out his managerial problem, well at least for a few months.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the nitty gritty bits mentioned above, after all we’re there to watch a National League game on Saturday afternoon where the three points on offer are crucial for both sides.

For those reading this who don’t know and if any part is incorrect then please advise me otherwise. My understanding is the land where The Hive now sits was part completed by Wealdstone and their financial partners but was unable to be finished off. Kleanthous then identified it as a training complex for the Bees, swooped in and made it what it is today.

Reading back through historic articles online the Stones were told by Harrow council that as part of the planning agreement with Barnet they were to be allowed a groundshare on reasonable terms, that as we know has never materialised.

Now I’m not going to get into the rights or wrongs over it, you can all discuss that to death on social media, but please be pleasant. I’m sure there is added stuff to this, there might also not be but that is my basic understanding of it all.

Then we come to the managers, Dean Brennan and Stuart Maynard. The former of course an ex-Stones boss who spoke to Barnet last season with permission, declined the move, stayed where he was and then found his P45 arriving. Maynard stepped into the breach, with it believed he was working behind Brennan’s back, a friendship ruined and more to separate the two sides.

Onto the football as that’s what we’re here for! It’s a strange rivalry for me as I’ve only really been used to Stevenage as local rivals over the 20 odd years I’ve been a Bees fan, now credit to both the Stones and Boreham Wood for reaching this level as we’re a million miles away from a return to the Football League.

Last season saw the balance shift towards Wealdstone in their first season back at this level, dishing out a 5-1 thumping at home to the Bees, one of many lowlights last season, in fact far too many to want to remember!

Barnet are currently enjoying their highest position in the table going back twelve months, but only since sacking Harry Kewell who registered no wins in the first seven games of the season. Since Brennan has taken interim control of the side, he has registered just one defeat to big spending Wrexham in the same amount of time as Kewell had with the team.

Contrast that to the Stones and they’re in a bit of freefall currently, just one win in their last seven games but a very big win over high flying Grimsby Town at home which would have relieved a bit of pressure on Maynard and the team. Neither side has played a National League game since the end of October so we’re either going to see a little rustiness or refreshed players ready to go.

Being a part time outfit does make it hard to compete in this division and given some of the sums of money clubs parted with over the summer staying in this division and upsetting some of the bigger clubs is an achievement in itself.

I can see this being quite a feisty affair both on and off the pitch given the history and the current as well, I can’t say I’d like to be the man in the middle for this one! Of course though I’m hoping it’s me and the Bees fans celebrating come the final whistle and then possibly the talk of how much longer we continue under an interim manager……..

Angels lack spark to trouble the Hawks

Tuesday night’s trip was opened up to Twitter over the weekend for my followers to decide where I went. The choices were both in the National League South at Hungerford Town and Tonbridge Angels, the former boasting some fantastic looking burgers inside a deal of ‘4 for a score’ and the latter a chance to catch up with Angels boss Steve McKimm and a return to the county where I grew up in.

Tonbridge won with 56% of the vote, so I was off to the Halcyon Wealth Longmead Stadium and Hungerford’s burgers were on the back burner as so to speak. My last visit to Tonbridge was around 3 or 4 years ago as Adam Hinshelwood’s Worthing were on course to complete their great escape that year, the two sides played pre-season this year on the South Coast and a depleted Angels went down 4-1 in the Sussex sunshine.

Their visitors on Tuesday evening were Havant & Waterlooville, arriving 3 days after an FA Cup 1st round exit to League One Charlton Athletic and possibly a big leggy after that game I expected the home side to maybe have the slight edge to proceedings.

And it was the home side who began the brighter exerting a lot of pressure onto the Havant back line but not testing Will Mannion too often. The visitors grew into the game and there was no sign of tired legs either, dangerous on the counter attack with James Roberts and Aboulai Baggie behind Scott Rendell constantly trying to run at the Angels defence.

The visitors were forced into an early chance just five minutes in Paul Rooney replacing Jamie Collins who pulled up after just five minutes. Both Ibrahim Olutade and Aaron Smith-Joseph were at the heart of most of the attacking play for Tonbridge although the latter faded away as the half wore on.

The best chance of the opening moments fell to the visitors, Baggie racing clean through only to be denied by Angels keeper Jonny Henly to keep the scores level. The visitors then had to make a second enforced change, Rendell groggily leaving the pitch after a hard challenge from a free kick into the host’s penalty area.

Tonbridge thought they’d opened the scoring on 25 minutes, but Mannion was equal to the shot tipping over the bar. A yellow card for Jerry O’Sullivan just after the half hour mark following a bad challenge right in front of the dugout’s prompted a few confrontations before the game continued.

Moments after that the visitors were in front, Roberts capitalising on a loose ball from midfield and ran through to dink the ball over Henly and into the net for the opening goal.

Another tasty challenge between the sides right on the stroke of half time saw another melee between the players but resulted in Hawks boss Paul Doswell being red carded by the referee, presumably for something he said and after things had calmed down the visitors went into the break in front.

The beginning of the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, the Angels providing the prompting, the Hawks always looking likely to cause problems on the counter.

Olutade had the best effort the home side just before the hour, a smart turn but unable to hit the target. The Angels striker was certainly much better marshalled in the second period and eventually was withdrawn for Tommy Wood as the home side tried to find a way through.

Despite a flurry of corners and one effort cleared off the line for the Angels, Havant did just enough to ensure the points went back to Hampshire to move themselves up to 7th in the table and right in the play-off/promotion mix.

For the home side there was plenty of endeavour as first team coach James Scott stated in the post-match interview but just no end product, if you look at a lot of the Angels results there are games there where one goal takes a point or all three, it’s very fine margins in what is a very competitive South division.

Olutade was the bright spark for the home side but struggled to get into the game in the second period compared to the first, the changes with both Wood and Jake Hutchinson coming on did add something more for the Angels but still not quite enough.

With the visitors boasting a few in their ranks with a lot of National League and Football League appearances, they seemed to have a little more in the tank and managed the game well enough to not let Tonbridge create too many opportunities.

Ironically, Hungerford finished with a 1-0 home defeat to Hemel Hempstead as well so I wouldn’t have seen a home win either way! Good to catch up briefly with Steve McKimm before the game and to finally meet Welling Utd coach Hugo Langton who was there prior to the Angels heading to Welling’s Park View Road ground this coming weekend which promises to be another tough battle in this fledgling season.

Who would be a football manager

Who would want to be a football manager? Certainly not me despite my love for the game, but there are plenty of people out there wouldn’t turn down any chance.

Watching the fall out from the Premier League to non-league in just the first few months of this season has been quite astounding for managers leaving their jobs. With covid last year affecting the game in a big way there was very little movement, mainly due I believe to clubs not being able to afford sacking the top man and paying them off along with a set of coaching staff.

Some clubs did go ahead to save their season, barring the National League non-league wasn’t really affected with the culmination of the season at the beginning of November.

This season though I’m sure some clubs aren’t prepared to wait around having lost two seasons worth of time to make progress and you can’t blame them either. I’m sure that thought has been in the minds of managers and players too since the beginning of the summer.

You can understand the frustration and the wanting or need for a new challenge and I don’t think you can blame people. It can be a short career in the game either on or off the pitch and having lost those years you’ve got to make the most of it.

Last year was definitely tough on those out of the dugout, unable in most cases to even attend games to keep themselves in the public eye the lack of jobs about meant a lot of sitting around and waiting, waiting for almost nothing to be coming along.

What is frustrating the higher up you go into the Football League it’s the same old names and faces trotted out instead of clubs investing in talent from the lower levels. Success is wanted yesterday and there is very little room to build anything at a club these days, sometimes taking a step backwards to rebuild is needed but it’s not always seen like that.

Sometimes however the change in manager and a different voice in the dressing room has the desired effect and it all looks like the right thing to do especially if the team start moving up the table.

It must be though the most unstable job in the world but also one of the very few that rewards failure. Get sacked for not doing a good job and the pay off can be very lucrative, that certainly doesn’t happen for the likes of you and me in our everyday jobs. Maybe on the other side of that though is there are so many candidates to go up against, it’s no surprise to see 100 odd apply for a vacancy in non-league especially if the club is one with a good reputation now or previously, the love of football is like a drug, it keeps you coming back for more whether you’re a manager, player or a supporter.

I know some reading this will be chomping at the bit to get back involved and some might even be looking over their shoulders in case their job is at risk, but sometimes you can think you’re doing fine in the main job and still end up on the dole, I mean who would want to be a football manager……..

Cup success again for East Preston

With a new daytime job in place and an adjustment back to full time work, I kept local on Tuesday evening and headed to East Preston for their Sussex RUR Cup game against division lower Billingshurst.

With just one win to their name this season which came last Tuesday in the Sussex Senior Cup away at Crowborough, EP have found it tough with an inexperienced young side to compete this season but with three or four older heads added to the team the season might now begin to turn around.

The visitors arrived at the Lashmar in need of a positive result after picking up only two wins throughout October after a bright start to the season, however they also had success in the Sussex Senior Cup causing an upset by dispatching Newhaven from the same division as East Preston and given the home side’s league position would have been expecting to cause another surprise.

The visitors settled the quickest, playing some nice football on the grass, a little bit of frustration from East Preston which led to a couple of early yellow cards for the home side.

Despite some quick play Hurst didn’t trouble the home keeper Kurt Jenna-Swain and with EP looking to spark with Shane Brazil’s pace and the guile of Harry Russell up front, the home side took the lead on 25 minutes courtesy of the former. Having picked the ball up wide of the penalty area Brazil cut inside and his deflected shot beat Andy Barr for the first goal of the game.

There wasn’t long to wait for a second goal as four minutes later, Cam Lineham’s shot also took a deflection past Barr to put the home side in control of the game. Hurst weren’t without their own chances but very little were clear cut and kept the home side out in front.

Just before half time, the visitors conceded a third, Brazil again running at the Hurst defence and rifling a shot beyond Barr to give the home side a good cushion going into the break and seemingly no way back into the match for Billingshurst.

Early in the second half with EP looking to put the game beyond the visitors, Russell scored their fourth goal from all of twenty-five yards out and seemingly a place in the next round, a tall order for Hurst to come back from and gave EP boss Simon Hull the opportunity to substitute a couple of players.

There was a glimmer of hope around the hour mark as East Preston’s Jack Newhouse was sent off after reacting to a late challenge and the visitors sensed they could still get something from the game with plenty of time left.

The game turned into almost attack versus defence as EP sat back to defend their lead against wave after wave of attacks from the visitors as they set about trying to get back into the game.

Some resolute defending and outstanding goalkeeping from Jenna-Swain kept the scoreline intact until the 86th minute when Hurst finally broke through and Tom Edwards reduced the deficit by one.

Just when you felt it was merely a consolation for Billingshurst, Edwards popped up again bang on 90 minutes for his and the visitors second goal. You could feel a tinge of nervousness around the Lashmar despite the two goal cushion the home side still had.

With three minutes of stoppage time to negotiate, the visitors had two further chances to make it a very nervy last minute or two as a superb Jenna-Swain save tipped a rising shot over the bar to sealed the win and a trip to Selsey in the next round.

Very impressed with the way the visitors preferred to play the ball out from the back and all the way to the front, even at 4-0 down they didn’t change their philosophy and had they been able to convert one or even two of the half chances early on we would have seen a much different scoreline.

For EP, the experienced heads made a big difference and it is what the side have been crying out for over the last season and a half and for them you hope it starts to be effective in the league games before they are too far adrift of everyone which isn’t just quite yet.

Very good performances from Dan Howick, Jordan Dudas and Russell for the home side, I would be surprised to see the visitors finish below mid-table in Division One, certainly enough there for them to be happy about although possibly disappointed with the goals conceded.

Back to back wins have the Bees buzzing

It’s not too often you get your non-league team on the TV, especially if they aren’t troubling the top end of the table, but the BT Sport contract with the National League means every team appears at least once during the season.

Last season’s miserable effort from Barnet came in January this year, a 3-0 thumping from local rivals Boreham Wood was one you’d rather forget as was pretty much the whole season, a minging effort.

This time around Aldershot were the visitors to The Hive on Halloween weekend, a side who had also dispensed with their starting manager in Danny Searle lasting a week less than Harry Kewell in charge of the Bees. Whilst Barnet had seen some improvement under Dean Brennan the Shots have yet to see their side move forwards under Mark Molesley, fresh from last season’s disaster at Southend Utd.

With both sides desperate for points, there was a tentative start to the game and it was the Shots who settled quickest, the Bees having changed starting personnel again due to suspension and injury, Jordan Thomas and Joe Widdowson replaced by Sam Beard and Harry Taylor moving across the back four to right back.

A flurry of attacking intent and corners failed to produce anything of note for the visitors which in turn gave the home side the confidence to play their game, getting Ephron Mason-Clark on the ball and running at the Shots defence.

The Bees took the lead just before the half hour mark, Adam Marriott recycled a cross back into the box and Kian Flanagan was on hand to score his first goal in Barnet colours.

The goal gave the impetus to the home side and appeared to deflate the Shots forward play, not helped by an injury to winger Gime Toure who was causing the Bees skipper Taylor a few problems at right back.

Flanagan was at the heart of almost every attack as Barnet tried to add to their opener, Marriott unable to hit the target with a header whilst the young Bees midfielder skipped through challenges at ease but unable to see his work finished off by the supporting cast.

The Bees thought they had doubled their lead a minute before half time, a deft cross into the box from Mitch Brundle was headed home by Mason-Clark only to be ruled out for offside, TV replays showing the Barnet winger was onside.

Despite the interval halting momentum the Bees opened the second half brightly, which saw Molesley make a change bringing on Mo Sylla for his debut and an almost instant impact.

Minutes before the hour mark, Lewis Kinsella swung a free kick into the box, two Barnet defenders didn’t deal with it and the ball dropped kindly for Sylla to arrow past Aston Oxborough for the equaliser.

The goal gave Aldershot the confidence to put the pressure onto the home side and they struggled to regain composure given the visitors hunger for more goals, the lead nearly coming for them four minutes after they had scored, Flanagan in the right place on the line to divert the ball away.

With the Bees forced into a change after injury to Ben Richards-Everton, Serhat Tasdemir was added to the amount of creative players on the pitch in black and amber, despite this the game entered into a scrappy period where neither side could keep the ball nor create much when in possession.

Just as the game looked to be heading towards a share of the spoils, Barnet won it with four minutes left on the clock. A Flanagan corner was headed out to the edge of the box where Rob Hall took a touch and lashed it back past debutant keeper Lawrie Walker, a strike worthy of winning any game and celebrations from the home supporters.

The visitors will feel they should have stolen a second equaliser before stoppage time, nervy moments in the Barnet penalty area saw Mikael Ndojli head agonisingly wide of the far post while Marriott had the chance to seal a comfortable win in added time but Mason-Clark’s final ball sent the striker a little wide and his effort sailed over the bar, but three points stayed at The Hive and back to back wins for Brennan’s side for the first time this season.

The win pushes Barnet up to 14th in the table and on a run of just one defeat in the last seven games whilst the Shots stay firmly in the relegation zone with only one win in their last six games.

Some excellent performances in black and amber, Flanagan put in his best showing so far in a Bees shirt and must have run close for Man of the Match by Beard, a whole hearted non-stop performance from the returning full back.

Brundle also had one of his better games and Mason-Clark a constant threat as the game went on, whilst the centre half pairing of Richards-Everton and Reiss Greenidge looked a tough one to break through.

A week without a game gives some of the injured time to recover and there will be speculation over the vacant managerial position with a lack of football to talk about. Brennan you can’t argue has put himself in firmly in the driving seat after the disastrous appointment of Harry Kewell, play-off form is what the Bees are currently in with points per game return and the end of October was a good yardstick to see where the club were at.

There may be a case of ‘not currently broken, nothing to fix,’ but at some point a decision has to be made as to whether someone else comes in somewhere in this structure or it get’s abandoned just months after its inception.

Have to commend the club in the offer they put out before the game to entice people into the ground, it’s what we have been crying out for and whilst the attendance wouldn’t have been what the club was hoping for, I hope it doesn’t stop them looking at ways to do it again, my only criticism of it was the timing of it coming out.

We’ve known for weeks the game the was on TV, Halloween weekend and bonfire night in some towns too, people make plans early and I suspect a lot of them were too late to alter.

But the club are listening to supporters which can only be positive after years of not and this fanbase won’t increase again overnight, keep it going in the right direction like it is on the pitch and keep communicating and at long last Barnet FC might actually be looking upwards……..

A bump in the road for National League big guns

The midweek National League results have shown that despite most teams having played 12 or 13 games the division is showing no signs of settling down yet.

Just when you think a team is off and on a run, a defeat crops up and usually one that’s unexpected, not too handy if you’ve got an accumulator going on it’s a good job it’s only a pound each week!

At the beginning of the season I reckoned that around fourteen of the twenty-three teams felt they would have a chance of either a shot at the title or the play-off places. Around half of those teams would say they’ve under achieved so far but with time to turn things around with a mini-run of results.

Two of these who have spent a heck of a lot of money in Stockport and Wrexham suffered defeats midweek as did the league leaders Grimsby Town. County’s loss meant the end of the road for Simon Rusk, his record not the worst but having spent a fair bit of money to achieve promotion before the salary cap comes into effect next season and to be sitting with just eleven goals in 12 games and outside the top seven a change was inevitable.

Now most want to see Wrexham fail in their bid to get back to the National League. Dubbed ‘Hollywood FC’ with the investment from the film star pair of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney some of the fees paid out so far are eye-watering and while fans of the Red Dragons will point to jealousy that it’s happening at their club and nowhere else it’s a cup final for everyone else in every game to beat them. Despite a game in hand they are off the pace massively behind the top two of Grimsby and Chesterfield and my thoughts are another defeat or two within the next three weeks or so would see the end of Phil Parkinson, this league is ruthless this year.

I don’t think many picked Wealdstone to turn over the league leaders Grimsby last Tuesday. A much needed win for the Stones and re-enforcing that no result is guaranteed before a ball is kicked, every three points has to be earnt. It might also have relieved a little bit of pressure on Wealdstone boss Stuart Maynard after a run of four games without a win, especially as both Barnet and Maidenhead around them have recently picked up a few points.

One side who has quietly gone about their business are Solihull Moors. Neal Ardley has taken his side into the play-off places with only two defeats in their thirteen games, I expected them to do well under the former Notts County boss whose previous club trail his new side by three points.

Bromley must get a mention too under Andy Woodman.One defeat in their last nine games has the Ravens looking upwards only and should they win both their games in hand then they could be sitting on the top of the National League, only a four goal swing would stop them in that quest.

Woodman has shown you can step in from the relative sidelines and improve a club, I was as surprised as any when Bromley sacked Neil Smith, not just because I know him but they were then heading in the right direction and the rest of his coaching staff didn’t follow him through the door.

Granted Woodman has made some of his own signings, but the majority were here before him and it hasn’t made an ounce of difference, when you consider their budget isn’t in the same bracket as the Wrexham’s and Stockport’s it’s down to managerial nous and getting the best out of his players, it does help when Michael Cheek leads your line though!

If Wrexham and Stockport do win their games in hand they are back in the mix but still a long way off the top spot and only three defeats between both Grimsby and Chesterfield it’s going to take some run with very little margin for error.

With all of the top five having completed thirteen games now and only four points separating them it promises to be another intriguing weekend of National League football culminating with my team the Bees taking on Aldershot at The Hive live on BT Sport, three points please chaps, sorry Shots fans!