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!

Shots on target against improving Bees

When Tim Flowers arrived at Barnet FC the size of the task in hand was a long hard slog. Six games later and despite some signs of improvement he might be thinking a trek over the Himalayas might prove less challenging.

Flowers was absent from the Bees Tuesday night trip to Aldershot, the club stating a non-covid illness, but assistant Gary Whild in the post-match interview suggesting the boss should get a covid test on the assumption of how he looked, make of that what you will!

Having watched the Shots live on BT Sport on Saturday evening away at Bromley, it was a good chance to see what to expect when facing Barnet. A liking to attack down the flanks where Barnet are weak was going to cause a few problems, strong across midfield and a cohesive back four, although that four described by the commentators were all centre halves by trade.

The one change for the Bees bringing in Michael Petrasso for Ephron Mason-Clark was like for like on what was to be another heavy pitch but of course nowhere near as tough as the conditions a week ago at Dover.

Best word to describe the first half, sluggish. The Shots didn’t create as much as I expected nor targeting the full backs either, although they were the only side to look as if they might score, Barnet once again less than potent in the opposition box, something that we’ve not managed to address since Flowers’ arrival.

By half time I duly believed that the game was there for the taking if we could somehow remember the opposition had a goal we were supposed to score in and funnily enough the memory came back.

A superb, whipped ball into the box by Antony Wordsworth found the head of an unmarked Petrasso to give the Bees the lead eight minutes into the second half, minutes where we seemed to remember that attacking play brings goals.

Minutes later Barnet should have had a second, Petrasso again with a shot that looked like it was heading into the net only for Shots keeper Mitch Walker to pull off the save, the loose ball then evading Courtney Baker-Richardson.

Just four minutes later however the hosts were level, a short corner from the Bees right hand side was not picked up quick enough and on hand at the far post unmarked was Jamie Sendles-White to volley past Scott Loach for parity.

The Shots almost took the lead a minute, a long ball over the top saw Frank Nouble beat the on-rushing Loach only to see the ball come back off the crossbar and evade the incoming Ricky Miller before the Barnet defence cleared the ball.

It wasn’t long in coming however for Aldershot to take the lead, a silly free kick given away by Miles Judd just outside the penalty area and former Bee Mo Bettamer fired the ball under the wall and into the net, sweet justice maybe for a player whose career stalled very quickly after signing for Barnet from Braintree but has ignited once more in Hampshire.

That goal did seem to knock the brittle confidence of the Bees once more and although Mason-Clark had a goal bound effect deflected over by JJ Hooper the Bees ran out of ideas and steam and once again defeat on the road for the struggling side from The Hive.

Petrasso since his return from injury has been a leading light for Barnet, it wasn’t surprising to see him withdrawn after an hour as he builds up fitness once again, the team can’t afford to have him suffering on the sidelines.

Defensively away from the goals conceded the centre halves looked better, but still concern in the full back positions, Jerome Binnom-Williams caught out of position far too often and Judd offered very little in either half of the pitch.

Good to get ninety minutes in the tank for both Wordsworth and Baker-Richardson, the lack of games played for the former due to suspension and for the latter a lack of action prior to arriving on loan, match fitness many need but quickly.

Evident once again that while we are getting better slowly defensively, the other end of the pitch is still causing concern and while quite a few have dug out Alfie Pavey over the last few weeks, most of which I agree with, Hooper should not be without criticism.

If the ball isn’t forthcoming too often, then let’s get some work-rate going please. Mo Faal doesn’t look to be in favour, looking for a goal last night in the last ten minutes and we chuck Liam Daly up the pitch instead of bringing on the tall striker. Hooper needs to do more for me, it’s the one area where we now need major improvement if we are to get out of the bottom three and if anything he has more help now in Petrasso and Baker-Richardson.

No win in fourteen league games now is a sorry statistic and a far cry from twelve months ago when the club were in the middle of what turned out to be a run of one defeat in seventeen games when the season came to a halt in March. A weekend off is probably not what is needed at the moment, but when Halifax visit the Hive next Tuesday it must signal the start of a run if the Bees want to finish outside the bottom three. Forget what is going on with the vote, that distraction and reliance on things going our way is not going to help, muddled thinking will only result in a failure to escape relegation in that someone or something else will help us out.

Games are starting to run out and while it still looks like there are plenty of matches and time on our side that soon evaporates and it becomes nigh on impossible to not lose another one, never dull being a Bees fan is it………..