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……….