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……….

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……..