Bees get the better of local rivals

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Another Tuesday night and yet more midweek football, another game that I previously couldn’t make on it’s original date so rude not to take up the offer this time around.

The Hive and Barnet FC was the destination with Gareth Spinks for a local derby with Boreham Wood, the 4th meeting between the two sides this year, Wood on top in both cup games and 0-0 draw back in the New Year.

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It certainly isn’t over yet

As it comes towards the end of January the National League title race is turning into a mad sprint to the finish. With so many games postponed in the last six weeks there is such an imbalance in games played that the lead and positions underneath top spot are changing on such a regular basis.

I’ve long tipped Chesterfield to win it, the goals of Kabongo Tshimanga vital to the charge and with the addition this week of Joe Quigley from Yeovil alongside the return from injury of Akwasi Asante there is enough firepower there. Having dealt with an injury crisis that at one stage numbered 12 first team players, the only concern is turning draws into wins, indeed they are the draw specialists in the division so far this year but are on top of the tree on goal difference.

That tip is under big threat from no less than six teams, that’s how tight the league is this year as clubs clamour to get out of non-league and into the Football League before the salary cap hits next season.

Question is who do you fancy? Halifax Town are really putting the cat amongst the pigeons. No disrespect to the Yorkshire outfit but they weren’t at all mentioned in the pre-season predictions and I remember Pete Wild the Town boss bemoaning the amount of money in some clubs that his couldn’t compete with, but he’s almost swallowed his own words and shown they can mix it.

Maidenhead managed to account for losses for the top two sides inside the last seven days showing this league isn’t as easy as sometimes thought to escape from.

Having watched Stockport not really get out of second gear to get past Dagenham in the evening kick off on Saturday, they are serious contenders. Seven wins in a row and Dave Challinor has County purring, they are really putting the heat on others now and clearly shows they were right to dispense with the services of Simon Rusk and lure last season’s play-off winning manager back into non-league.

Bromley like Halifax have gone a little under the radar but are still in the thick of things despite an unsettling week with interest from Gillingham in boss Andy Woodman. It’s no secret he expects to be managing in the Football League sooner rather than later but can he do it with the Ravens instead of the Gills? There is a possibility they could face each other in League Two next season, lots would need to come together for that to happen.

Boreham Wood are nine games unbeaten and haven’t lost a league game since mid-October, they have most to gain with games in hand in the top seven. Like Chesterfield, Wood need to convert more draws into wins and if those two games in hand are won Wood will sit top of the table.

Wrexham have hauled themselves back into contention and it’s maybe a surprise they haven’t made good use of the transfer window although eight or nine days left to still strengthen. Their home form has to be stronger in order to keep up their challenge, winning on the road seems to come easy.

Notts County occupy the final play-off spot at present and with games in hand as well. A five match unbeaten run has kept them in touch with the play-off pack and like the others winning those games can put them at the summit it really is that tight at the moment.

There are two or three clubs just outside at the moment that will still feel they have a chance of getting in there but the remainder beyond that will need a Stockport type of run and in effect longer than seven games won or a massive drop in form for about four or five clubs.

Whilst the Daggers looked out of sorts against Stockport they’re not out of the picture by any means the only thing going against them at the moment is having played more games than the top seven bar Halifax. If Solihull Moors can find some consistency again then they can challenge for a spot while Grimsby somehow need to turn their form back to the early months of the season or they will be looking at a mid-table finish at best.

There are a few tasty games coming up over the next three weeks alone, Halifax vs Boreham Wood, Bromley vs Notts County, Halifax vs Bromley and Stockport vs Chesterfield stick out, it’s certainly something you can’t take your eyes off for a minute.

Uninspiring draw opens the new year

Extra Bank Holidays also means extra games of football or just the same amount spread over more days! 2022 was to kick off with a derby as Boreham Wood took on Barnet for the third time this season.

With Wood winning both the FA Cup and Trophy ties already this season, the Bees would have looked at this one as surely the one to turn the tide and finally get one over their local rivals.

It was the first game for both since that Trophy game at The Hive on 18th December, a covid ravaged Christmas for a majority of the National League and both these sides had their fair share as well.

On a damp Sunday afternoon in Hertfordshire but on a decent playing surface, Bees boss Dean Brennan went with both strikers in Adam Marriott and Mason Bloomfield, something that hasn’t been seen too often this season and in trying to match up against Wood’s formation, Harry Taylor was employed as a centre half in a back three with Reis Greenidge out for the game.

From the beginning, it looked like it wasn’t going to be one for the purists, Wood well known for their tough, hard tackling game and turning the ball from back to front as quick as possible, the Bees trying to match their high flying opponents.

With both sides ring-rusty from a lack of match action of around two weeks there is pretty much next to nothing to write about the first half, Aston Oxborough forced into a save from Scott Boden down to his left tipping the ball away from goal and Sam Beard completing the clearance.

That was the only clear chance either side had in the first forty-five minutes as the two teams cancelled each other out from back to front.

The second half had more of the same unfortunately, Barnet’s first real chance came just after the hour mark, the excellent Jordan Thomas sent a lovely little cross in the six yard box but Bloomfield fluffed his kick and the scores stayed level.

Jacob Mendy had a great chance to win it for the hosts in the final ten minutes but Oxborough was equal to his shot and without much further drama a 0-0 draw was about as much as we could have expected.

I think it depends how you look at it as to whether it’s a good point against a top three side or just a poor game of football. From the outside it’s the good point, as mentioned above you could see neither side were in sync having had two weeks without playing, that’s bound to affect any team to get momentum going again.

I can’t say I was too keen that we went for a match up against them instead of playing our game, granted we did stand up to them and blocked and sweated everything they did, but at the expense of players like Rob Hall who had no influence at all on the game, a mere passenger.

I know playing Wood it’s not pretty, I have to say I wouldn’t enjoy watching the ball constantly find the air, that’s for the NFL!

Excellent game for Thomas on the right side today, certainly helps I think having Jamie Turley alongside him and by far the man of the match in black and amber.

A final word on the officials, the referee was pretty decent, just missed all the subtle things Wood like to get into the game, slowing down the throw in’s, the pushes and man handling. But the assistant in front of us was as poor as they come, countless offsides missed from not being in line with play, one or two too many mince pies this festive period, he was a shocker!

Well, onto Hungerford on Monday, can’t wait for that burger…………

Another small step in the right direction

Local derbies are never one for the faint hearted and Tuesday night’s trip to Boreham Wood was going to be no exception for Barnet FC. After Saturday’s win over Aldershot provided the Bees with a first win under Simon Bassey the trip up the road was likely to be a much sterner test.

A knock for one of the weekend goal-scorers JJ Hooper saw him replaced by Tomi Adeloye, himself a goal getter at the weekend, in an otherwise unchanged line up.

As per the weekend both sides opened brightly under the Meadow Park lights and it’s refreshing to see the Bees concentration from the off rather than expecting us to concede a goal or two and be out of the game before half-time.

The Bees had the first couple of early chances, although it was Kabongo Tshimanga who forced Aymen Azaze to save at his near post inside five minutes, one of the very few occasions the young Belgian keeper had a shot on target to make him work.

Ephron Mason-Clark, who again provided some good width and penetrating runs on the left flank, tested Wood with a couple of half chances as the home side started to take control of possession but were not creating too many chances, Tshimanga and Matt Rhead marshalled well by Liam Daly and Matt Preston.

On the half hour came Barnet’s best chance of the game, Adeloye making a little space for himself and only a strong hand from Wood keeper Nathan Ashmore prevented the Bees going in front.

Play swung from end to end with both sides trading corners but neither able to make the other pay from set pieces despite height in both ranks and the sides went in goalless at half time, Wood definitely enjoying more possession and putting the Bees under some pressure at times.

Wood certainly upped the ante from the re-start as Barnet struggled to get the ball and when they did they couldn’t keep it long enough to halt the pressure coming their way. The home side forced a succession of corners within the first 15 minutes of the half but failed to make any of them count as the Bees looked to play fully on the counter attack.

Just after the hour mark a mis-controlled ball from Krystian Pearce was about to set Adeloye away but the Wood defender took the foul and a yellow card before the Bees striker could make an impact.

The final quarter of the game saw the home side poke and probe to try and find a way through the visitors defence but Barnet held firm despite the odd nervy moment with balls coming into the box, but a second clean sheet in three games for Azaze and a third game unbeaten for Simon Bassey and Dave Anderson in what was certainly a very different game from the previous two sets of opponents.

For a side that has been caving in all season under pressure, this result was another huge step in the right direction upwards. Granted we have no other way to go but this is the first time this season the team has gone three games without losing in the National League, a pretty poor stat but one we’re not surprised at.

Plusses are springing up all over the park, Themis Kefalas once again a vital cog in front of that back four who are growing in confidence every game. Sam Skeffington quietly going about his game with energy whilst the press Harry Taylor put in for 89 minutes was pretty decent, to make Wood think harder about where they were putting the next pass every time, a different role for the young midfielder but one that gave the team something else.

Adeloye is starting to look more the part like Hooper, a job to do and knowing what to do, very simple but why couldn’t the others manage it with these players? Did they over complicate it or just a stubbornness to stick to one style?

Either way they are starting to be moulded into a team that’s hard to penetrate and be beaten, a bit more pride appears to be emanating back into the shirt which is all us supporters ask for.

Just a note on Antonis Vasiliou, I know a lot of fans want to see him on the bench and whilst I’ve loved the moments where he has played this season I can see why he’s not involved at the moment. People criticise two defenders on the bench, but when you break down the play as it is now one will replace Taylor after he’s run himself into the ground to shore up the back line.

If that defender has come on earlier for an injured player then we lose that game plan notion and we need to be water-tight defensively, that breeds the confidence of not getting smashed or simply conceding.

Vasiliou has a role to play next season I feel, Petrasso we would expect to return home which gives room for the young Cypriot to make his mark at this level, it’s ‘horses for courses’ as I see it to get us through the remainder of the season and to restore more of that pride I mentioned earlier.

In a week where the greed at the top end of the game was almost taken to a new level it’s refreshing to see my football club is taking small steps to get back on an even keel after the disbelief of all we’ve seen across the live streams all season, after all owners are just custodians of our clubs, supporters are there for life…………………..