Unbeaten run extends to four games for Brennan’s Bees

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……….

Brennan gets the Bees off the mark

I’m sure being a Barnet fan you achieve more highs and lows in one season than some fans can find in a lifetime, granted it’s more lows than highs to be honest, one thing you can’t deny is there is hardly ever a dull moment!

It was about two weeks ago I blogged the pressure was on Harry Kewell, one more loss and almost a week later he was gone. Not seen really as a surprise across the footballing world although there were a few of us who expected the ride to last a little bit longer.

I was expecting the Australian to be given two games, Bromley away and Weymouth at home. The latter coincided with the only time bar Bank Holiday Monday in August when a trip to The Hive was possible, so armed with Nick Patel that was to be the game before Kewell was out the door.

Enter stage left, Dean Brennan Head of Football. Many believe it’s now set up for the Irishman to take the main job and potentially with it the end of the structure so sought after within around six months of its inception.

Kewell seemed at times stuck in his own little bubble, his interviews pre and post-match were bland, full of nothing and details of injuries kept hidden in his back pocket.

Brennan on the other hand straight off on Friday, boom we knew who hadn’t a chance of making the game and how long they’re out for, not sure what Kewell was trying to achieve but didn’t endear himself with the Bees faithful.

Kept off the bottom only by Dover’s minus points, there is only one way to go. Reports of training and the whole week feeling like a cloud had been lifted over the Harrow complex tells you the story of maybe the past seven games, the fact that despite whatever was going to happen at The Hive on Saturday Peter Beadle’s side of last year had more points at this stage something was badly lacking.

Brennan’s decision to go with Josh Payne as a defensive midfielder at the expense of a second striker was a good choice, leaking goals for fun and if you can’t outscore the opposition then of course you must shore up your own backline.

Having watched Weymouth the week before against Dover, I was expecting the visitors to control a lot of the possession and they didn’t disappoint. Sam Shields was a constant menace down the Bees right hand side and despite getting balls into the box the Barnet centre halves of Ben Richards-Everton and skipper Harry Taylor dealt with most backed up by keeper Sam Sargeant.

Despite only playing with the one striker in Mason Bloomfield, the balls up to him were sticking and being quite a release from defensive pressure, for a big guy he has a very good touch and get’s his body in-between ball and the defender.

It was clear to see the Bees had done some work on set piece delivery during the week, corners into the box from Payne were causing the visitors a few issues, a rehearsed move of finding Richards-Everton at the back post nearly produced a goal from his header back across, Ephron Mason-Clark eventually shooting over.

It was from a corner the Bees took the lead just after the half hour mark, Payne’s delivery found Mitch Brundle unmarked in the box and his free header gave Ross Fitzsimons no chance in the Terras goal.

A set piece again nearly brought a second goal for the home side in first half stoppage time, Payne hitting the post with Fitzsimons beaten all ends up, Barnet heading into the break in front, hugely against the wall in possession stats.

Both Brundle and Mason-Clark had early chances to increase Barnet’s lead but Fitzsimons was equal to the efforts and from there on both sides traded chances without too much testing of either keeper.

The visitors found an equaliser 20 minutes from time, Shields’ cross into the box wasn’t dealt with and found it’s way to Brandon Goodship to touch past Sargeant, a taste of Barnet’s character to come for the remainder of the game.

Neither side seemed content to settle for a draw, the visitors though once again controlling possession mostly but changes for the Bees proved to be influential.

Daniel Powell on for David Sesay stole the ball from the dithering defender, powered towards the penalty area and slid the ball to fellow substitute Adam Marriott who calmly drew Fitzsimons out of his goal, and slotted home for the Bees.

Five minutes from time the home side made sure the three points were staying with them, Sam Beard’s high hanging cross was headed towards goal by Richards-Everton, crashed against the crossbar and over the line, the assistant referee signalling a goal as Marriott made sure the ball ended up in the back of the net, the defender with the goal however to give the Bees their first win of the season and a great start under Brennan.

Having heard about the different atmosphere around the training ground during the week as mentioned, the result possibly wasn’t a surprise and generally the new manager bounce as well, however had Weymouth scored first then we would have needed to see some resolve appear from the men in black and amber.

Credit to Brennan for the right substitutions at the right time, that won the Bees the game effectively. Taylor and Richards-Everton looked better as a central defensive partnership than anything else so far this year, Bloomfield as impressive leading the line as he was against Chesterfield a couple of weeks ago.

The win however means nothing if it’s not backed up with another home game this coming weekend and followed up by two sides in and around us, much work still to be done and at least we’re finally off the mark……..

Running the rule over Kewell’s signings

As many regular readers will know Barnet FC had a torrid season last time out, torrid for its supporters and some thoughts along my lines of a gamble from the chairman which came off by the skin of his teeth, however you look at it it’s done and in the history books.

Exactly a year ago today as I write this I was heading to The Hive to watch the Bees in the play-offs albeit on TV’s surround by fellow Barnet fans, but my first viewing since mid-March of the black and amber.

An end of season clear out has made for a summer of signings under new head coach Harry Kewell and head of football Dean Brennan and with a lot more quality than we saw arrive under Peter Beadle. Last year we were found lacking, but it appears this time around there is to be no mistake from Tony Kleanthous with the club in need of a big re-build on and off the pitch.

Underneath and around the top two appointments it was vital to see some continuity in Gary Anderson, Dave Anderson and physio Ollie Galloway all re-signing for the new season.

With around only 6-7 contracted players still in the building there has been massive scope for making this a Kewell and Brennan squad for the future and so far we’ve seen some good names coming through the door and one or two with points to prove or potential to be untapped.

Before the signings began, it was good to see Wes Fonguck accepting a new offer and staying with the club after an ACL injury curtailed his season early last year. A player with potential to make his mark in the game, this could turn out to be the biggest year of his career.

The day after Josh Payne was the first one through the door, experience in both the EFL and National League and a loss for Eastleigh when he moved to Woking a couple of years ago. One same day, two more joined Payne at The Hive, a striker in Mason Bloomfield and one that Bees fans were desperately wanting left back Sam Beard.

Bloomfield doesn’t have the most prolific of career stats in front of goal, but at 24 can provide the height of a target man at 6’3 and be a real threat from set pieces, he will need to have his best return ever of goals to ensure the Bees finish high up the table.

Beard was one of the two ‘need to be made’ signings. Having impressed all around the club with his loan spell at the end of last season, Beard brings a good positional sense at full back and isn’t shy of a tackle, already a fans favourite and one that should continue to prosper.

A day later, four more arrived through the doors in the shape of Jake Askew, Kian Flanagan, Jordan Thomas, and Josh Doherty. Askew arrives from Wealdstone and will compete with Aymen Azaze for the number 1 jersey although there currently is no date for Azaze to return following the nasty injury he was on the receiving end of last season so expect another keeper to likely come in, possibly on a short term basis.

Flanagan arrives from Crystal Palace, highly rated by former Bees manager and player Gary Phillips, just 21 and again with potential to make a decent start to his career.

Thomas also comes from the Premier League, Norwich City his previous club and another youngster looking to make an impression in the professional game in the right back position.

Doherty played under Kewell at Crawley and can play up and down the left hand side, giving cover to Beard whilst also allowing the Irishman to ping the ball into the box and brings a wealth of EFL experience to the club.

Hot on the heels of those boys just a couple of days later were a couple of cracking signings.

First up was striker Adam Marriott, a goalscoring record second to none at Kings Lynn and finished up the season at play-off chasing Eastleigh. Certainly, a compliment to Broomfield as a striking pair as it currently stands, a signing there that means business in my opinion if he can replicate his form in Norfolk.

The Bees added to that with the capture of title winning defender Jamie Turley from Leyton Orient where his medal comes from. At 6’1 a towering central defender who can also provide cover at right back, like Doherty his cover in extra positions will come in handy over the course of a long season and the experience he brings in alongside the youth coming in has given the squad a nice blend.

Not to be finished there, Mitch Brundle pitched up to become the 10th signing of the summer. Brundle like the two prior arrivals has bundles of experience at this level and a potential crucial partnership with Payne, Harry Taylor or Fonguck when fit could be the key to a successful season.

With arrivals there are almost always departures and it was no surprise to see centre halves Liam Daly and Matt Preston leave the club, the former having fallen down the pecking list last season whilst the latter understandably wants to play week in week out after missing so much of last season through injury and not guaranteed a starting position this time around, a mutual agreement was reached.

I don’t believe this is the end of the incomings either, potentially as many as six more to come through the door and with a big number of trialists currently featuring in behind closed doors matches one or two at least will surely do enough to earn a squad number for next season.

Already this is a good blend of experience and youth, but with all clubs around us making some useful signings it’s going to take a very, very top drawer effort to make it out of the National League……….

The double act for success?

Managerial appointments at Barnet FC are like London buses, occasionally the odd lull in waiting for the next one to arrive but not in the past 15 months or so. Thursday morning’s early news saw the latest new arrivals, yes arrivals, at The Hive tasked with a re-build that has to be the biggest under Tony Kleanthous’ reign as Barnet chairman.

Not just one through the door then but two, Dean Brennan installed as Head of Football (the Director of Football tag not loved much) and maybe to some more surprisingly Harry Kewell as the new Head Coach.

Both men have been linked to the club in the past, Brennan indeed held talks with Barnet after Peter Beadle was sacked late last year and was almost in the chair when things changed and Tim Flowers was appointed instead. Kewell was mooted last summer after the club parted ways with Darren Currie and before Beadle was given the job, the Australian ending up with a spell at Oldham Athletic.

In many ways you might say Kleanthous has finally got his ‘men’, but can they work as a partnership? It’s no secret the chairman has wanted a structure like this for a few months, people will be interested to see Brennan as the top figurehead instead of the manager or the head coach, however you like to term it.

In my opinion you have to look beyond the face value of the two appointments. Brennan knows the level and has experience of the players needed plus previous jobs around the National League. Kewell has the name which should also attract players to the club, we’re no stranger to a name at either Underhill nor The Hive, but that doesn’t breed success which we all know.

The way Kleanthous wants the structure to work is continuity. Should either of these two not prove good enough or the opposite way they do well enough to earn a move upwards then it’s set for the other to continue, whereas the past has seen us lose whole management teams, start again way beyond other clubs and then we wonder why we’re not on a level footing with everyone else.

I believe Dave Anderson and Gary Anderson will both stay as well, again that continuity which is the key word and what you have to look towards. I’ll praise Tony for this point, despite my reservations in the fact he could have done more prior to losing Simon Bassey to keep him at the club, but this structure was what he wanted when he put out his statement back in April and the first stepping stone on the floor.

The next marker will be the recruitment from these two guys over the coming weeks. We’re already behind some of the other clubs, in my mind around four weeks now so things have to move fast. Some will not be convinced that TK will put up a good budget and drive a play-off charge, but then ask yourself what is the point of a highly structured management team if there are no tools to work with?

He openly admitted that he took his eye off the ball when it comes to the football club, and in my eyes alone he has a lot to do to make up for what he’s presided over for the last 12 months, I’m sure I speak for a lot of supporters in that respect.

Both men have a lot to prove for themselves, well a third if you include the chairman too, seemingly a mixed response to the appointments on various forums and pages I’ve been reading.

Whilst it has been great blogging all things Barnet over the last six months, a lack of any other football saw to that! I can’t wait for next season to return the blog back to a non-league effort covering wherever I go which of course will include The Hive unless we’re in the middle of another meltdown in the managerial hot seat………..

Bees fans wait a little longer

The managerial merry go round is all of a sudden in full swing and it doesn’t matter how well you’ve done at a club it can still be the final nail in the coffin.

In the past 24 hours we’ve seen Notts County dispense with the services of Neal Ardley whilst earlier on Thursday Bromley announced that they had relieved Neil Smith of his duties as First Team Manager.

You might not think too much of it as manager’s lose their jobs all the time, but both clubs are currently inside the play-off places, which if Bromley maintain their form is the highest placing the club would have ever achieved.

Does this mean managers in clubs all around these two might be fearing for their jobs? Are they worried the end is close for them whether they win a game or lose the next seven? It’s a dangerous situation being created and while we’re not privy to the ins and outs behind the decisions other than the released club statements it’s hard to work out what exactly is going on.

Similar to Jim Gannon who on the surface looked to be doing a sterling job at Stockport County, a culture change they wanted to install within the club despite at the time the club appearing well placed for some success.

Both managers appeared to be doing a good job on the pitch, the league position shows no doubt and with 14 games left to go now, the final run-in, it seems an odd time for either boss to go and now remains to be seen if either side will fall away over the course of those games.

That now means there are three current vacancies in non-league’s top division those two coupled with the Barnet job, open since the mutual departure of Tim Flowers two weeks ago, although County filled their spot quite quickly which might suggest Ardley’s fate had already been sealed.

Many and myself included were expecting an announcement to be in place in time for this weekend’s trip to Yeovil Town, Paul Fairclough saying his goodbyes after Saturday’s home defeat to Chesterfield and his three match stint was over.

 That trip to face the Glovers will be overseen by Head Of Performance Gary Anderson whilst the Bees continue to take their time in finding the right man. I believe the events of the past 24 hours have turned the chairman’s head that he is not yet convinced he has the right man for the job.

As Bees fans we know the next appointment has to be the one that can turn into the three year project that Barnet Football Club need. Having gone through two managers this season, both of which were not the right fit at all, the first we knew wasn’t, the second we hoped was but to no avail.

And whilst it might not be the best preparation for the weekend waiting just a few days longer might work out well to the advantage of the club. At the same time there is no midweek outing next week which would give Tony Kleanthous the weekend to finalise who exactly he wants in the hot seat and the structure in and around the football side of the club before the visit of Solihull Moors on Good Friday.

Can we expect Ardley or Smith to be in the frame now? I think so, at least one of them or maybe both, I don’t know what is in the thinking, both might even decide to have a few months off and see what’s available in the summer.

I would hope Smith is in the frame, not just because I know him reasonably well I think he can provide the stability we need but also is not afraid to tell it how it is. Plus his knowledge of southern based players would be an advantage if we aren’t wanting to spend out on long security of wages or relocation expenses.

I expect Dean Brennan and Harry Kewell still to be in the frame, however the longer it goes on you would think that maybe Kleanthous is not fully convinced by either appointment or he is making sure he exhausts all possible avenues.

Either way we’ve got a few more days waiting to see who’s next in the office at The Hive, but it must be done in time for Good Friday because it’s starting to look a little bit of a shambles the longer it goes on…….

Back to square one as Flowers goes

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Tim Flowers arrived at The Hive on a wave of optimism, to be the man that would bounce the Bees back up the National League table after replacing Peter Beadle. Indeed the two men who’ve occupied the Barnet dug out this season have one thing in common, they both lasted a similar amount of time.

Three months ago, Flowers arrived with the Bees just outside the bottom three, Beadle having been sacked after a 6-0 thumping at Chesterfield. The ex-Solihull Moors boss was originally been thought to have interviewed in the summer for the job but lost out to the former Bees striker and subsequently pitched up at Macclesfield Town only to not manage a game before they went bust.

And now here we are with Flowers and Barnet ‘mutually’ parting ways with the club under both managers now on a run of one win in the last 21 games. Flowers record itself in just over three months is one win in 12 games, 11 of those in the National League, Beadle’s record prior to that in all games was four wins in 16 games, only two of those victories came in the league.

Once again as a club Barnet are in familiar territory, struggling and manager less although if you know the club well enough by the time you actually read this there is likelihood of a new man in the home dugout.

What went wrong for Flowers? Well, what went right really! At the beginning his interviews were all about knowing it was a big challenge and that’s why he was there. I don’t think he underestimated the challenge but a lot more to it and now today we’re here with three different sets of players within one squad, some of whom have played three different styles of play in 12 months.

When Flowers was appointed I knew what the style would be, get it forward quick and play off the second ball, the question was always going to be whether the personnel were there to play that way or enough players could be brought in to suit the change in play. The answer in the end was neither, the players brought in haven’t blended with those already at The Hive and the style didn’t produce results, the stats tell us enough.

We have the bizarre situation of six loan players with only five of them allowed in a matchday squad, with one of those extended for a further month which appeared just to cover a further signing’s suspension carried over from his previous club.

A bloated squad of 34 professionals at the last count has seen some now placed on the furlough scheme, something which a lot of clubs are now doing in the National League, but it doesn’t sit right with me nor a lot of other people at Barnet or any other club. I hope most of those in the 34 are not contracted beyond this summer in which we will head towards another rebuild under yet another manager.

Having watched his interview after Tuesday night’s defeat to Wrexham, his body language was evident to say before a word was spoken that he had run out of ideas to get something from this bunch of players. Some have mentioned he had lost the dressing room, his constant tool of battering the players in the post-match interview didn’t go down well. Did he need to try and adapt his style to fit the players he had and could get?

To constantly concede goals from set pieces and crosses suggests the players either stopped listening or technically aren’t good enough to carry out instructions given to them during the week. Teams worked out very quickly how to beat us and it hasn’t stopped happening despite the influx of new players.

Whilst at times and very sporadically the team have looked more secure at the back, it evaporates as soon as they go a goal behind and then collapse, the stats as stated above don’t lie and in 24 league games this season the side have conceded three or more goals on nine occasions, a goal difference of minus 41 is well in excess of anyone else in the league.

Two loan strikers who have yet to find the net tells its own story as does just 18 goals in those 24 games, that end of the pitch provided no improvement under Flowers reign indeed only seven goals scored with two of those coming in the only win over FC Halifax.

So where do we go now then? As expected names are in the frame despite it surely looking like the poisoned chalice from the outside. There are plenty of out of work managers out there, but would you risk your reputation on a club that has gone through 25 managers since 2010?

In a way it’s a no lose situation for an incoming manager given the current position to try and turn it around but still a big ask for anyone worth their salt. I can’t imagine there is budget space left for any more players to come in so whoever is charged with the task will have to get a tune out of the 34 players on the books.

My personal opinion would be a caretaker until the season ends in May, can we afford to get it wrong again and sack or mutually dispense of another manager after a bad run of defeats if it comes to that? But if we go down that route, we must be ready on that first Monday after the season ends to appoint the new man, get the retained list out and start planning, not follow what we did this year and create the mess we are now deep in.

The fanbase is fractured once again, a small way to start yet another repair would be a former player or manager of the club in charge, someone who understands what Barnet FC are about. It will however take a lot more than this to get people back onside and caring about the club again, I think if I remember rightly 12 months ago people did care and enjoy it under that particular manager.

And all that comes down to one man. We can speculate the full cost of the decisions made since August it must be more than the anticipated outlay expected for 2020-21 in total. That could have been avoided from day one, I can’t say for sure we would be enjoying a fruitful campaign but I don’t think it would a relegation threatened time and most would accept that under the pandemic conditions mid-table was acceptable.

And before I get to finish the blog this evening, they pop up and announce Paul Fairclough has stepped in to ‘technically advise’ for the trips to Bromley and Stockport. Of course no stranger to the club as the 2004-05 title winning manager returns to The Hive but after a very long period out of game, surely is nothing more than a favour to Tony Kleanthous? Maybe Martin Allen didn’t answer the phone this time?

So far it hasn’t inspired Bees fans across social media and I believe that all this does is buy the chairman a week or so to evaluate the next step. As above I still believe this should be a caretaker role for someone with 18 games to go after these next two games but the next steps must be very robust in its thinking.

Names will of course be linked, Aaron McClean who had a spell here a few years ago and highly thought of as an up and coming coach, Harry Kewell, the return of Ian Hendon, Dean Brennan who appeared to turn us down before Flowers arrived and of course Darren Currie for a dramatic return.

One last thing to finish on. Tony, pick a philosophy and stick with it please. You might like going round in ever decreasing circles but as supporters we don’t and it has to change. Not everything can be done on the cheap and I think we deserve better, we’ve discovered over the last 12 months football is nothing without its fans, it has to be right this time before you lose the very people here to be entertained…………