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……..

Bees give fans something to cheer

Image courtesy of @BenFullyLove

For the first time since March 2020 the chance to watch Barnet FC live and in the flesh was waiting. Granted I could have been there in December to watch on a Tuesday night but the club’s reluctance to allow general sale tickets until too late meant I had made other plans and stuck to them.

Whilst this was yet another dead rubber within this strange, weird and sometimes dull season this was all about the fans. People excited at a piece of normality returning and for me meeting up with some of the people I’ve grown to know via social media over the past 14 months (if I missed any of you last night I’ll be there again on Saturday, please come and say hello) and also those who I already knew but haven’t seen for months.

One change for Simon Bassey saw Antony Wordsworth back into the midfield after his four match ban with Michael Petrasso dropping to the bench, meaning five substitutes for the first time in a while.

The first half as might be expected was a very cagey non-descript affair, Maidenhead happy to soak up anything coming their way whilst Barnet eager to try and engineer something in front of the home fans.

The Bees should have had the lead after 18 minutes, Themis Kefalas with a free header sent the wrong side of the post when he should have scored. Ephron Mason-Clark had a couple of efforts blocked by the visitors defence and Adam Parkes was only called into action once to save from the Magpies front men, chances very much at a premium for both sides as they went in goal-less at the break.

The Bees noticeably turned up the tempo in the second half, Bassey wanting more from his troops and they were rewarded just before the hour mark when Harry Taylor found the net for the first time in 151 appearances in black and amber, striking home from inside the area across Magpies keeper James Holden to give the Bees the lead.

The other side of the hour mark saw the Bees increase their lead, Wordsworth slid in delightfully by the hard working Tomi Adeloye and finished with aplomb by the returning midfielder for a 2-0 lead and the points seemingly staying at The Hive.

The game should have been fully wrapped up in the final five minutes, Canadian Michael Petrasso on as a substitute for Wordsworth headed wide from just a few yards out when easier to score which really would have put the icing on the cake in front of the 562 home supporters, but the Bees saw out the game comfortably and await the visit of champions Sutton Utd at the weekend.

Despite Kings Lynn’s point against Solihull at the same time, Barnet can still climb off the bottom at the weekend, but a five goal swing is needed between themselves and The Linnets to make it happen.

An interesting stat that came to light after the game on Tuesday before Bassey arrived with Dave Anderson, Barnet had 13 points from 28 games and four clean sheets, since their arrival 15 points from 12 games and four clean sheets, that is not to be under-estimated the work the pair along with Gary Anderson have put in to such a short space of time with only two additions to the existing squad.

It’s also only the second time this season the Bees have failed to let a side score in both games against them, Weymouth being the other along with the Magpies.

Some superb performances came out of this game and the first to pick out is Ben Nugent. It’s very fair to say the centre-half has put in some of the worst performances seen in a Barnet shirt in recent memory, but he dealt brilliantly with everything, my only gripe is a left footed centre half on the right side of the two means a constant switch to his good foot, narrows the pitch down but credit to him for putting in that shift last night.

His centre half partner Ben Richards-Everton didn’t lose a header and will be a big player for us at both ends of the pitch next season, Lee Vaughan was constantly in good positions in either half of the pitch always providing an outlet.

Great to see Taylor finally get on the scoresheet, a long time coming but a strike worthy of his brother Jack’s right boot whilst Adeloye worked tirelessly up front with maybe not the best of service coming his way.

Man of the match was definitely Sam Skeffington, his energy, tackling, passing, constant probing is one that needs to be in black and amber next season it’s something that has lacked all year until his arrival in midfield and drives the team on week after week.

And as if like buses we get another game to watch this coming weekend as the champions roll into town at The Hive for a lunchtime Saturday kick off. A great season for Sutton Utd was crowned last weekend and this will be another good test for the home side despite nothing but pride riding on the game.

For me, a chance to see a couple of former Worthing FC players in Omar Bugiel and David Ajiboye in action once again and with some of my PNLP podcast boys joining me should be in for a decent day once again, whatever happens though, it’s great to be back…………

Eames: That period was my favourite time in football

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with former Barnet FC Head Coach Rossi Eames to talk about his long period with the club, his time with the academy and getting the big job with the first team whilst also finding out why and where it didn’t go to plan. Here is part one and part two will be out later this week:

TK: Now I’ve got you down as joining Barnet in 2009 as a video analyst, but prior to that Chesham Utd, Amersham Town and Leeds Utd as an academy coach, is that right?

RE: Yeah, that’s pretty much it, I think though more 2010 when I properly started with Barnet. 2009 I was helping out the two clubs you mentioned above whilst at The Hive, played for Chesham as well in their reserves.

I originally went to Leeds to university to study Sports Coaching Science and it went from a one month placement to being employed at Leeds Utd in the space of three months. The club was going through a difficult spell in the early Noughties and as I was doing sessional stuff rather than full time employment they could offer me what I wanted so I left and went to Malia for the summer to DJ and work behind a bar.

My mates were all 18-30 reps out there so it was just a summer of chilling out, having a laugh, not treating life too seriously. Then I had a call from Aaron Chester who was alongside Paul Fairclough at the time and explained The Hive was in the process of being built and they were recruiting for roles in the new academy structure.

So I went along and was blown away by the facilities, granted the stadium hadn’t been built yet but everything else was a good vision of where the club wanted to be direction wise.

When I started there it was on £30 a week coding games for Aaron and for Jeremy Steele with the Under 18’s. And then a month into it James Thorne asked me to get involved on the coaching side which I jumped at and within three months I was running the college programme which sat alongside the academy.

It’s where Jamal Lowe came from, he’d been released from QPR and was head and shoulders above anyone else and was picked by James to train with the youth team. Iffy Allen also came into us via the college route as well, but Jamal was the one who stood out and he’s done very, very well for himself in the game.

Whilst attending college they trained at the same time as the scholars and we could pick and pull them from that group to step up and train with the youth team it was a conveyor belt of talent coming through.

TK: Was it from there that it took you onwards to coaching the Under 16’s and 18’s at Barnet?

RE: I think it was Mark Robson was in charge at the club, I was given the Under 12s-16’s but actually coached the 16’s. Some really good players in that time too, Kier Dickson, Alfie Cain and of course Jack and Harry Taylor. Jack was a 13 year old playing under 16 football, Harry was my captain at under 15, 16, and 18, very, very bright as a footballer.

That age group though were very talented as individuals but as a team they only won one game all season so our task was to get them playing together. It can be a difficult age where they’re doing their GCSE’s, understanding life as a young adult and wanting to be a professional footballer.

The incentive for them was seeing the first team players training at The Hive on a daily basis, they could see a pathway. Luke Gambin was with us at the time and caught Martin’s eye in a reserve team friendly which got him his chance in the first team.

TK: Was there any player you thought you work their way through Barnet and go on to have a good career? I know we’ve mentioned Jamal already, was there also one who you thought would make it but hasn’t for whatever reason?

RE: There were three lads I got Jeremy to look at from Chesham and the best one from them was a lad called Tom Fouhey. All three ended up in our youth team, but Tom was the stand out player a midfielder who could go box to box, comfortable on both feet and scored goals.

He got offered a pro deal at the end of the season but was also offered a scholarship in America to study medical science and of course took the latter. I wouldn’t say he was Premier League but good enough to have a league career, possibly Championship.

Jamal we knew would get there, he had all the qualities and took a different route to make it. Iffy Allen is probably the one, but in this game it doesn’t always work out how you expect it to.

I’ll mention Kai Mackenzie-Lyle who went to Liverpool and has now won promotion with Cambridge Utd, Dillion Barnes another keeper who went down to go back up as well.

The catchment area for Barnet is so vast you will always pick up some good talent and it’s a shame there is not academy currently for the club.

That period though was my favourite time in football, the staff we had around myself and Henry (Newman) like Dean Selvey and Ian Lowe who was our psychologist around the boys and he was great around the boys especially when it came to the time they were being kept on or released, that’s a tough time mentally.

Hakeem Odoffin was another who came into us, as a striker though but he was never going to make it there, so we moved him out wide as a winger but his end product just wasn’t there either so we moved him again this time to right back, Martin saw what he liked one afternoon and we signed him up.

Matt Stevens came to us as well from Reading having scored 30 odd goals from central midfield, he came in pre-season and did well, we thought we like that. So in he went as a striker but didn’t score in the first three games and missed a hatful of chances, we thought hang on what’s going on here!

But we offered him the two year contract as a scholar and promptly banged in a hat-trick for the youth team that afternoon, what a finisher though! The goals he scored, just made it look so easy and it was the year when the first team were doing well in the National League so Martin took a very keen interest in needing one or two for odd games.

That was such a fantastic time to be around that football club, loved working with and under Martin. I got on really well with Nursey (Jon Nurse) and still speak to him now, it was just a great time for the football club.

What a lot of people won’t be aware of too is the money we got from selling on some of these youngsters before they played first team football, the money we got Malakai Mars from Chelsea was unbelievable! A lad called Rui Costa went to Norwich, Anton Hooper to Aston Villa, Hakeem was only here for eight months before his move to Wolves, it was one or two going every year.

Fairclough adds a little bit of optimism

On the back of a good point gained at Bromley on Saturday, Barnet headed north for their Tuesday night faire to take on another side with play-off aspirations. Such has been the season it’s difficult to know which kind of performance you will get in black and amber.

With Paul Fairclough only arriving in the building late last week he hasn’t had much time to spend with the players to impress on them he wants and demands, well so you would think.

Having seen the hosts shell out a substantial fee reported to be around £250,000 for Paddy Madden the night before matchday there was every reason to think that knowing the frailty of the Bees defence the new striker would have probably been licking his lips at what he would be facing on Tuesday evening.

The two expected changes that came for the Bees saw Aymen Azaze step in for the injured Scott Loach and Muhammadu Faal in for the suspended skipper James Dunne. On Monday it was revealed both Loach and Dunne have both played their last game for Barnet FC, furloughed until the end of the season, the chance of either appearing in black and amber again would be a minor miracle.

Given the investment in the hosts ranks and the desire for promotion this season it was another case of not expecting too much from the game or would the small shoots of recovery from the weekend continue to grow?

On a poor patchy pitch, the Bees wanted to pass along the deck again, that’s two in a row now and started confidently. Indeed the first chance fell to Courtney Baker-Richardson in behind the defence but unable to get his shot on target.

County were nearly in front two minutes later, Azaze beaten but the post came to the rescue from Harry Cardwell’s header. Minutes later Azaze was in action again to tip the ball round the post, but from the resultant corner the home side were in front.

A point blank save from the young Belgian wasn’t enough and Liam Hogan smashed home the loose ball, continuing the story of the Bees defence unable to defend set pieces into the box, after initially clearing the corner the cross wasn’t stopped or dealt with inside the six yard box.

At this point, 1-0 down after 10 minutes, it has been game on game how many can Barnet keep the scoreline down to. It doesn’t sound ideal but that is how it’s been viewed because of how many times the team just capitulates and goals are shipped.

Inside a few days, Fairclough seems to be getting his message across, play our game and make the opposition play harder to get the ball if they want to win the three points. The fact this was the second game inside four days whereby it looked like Barnet wouldn’t crumble is quite remarkable, you do have to tip your hat to the wily 71 year old.

In fact they took the game to the hosts, as the half wore on, Ephron Mason-Clark the first to test Ben Hinchcliffe in the Stockport goal whilst Michael Petrasso was only stopped getting a shot away from a last ditch challenge.

Both sides had chances in the remainder of the first half as the game swung from end to end, the most attacking Barnet have been this season and with more purpose too.

The Bees had chances at the beginning of the second half too, an Alexander McQueen free kick was saved by Hinchcliffe while Petrasso shot wide from distance. On the hour mark the new man should have made it a goal scoring debut, Madden heading down and over the bar when easier to score while moments later Liam Daly cleared off the line with Azaze beaten, two lucky escapes when the scoreline could have read something different although it did a minute later.

A floated ball from Daly just over the defender’s head saw McQueen bring the ball down exquisitely and slot past Hinchcliffe to bring the Bees level with around half an hour to play.

Maybe the beauty of the situation where relegation isn’t on the table is allowing Fairclough to ask the players to be more expressive, after all pride is now the only thing on the table and contracts to play for.

Just after scoring, Azaze saved well from Madden and again the game switched end to end with both sides wanting a winner. That didn’t arrive until seven minutes from time, Jerome Binnom-Williams losing the ball out on the County right hand side and with the help of a deflection off Harry Taylor the ball ended up in the net.

The Bees did put pressure on the County back line for the remainder of the game and despite a constant barrage of crosses into the box Barnet couldn’t find a way through and left Edgeley Park empty handed.

Another decent performance on the back of a point at Bromley, a game that maybe deserved a little more. Its encouraging that there are signs some of these players are starting to get some confidence back and are being allowed to express themselves more than before, that much is evident.

A solid performance from Azaze in goal and hopefully over the coming weeks there is more work going into defending our box better whether it be from crosses or set pieces, neither Beadle nor Flowers managed to work successfully on it, that’s a work in progress ongoing.

Harry Taylor is starting to excel again, two performances of the like he was constantly producing last season and no coincidence he’s being asked to play a role he can play with consummate ease, even McQueen looked more the part last night.

There is likely to be more players heading towards the furlough scheme in the next few days and speculation will continue towards a new managerial appointment.

As far as I am aware Dean Brennan has applied once again, Martin Allen I’m led to believe would like one last crack at management, but Harry Kewell is in the driving seat so it appears, so make of that what you will.

From the three Brennan would be my choice, he knows the level and the players needed, I like the way his Wealdstone team set up, players knew their job and looked structured, whether the chairman will hand him a second chance I don’t know.

Allen also knows the level but is also the reason why the club goes round in a constant circle, and if memory serves me correctly, just before he left for Eastleigh supporters were getting tired of the football being played, what do we want?

Kewell’s lack of non-league knowledge is the only thing I think for me goes against, to get out of this league you need the players who know what it takes to get promoted alongside a little bit of quality, I don’t doubt he’ll find the latter part in players, but you need that steel as well, that might cost, will Tony Kleanthous dip his hand in the wallet to find exactly what he wants? So many questions to be answered.

It remains to be seen whether Fairclough is handed things until the season finishes in ten weeks’ time or an appointment is made with a view to assessing the players currently at the club in good time for next season.

And let’s not get too far in front of ourselves, while Fairclough has started us on the road to better things cautious optimism is the name of the game, but it’s nice to see people wanting to watch the side again, many were slowly losing the plot……

We go again

On Saturday afternoon Barnet head north to Notts County in the National League play-off semi-final with a trip to Wembley Stadium a week on Sunday the reward.

Darren Currie’s squad eliminated Yeovil Town last weekend down in the West Country courtesy of goals from Paul McCallum and long-serving Mauro Vilhete, but it’s fair to say the hosts on another day with shooting boots and less blocking from Barnet defenders would have won the game, but it’s the Bees who make the journey to Nottingham having already won the league fixture earlier in the season.

Goals from Callum Reynolds and Simeon Akinola gave Barnet a 2-1 win and an opening six points from two games back in August. County soon found their form until lockdown intervened and were sitting 3rd in the table with hopes of catching both Harrogate Town and Barrow.

It’s not often one let alone both previous Football League relegated sides make it into the play-offs at the first attempt, just ask Chesterfield and Barnet of the previous season.

Form now counts for nothing; County were on a run of two defeats in their last ten league games whilst Currie’s men suffered just one loss in their previous 17 games. Barnet have the slight advantage of 90 minutes game time in the tank and a week of analysing what was good and what can be improved on after the Yeovil win.

But all of that still may not count for anything and the result back in August has no bearing on what will take place in 90 minutes on Saturday. Barnet defended in numbers from front to back against the Glovers and will need more of the same to reach the final.

In Neal Ardley, County have a particularly good young manager who worked hard to pull the team around from the mess of last season into a side capable of winning promotion in a truly short space of time. To show the strength of the club they released around 12 players before the play-offs leaving them with a strong squad still of 24 players whilst Currie lost three of his starting back five.

You can expect strong performances from the likes of Kristian Dennis, Enzio Boldewijn and Richard Brindley to name a few, County are strong going forward but as showed last week, Ricardo Santos, Harry Taylor and Elliott Johnson proved you’ve got to work very, very hard to get past them and onto Scott Loach.

Currie, I know will be expecting more from his players this weekend, to keep possession better and hurt the opposition, passing with a purpose. With Akinola expected to be fit for selection, doubt still remains as to whether Wes Fonguck and Shaq Coulthirst will be available, once again it could well come down to individual mistakes to win the game and with plenty of firepower available to the Bees it gives them the smallest of edges in what should be a very tight encounter.

Will that tenner still be intact for a trip to Wembley and yet another trip to The Hive after this weekend? Time will tell…………

One step closer

National League football for the first time since March, that pretty complete performance away to Woking the last time Barnet took to the pitch. Points per game ensured the Bees took their place in the play-offs at the expense of Stockport County.

The route to the final is away from The Hive, for all three games and the first hurdle to negotiate was a trip to the West Country and Yeovil Town, ironically the final game Barnet should have faced before lockdown.

With the opportunity of watching the game shown on screens in Legends Bar at the ground, it had to be done. Ninety minutes surrounded by fellow Bees fans seemed liked a good idea, a tenner including curry and a drink.

Being that we effectively snuck into the end of season party, I can’t say there was any nervous feeling for me, more just happy there was a small sense of normality returning and the chance to watch the team in action again.

As I stated in Friday’s preview it was going to be interesting to see how Darren Currie’s team coped with the loss of Dan Sweeney, Callum Reynolds and Cheye Alexander from their back line and whether Harry Taylor/Charlee Adams would line up at centre half or central midfield, either or for both.

As it was Taylor slotted in alongside Ricardo Santos and Elliott Johnson in a back three with long serving Mauro Vilhete taking Alexander’s wing back spot, a squad though that were missing Simeon Akinola, Wes Fonguck and Shaq Coulthirst with varying muscle strains.

The first half, very sketchy, a lack of penetrating runs and chances created although Town certainly had the better of the efforts with ex-Bees target Rhys Murphy finding his way often blocked by the impressive Taylor.

The hosts began the second half as they did the first, on the front foot forcing early corners, an effort from which hit the crossbar, whilst blocked tackles were coming in from all angles to halt Yeovil’s progression.

It was however soon after this the Bees took the lead, Ephron Mason-Clark setting Paul McCallum away on the edge of the box, turned back inside and sent Town keeper Stuart Nelson the wrong way.

Despite taking the lead it was Yeovil still creating the better chances after going behind, once again though the Bees were equal to everything, blocking from David Tutonda, Taylor heading out from under his own bar and Johnson playing a neat one-two off the post.

The hosts thought they were going to equalise just six minutes from time when Taylor once again got in the way of a shot that was destined for the bottom corner. Vilhete however sent The Hive into raptures wrapping up the win just two minutes later after the ball bobbled off players and a post to set up a trip to face Notts County next Saturday evening.

Despite this being a cold start for all the teams involved, Currie had expected his side to hold onto the ball better and create more chances, there is room for improvement and progress with another week’s training and some to analyse what was good and what can be done better.

Some great performances stand out from Santos and Taylor, the latter just shading MOTM for me and some crucial saves from Scott Loach to keep the score-line blank for the hosts.

With Akinola expected to be fit to return next week the boss will also have a selection dilemma as to whether he retains the same eleven or restores his top scorer to the starting line-up, whatever happens though I’m off to The Hive!