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……..