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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Moving on

As most of you will know by now I’ve been charging you to read my blog since the beginning of March. It’s not been without problems along the way, a learning curve but one that has made me come to a fairly big decision.

I’ve used WordPress as a host since the blog’s inception over three years ago and steadily increased by plan level as it’s success has grown in that time to the point of wanting to accept payments for what I write.

There is no issue with people playing and I’m not silly enough to think it’s a million pound maker, never been my intention and never is, but that happens then I’ve hit the jackpot.

What is more important to me is having options available for all, you the reader is what gives this blog its success and with that in mind I’m moving away from WordPress to Substack over the next couple of weeks.

The reason for moving is quite simply this. I want to be able to charge for people to read a single piece, I completely understand that not everyone is interested in everything that’s written, it’s not their club, level or any other reason and I fully respect that hence why I don’t feel everyone should pay for a monthly or yearly subscription unless they want to.

I have been offering a single piece subscription so far but the issue that comes with that is I have to then delete the sub for each person before I put the next blog up because it automatically allows them to see the one they subscribed to plus any before and any after which defeats the object. While it’s manageable to do that, those who maybe started to read and then needed to step away wouldn’t be able to view again if I added another blog and deleted their subscription.

There is another way to do it which involves putting it behind a paywall password which I then email out when someone buys a sub, the problem there is if that someone wants to read it there and then and with me being at work Monday to Friday I can’t keep stopping to send it on, so that isn’t an option.

Add the major issue to that is if I want to offer single subscriptions then WordPress require me to upgrade my current plan by £156 just for this year and then a yearly amount of over £240. Regardless of the fact I can claim the cost back against my tax return I would be doing that just to make the site able to let you view a single piece.

So SubStack will become my new home and I will keep everyone abreast of when exactly you can start reading on there and the new site address, I will be transporting the whole site across so no pieces will be lost and you’ll still be able to access everything as it was before.

There will be single piece access prices along with monthly and yearly subscription plans, for a month cost of £5 my guarantee is 8 blogs minimum which is what I do now and there will be odd one’s thrown in for free too, the yearly cost is £48 which actually works out cheaper or discounted. If there is an option for bi-monthly or quarterly I will also add those in so you can pick exactly what you want and what suits you. If you’re looking to get one of these then I suggest holding fire for a few days as that part won’t transfer across to the new site.

Thank you for reading and I hope you continue do so.

Town head for the semi finals

Photo courtesy of Chris Gregory (@chrisgregs)

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Saturday 12th March took a long time to come around. Taking you back around a month before Littlehampton Town had overcome Brockenhurst on penalties in the FA Vase 5th round, a competition they had been knocked out of but re-instated after Athletic Newham had fielded an ineligible player.

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Wells hang on in fantastic advert for football

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Most midweek nights for me are a Tuesday when the majority tend to play but having scoured the Non-League Paper on Sunday for where to go it was either teams I’d already seen and in some cases the away side too and others I just didn’t fancy.

Holmesdale vs Tunbridge Wells allowed me a few things on Wednesday night, namely a different evening to take in a game, get to meet up with Eddie Mackintosh and Rob Shirley two Bromley fans I chat to quite often on Twitter and a chance to catch up with the Wells management team of Rich Styles and Dan Morrin after we were thwarted a couple of weeks ago.

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Littlehampton vs North Shields: The supporter’s view

Ahead of the weekend’s FA Vase tie in Sussex I spoke to a fan from each side to get the lowdown on the two sides, subscription for this one off piece to read is 50p.

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Keep the trouble away from our football

This topic is one that was suggested to me a few weeks ago but it’s been finding the right moment to squeeze it in amongst other work, full time work and moving.

We discussed it on the podcast I’m involved in late last week (The Premier Non-League Podcast) as a growing concern that there are pockets of troublemakers starting to creep into the non-league game.

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Title races, play-off chases, relegation battles.

When you get to this time of year the result starts to become more important than the performance. The title races, play-off chases and relegation battles are heading into the final third of the season and there are some fantastic games still to come in all three National League divisions.

Stockport County are in the kind of form that almost brought Hartlepool the title last season under the same Dave Challinor. 11 wins from the last 12 games has been a phenomenal run of form and it’s beginning to look like the title is theirs to lose now. Boreham Wood fans would argue otherwise given their three games in hand and an unbeaten home record but you would say they have to put together this exact run of the form County are on and hope the Hatters lose a few, it’s a big ask for any club.

There are a clutch of chasing clubs in the play-off’s and I think again it would take a really excellent run from Dagenham downwards for any club to break into the top 7, Bromley and Grimsby just outside those places I feel the only ones who can do some damage to those currently occupying the promotion dream spots.

Dover we know are all but confirmed to go down, I think there is too much for Kings Lynn to do despite a couple of games in hand, those two wins would only draw them level with Weymouth directly above them, the South Coast club also need to string together a number of wins to give themselves a chance of survival meaning those just above shouldn’t need too many more wins to secure top division football next season.

The North has a three way race for the title although that does rely on games in hand being won as well. Gateshead hold the advantage with points in the bag but both Brackley and Kidderminster are still in with a good shout of automatic promotion, underneath those three the play-off race is certainly far from clear cut.

Whilst AFC Fylde, Southport and Chorley have a little bit of a gap to the others, you can say as far down as Spennymoor in 14th place will still be eyeing a spot. I’ve gone as low as that due to their games in hand and although there is an allowance needed for those in between them to have to lose a few games the impossible it isn’t at all.

At the bottom with very few clubs having more than a game in hand on others and goal difference being quite tight that battle is going to move up and down every week. Farsley Celtic who occupy the current bottom spot have a far inferior goal difference to the rest and will need to do more than most I feel to escape, but level on points and just above them AFC Telford are without an away win all season, it could come down to whoever can win the most home games between those two or alternatively someone can easily get dragged into the mess at the bottom.

Whilst Dorking Wanderers win over 2nd placed Maidstone Utd at the weekend strengthened their position in the South division, the Stones game in hand can still bring the Kent club to within three points of the leaders. Recent form for those underneath these two have seen them all fall away and at one stage you could have thrown a blanket over five or six clubs separated by a minimal amount of points.

The play-off race once again is as every bit exciting as the North division with Hemel Hempstead down in 11th place not thinking they’re out of the race, a lot of wins needed but it’s still a possibility. It only takes a couple of wins for those just outside to be inside and for others to get themselves closer but for some it will need a fantastic run of wins against others managing an awful run of defeats at the same time.

At the bottom Tonbridge’s win over Billericay on Saturday was huge in both cases, breathing space for the former, the latter knowing their game in hand has huge importance in closing the gap to a manageable three points to those above them. Whilst an 11 point gap from the bottom to those in 15th place might be enough to see the likes of Hampton & Richmond Borough and Concord Rangers from getting dragged into the dogfight we all know football has that unpredictability and somewhere from within these three divisions one or more will surprise us all and spring from the pack or drop more than we expected, it’s all a case of who can keep their nerve for the next two months and come up trumps.

Bees unable to break down resolute Linnets

With so much Tuesday night football all season there has been plenty of choice of where to pitch up each week, whether that be locally, a bit of distance or somewhere I’ve wanted to go this season.

I think it’s fair to say alongside a few others Barnet were not doing a great job of enticing me to watch them over the last few weeks and I’m putting that down to events both on and off the pitch, one causing the other to no doubt in my mind make supporters feel the distance between themselves and the club is starting to make itself known once again.

I can’t complain however at the offers the club have put on so far this season, typically though it’s always been the weekend I have my kids but on a Tuesday night there’s no such obstacle and the offer of a fiver entry to see the Bees take on Kings Lynn saw me decide The Hive was my destination instead of a trip to Haywards Heath to see them take on Worthing, a chance to see what Tommy Widdrington and Hugo Langton have managed to do with the Linnets, the latter I know well from spells around Kent and Sussex.

Both sides were in need of a win, the Bees having had a stuttering two months not helped by off field distractions and are by no means safe from relegation whilst Lynn are beginning to run out of time to get the results needed for another season in non-league’s top flight.

After coming back from 2-0 down at Torquay last weekend, Dean Brennan named an unchanged side which I don’t think has happened on too many occasions this season, but it was the visitors who started the strongest and made all the early running with the Bees struggling to get out of their own half.

The Linnets could have been in front inside the opening ten minutes with Aston Oxborough forced into a diving save to prevent Josh Barrett from giving Lynn the lead. Barnet did respond with Ross Marshall’s flicked header unable to be forced over the line whilst Reece Grego-Cox got in behind a dithering Lynn defence but Paul Jones was equal to tip the striker’s effort over the bar.

Grego-Cox was inches away from connecting with an Ephron Mason-Clark cross into the box on the half hour after good work from the winger and Adam Marriott had fashioned the chance.

That though was about as good as it got for both sides in the first half, chances very limited and neither side extending the opposition goalkeeper too much, a lot of huff and puff but not much to shout about.

The way the Bees came out for the second half certainly suggested a few words were said at half time and the period of extended pressure should have brought about a goal. Just a couple of minutes in Teddy Howe was denied by a fine save from Jones followed by Mason-Clark’s shot deflected into the side netting after a mazy run.

Grego-Cox was then denied by the keeper a minute later and as the pressure increased Ben Richards-Everton low drive was destined for the bottom corner until Jones turned it round the post.

That said the Linnets absorbed the pressure and the scoreline stayed 0-0 although on the hour mark they should have been ahead. Barrett’s drive was palmed out by Oxborough and Cameron Hargreaves skied the ball over the bar when it should have nestled in the back of the net.

Brennan certainly went for the win the same as he did on Saturday with Rob Hall replacing Ryan De Havilland and Daniel Powell replacing Grego-Cox. Powell went close with 11 minutes to go, having rolled his defender he dragged his shot across goal with Mason-Clark unable to divert it past the keeper.

With the Bees again enjoying a good period of pressure, Mason-Clark’s skill saw him flick the ball over the defender’s shoulder and head towards the penalty area where Jones’ legs stopped the winger giving the home side the lead.

Howe again was put in a prime position from a Hall pass but chose to shoot instead of crossing and got his angles all wrong, the ball arrowing the wrong side of the post into the half dismantled terrace behind the goal.

The visitors had two glorious chances to snatch the points, Barrett’s effort clipping the top of the crossbar on it’s way over while Oxborough raced from his goal to make a fantastic save from Michael Clunan to keep the scores level as the game entered stoppage time.

There was one final moment to win it for Barnet, Hall driving into the box but putting his effort the wrong side of the post leaving the referee to blow up and the sides to share a 0-0 draw.

Despite it not ending how the home side would have wanted a second draw in a row and a clean sheet is a couple of positives given that recently anything other than a loss has been hard to come by.

The Bees were missing an entire back four and with at least three players playing out of position can we expect too much more? Both loan signings in Marshall and Grego-Cox look shrewd acquisitions, the former organising vocally as well as with his boots whilst the latter a willing runner with a little bit of quality.

Impressed with De Havilland in the middle of the park, set pieces were spot on the money bar one free kick in the first half and considering he’s really here for next season he showed some nice touches for someone who hasn’t played a lot of football at this level.

Good to see Giuliano Grazioli after the game, of course had a great Zoom chat with him during the first lockdown but since then we’ve managed to miss each other at games and also great to know Ben Strevens was also out watching, contrary to the Only Barnet forum his only other visit to The Hive was as boss of Eastleigh.

Nice surprise to see Kevin Mullen too, an ex-commercial manager of the club when I used to do a lot of sponsorship and hospitality during Underhill times, was really nice to catch up, that’s been a lot of years!

After the game I was able to spend some time in the office with Brennan, Dave Anderson and John Dreyer, who were already analysing the entire game just an hour or so after it finished.

I appreciate I am lucky to know a lot more than at times can be let out to every supporter through various sources and outlets and some of that I wouldn’t let on because there some things I can say and some has to be in confidence.

Both reminded me that since Xmas we’ve had a rough couple of months with two bouts of covid hitting the club followed by the racism allegations and a struggle with recruitment, it’s been too stop-start in their eyes and quite frustrating.

We have the clarity with Dean’s job title that I think was needed to be put right behind the scenes with lots going on there and those calling for him to go because the performances haven’t been spot on etc just refer a little to the paragraph above, that’s not to make an excuse but let’s put it this way.

The last two years our club foundations have been built on quicksand and they are the whole reason why we sit in 16th place in the table, changing manager’s again would be continuing that quicksand reputation.

When we get to the summer this year there won’t be 12 or 13 going through the door, it’ll be 5 or 6 in my opinion giving us a solid base to build upon, we haven’t see that for a while.

With a poor managerial appointment last summer this season has been all about surviving in this league and pretty much getting those foundations in place, the rest of this season won’t be pretty I can assure you and I tip my hat to those of you who follow week in week out.

We knew after seven games this season was a write off despite that brief moment where everything was going well and we hit form, those off field things that hit us derailed everything, if Chesterfield, Stockport, Boreham Wood continually missed players and got to our point of missing an entire back four would they still be grinding results out? You know that answer.

John Dreyer will be a good addition to what we have already, we actually have a backroom structure to the club and with a fresh pair of eyes and a different voice he knows he’s got work to do.

As Dean alluded to in the Beespod interview about recruitment starting in November, we are underway and not waiting for June like we have in previous years, it’s what we’ve been crying out for and why we won’t see a massive exodus come the end of May.

I don’t think we can underestimate that last week’s meeting between TK and Dean how huge that was, if DB wasn’t in the manager’s chair last Tuesday night when I spoke to him then we were looking at quicksand again.

Some of this might look like I’m blowing smoke up DB’s arse, but we can’t keep swopping and changing the management team and then expecting a miracle for nine months, give him the tools and then if he cocks it up it’s on his head!

You can see from the three new signings they’re an improvement on what we have, but more has to come and I’m confident it will.

What I will say is trust the process………..

What next for me…..

Sums it up nicely, had an idea, searched out my market, found the niche, aim for the bullseye, take the next step.

After the past two years of growth on it’s now time to take it to the next level. The last 24 months have been tough for freelance writers like myself who have seen websites they wrote for disappearing during the pandemic.

I lost two such sites that were paying me for my words and when you look through a Google search many haven’t had any articles uploaded for months suggesting they too have bitten the bullet.

My aim when I started this blog around three years ago was to set up a website solely for Sussex non-league football and that hasn’t changed, I’m just a year behind where I want to be but in the meantime have built a respectable brand and a growing contact book from all levels of the game.

I also have viewings consistently from all over the world and at times it really does surprise me where these words are read and I hope they continue to be a source of information and debate for everyone in lots of different countries.

With that in mind I need to make it work moneywise and from 1st March there will be a charge to read each piece I write. Now I’m not looking to make a million from this, just enough to get away from full time work again and into making football work for me.

The cost is going to be a simple 50p for each piece, you can’t even get a cup of coffee for that these days! I appreciate people might pick and choose what they read, I can’t argue with that but then that’s my job to keep the articles entertaining and with debate.

It will ask you to subscribe to read a piece but it’s set for a one time only 50p price so you aren’t tied into monthly or yearly pricing, you read what you want when you want.

As mentioned I do have a growing contacts book which I will delve into as often as I can to get some interviews out there as well to keep it fresh and different just to keep you coming back for more and then I can hit that aim of providing what I wanted when I first set out to do so.

I’m always open to ideas of topics to write about, feel free to suggest something at any time that takes your fancy, any piece can be a winner and I hope to expand my blog network to further work which might mean I am able to run a fully free and a paid for blog side by side but that’s for the future depending upon how successful this will be.

Thank you for reading and I hope you continue to do so.