Defeat for Arundel as Midhurst claim opening day points

After pre-season action it was finally time for league action and points on offer as 2021/22 kicked off for me and James Easton at Mill Road Arundel in the Southern Combination League Division One.

Midhurst and Easebourne were the visitors on a glorious sunny afternoon in West Sussex with both sides wanting to get their campaign off to a winning start. A summer of change for the Mullets in Jason Mines coming in to manage the team, assisted by Arundel veteran Richard Towers, both I know well from Wick FC days.

With Mines unavailable for the game, Towers was assisted by Aaron Millar, another known to me from those days at Crabtree Park and with a very young side in the red and white, it was interesting to see how they would fair against a visiting side who were in and around the thick of the promotion race last season before a halt was called.

Both sides were keen to knock the ball around on the slightly long playing surface which did make passing a little difficult if not needing to be very precise. Towers was forced into an early change on 26 mins, Ollie Hawkins replacing a limping James Ayling.

The Mullets thought they had taken the lead a minute later; the impressive Josh Mines shot was tipped onto the post by Josh Bird and then rolled along the goal-line without going over.

Midhurst did have the ball in the net on 35 minutes but the effort was ruled out for offside whilst five minutes later Mines had other shot tipped by Bird, this time onto the crossbar.

Then came the big talking point in the game and one that effectively decided the second half mentality. Hawkins was adjudged to have fouled his man just outside the penalty area and was promptly sent off, protests from the Arundel sideline that the decision was harsh, backed up by some independent spectators view that the foul wasn’t even really worthy of a yellow, the referee actually quite card happy throughout the game with yellow cards flying here there and everywhere.

The free kick came to nothing and the sides went in level at half time, both probably feeling they could have been a goal in front.

A man short saw Arundel look to contain the visitors and some dogged defending at times ensured they made it look as if Midhurst were going to be denied anything more than an opening day point, Chris Wyatt coming closest to breaking the deadlock hitting the post just after the hour mark.

As it was the pressure told just minutes later, substitute Liam Dreckman slotted home after a bit of pinball inside the area, latching onto the loose ball and giving Mullets keeper Jack Hickman no chance.

Marcus Bedford doubled the visitors lead two minutes later with a smart finish inside the area as the extra man was starting to pay dividends for the Stags and the tired legs of the young Arundel side were starting to flag.

Ten minutes from time the seal was put on the visitors second half performance, fellow substitute Kieran Carter tapped in at the far post for a third Midhurst goal after a superbly flighted cross from the left hand side to send the Stags home with the three points.

No doubt the game changed on that sending off decision, both sides were fairly well matched despite a clear pitting of youth against experience in favour of the visitors, but the extra man for the Stags was clearly the difference with Arundel unable to fashion many notable second half chances.

So there we go, number one in the bag for the season and Mr Easton’s first trip to Arundel ticked off the list, fingers crossed I can find a destination for Tuesday or Wednesday evening.

Rebels record another fine pre-season win

Pre-season was wrapped up for me on Tuesday evening as Worthing took on Welling Utd. Despite the fact both these clubs still have three more Saturdays until they kick off, Steps 5 and 6 at County League level begin this coming weekend, 31st July, and attention now turns to competitive action.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Worthing in pre-season action, not by design, more by the opposition and the first return to Woodside Road for any fans since March last year included in that.

Welling Utd were one of the sides my late father used to take me to see fairly regularly as I was growing up along with the likes of Dartford, Maidstone Utd, Gravesend and Tonbridge, so quite a nostalgic return to the past following Tonbridge gracing Woodside Road at the weekend. Watching the likes of Gary Abbott, Terry Robbins, Lee Harrison, Steve Barnes and Steve Finnan to name a few, Google the scoring records of those first two.

In two National League outfits, a good test for Adam Hinshelwood’s men as they gear up for a new season, already in explosive form across this pre-season raining goals.

And again, the Rebels were quick off the mark as has been a feature of their play so far during these friendly matches. Just two minutes into the game, the home side were in the lead, the sole trialist being given minutes by Hinshelwood was once again on the scoresheet with a superb finish and the Wings not settled into play.

Worse was to come for the visitors just three minutes later, Worthing’s blistering start continued, Ollie Pearce getting in behind the Welling back line and a shot across the keeper found it’s way inside the far post for 2-0.

Five minutes gone, Welling chasing shadows and Worthing in complete control. The game settled down after the explosive opening moments although the Wings were being repelled by Worthing’s relentless attacking with Dean Cox and Jasper Pattenden giving both full backs a torrid time and the former’s delivery into the box was of the highest quality time after time,.

Efforts from the trialist and Pattenden could have extended the lead, that eventually came two minutes before half time, Shaq Gwengwe pole-axed in the penalty area, picked himself up and slotted home the penalty for a commanding half time lead.

Credit to Welling as they started the second half, there was more purpose about them and ball retention was a lot better than the opening 45 minutes which meant Worthing had to be a little more patient in their build up and the next goal didn’t arrive until just after the hour mark but not in the fashion Welling would have wanted, a back pass from a defender was placed wide of the keeper and calmly rolled into the net at the far post to sum up their evening.

The usual raft of substitutions again didn’t alter the quality of the play across the park with those coming on pressing hard to be involved in the starting eleven come the opening day.

Welling continued to press forward showing more attacking intent and were rewarded with a goal 15 minutes from time, a good strike from Dipo Akinyemi and the visitors almost had a second a minute later but for a goal line clearance from Joel Colbran.

Reece Meekums put the icing on the cake five minutes from time with a superb solo effort, twisting and turning the visitors defence inside out from the left wing before smashing the ball home to complete a comprehensive victory once again for the Rebels and leaving home supporters purring with the football on offer over the past three weeks.

It’s hard to pick out individuals over a classic team performance but it’s got to be done. Hinsh doesn’t often go for two up front and with Pearce and Gwengwe in great form so far both deserved the start. It was interesting to watch Pearce and the trialist often inter-changing making it harder for the opposition to pick either player up to mark.

Should the Rebels be able to sign the trialist whose made quite an impression on the pitch, he can easily be the difference between winning a few more points and a title or the play-offs in my opinion. The pockets of space he finds in games between the lines makes him very hard to mark and creating that can give the side an extra dimension.

But, if he doesn’t sign then there are plenty of players within that squad who are equally capable to provide the same flashes of brilliance. The delivery from Cox was constantly spot on the money, something you would expect from a player with his class and quality and with those balls into the box week in week out defenders are going to have their work cut out.

On the other wing you have Pattenden able to deliver or cut inside and unleash the mother of all curling shots whilst Danny Barker and Marvin Armstrong make you not miss Jesse Starkey and Ricky Aguiar and they are some midfield pairing!

One more to note, Tom Chalaye. Looked very sharp when he came on, could have had a goal or two, notably the timing of his runs were on the mark and having bulked up some over the last year or so like Pattenden he’s becoming harder to knock off the ball when in possession.

510 were there to witness the goal-fest, a lot of work for Steve Lovell and Welling Utd to do over the next three weeks before their season begins, there can’t have been too many that came out of last week with much credit in the tank going forward.

2021/22 kicks off at the Sportsfield

Around 24 hours after England reunited the nation after a tough 15 months for everyone, I was back watching live football with a trip up the road to see Littlehampton Town take on two divisions higher Bognor Regis Town in the opening pre-season friendly for both sides.

It also marked the opening of the home side’s new floodlights, contributed by sponsorship donations from its supporters and the general public with the work carried out by Dave Wade who I know well from the repairs completed at Wick FC when I was there.

A reasonable size crowd estimated at around 200 saw the home side start in a fast manner against a Bognor side who utilised their whole squad over the course of the 90 minutes. Town certainly had the more attacking intent in the early stages as Bognor slowly felt their way into the game but chances were at a premium which maybe wasn’t surprising given it was the first action for both sides.

The home side took the lead just before the half hour mark through George Gaskin from a well delivered Mitch Hand corner on the right, Gaskin being deployed more in the number 10 role rather than the left wing he enjoyed much success on last season before it’s interruption. The striker was close to extending the home side’s lead not long after but the ball struck the outside of the post and away to safety.

As it was Littlehampton went into the break two goals in front as Gaskin pounced on a defensive mix up between keeper and defender and slotted home at the far post.

Regis made a raft of substitutions at half time and certainly began the second half much the stronger team which Littlehampton found hard to contain and it was no surprise when Jordy Mongoy fired past James Binfield in the Littlehampton goal five minutes after the re-start.

It did look as if that would open the floodgates but the home side weathered the storm and worked their way back into the game but were unable to carve out any opportunities with Bognor much tighter at the back than during the first half.

The visitors were back on level terms 22 minutes from time when substitute Alfie Lis pounced on a poor back pass to Binfield, rounded the keeper and restored parity once again.

Neither side fashioned out many good scoring opportunities in the closing stages and both sides were left to reflect on a good workout for those involved, the new floodlights shining down some fantastic light across the pitch despite the natural July evening trying to prevail.

Despite not being the biggest fan of pre-season games I can’t wait to get around over the next three weeks or so and see friends, people I know at clubs and the enjoyment being at a football match brings. If it comes home on Sunday evening, then I think it completes and heals a lot of the past few months, over to you Gareth Southgate, we still believe………..

Ready and raring to go

It’s been a few weeks since I last penned something to blog, indeed the arrival of Harry Kewell and Dean Brennan at Barnet FC the last time I sat down and put a piece together.

Granted the world of non-league football is now in its ‘quieter’ period after the culmination of the National League play-offs but is there ever a quiet time for clubs even when a season has finished?

Of course there isn’t! Whilst this has been the strangest season in my lifetime just played out, playing games ended for most before the Xmas decorations had made it out of the box.

In that time no doubt clubs made decisions to make improvements to their surroundings, to upgrade areas around stadiums whilst some were actually lucky to complete a supplementary cup competition around April and May time.

Those involved behind the scenes of a club will know the groundwork begins almost as soon as the last ball is kicked on the pitch and it’s not long before attention turns to commercial activities, the hiring of function rooms and clubhouses to help turn over the summer months into profit.

This is still of course causing clubs problems currently with restrictions still in place nationally for what you can or can’t do unless you’re a government minister, loaded with cash or in bed with UEFA.

Then comes the paperwork and affiliation work to complete to ensure the club kicks off the new season on time and before you know it, the players are back for pre-season, signing on forms become the bane of your life although if I remember correctly just as I was leaving Wick a couple of years ago the process to move details online instead of a paper form was well underway.

Then it’s referee’s for those games, splitting costs, finding venues if the pitch work is not yet complete and ready for action, the very beginnings of these thankless tasks are the reason 22 players take to the pitch every August and beyond.

This year we have a slightly earlier start for clubs at Steps 5 and 6 on 31st July whilst the rest fall in line over the following three weeks with the expectation that the National League will not be finishing up in June this time around.

Whilst I’m not a fan of pre-season friendlies I am going to get to some, merely for catching up with fellow supporters, players and managers that I’ve hardly seen for a year, in some cases longer.

I was lucky enough to get three games watched in May, a double return to The Hive and a friendly at East Preston.

For many this coming season will be one they hope returns a sensible level to their mental health. I consider myself a strong person but at times this has tested even my resolve, granted Barnet FC have had a lot to test me with but we got through that!

It’s not the place to get all political despite the earlier notation but a reminder as a football fan we’re not far away from action once again and appreciation for those who make it happen for us all to enjoy, it might even be ‘coming home’ I hear……..

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………..

The road to somewhere or nowhere?

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Well that last blog aged well didn’t it! If you didn’t get to have a look, it’s titled ‘Make the right appointment’, but Barnet being Barnet didn’t and once again we’re in familiar territory of a close season with no manager whilst pretty much the laughing stock of the National League amongst supporters, our own included.

That image above I knew was going to be the last time those particular Bees were going to be together but I wasn’t expecting one or all of the management team might also be heading out the door.

Within a day or two of me penning that blog, I had a text ‘prepare for bad news coming your way’ and with that I knew Simon Bassey was on his way out of The Hive. Having been out of contract as of the Monday I posted the blog it was no surprise to then hear clubs were sniffing around a man who had changed around the fortunes of the team in such a short space of time and no compensation was needed to be paid.

However you like to dress it up it falls on the one man making the decisions at Barnet Football Club. Yes, Bassey was offered a contract, was it good enough? Obviously not as he didn’t sign it. Did Tony Kleanthous go back with a new offer? If he did it can’t have been much better or surely it would have been signed?

I went hunting back through the statement the chairman put out in early April when Bassey arrived along with Dave Anderson, announcing his long term plan for a strategy and these two appeared to be a part of that. Has that plan already hit the buffers? Incidentally both Dave and Gary Anderson have so far had no mention of whether they are staying, if they go as well then once again the club is back in complete no man’s land which via the statement was the idea of avoiding? You seriously can’t make this up at times!

Did both Simon and Dave want to stay? Absolutely. But no assurances over his future, waiting, dilly-dallying once again from the top has cost the club the one bright spark it had this poor excuse of a season.

That brings you then to the retained list issued earlier on Friday afternoon, one or two surprises in there but then when the club is so secretive of contract lengths when signing players you’ve no idea on most what the hell is happening.

I did know a few days ago Ben Nugent was on a 2 year deal, despite the fact he’s shown a big improvement over the final few games when he was recalled to the starting line up he has a lot to prove next season. Three other centre backs are also contracted for next season which appears to be the only position where we’re completely covered providing the other three remain.

Few will point to Tomi Adeloye and Lee Vaughan being released, both worthy of contracts in a lot of opinion but without knowing who has actually had the final say then we’re shooting in the dark for answers.

From my point of view we’re in a worse position than last year. In just four weeks’ time the players will be back in pre-season training, with such a short close season clubs would have begun looking at options for next season three weeks ago so by my reckoning we’re four weeks behind today and with no manager in the chair how much further will we be down the pecking order?

What encourages Sam Beard or Sam Skeffington to sign without knowing who they’re going to be playing under? By the time you actually read this though there might be a manager but I’m not holding my breath, it took too long to get Bassey and Anderson in the door.

I’ve seen plenty across social media to suggest TK is rapidly running out of time to convince anyone that Barnet FC are worth investing your hard earned cash into let alone actually watching a game next season, I’m starting to lose the will to be honest if we are going to have this scenario every summer. I might expect it at the lower levels but a National League club with still no strategy three years after relegation from the Football League is pretty desperate.

Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and find out the last twelve months were just a dream and Darren Currie is still the gaffer, well we can all dream can’t we, just don’t wake me up from this one………………..

Image courtesy of Ben Fullylove (@BenFullylove)

Bassey’s Bees end on a high

Image courtesy of Ben Fullylove (@BenFullylove)

The finale. The crescendo of the end. For what has seemed like a season that as gone on for an eternity, finally arrived at its conclusion and with it a second and final time heading to The Hive within a week.

The ramblings, rights and wrongs of a full season will be for another blog this coming week but Saturday was all about the champions coming to town, Sutton Utd’s final game in non-league football for the time being as they headed for the Football League, Barnet the furthest from the promised land in the National League.

Tuesday night was a lonesome trip but Saturday was an eye-opener in terms of facilities for three of my fellow PNLP podcast chaps, James Easton, Jonny Kenworthy and Pete Vale. If you haven’t had a listen we ramble on about non-league football which is some feat considering we’ve had very little since November, one more episode to record after the NL play-off final in June, available on all platforms.

Having released the superb Michael Petrasso on Friday to return home to Canada ahead of their domestic season beginning, Simon Bassey was forced into a change on the bench with fellow loanee Courtney Baker-Richardson replacing the Canadian, Petrasso’s contribution when fit cannot be under-estimated.

Changes galore for the visitors were expected but still a strong outfit faced the Bees on the pitch. On a sun-drenched afternoon both sides looked a little on the beach in the first half, for all the possession Sutton had in the opening forty-five minutes there was little to show for it, Ben Nugent and Ben Richards-Everton equal to everything thrown and crossed their way, Adam Parkes with little to do.

Ephron Mason-Clark had Barnet’s best effort mid-way through the half, his mazy run and final shot stung the palms of U’s keeper Dean Bouzanis whilst Parkes had to deal with his only shot at him, a reflex save two minutes before the break as the half time scoreline read level and the game needing an injection of quality.

As per Tuesday night against Maidenhead, Barnet came out stronger in the second half and just after the hour mark the Bees went in front in the strangest of circumstances.

An effort from Harry Taylor seemed to strike a post and into the hands of Bouzanis but the assistant referee on the far side away from the ball seem convinced it was over the line and the young midfielder was credited with his second goal in as many games after going 150 matches without one!

And while that had the error of comedy about it, there was nothing to laugh about seven minutes later when Mason-Clark’s mazy run took him across the edge of the penalty area and unleashed a fierce drive which cannoned back off the crossbar but would have been a great contender for goal of the season had it hit the back of the net.

Sutton thought they had restored parity on 73 minutes, Parkes caught slightly off his line but the ball again striking the crossbar and the home side still in front.

The points however were wrapped up in stoppage time as Josh Walker unleashed a powerful shot past Bouzanis into the roof of the net, Sam Skeffington providing a second assist of the afternoon and the Bees finishing with a three match unbeaten run taking points off the top two in the process.

Despite the changes made by the visitors a deserved win to finish the season and only goal difference kept the Bees at the bottom of the table which given the situation when Bassey and Dave Anderson arrived it’s nothing short of remarkable.

Given that the pair only added Skeffington, Sam Beard and Adam Parkes to the group, they achieved far more in less time than the previous two incumbents in the manager’s chair.

Very quickly the attention turns to pre-season with the players back at The Hive in less than five weeks but not before picking out the best of the day’s performers.

Skeffington once again turned in a man of the match performance and must be near the top of the summer shopping list, a big fan of his drive and energy over the course of his loan spell. Beard is another who must be enticed to stay, regular football at this level will do him no harm as the last few weeks have shown.

Mason-Clark should he stay will be a driving forced behind any improvement we see next season, very simply as Bassey has done with him, give him the ball and let him create havoc.

Praise again for the two Bens’, Nugent and Richards-Everton, no change given for either of the Sutton front pairing and when you think of how the former was mistake-ridden all through this season, maybe a player is in there somewhere?

The ball is now in the chairman’s court to back up his interview of a few months ago, failure to act quickly and decisively inside the next eight weeks will see the enthusiasm and pride regained over the past thirteen or so games ebb away and the bottom three will be where this club will reside in front of crowds like the 686 here to witness the final game , over to you now Tony the clock is ticking………..

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…………

Bees put dent in Torquay’s title hopes

For the final time this season on Saturday afternoon I was sitting in front of a Barnet stream and I sincerely hope it’s the last I’m ever having to do that! A trip to title chasing Torquay in the final away game of the season wouldn’t have been the first choice of one of the last three games before the wasted season finally finished.

After two previous performances of huff and puff but no results, Simon Bassey changed things up again with Themis Kefalas back in the starting line-up with Courtney Baker-Richardson and Alex McQueen missing out completely whilst there was a surprise amongst the four named substitutes Josh Walker appearing for the first time this season.

With both sides playing in front of fans for the first time since December, and the home side needing to avoid defeat to keep their title hopes alive it was a surprise that the Bees started the better of the two sides, the Gulls looking extremely nervy from the kick off.

Tomi Adeloye was close to giving the Bees an early lead as Torquay started to grow into the game, Jake Andrews sending a free kick just wide of the post, then Adeloye setting up Michael Petrasso but the Canadian’s shot was deflected wide for a corner.

As it was the home side took the lead against the run of play on 13 minutes, Andrews settling the nerves slightly with a smart finish cutting in from the left hand side. Kefalas thought he had the equaliser just four minutes later only to see his header cleared off the line, moments before Adeloye had a sight of goal before a timely intervention.

Somehow the Gulls were two goals to the good after 23 minutes, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans benefitting from Ben Nugent beaten by a diagonal ball to round Adam Parkes leaving Barnet wondering why they were two goals behind and not in front. Not that this goal settled the nerves for the home side, they still looked capable of allowing Barnet back into the game.

Adeloye should have won himself a penalty after having his shirt tugged in the box, missed by both the referee and the short-sighted commentators who struggled with everything Barnet all afternoon. Kefalas should have halved the deficit just after the half hour sending a free header wide of the target.

The Bees didn’t have to wait long for their way back into the game, on 37 minutes Harry Taylor was needlessly fouled in the area and Petrasso stepped up to put the ball past ex-Worthing stopper Luca Covolan to reduce the arrears.

A superb save from Parkes kept the deficit at one on the stroke of half time, the home side going into the break in front but far from convincing.

Barnet again started strong and were level ten minutes into the half. A foul on Petrasso led to Sam Skeffington putting a free kick onto the head of Kefalas and this time the Greek youngster and made no mistake and the Bees had parity once again.

Both sides then opened up the game, Andrews putting a free kick the wrong side of Parkes’ post whilst Petrasso forced Covolan into a reflex save and chances continued to be traded, Taylor denied by Covolan whilst the Gulls missed a great chance at the far post which only needed a touch to end up in the back of the net.

The Bees did have to withstand a huge amount pressure in the final ten minutes but the home side couldn’t find a way through and in stoppage time the Bees had at least two very good chances to win the game but poor decision making in the final third meant the spoils were shared, Sutton Utd with the chance to win the title on Sunday afternoon before they visit The Hive on the final day next weekend.

This was probably the best performance of the season, some outstanding contributions along the way from Skeffington whose set pieces were a mark-up on McQueen, Ben Richards-Everton solid at the back whilst Kefalas deserved his goal and more, Petrasso, Mason-Clark and Beard providing good contributions.

Can’t let it pass without mentioning the commentators, now I appreciate they’re the home club etc, but having watched 27 consecutive Barnet streams bar Kings Lynn away these two were horrendous. Mistaking 6ft Nugent for 5ft something Lee Vaughan when taking throw in’s is something else, Skeffington’s corners they thought were taken by Petrasso, not difficult chaps when these guys have their own number on the back of their shirt, maybe a little more professionalism wouldn’t go amiss.

Two to go, both at The Hive including the visit of champions elect Sutton Utd next Saturday, Maidenhead to come on Tuesday evening. Tickets for both already in the wallet, that long five hour round trip I am actually looking forward to and seeing a lot of people who have been strangers for a year or so or Twitter buddies, Tuesday night under lights bring it on……………………

Bees unable to break through Moors

A general view of the ground before the FA Women’s Super League match at The Hive, Barnet.

Tuesday night the 25 game streak of streaming Barnet games was over as I made my way to East Preston to actually watch a live game for the first time since mid-December.

Well, it was until a waterlogged pitch put paid to the Bees game at Solihull Moors and then hastily re-arranged for Wednesday evening with a 6pm ko which meant game 26 then!

Simon Bassey made two changes from Saturday’s defeat at Eastleigh with Michael Petrasso and Courtney Baker-Richardson coming into the team, Themis Kefalas missing out completely and Alex McQueen dropping down to the bench which for the second game running contained just four players, let’s not get started on around 15 furloughed players.

Lining up in a 4-4-2 formation meant more attacking intent and a more open game than some we’ve been used to this season. Both sides were attempting to play with the ball on the ground despite some blustery conditions, but pretty much only half chances were materialising for both teams.

The Bees were wasteful all game through with their set pieces and the usually reliable Lee Vaughan struggled to find his range when crossing into the box despite at least two targets to aim for.

An early booking for the Bees skipper left Vaughan walking a tightrope for just over 80 minutes of the game and at times the Moors stuck lively winger Alex Addai out to his side of the pitch to tempt the experienced full back into another bookable challenge but the full back wasn’t buying it.

Moors certainly had the best of the possession whilst as seems the norm Ephron Mason-Clark provided the best outlet for Barnet to get going with some strong and at times mazy runs but little end product into the box.

Two big chances arrived just before the half time whistle, one for either side. Addai’s strong run past Sam Beard saw his fierce shot cannon off the outside of Adam Parkes’ left hand post whilst at the other end Baker-Richardson looked clean through moments later only to be denied by keeper Ryan Boot, appeals for a penalty declined as the striker went down at the point of shooting, no replay though to see if it was the case and the sides went in goal-less at the break.

A similar sort of pattern was to follow for the second half, but Bassey’s half time talk was out the window within five minutes of the restart, James Ball firing home past Parkes to give the home side the lead.

Petrasso had a good chance just before the hour mark but didn’t wrap his foot round the ball enough and his effort sailed past the post. The same player was closest to finding an equaliser with 20 minutes to go, a header back across goal from Ben Richards-Everton found the Canadian but couldn’t make a good enough contact and the flag went up against him for offside.

The last nine minutes were a blur, or more a complete black out as for some bizarre reason Solihull decided the stream was going to finish at 7.45 for a 6pm kick off, but there we go, apparently I didn’t miss very much so they tweeted to me afterwards!

Slightly disappointing from a Bees point of view as I felt either side could have picked up the three points, game certainly lacked quality throughout and a very end of season dead rubber feel about it.

As Bassey said afterwards, you couldn’t fault the efforts of the players at all but another loss goes into the column. Richards-Everton put in one of his best performances so far, tempered by an off-colour Vaughan, the latter having been very consistent so far this season.

Mason-Clark once again was given license to be the player he is, to run and cause havoc but the service into both Baker-Richardson and Tomi Adeloye wasn’t at its best.

Onto Torquay this weekend for game 27 and hopefully the final one in front of a screen, tickets booked for both home games next week against Maidenhead and Sutton Utd, interesting to see the reaction towards the players and indeed the chairman for comments made earlier this year, no welcome back offer though, football without fans is what remember………….