It wasn’t to be, but it can bee

The promotion dream is over for another year, and with it the end of the 2019/20 season for Barnet. Ironically today on my Facebook memories was first time I sat down with Darren Currie, the first time these blog stats went a bit nuts!

Two consecutive weekends, and 2-0 scorelines on both occasions, but this time the Bees were on the wrong end of it and with that Notts County were off to Wembley. Quite rightly, Currie named the same eleven as started at Yeovil with Shaq Coulthirst and Simeon Akinola returning to the bench, although how fit both really were came to show later in the game.

As Currie eluded to in his post match interview, Barnet were better in-between the boxes, but lacking inside both boxes compared to last weekend, perfectly summed up and the difference between the two sides. As Bees fans we knew losing three of your starting back five would be a hard ask all through these play-offs, that as we know weakened our midfield and against a very good outfit like County you will suffer.

I’m not going to single anyone out, don’t think the players deserve that, County had that little bit extra, worked hard on not allowing any supply into Josh Walker and Paul McCallum, that gave us a lot more to think about this time around. Take three of their best players out of that starting line up and the odds might have evened up a little bit, but good luck to County in the final, promises to be a very good game against Harrogate Town.

The attention now though turns to Currie, his contract and that of the players. As we know from the video interview a few weeks ago, September is when his notice period ends and is a free agent. Rumours from Southend do not go away although the Essex outfit are less than stable and I would be surprised if they don’t go for an experienced head to steady the ship. Not taking anything away from Currie, he has supplied the solid base for something to happen at The Hive, but it’s one season in. The ball there is firmly in Tony Kleanthous’ court and in my opinion a contract offer for two years should be on the table by the end of this week at the latest.

Failure to do so will set this club back years again, which is why we end up in the circle we do. Currie finally has the opportunity to build his own team and squad having worked with those who were not his own, he should be given the chance to do so. We’ve seen the quality of the players he had brought in, James Dunne, Scott Loach and McCallum, he knows a player when he sees one.

I know there are 7/8 players considering offers, I’ve no idea how many will commit to another season at The Hive. If the manager is given almost the freedom to construct a side to win a championship players will buy into it, if Kleanthous drags his heels it could be the difference between years stuck in the National League bumbling along or having a real good crack at it.

It’s looking like being the biggest decision to make at Barnet FC for a few years, the support is closer to the team for the first time in I would say five years, the chairman can either embrace it or ignore it and if it’s the latter then I can see plenty wanting to turn their back on the club and it would show where the football club ranks in the whole scheme of things.

McCallum signing permanently will set the marker, it needs to happen to show ambition, anything less and you’re almost resigned to being happy to chug along in the middle of things. Macca showed in just a few games for us the quality, the difference between champions and also-rans, for me he would be the modern day Grazioli or Akinde.

I’m expecting the season to start on 12th September as per the EFL and Premier League, 19th at the latest, not long to build a side and to get your house in order, the clock at The Hive is ticking………..

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!