Bees search again after Kewell departure

Barnet FC. The gift that keeps on giving whilst appearing a laughing stock to the outside world and the inability to stop the revolving door to the manager’s office at The Hive.

Only last midweek was I blogging that Harry Kewell was already under pressure six games in and without a win kept off the bottom only by Dover Athletic on a minus points score.

Two games I believed he had to buy some breathing space for himself, his staff and his squad. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bromley at the weekend, another side who hadn’t started well, didn’t look at all promising and the lack of a post-match interview from Kewell despite his touchline ban for a sending off at Grimsby saw his assistant Paul Butler not pull any punches.

Talking to fellow Bees fans over the weekend and others I felt he had this weekend’s home game with Weymouth to save his job, even that might not have been enough and as sure as night follows day Barnet are looking for yet another manager/head coach before we’ve reached the end of September after news broke on Monday lunchtime that the club and Kewell had parted company.

At the very beginning of this structure appointment I wanted this to work. Not necessarily for Kewell but for what was put in place and for us fans to see that things can work properly at The Hive. Being a famous name with a good reputation in the game doesn’t always translate into a good sideline coach and as we saw with Tim Flowers last year it didn’t end well.

Kewell I felt was in last chance saloon in this country as a head coach, a poor record across Football League jobs, a final opportunity maybe to succeed and if not that was him done, that will remain to be seen over the next couple of years if it’s the case.

Having spoken to people in and around the game the dynamics didn’t appear to be working between Kewell and Dean Brennan, was that Tony Kleanthous name drawing from a hat and seeing if it works or fits together? The squad to me looks a mismatch of players wanted by both, signed half and half. I could be miles out there but that’s how it looks from the outside.

To work out that regardless of the result this coming Saturday that Peter Beadle’s side would have accumulated more points than Kewell’s tells you all you need to know because six different managers before Simon Bassey tried to get a tune out of those players and thirteen games restored a little bit of pride, since demolished once again.

Just to think how many players and managers have been through those doors at The Hive since Darren Currie and Junior Lewis left the club last August makes my brain hurt. Tony’s right we do have a reputation in the game, it’s an embarrassing one at best and at the moment we’re not exactly pulling up trees to change that around are we?

The amount of money that has been wasted paying off managers and coaching staff as well in that short space of time, if there were shareholders in the club, surely they would be wincing at the balance sheet every few months, its crazy to think we must be paying off now no less than three managers and numerous others.

So what now? Well in my opinion leave Brennan to get on with appointing someone he can work with, someone who knows the division. That might limit a few being that Brennan was a National League manager in his own right just a season ago, will some see it as him lurking and waiting for the job himself?

The biggest answer would be for Kleanthous to eat humble pie and get Currie back in, that’s what kickstarted this mess in the first place. Would he want to come back? Would he want to work under Brennan? Personally I don’t believe anything more than a 1% chance of it happening, I’m stoked if it does but I’ve got no money on that at all.

The second would be to eat the same humble pie and get Bassey back to build on what he started last season, again something I don’t see happening although it would be the dream team in place that was touted to be coming in last March.

My realistic appointment is Neil Smith. Yes I know him, yes I trust him. But I also know what a passionate footballing man he is who knows this level. You don’t spend ten years at one club by luck I can assure you. This next man HAS to know how to bring the fans onside, Smudger I know will do that and if he chucked in a cheeky assistant like Ian Hendon, well you might just take the heat off yourself Tony.

27 years of supporting the Bees has never been dull ever, but quite frankly the embarrassment tag could do with dropping itself. I was already heading to The Hive on Saturday afternoon before the new broke, no doubt there will be more to come over the next few days before the weekend, just no silly appointments please………………….

Pressure starting to mount on Kewell and winless Bees

Every season when the fixtures come out there’s a list of ones I want to get to, be it Barnet, Worthing or random other clubs. Some are to meet up with mates who live further away, some are catching up with players and managers who’ve given their time for other blog pieces.

Chesterfield vs Barnet was on my list to do after the friendship struck up with Scott Loach during the ill-fated efforts of last season. We’ve kept in touch since and while it’s quite a trek from Littlehampton to the Technique Stadium on a Tuesday night I decided it was going to happen anyway!

Given the two sides respective starts to the season I definitely wasn’t expecting Barnet to come away with anything unless Loachy was going to have a mare and chuck a few in for us.

Fragile confidence inside a poor set of results so far meant it wouldn’t take much to knock the Bees over, games littered with red cards, goals conceded from needlessly given away free kicks and leads squandered so far.

The last time I saw these two sides play each other one was already relegated to the National League and other joined them 90 minutes later, neither has regained Football League membership since.

Straight from the off you could sense the Spireites were going to run at the Barnet back four and it really wasn’t a surprise when they opened the scoring just six minutes in, Kabongo Tshimanga tapping in at the far post after the ball found it’s way across the six yard box to the unmarked striker.

Now when you concede the next job is to keep it tight and get a foothold in the game, not so for the Bees. Just a minute or two later, Ben Richards-Everton was caught the wrong side of Stefan Payne and tripped the striker in the box, a yellow card for his troubles and Tshimanga giving Sam Sargeant no chance from the penalty spot for his and Chesterfield’s second.

The striker signed late on from Boreham Wood should have completed his hat-trick by the time ten minutes were on the clock, but flicked Calvin Miller’s cross over the bar.

The Bees first effort on target came five minutes later through the bright Kian Flanagan but straight down the throat of Loach. Worse again should have come Barnet’s way straight after, a lazy back pass didn’t reach Sargeant, Sadou Khan nipped in and rounded the keeper before shooting into the side netting instead of the open goal.

Pressure was only coming from the Spireites, the only outlet ball for the Bees was to David Sesay down the right flank who looked a little on a one man crusade to get the visitors back into the game.

Sargeant was again called into action ten minutes before half time with a superb double save from Tshimanga and Miller, a combination of the keeper’s smart stops and poor finishing preventing the home side racking up a cricket score by half time.

Then, out of nowhere came a mad five minutes before the half time whistle went. Serhat Tasdemir who hadn’t offered too much so far from the left hand side cut inside and saw his shot deflected in the net wrong footing Loach on the way in dead on 45 minutes.

Whilst unexpected it was a welcome way back into the game and three minutes into first half stoppage time the scoreline was undeservedly level. Sam Granville shot from distance and the deflection on this one also took the ball past Loach and into the net to give the Bees a 2-2 scoreline going into the break, something that wasn’t being contemplated amongst the 49 travelling Barnet faithful.

With an unexpected turn in the match you would have expected the Bees to have been told to come out and take the game to the hosts given the momentum was with them at the end of the half, but they failed to do so.

The home side went back in front just after the hour mark, Joe Widdowson giving away another sloppy penalty from the Barnet perspective and Tshimanga completed his hat-trick from the spot. The likelihood was coming that the home side would be the ones to notch more goals and Payne did have the ball in the net 17 minutes from time but ruled out for offside.

But it didn’t take long for the Spireites to score again, a needless free kick conceded outside the penalty area to Sargeant’s left and Calvin Gunning’s effort deflected off the wall and past the keeper to put the seal on another three points for the home side, substitute Ephron Mason-Clark forcing Loach into a save three minutes from time in what was the only on target effort for the visitors in the second half.

The ease in which the home side tore into the visitors defence proved the Bees back line is as porous as any time last season prior to the arrival of Simon Bassey in March, a clean sheet doesn’t seem to be in Harry Kewell’s armour but the midfield is not strong enough to keep creating enough chances to outscore teams.

The 4-4-2 set up in my opinion was wrong given the defensive frailties and to then take off the second striker after going 3-2 behind is slightly baffling. The other substitutions didn’t make a lot of sense either, can only think those coming off were either carrying small knocks or not match fit enough to do the full ninety.

Sesay did look good before running out of steam, Flanagan suffering from not having an experienced head alongside him, Sam Granville really not effective enough to make a difference. Great to catch up with Loachy too although we do speak occasionally on the phone as well, nice touch to clap and acknowledge the Bees fans before heading off to celebrate another win.

Kewell is running out of time to deliver for Barnet, granted the opening set of fixtures weren’t the kindest but that aren’t very many fixtures on the calendar you would expect to bank on three points, it needs to be worked on and delivered.

You can’t hide behind injuries forever, all teams suffer them and there is a squad of players to pick from, most of which are new this year.

Whilst reading currently a book on AFC Wimbledon at the moment, it of course documents well Bassey’s 17 years there and have just gotten to a point where Bass had his first caretaker role, remarking how simple he made things, went back to basics and got the players to believe in themselves again, sounds very similar to the 13 game spell at the end of last season’s disaster, I can’t help but think Tony Kleanthous made a huge, massive mistake in not tying that man to the club to continue what he started, time will tell, more likely sooner rather than later…….

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)

Make the right appointment

Well, where do you start? Without a doubt this has been the strangest of seasons for many reasons and now it’s finished, is it time to pinch myself to find out if it really happened?

It’s been weird, it’s been bizarre, it’s been downright awful but it’s also been redeemed slightly on the pitch over the last 13 games. If we go all the way back to October when the season began, or should I say a season in which the chairman failed to see coming whilst the rest of his fellow board members had their clubs signing players and were ready to go, Barnet were caught on the back foot, but why?

A gamble if you ask me and one that only paid off in February when the North and South divisions were declared null and void and the Bees were spared a relegation that would have been much deserved in my opinion for the lacklustre response to starting the season.

Peter Beadle was out of his depth, not only in managing a National League side but attracting a decent National League player to come to The Hive and some of that was down to the timing of the appointment, way too late. Whilst the early signs were ok and no better than ok, they soon showed when coming up against sides who had prepared properly in pre-season we were not good enough and it was no surprise to see results get worse and Beadle given his P45.

Would it have been any better had Tim Flowers been appointed in the summer if as rumoured he interviewed but Beadle was chosen instead? Now Flowers might only have managed Solihull at this level but that was one up on Beadle so you work out why the former came in and the latter finally arrived in December.

Money somehow found its way into the budget for nine more players over the course of Flowers reign, some on long contracts and a squad size of 36 players! How the hell do you keep that many players happy??? In most cases the arrivals were no better than the players already at the club, ‘minging’ goals and performances were the name of the game and a measly one win in thirteen games meant the club was actually in a worse position than when Beadle was sent on his merry way back to the South West.

Both managers working off of one song sheet when it came to formations proved ultimately their downfall and again no surprise to see the club mutually part ways with the former Blackburn Rovers keeper.

The appointment of Simon Bassey and Dave Anderson took a while to come, both Paul Fairclough and Gary Anderson having short spells where they got something and then nothing out of the players, the story of the season which wouldn’t be a bestseller.

Just before they arrived after months of hearing nothing from the top office, the pen was let loose and almost destroyed the supporting side of the club in one full statement whilst burying the news of the latest person to try out the manager’s chair.

Some will say TK won’t recover much face from that despite a retraction which is probably the best way of putting it a couple of days later, it wasn’t an apology.

Now Bassey and Anderson seemed to understand what needed to be done and how to do it. A free hit for them with no relegation and one eye on next season, almost a thirteen game pre-season with players playing for new contracts in a lot of cases.

A clean sheet in the very first game was unheard of, an organised display at Maidenhead, the first time we hadn’t conceded in a game since early December. That was followed up by a first win since January, another clean sheet and a come-from-behind win at Altrincham, unbeaten in four games the best run of the season coming in April, yes April!

Then running Sutton close in a 1-0 loss but finding out a week later how far we were behind when you play the form teams, Dagenham completely outplaying the Bees at The Hive. One win in four looked to have seen the players revert to pre-Bassey days, but then a flourish to finish the season, ending Torquay’s title hopes in a game the Bees should have won followed by consecutive 2-0 wins over Maidenhead and champions Sutton Utd to finish the season level on points with Kings Lynn and only two behind Woking.

A great stat on Twitter a few days ago, Barnet had 13 points from 28 games and four clean sheets before Bassey and Anderson arrived, from their 13 games the pair picked up 18 points and four clean sheets, just goes to show what a bit of organisation can do.

As someone else put it about their record, ‘You two have not only raised the Titanic but you’ve sailed off with the band still playing.’

Simple is the easiest way of putting it. Players knew their jobs and did them, and surprise, surprise, we got results with the same set of players as the other managers used. Three arrivals only in Sam Skeffington, Sam Beard and Adam Parkes were the difference, the rest were already here.

A change of position for someone like Themis Kefalas into a defensive midfielder was a revelation and worked, getting Ephron Mason-Clark on the ball and running at defenders is what he does and again simple but it’s been very effective.

Tomi Adeloye looked like another player who had a purpose the fitter he got, the only one who needed to continue what he was doing was Michael Petrasso. One of the stranger loan signings however it came about was most welcome given the Canadian Magician’s goals and general wing play.

Talking of loan signings, regardless of whether we were paying them all or not having six at any time, which we managed twice, when only five can get into the matchday squad is bloody absurd and just goes to show how silly things got despite including that lot we had 36 players as mentioned to choose from. Don’t get me started on the furlough, we’ve done that one to death.

Don’t expect the retained list to arrive too early either, there are conversations to be had this week, no bigger ones than with Bassey and Anderson along with Gary Anderson, I am led to believe that none of the three have contracts for next season which quite honestly is scandalous given what has taken place over managerial appointments since last July, have we really not learnt anything?

Bear in mind also the players will be back in pre-season training in around 35 days’ time, that’s very, very close and we still aren’t sorted in the main role ready to plan for the start, that really does beggar belief. Recruitment should have started weeks ago so in my mind we’re already behind in preparation, doesn’t bode well at all.

The budget and quality of signings this summer will comfortably dictate where this club will finish, scrimp and save again and you’ll be lucky to stay out of the bottom three again, sub 600 crowds will be the norm at The Hive.

There’s been a restoration of pride over the last 13 games, would be silly to throw it all away because of a lack of organisation repeating itself 12 months later.

Now call it coincidence but the chairman missing the only two games the supporters could attend since December? I don’t agree with those attacking his passion and love for the club, but that was an ideal opportunity to make himself available for comments both positive and negative, huge PR opportunity missed there.

It’s never been dull being a Barnet supporter but some things are starting to wear a little thin. I took three of my podcast recording mates with me on Saturday, they were in awe of the facilities and everything we have there, it’s about time we got it right on the pitch and sustained it too, the excuses are running a little thin………

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 outclassed by rampant County

Image courtesy of @BenFullyLove

The final throes of what has been an underwhelming season for Barnet FC. 99% of us are ready for the end to come and put this sorry effort of 42 games in the record books but better ‘Men in Black’ style erasing it from memory.

The latest side to visit The Hive were Notts County needing the points to maintain a play-off charge that had gone very much up one minute and very down the next, and with a cluster of clubs still chasing the end of season party the three points were needed to head home to Nottingham.

After a win on Bank Holiday Monday at Weymouth and the first double of the season, Simon Bassey was forced into one change, the suspended Antony Wordsworth replaced by Matt Preston as the Bees went for three at the back.

As was very much expected County controlled the possession through Michael Doyle but despite all their pressure and ball retention they created very little as Barnet blocked, hurried and made life difficult for the visitors.

County almost snatched the lead after 26 minutes, Alex McQueen in the right place to clear off the line to keep the scores level whilst ten minutes later Ephron Mason-Clark almost found the bottom corner with his shot but the wrong side of the post.

It appeared that the sides would go in level at half time, but the visitors went in a goal to the good in stoppage time. Having defended well for 45 minutes the Bees failed to clear from a corner and ball dropped nicely in front of Mark Ellis and the defender smashed it home beyond Adam Parkes.

Whilst Bassey had to deliver a different half time team talk than he planned it surely would have been along the lines of keep it tight at the beginning of the half but that went out the window within a minute of the restart.

Calvin Miller skipped down the left and fed Rueben Rodrigues to add a second goal for County. Just before the hour mark, the game was beyond Barnet as Ben Nugent turned the ball into his own net with the County pressure constant and unrelenting.

County then wrapped up a commanding victory five minutes from time with Enzio Boldewijn cutting in from the visitors left hand side and curled the ball beyond Parkes.

There was time for substitute Michael Petrasso to grab a consolation goal in the last minute but the Bees were soundly beaten for the second Saturday in a row.

Not too many positives for Bassey and as he said in the post-match afterwards no good beating the bottom sides and rolling over against the top sides. Quite clearly the lack of fitness and energy amongst most shows they can’t compete against a side who can press you for 90 minutes.

 Matt Preston was solid in the back four until his action was cut short by injury and Sam Skeffington provided his usual energy across the midfield, getting sharper and more involved with every game while Mason-Clark was at the heart of trying to spark something to happen. As previously said it’s these games that Bassey learns more about the squad than victories.

A trip to another play-off chasing team in Eastleigh this coming Saturday will be another strong test but one that ticks us ever closer to the season’s end and by the time we head to Hampshire, we should know whether we can grace The Hive before the end of May, not sure everyone however will be pleased with that news……

Familiar traits back to haunt us

After tasting defeat midweek at title chasing Sutton Utd, Barnet were back at The Hive at the weekend where under performing Dagenham & Redbridge were the visitors in the first of two matches over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The Bees more than matched the U’s on Tuesday evening and with the games coming thick and fast in May, there is no let up for a threadbare squad, well not that bare if those on furlough were allowed to play.

After keeper Aymen Azaze suffered a potential season ending injury in the midweek defeat, Adam Parkes was brought in on an emergency loan from Championship side Watford leaving former number one Scott Loach still on furlough, the former making his debut between the sticks.

There was also a return to the starting line up for Michael Petrasso whilst Antonis Vasiliou was back on the bench as Simon Bassey had to juggle the numbers with no Liam Daly nor Sam Skeffington.

The pattern for the full ninety minutes was set within the first ten minutes of the game, the visitors controlled possession and Barnet only able to play on the counter attack, possibly the best way with the lack of ability and quality within their ranks.

However it took until the 21st minute for ex-Bee Paul McCallum to draw a save out of Parkes and the young keeper wasn’t called into action until 12 minutes later to save from Angelo Balanta. In-between the Bees were struggling to retain possession, something that’s become a feature of the past few performances.

With the Daggers getting most of their joy from the marauding wing play of Mauro Vilhete and Andy Eleftheriou, any goal looked like it was going to come from either side with a ball into the box.

As it was it came from a set piece, the undoing of Barnet’s season. Parkes carried the ball out instead of releasing it and from the corner, despite a one handed save from the young stopper, it fell to McCallum who made no mistake to put the visitors in front, a goal that was coming.

Dagenham were doing a superb job in keeping Petrasso quiet and Ephron Mason-Clark frustrated, neither finding joy on the wing nor swopping sides and Courtney Baker-Richardson then starved of any service.

The Bees best chance of the half came in stoppage time when Mason-Clark was fouled on the edge of the penalty area, but Alexander McQueen’s free kick was straight into the wall and the subsequent rebound volleyed well over the bar.

The second half followed the same pattern, Dagenham controlling the game and Barnet chasing shadows around the pitch. Parkes was called into action just after the re-start with a super save from Vilhete to stop the ex-Barnet player from increasing the scoreline.

However, the visitors did double their money ten minutes into the half, Matt Robinson with a fine top corner finish well out of the reach of Parkes. Three minutes later Parkes had to save again this time from Will Wright as the home side struggled to cope with the relentless pressure coming in waves from the Daggers attack.

Bassey’s double change of Tomi Adeloye and Antonis Vasiliou with around twenty minutes to play to try and force a goal from somewhere almost paid dividends a few minutes later but Vasiliou shot over the bar from the best effort of the half from Barnet.

With the visitors dominant throughout and the Bees huffing and puffing but not producing anything the points headed back to East London to leave Bees fans reflecting on a performance which was very much removed from the previous five.

Barnet certainly missed the energy of Skeffington in midfield and as mentioned really struggled to get anything going at the top end of the pitch, Dagenham were far superior across the pitch and Elliot Justham had not a single save to make which throws back to shades of performances under previous managers.

Whether it’s a lot of games and a squad stretched thin with injuries coupled with a refusal it seems from the club to take any more players off furlough Bassey will have to make do again with a trip to Weymouth on Bank Holiday Monday unless any of his walking wounded will have recovered in time.

It does again raise the question of consistency, the one thing needed to win this league and Bassey will learn more from these performances than wins or draws.

Superb game from Matt Preston at the back, not much at all if anything missed his head but not very many got going at all in any part of the game besides the skipper, quick turnaround now and trip to the coast on Monday, only seven more left to suffer now………

Bassey tastes defeat for the first time

It’s a strange feeling going into games now not expecting Barnet to come away with a four or five goal thumping such has been the progress in just a few games under the stewardship of Simon Bassey and Dave Anderson.

A trip to Gander Green Lane to face a Sutton Utd side who were seen as champions-elect only a few weeks ago with a mammoth number of games in hand was seen as a very big test of how far this side had become despite the fact the hosts hadn’t been in the best of form recently.

Bassey made one change to Saturday’s victorious eleven, Ben Richards-Everton back in at centre half at the expense of skipper Liam Daly possibly to counter the pace threat of former Worthing winger David Ajiboye should Sam Beard need the cover.

As expected the hosts started the brighter, the need for the three points probably emphasised emphatically by Sutton boss Matt Grey to his players to keep up their title challenge, but despite a lot of early possession and pressure they didn’t test Bees keeper Aymen Azaze.

The game looked very similar to last Tuesday, hosts make all the running whilst Barnet looked to soak up the pressure and break on the counter in order to get something from the game. An early booking for Themis Kefalas didn’t give the youngster much scope for error for the remaining 81 minutes but sensible play from the QPR loanee ensured the Bees kept a full compliment on the pitch for the fifth game running.

Ephron Mason-Clark was at the centre of anything likely to happen for Barnet and indeed had the first Bees effort of the night after 14 minutes, but saw his shot blocked by the Sutton defence.

Neither side were making the most of their set pieces, Barnet defending well once again whilst Alex McQueen’s delivery into the opposing box lacked quality throughout the game.

The game for the Bees became a little irrelevant in first half stoppage time as Azaze raced out from his goal only to be clipped in the face as he denied the on-rushing Sutton forward, the young Belgian goalkeeper stretched off as 16 year old James Callan came on for his first team debut, news on Azaze still awaited at the time of writing although believed to be a fractured eye socket and cheekbone.

After going into the break level, the home side knew they needed to up the ante in the second half especially with a young untested goalkeeper and started the same way as the first half, Callan called into early action but comfortably claiming the ball from a Sutton head following a corner.

Moments later Callan was in the action again saving from Harry Beautyman whilst the Bees Lee Vaughan managed to get Courtney Baker-Richardson in behind the U’s defence, but the striker was unable to keep the ball goal bound after rounding the keeper.

The game was broken up a little over the following ten minutes, a raft of bookings as the game started to drift a little until a golden chance for substitute Tomi Adeloye on 67 minutes saw the striker unable to toe poke the ball past Sutton keeper Dean Bouzanis.

Two minutes later the home side finally had their goal, corner in from their right hand side was pushed out well by Callan only for the ball to fall at the feet of striker Omar Bugiel and the former Worthing front man lashed the ball into the roof of the net.

Whilst the goal knocked a bit of stuffing out of the Bees, there was still time to grab an equaliser and with Michael Petrasso on for the industrious Sam Skeffington there was every chance for Barnet to create something but the home side defended well to stop the Bees getting the ball down the flanks and into the box.

Little goalmouth action followed in the remaining ten minutes and Bassey tasted defeat for the first time since arriving at The Hive, but no disgrace in losing to a good Sutton side who have been in the title race for the best part of the season.

Plenty of positives last night, Matt Preston looking stronger game by game after returning from injury, Beard not allowing Ajiboye much of a kick all evening, the energy of Skeffington across midfield whilst Callan at such a young age coped well with anything that came his way.

Best wishes to Aymen Azaze and now it remains to be seen before the weekend which route the club go down, Scott Loach to return from furlough, Callan to continue until Azaze is fit with no sub keeper or an emergency loan from the EFL or NLS, the former I believe out of the question so it’s between the other two options in my opinion, long term Barnet’s goalkeeping department looks in good hands……..

Another small step in the right direction

Local derbies are never one for the faint hearted and Tuesday night’s trip to Boreham Wood was going to be no exception for Barnet FC. After Saturday’s win over Aldershot provided the Bees with a first win under Simon Bassey the trip up the road was likely to be a much sterner test.

A knock for one of the weekend goal-scorers JJ Hooper saw him replaced by Tomi Adeloye, himself a goal getter at the weekend, in an otherwise unchanged line up.

As per the weekend both sides opened brightly under the Meadow Park lights and it’s refreshing to see the Bees concentration from the off rather than expecting us to concede a goal or two and be out of the game before half-time.

The Bees had the first couple of early chances, although it was Kabongo Tshimanga who forced Aymen Azaze to save at his near post inside five minutes, one of the very few occasions the young Belgian keeper had a shot on target to make him work.

Ephron Mason-Clark, who again provided some good width and penetrating runs on the left flank, tested Wood with a couple of half chances as the home side started to take control of possession but were not creating too many chances, Tshimanga and Matt Rhead marshalled well by Liam Daly and Matt Preston.

On the half hour came Barnet’s best chance of the game, Adeloye making a little space for himself and only a strong hand from Wood keeper Nathan Ashmore prevented the Bees going in front.

Play swung from end to end with both sides trading corners but neither able to make the other pay from set pieces despite height in both ranks and the sides went in goalless at half time, Wood definitely enjoying more possession and putting the Bees under some pressure at times.

Wood certainly upped the ante from the re-start as Barnet struggled to get the ball and when they did they couldn’t keep it long enough to halt the pressure coming their way. The home side forced a succession of corners within the first 15 minutes of the half but failed to make any of them count as the Bees looked to play fully on the counter attack.

Just after the hour mark a mis-controlled ball from Krystian Pearce was about to set Adeloye away but the Wood defender took the foul and a yellow card before the Bees striker could make an impact.

The final quarter of the game saw the home side poke and probe to try and find a way through the visitors defence but Barnet held firm despite the odd nervy moment with balls coming into the box, but a second clean sheet in three games for Azaze and a third game unbeaten for Simon Bassey and Dave Anderson in what was certainly a very different game from the previous two sets of opponents.

For a side that has been caving in all season under pressure, this result was another huge step in the right direction upwards. Granted we have no other way to go but this is the first time this season the team has gone three games without losing in the National League, a pretty poor stat but one we’re not surprised at.

Plusses are springing up all over the park, Themis Kefalas once again a vital cog in front of that back four who are growing in confidence every game. Sam Skeffington quietly going about his game with energy whilst the press Harry Taylor put in for 89 minutes was pretty decent, to make Wood think harder about where they were putting the next pass every time, a different role for the young midfielder but one that gave the team something else.

Adeloye is starting to look more the part like Hooper, a job to do and knowing what to do, very simple but why couldn’t the others manage it with these players? Did they over complicate it or just a stubbornness to stick to one style?

Either way they are starting to be moulded into a team that’s hard to penetrate and be beaten, a bit more pride appears to be emanating back into the shirt which is all us supporters ask for.

Just a note on Antonis Vasiliou, I know a lot of fans want to see him on the bench and whilst I’ve loved the moments where he has played this season I can see why he’s not involved at the moment. People criticise two defenders on the bench, but when you break down the play as it is now one will replace Taylor after he’s run himself into the ground to shore up the back line.

If that defender has come on earlier for an injured player then we lose that game plan notion and we need to be water-tight defensively, that breeds the confidence of not getting smashed or simply conceding.

Vasiliou has a role to play next season I feel, Petrasso we would expect to return home which gives room for the young Cypriot to make his mark at this level, it’s ‘horses for courses’ as I see it to get us through the remainder of the season and to restore more of that pride I mentioned earlier.

In a week where the greed at the top end of the game was almost taken to a new level it’s refreshing to see my football club is taking small steps to get back on an even keel after the disbelief of all we’ve seen across the live streams all season, after all owners are just custodians of our clubs, supporters are there for life…………………..