Patience starting to wear thin

Tuesday evening under lights at The Hive. Another Tuesday, and another chance to get a National League win but the games are ebbing slowly away in what is still a surreal season of watching games taking place in an empty stadium via video links.

The last time Barnet met Yeovil was in the play-offs in June, I was sitting at The Hive watching the game with fellow Bees fans in the Legends Bar, a 2-0 win with goals from Paul McCallum and Mauro Vilhete, a memory that seems a very long time ago but not even a year old such is the weight this current season puts on the mind.

The highlights before this game of last season’s opening day encounter, the cheers and sight of fans inside the stadium, a win courtesy of a Simeon Akinola penalty, pleasure once more but nostalgic.

Expectations going into a game now are so different, Saturday at Hartlepool was about keeping the score down and not embarrassing ourselves on national television, against Yeovil, well keep it competitive, sad how far we’ve fallen in the space of nine months or so.

An unchanged team was expected against a Glovers side who a few months back were below the Bees after a tough start to the new campaign although a good run of results through December and January moved the side away from the relegation zone.

From the off, it was evidently clear which way this game was going, Scott Loach called upon to tip the ball round the post with less than a minute on the clock after the Glovers were able to just run at the Barnet defence, a theme that then occurred for ninety plus minutes to come.

One struggle all season has been defending set pieces or restarts as Tim Flowers likes to call them and once again they were the undoing of Barnet.

Just twelve minutes on the clock and a corner clipped in was blocked by Dunne on the line, but the rebound prodded home by Jimmy Smith. Whilst we digested going behind yet again, Barnet conceded again just sixty seconds later, another corner into the box and Billy Sass-Davies unmarked headed down and into the net as the Glovers extended their lead.

But then out of nowhere, the Bees reduced the deficit, from a set piece of their own, JJ Hooper with a hooked shot into the top corner giving Adam Smith no chance, mad fifteen minutes and three goals in the game.

The Glovers eased off a little after that, likely surprised that Barnet had indeed found the net, that being my primary concern before the game we’d forgotten where it was. Once again though it was as good as it got for the Bees over the course of the game as ill-discipline took over.

Tomi Adeloye picked up a yellow card for a foul just before the half hour mark followed by a second and a red card seven minutes later for blocking a free kick, the referee causing some confusion by not realising immediately he had already booked Adeloye earlier and the Bees left to play an hour with ten men and a goal behind.

Adeloye’s contribution since arriving late last week is no shots on target that I can recall, a yellow card on his Saturday debut and now a one match ban for the Tuesday night sending off, leave you to make of that what you will.

Flowers tried something different at half time withdrawing skipper James Dunne for centre back Themis Kefalas to go three at the back with a slight push on for Miles Judd and Richard Taylor but within five minutes of the restart Loach was forced into two more smart saves to keep the Bees within one goal of the visitors.

The change failed to work and ended up with Kefalas moving into central midfield to allow Alexander McQueen to head out to the right hand side where once again an opposing team was getting most joy at working the ball into the box.

Just before the hour mark Yeovil put their mark on the three points, Rhys Murphy getting in front of McQueen to flick the ball goal wards surprising Loach who was unable to keep it out.

Judd’s miscued cross gave Smith something to think about in the Glovers goal, tipping the ball over the bar and the closest the Bees came to a second. Chasing the game with ten men for so long allowed Yeovil to dictate the play with Barnet merely feeding on scraps and the visitors wrapped it up with a fourth goal ten minutes from time Josh Neufville curling home with Loach well beaten to send the Bees to yet another defeat.

I could easily cut and paste week after week at the moment, nothing changes in the positive with each passing game. One win in twenty games between two managers and a shed load of players isn’t doing anything except carry on in the wrong direction.

Ten goals shipped in the last three games tells its own story, but the back four are now all Flowers’ players, how long do you give it? The ball doesn’t stick up front, the midfielders are not box to box players so do you change your tactics to suit what you have for this season until you can get the personnel you want?

Blame can be accredited in lots of areas, we can go back to the end of those play-off games to start the trail, many a conversation has been had across social media in the last 24 hours. Tony Kleanthous should have moved quicker from that point to part ways with Darren Currie, the meeting took too long to happen which then delayed the appointment of Peter Beadle and the signing of players.

No time for a decent pre-season and players to bed in, Beadle was already falling off the tightrope then and the wobble was beginning. Out of his depth and then gone, Flowers brought in after not being good enough for the job in the summer, squad enlarges but results don’t change so what do you do now?

Do you say thanks it’s not any better than the last chap and change managers again? Whoever is in charge is going to have to get a tune out of the 30 odd pro’s we have on the books, the question is though why isn’t Flowers getting tunes out of the players he has brought in?

There could be a divide between three sets of players, some not listening to what is being asked of them and the others trying to implement and the end result is nothing.

We are where we are because we deserve to be, it’s not been anywhere near good enough and while the chairman and managers can shoulder the actions as to why we are looking ahead full steam at relegation the players all need to step up and prove they’ve got something to get the club out of the mess.

There is growing concern that underneath us some of the North and South clubs will play on which means relegation is likely to be back on the agenda, that decision will not be known for a few more days but if that doesn’t get things twitching around The Hive then we might just as well pack up, furlough, and accept a place in the National League South next year.

Maybe now is not the time for inquisitions etc, but something must change very very quickly but in all likelihood there aren’t very many signs to show that it will and across social media its plain to see that a lot of fans have now given up watching streams etc and a fanbase that was united last season is now fractured once again through a series of miscalculated decisions, now where have we heard that one before…………

Poor run continues for shot shy Bees

The trepidation of another game for the black and amber of Barnet is not doing many any favours as we wait to come out of the third lockdown. After Tuesday’s 5-1 capitulation at fellow strugglers Kings Lynn Town, in-form Hartlepool was the next destination for Tim Flowers side, the home team on a run of seven home wins in a row.

Another week brought more signings, striker Tomi Adeloye arriving on a short term deal whilst Richard Taylor signed on loan from League Two Southend Utd to fill the left back berth and with it a now completely replaced back four from those who started this season.

To cap it all the game was being televised live to the nation on BT Sport, I was going to be happy at the score being kept down to three in favour of the Monkey Hangers.

There was a little uncertainty as to the formation when the Bees lined up, but rather than Alexander McQueen taking up a right wing role and a 4-4-2, the winger-cum-full back was employed in central midfield alongside James Dunne and Harry Taylor while Adeloye made his debut more as a right winger within the three up front.

Whilst the Bees had a fairly bright start it was plain to see possession was going to be at a minimum for the visitors and although it took a while for Pool to get going once they did, the evening wasn’t going to get much better.

Cross after cross were finding their way into the penalty area with consummate ease but the Bees defended most well and a superb point blank save from Scott Loach kept the scores level just before the half hour mark.

JJ Hooper then had Barnet’s best chance of the afternoon, put through on goal but denied by the legs of Ben Killip and that was as good as it got in the final third for the visitors.

A couple of minutes after that chance, the home side took the lead with the ever dangerous Luke Armstrong turning the ball home after yet another unchallenged cross in the Bees box. Another smart save from Loach five minutes before half time kept the home side to just a single goal before the interval.

The second half saw Pool completely dominate and a combination of poor finishing and more fine stops from Loach that kept the scoreline to a single goal, Armstrong on another day could easily have had a hat-trick and Barnet dead and buried by half time. Despite only one goal between the two sides, the Bees looked unlikely to score at all and while a single goal defeat looks like an improvement on past performances it could well have been another thumping and no likelihood of pulling a goal out of the bag.

Taylor looked reasonable at left back despite having not played much football this season, Adeloye didn’t affect the game at all and was not surprisingly substituted after the hour mark, match fitness lacking also.

It’s still a worry that after now three months in the job Flowers has only picked up the one win and not much improvement on the pitch, the players either don’t understand what is being asked or just can’t carry it out.

The squad is now the size of a small country with most not likely to find themselves in the manager’s plans again this season unless a sudden rush of injuries present themselves, indeed we have six current loanees at the time of writing with only five permitted in matchday sixteen’s, bit baffling really!

It looks like we have three squads within one massive one, those from last year who don’t fit the style, Beadle’s budget buys and the ones Flowers has brought in and none of them are gelling very well.

How much more the chairman will fund is unclear, any more I would expect to be short term signings to the end of the season. The FA ratification can’t come quick enough so the club can work out if they are still in danger of relegation or whether players are playing for a contract for next season under reduced match conditions, squad numbers certainly won’t diminish with nowhere for the out of favour players to head to on loan and unlikely to take a contract pay off either.

All in all, the same sorry mess it looks from week to week, Yeovil at home this Tuesday, while we might keep the score down again, you just can’t see us troubling the scorers at the right end, oh well only a few more games to go…………..

Work to do for Flowers and Barnet

With so little football going on it’s harder to find the motivation to write a blog, trotting out the same National League disasters and if you don’t include Barnet FC in that last bit then we’re singing from different song sheets.

Almost twelve months on from that last seen game at Woking, the club is unrecognisable. I’m not a naïve person by any stretch of the imagination, this season was always going to be a nadir compared to the previous campaign but I had been expecting to make a better fist of it.

The relentless Saturday/Tuesday combination was in force once again this midweek as the Bees travelled to fellow strugglers Kings Lynn Town which would have closed the gap between the two clubs to three points with a Barnet win. Town’s financial problems are no secret and without news of further funding coming their way after this weekend’s home game with Weymouth they are unlikely to kick another ball in anger this season.

After Saturday’s flat and leggy performance against Woking, Tim Flowers would have been expecting an improved performance against a side one place better off than his team in the table but with a win at The Hive earlier in the season already in the bag.

Streaming away games for a fan has been hit and miss from what I read across message boards for the National League, indeed Barnet have had their fair share at the beginning of the season, but credit to the club on that side of things they have got it right.

Now we’re in February I really expect these things to work a lot more smoothly as we’re months into the season not games and for this stream to cut out after about five minutes and not be able to access it for another 15 minutes is pretty poor, no apology given either so I can only assume the home club had no idea or didn’t care. I’ll give them the tiny bit of credit for replying to my Twitter message pretty quickly.

Whilst unable to watch the action, the home side scored twice courtesy of ex-Bee Michael Gash, I’d love to be able to tell you if they were well in the ascendancy or poor defending but alas I couldn’t see, maybe a good thing in all respects.

I can only assume as well from tweets by fellow Bees fans that Jack Connors struggled at left back for match fitness having not been involved on the pitch under Flowers so far and was substituted for Alex McQueen straight after the second goal, just as my stream came back to life.

The Bees finally found their way onto the scoresheet just before the half hour mark, Scott Loach’s long goal kick put JJ Hooper in behind the Lynn defence and he halved the deficit. That though was as good as it got for Barnet for the remainder of the game.

Ten minutes later a superb save from Loach prevented Gash from completing a first half hat-trick, the home side going into the interval 2-1 in front, a danger from every set piece they had and Barnet looking like lost rabbits in headlights every time the ball came into the box.

The Linnets should have extended their lead through Sonny Carey five minutes after the re-start, his shot cannoning off the bar and away to safety. Just after the hour mark the game was effectively put out of reach for the Bees as Cameron King finished off a fine move after good work from Adam Marriott.

Then came the icing on the cake for the home side in the final five minutes as Dayle Southwell and Marriott scored within a minute of each other and leave last Tuesday’s win over Halifax as an almost long distant memory.

The win lifted the Linnets out of the bottom three replaced by Weymouth who have a seven point cushion to Barnet, the Bees with two games in hand but the way performances are starting to pan out again that’s pretty hollow.

I’ll admit I didn’t really watch much of the second half, I spent more time following the angry tweets on Twitter from Bees fans and answering messages, it enthralled me that much, pretty much similar when writing this it’s losing its motivation.

Flowers after the game bemoaned the restarts we don’t contest but the sessions are there in training so what is the problem? Are the players not good enough? Mentally can they not take things from one pitch to another? Is it a combination of both or is it something else?

I would say my own opinion is that of a combination of both. No disrespect to those pulling on the shirt, but clearly some cannot compete at this level, they’re getting found out every week. It took Eastleigh just forty-five minutes in the opening game of the season to work out how to beat us and almost everyone has since.

It’s alarming to see how some of last season’s good players have regressed so much this year, is it down to the players around them now compared to last year, are they not able to carry out the instructions wanted because they are mentally not tuned into things?

Having to rely on the FA ratification of the National League vote to avoid relegation is cheap, desperate, but the ways things are going on the pitch it’s the only saving grace.

Not to take anything away from either Woking or Kings Lynn, but full time professionals should be putting in a better shift than this, the cohesion should be tighter.

Tuesday night was the ninth time in 21 league games the Bees had conceded at least three times in a game, any Hartlepool fans reading this must be placing a bet of themselves scoring at least three, what price then a thumping in front of the BT Sport cameras this coming weekend……..

Bees fall flat after midweek high

Whilst the National League remains in a mess and embers of the vote smoulder away there are still games of football to play. Whether they actually mean something to everyone at Step One any more remains to be seen over the next few days and weeks, rumours abound and aplenty.

After Tuesday’s first win over Halifax in what seemed like an eternity, Woking were the visitors to The Hive as Barnet were looking to secure back to back wins for the first time this season, only two previous attempts had been possible.

When I think of Woking, you get good and bad memories. Last season it was the corresponding fixture that saw my first visit of the season and a 2-2 draw coming back from 2-0 down with a stoppage time goal from Ephron Mason-Clark, brought on by continued time wasting from former Bees stopper Craig Ross, more on that later.

The reverse fixture was the final time I saw Barnet in action last season, a quite superb scintillating performance from start to finish which extended the Bees run to one defeat in 17 matches.

That fixture this season was an absolute horror show losing 4-1 at the Kingfield Stadium while Peter Beadle’s post-match interview was the first I saw that felt he had no clue what to do from that game forward, we knew that before then though!

I easily felt we owed Woking a performance for as bad as we were on that day and with the Cards on the back of a poor recent run, it was time to back up the midweek win with another.

But it’s Barnet, never runs that smoothly does it! Losing centre half Ben Richards-Everton in the warm up didn’t bode well for the rest of the afternoon, an understanding developing well between the former Bradford defender and Liam Daly. Not to say Themis Kefalis had a bad game once the nerves had settled down a little, but his presence was going to be a miss.

There wasn’t a lot between the two sides in the opening 20 minutes, Woking cautious not to concede first with some fragile confidence of a bad run, Barnet keen to not to do likewise in a similar vein of mind. Neither keeper was tested either, Scott Loach was beaten however just over that mark only for Daly to head off the line to keep the scoreline level.

Loach was beaten again just a minute later and this one counted, Jamar Loza cutting in too easily from the Woking left and guided the ball past the Bees keeper into the bottom right hand corner, Loza loving The Hive this season having scored twice for Kings Lynn earlier in the campaign.

It then went from bad to worse for Barnet losing their second defender of the afternoon, Jerome Binnom-Williams succumbing to injury and a return to action for the previously out of favour Alexander McQueen.

Woking went in at the break a goal to the good, with Barnet lacking any urgency especially in the final third where the ball wasn’t sticking nor was Michael Petrasso unable to have any influence on the game, although they almost handed the Bees a chance to equalise just before half time but Xander McBurnie couldn’t exert enough pressure onto Ross to force a mistake.

The second half had no real impact from the home side, Woking controlling possession and only a fine reaction save on the hour mark from Loach denied the visitors a second goal. The tempo did pick up slightly with the arrival from the bench of Mason-Clark, but a cheap free kick given away by skipper James Dunne led to a goal which wrapped the game up for Woking.

Charlie Cooper’s free kick went through everyone in the penalty area and struck the post, rebounding nicely into the path of Moussa Diarra who stabbed the ball past Loach.

Antony Wordsworth had a couple of efforts straight down the throat of Ross, who picked up a booking for time-wasting in the final ten minutes of the game (didn’t see that one coming), but beyond that nothing happened for the Bees.

The performance was definitely very flat, very leggy, there wasn’t much left in the tank after Tuesday night so it appeared but there’s very little time to dwell on this one with a trip to Kings Lynn on Tuesday evening and another three points up for grabs.

Interesting to see on social media after some of the reactions from the players about the performance not being good enough, in my opinion it was better than a lot I’ve seen this year and granted some of that doesn’t take much but the squad is low on quality if some need to rest or need injury managing such as Petrasso and McBurnie, the latter getting through 60 minutes on his return from the treatment table.

With the season nearing an ‘up in the air’ moment with seven clubs having voted to null and void the current campaign, how many of those will in the next few weeks declare they no longer have the funds to carry on? While I don’t believe the season will end for all as per the vote to continue, there is a very good chance we may not play everyone twice this year and it’s a free hit for some, time will tell……..

The beautiful game looks about as ugly as it ever has been

So then. The last 24 hours or so, read lots, spoken to a number of people, answered lots of messages, here we go then the National League ladies and gentlemen!

A warning this might be a long blog, there’s a lot to get through, reactions from those inside the clubs, my own thoughts and what I see as stumbling blocks going forward from today, it won’t be pretty, you might not agree, but above all it’s an opinion nothing more, it’s neither right nor wrong.

Before we get to the main points though as a Barnet fan I’m embarrassed we’ll stay up through default. On the face of it, it looks like Tony Kleanthous made the correct decision in the summer not to spend, to severely undercut the football operation and six months later he’s looking good.

We should have been doing it on the pitch for the next four months or so to get out of the mess we created for ourselves which is what I would have preferred to happen, sink or swim by your decisions, not of others. But, for all intents and purpose it is what it is and Barnet have the opportunity to put a proper club in place under Tim Flowers over the remaining months of the season, a silver lining if you must but a hollow one at that.

Onto the main meal then and once again here we are in the midst of controversy. Whatever this final outcome was to be there was never an option to please absolutely everyone and there will be ramifications to come for days and the next few weeks.

I don’t believe there was ever a doubt in outcome of the vote, heavily weighted towards the top division and with the EFL relationship at the forefront of that it won’t have come as a surprise, but it’s been more how the situation has been dealt with.

A real lack of transparency and leadership is evident which you can trace back to the play-offs last season and continued into this. Commendation maybe for ensuring we had play-offs eventually completed for all three divisions last year but a lack of foresight when attempting to get this season worked has been forgettable.

Funding of course has been the full issue in where we have gotten to now, we are all aware the National League have no minutes of the meeting with the DCMS over what was on offer for the full course of the season is at best incompetent. I’ve served on league and club committees throughout my lifetime, to not have something so simple but vital can’t suggest anything more than a cover up of mismanagement and hanging all 66 clubs out to dry, effectively what they have done.

Two days ago I was informed players and staff in the South and North divisions were told, not via official communications, that no testing was to be carried out ‘a waste of tax payers’ money’ which in effect said null and void was coming. Excuse me, what about some of the £11 million pounds of lottery money than has now been poured down the drain?

While I write this now, I see across social media fans, clubs and chairmen attacking each other because opinion is so divided on what should have happened.

My opinion, well every club of those 66 is vital, vital to someone, vital to its players, vital to its staff and mostly importantly vital to its supporters and its community. The same applies for Steps 3-6 as well and every club has quite rightly looked after its own house but should they have been left to fend for themselves while the league banner they play under seem to not want to get involved.

Last night I spoke to various people around the situation to gauge a bit of reaction:

David Blackmore, chairman of Eastbourne Borough was ‘absolutely gutted’. He said ‘We have been cut adrift by the National League. A majority across all three divisions wanted to continue, majority in the South wanted to continue, yet we don’t continue.’

David’s manager at Priory Lane Danny Bloor is frustrated the season has now ended, ‘Our club just wanted to keep playing; at the conclusion of this we sit 3rd in the league a position we’re very proud of and I hope we can regroup and replicate that again next year.’

Steve McKimm, manager at Tonbridge Angels who had to furlough their players this week in order to protect the club, was gutted at the outcome ‘I don’t think the process was fair, how can the National League have it’s members vote against each other but not in equal amounts.’

Ben Strevens, manager at Eastleigh, is unsure what the future holds for the top division ‘seven teams voted for null and void, what exactly is that going to mean after this weekend for our teams?’

Andy Hessenthaler, manager of Dover Athletic who seem most at risk of not seeing out the season, said ‘I think the mess is just going to continue because as you said nothing has changed, still no money. Seven clubs voted to null and void so will be interesting with what’s going to happen now’.

Kevin Watson who recently returned to the game at Billericay Town like most wasn’t shocked at the decision, ‘No surprise at all to be honest, just really disappointing.’

Adam Hinshelwood whose Worthing side have twice been in pole position for promotion to the National League South questioned the timing of the announcement, ‘It seems strange with the government telling us on Monday the plan for the country and for the National League to not follow suit and also not to stay in line with each other.’

‘I feel for Marc at Dorking who invested in a great team at that level and to see it null and voided again seems wrong on the face of it. It does seem likely Steps 3-6 will follow; we will be ready for whatever decisions are made for our club.’

An increase once again to the furlough scheme as the North and South clubs put their players and staff on leave once again from this morning and attention turns now to the can which is just getting kicked down the road.

Already we see legal action from clubs going in today which if they feel is the right thing to do for themselves so be it, I’m not here to judge the rights and wrongs of what each club feels is its chosen path. Whether they can get any joy or a reversal of decision remains to be seen.

Then we have the seven who voted in the top division to null and void, the next can of worms. What now if those seven, and I’m led to believe Barnet were NOT one of the seven, decide with no further funding their club would go under and quite rightly want to preserve their future? Do we play on with 16 teams expunging all results of those not playing as there is no relegation? Do those seven get asked to furlough the first team and play weakened sides in order to complete the season? Do the National League push Sport England to help these seven clubs as soon as possible? So many questions but when do we get the answers? And these are just the beginning.

To read this morning though that two clubs in the top division didn’t bother replying at all beggar’s belief! Now either they’ve got deep pockets so it makes no odds to them or purely ignorant, surely out of respect to the other clubs in your division you would have abstained?

In all likelihood Steps 3-6 will now also null and void with no chance of Step 3 promotion to the National League North and South bringing another premature end to the season for a second year in a row. The hope now will be for the FA to see sense and take the time to implement their restructure of the perfect pyramid and with it some movement for teams upwards which is deserving, the benefit to playing exactly the same teams for the third year running, not one I can see.

And for the second season running it appears as if the National League and South will run with a team less once again, granted it’s difficult to now work out who would take the missing spot in each division but a lack of contingency plans is as well not their finest hour.

Just a sidenote to this as well, the FA Trophy and Vase. One continues, one suspended and last year’s finals still be played with one of the four participants an EFL club, go figure!

The beautiful game as it’s often referred to looks about as ugly as it ever has done in non-league circles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a vote of no confidence in both the National League and the FA in the coming months, not a chance this is all going to go away easily…..

Bees bag vital win

It’s back to Barnet on this blog, in fact a good couple of weeks since the Bees were last in action. Not much has changed in the world since then apart from ructions all over the National League but that can be for another blog.

Halifax Town. 2nd December, my birthday last year and Beadle’s collection on the way to a massive thumping, 5-0 down after an hour whilst I was making my way round London in Steve McKimm’s cab as a birthday treat to myself, better than the one the Bees would have delivered if I’d watched the stream instead.

Two and a half months on from then Barnet are in a position where draws are no good and wins only are welcome against a backdrop of uncertainty with regards to when, if, or maybe the National League will see a conclusion in any of it’s three divisions. In these times though professionalism is the only thing that can shine through and it’s been a tough ask for Tim Flowers and his staff with what they inherited, but that’s the reason they are now in the job.

There have been signs at times that things are coming together, new players incoming and a more compact team shape. Two recent postponements while might not have helped in getting a run together for results, you only have to look at Eastleigh currently, no covid or weather interruptions and now on a very good run.

What it has done though is allow Flowers to work harder on that team shape and expectation and give them time to gel the team together despite all the uncertainty off the pitch.

It’s pretty fair to say we were owed a performance from that December night, the same can be said when Woking visit The Hive this coming Saturday. Of course there are many differences from those two games to now and on Tuesday evening it certainly looked as if that training ground work and cohesion of team ethic and shape is beginning to bear fruit.

The early exchanges were fairly even as both sides settled into the game, an early chance for Courtney Baker-Richardson who got in front of his man but not enough purchase on it to trouble Halifax stopper Sam Johnson. At the other end Scott Loach made a fine save to deny the visitors the lead on 13 minutes, the impressive Jeff King at the hub of everything going forward for the Yorkshire outfit.

Liam Daly had a half chance to open his Bees account, a half volley which he cut across and ended up just past the post mid-way through the half. The visitors were enjoying more of the possession but Barnet looked dangerous when breaking forward and the Bees took the lead just after the half hour mark.

A marauding run from winger Michael Petrasso saw the Canadian let fly from around 20 yards and the ball slip through the fingers of Johnson to put Barnet in front for the second game running. The goal was Petrasso’s seventh of an injury hit season, a touch of class added to every game he plays in a Bees shirt.

Against both Aldershot and Altrincham in recent weeks Barnet were unable to hold onto a lead and you could only hope game management has been worked upon to defend a goal advantage.

It actually got better for the Bees before the half time whistle, Antony Wordsworth with what can only be described as a peach, a belter, a worldie, hit a half volley that just arrowed past Johnson and into his top left hand corner. Significant because it was the first time Barnet had been in front by two goals all season, we’re in February, you can tell how the season has really gone! And the last time we scored twice in a league match, yes away to Halifax!

Barnet being Barnet couldn’t go in 2-0 up though, immediately after Wordsworth’s wonder strike the Shaymen went down the other end and reduced the deficit in stoppage time King left unmarked at the far post and rifled the ball past Loach.

What you would have expected from that point based on the season so far was for Barnet to capitulate, but what I noticed as they walked off the pitch was the body language of the players, a sense of disappointment they’d let a goal in rather than that goal’s gone in and downhill we go from here, hard to explain but it looked more than it wasn’t going to faze them.

Sure enough it didn’t. As mentioned above the game management for the second half was spot on, every player carried out exactly what they needed to do.

Unsurprisingly the Shaymen threw everything at Barnet, but to a man they were equal to it all from JJ Hooper at the front to the back four, indeed Loach had no serious saves to make to ensure the Bees recorded their first win in 100 days and move off the bottom of the National League table.

It’s almost unfair to pick out from what was probably the best team performance of the season but here goes! Myles Judd as a loan player has had a stop start spell with suspension and games called off and looked like he wasn’t quite up to speed before last night, but that 90 minutes everywhere in the right place for an interception and as Flowers says he likes a tackle, can easily see this becoming a loan until the end of the season should his form continue.

Jerome Binnom-Williams has rightly taken some criticism across social media this season, nothing vile thankfully but a lot of questions around his time on the pitch. Yes, he went missing for the goal Halifax scored but beyond that he did what I think Flowers is asking for, just defend. A long way to go still for this guy but it’s finally looking like he understands what is required of him.

We now have two centre halves in Liam Daly and Ben Richards-Everton who just defend, head, foot, body, whatever is needed, we don’t need anything else there. Goals at set pieces will begin to come next I feel, one routine almost came off with Daly’s shot just off target from Richards-Everton’s header back across goal.

Hooper another one whose been in question as times, for me held the ball up better than he has done all season and put himself about more, also now understanding more what’s being required of him no doubt? Even when Muhammadu Faal came on for the last nine minutes, there was more correlation in his play to be in the right position and make it hard for the opposition.

As stated above Woking at home this weekend, a chance for back to back wins and another side we owe a performance against. The away game was the first time after watching Beadle’s post-match interview that I felt he didn’t know where to go from that game and downhill it went more rapidly after that.

100 days is a long time in the world of blogging and football, let’s hope it’s only going to be four days until the next victory, good news and joy is a rarity at the moment………

Watson: It was a call I wasn’t expecting, I wanted to stay at the club

Here is the final part of the interview with new Billericay boss Kevin Watson:

TK: Contract termination at Ebbsfleet and despite everything that was going on around at the time, had you one eye on planning for next season?

KW: I had more than one eye on it yeah, pretty much before they decided my contract wasn’t being renegotiated. We had the Zoom call between Damien (Irvine), Steve (Lovell) and me, deciding who we were going to keep and who to let go. Steve had the easy job; I had the six difficult phone calls for those we weren’t retaining, something that has to be done if you don’t want to be in the same scrap the following year.

But those boys then messaged and called me two weeks later when I received the same phone call I had to deliver to them, that’s a measure of their attitudes despite not being involved at Ebbsfleet anymore, a sign of the relationship I had with them.

It was a call I wasn’t expecting, I wanted to stay at the club and have another crack at it with your own squad if you like, but it’s football, I was disappointed at the time and everyone knew that. It was then a case of getting over that disappointment and dusting myself off for the next opportunity.

TK: Being an out of work manager during a pandemic can’t have been easy and as I mentioned I chat to Darren (Currie) quite often, he is quite keen to get back into the game as you yourself were.

It’s no secret I championed you, Ian Hendon, and Andy Hessenthaler for the Barnet job at the end of the summer pretty much because I saw what you did at Ebbsfleet in the way you turned them around from a fractured team into a togetherness as a group of players. Did you actually get a call from Tony (Kleanthous) or not?

KW: No! Barry Neville who I got to know through Teddy, represents me and I got through the CV reading stage but that was it, you, and I both know how football works though and I have to say the Billericay one was done so differently and well. I think it went over five weeks in all, three Zoom calls and various interviews with each of the five owners there but they made me feel at ease throughout the process.

And to get yourself in front of 50 or 60 other applicants makes you feel good as a manager or coach especially when you go for a job and hear of some of the other names linked with the vacancy.

The set up though is fantastic, from the first team through the Under 23’s to the ladies’ team and the youth set up each owner has a vested interest in one part of the club to bring to the table, it’s a club that now is moving in the right direction.

TK: The likes of yourself, Darren, Hendo out of work during a pandemic how was it watching football going on but not being involved yourself?

KW: It was difficult yeah I had set myself a target of late November early December when things might start to happen and as it was turned out to be a little bit after that, but there was very little happening. I think there were only one or two jobs coming up in all three divisions, Gloucester I didn’t get to the final stages there, Barnet of course as we mentioned and that was it until I went for Billericay.

TK: Did you get around to many games to watch whilst you were waiting for an opportunity? And when you’ve been in a job do you feel some added pressure when you see out of work managers sitting behind u in the stand?

KW: Oh yeah I had that at Ebbsfleet when I was in interim charge, it was like a who’s who of managers sitting behind me, but then I was thinking what will be will be. Luckily for me the players did well for me and got me the job, but you know why those people are there, either a manager is under pressure or someone is in that caretaker role.

I did get to games, as many as I could but I really wanted to be back in that dug out and for me I was pleased I wasn’t out of the game for longer than a few months.

TK: And of course now back in the game at Billericay Town and despite of course doing a lot for talkSPORT did you feel at any point that the route back into the game wouldn’t come?

KW: At times you do, you don’t want to be out of the game for too long. May to November/December is a fair amount of time and you don’t want to feel you’ve like fallen off the map and will people still remember you and what you’ve done but it’s good when people like yourself who know football still put your name out there and into people’s thinking its then not me spouting off or anything.

In the current conditions we’re playing in, it’s strange, very strange to not have fans inside the stadium, twelve months ago we had all that. You have literally two teams, your staff, their staff, people who work around the ground and the media guys and that is it!

But, as you mentioned when speaking to Smudger there are still three points to play for and of course the games are being streamed so people are still watching despite not being there, but it is weird and I think fans are something that have been taken for granted, we certainly can’t wait to have supporters back in the ground and I’m sure that can’t be any different for any club up and down the country.

TK: The current situation we have with the National League vote and not to get too political with it all, how do you think it will pan out? All three divisions finishing or just the top division carrying on?

KW: I’ll be honest, I have no clue, no clue at all! It changes on a daily basis it’s impossible to predict. I try not to get involved with the technicalities of it all and as a manager and players as players we’d all love to carry on being out there but it literally is politics with the government.

If the funding comes through though as grants we carry on, I have heard murmurs of fans being back in grounds before the end of the season which would be fabulous to see and as we seem to be coming out the other side of this pandemic slowly it’s something we’d all like to do, to welcome them back.

As you are aware our club have gone down the route of fielding our Under 23’s and Under 18’s to protect the future, the first team players are furloughed until things are resolved and they gave a great account of themselves at St Albans, really proud of them for how they played that day.

TK: Is there an eye on what happens beyond this season with all the uncertainty and expectation that the vote will go against playing on?

KW: No, not yet. I think once we get to that point where the decision is made then we decide that we move on and with our thinking too. If we null and void then it begins and of course my players contracts will be up for most in the summer, those I’d want to keep, to bring in. The young lads who played in that league game have given me some headaches to come into the thinking too, but that’s what I’m paid to do, make tough decisions, and put together a good enough squad for next season.

TK: Touching on that performance at St Albans and having to use the players as you did, are you a bit surprised at the time more haven’t gone down the same route? (since the interview, clubs are now starting to explore the same route)

KW: The owners decided to go down that route as not to impact the future of the club whilst we wait for decisions to be made and resolved. So we have five non-contracted players who we put together with the selected boys from the Under 23’s although the oldest one there is only 20 years old, trained on Thursday and played the game on the Saturday.

I’m open and honest enough to say I didn’t expect to get any kind of result there, but I feel I did them a bit of a disservice as to a man they were brilliant all afternoon.

There are a couple within that bunch that I want to tie down for next season, if we carry on this season I’d like to think I’d have them involved.

And if others decide to go down the same route as we’ve chosen to then we might get to finish the season as a whole with everyone playing but not everyone is going to have an Under 23’s to use so we’ll just have to see.

My thanks to Kev for sitting down and putting this all together with me, fingers crossed the next time will be face to face in an office rather than the endless Zoom calls we’re all involved in at the moment.

Watson: I felt everyone’s hard work had gone to waste

Part two of my interview with the new Billericay boss Kevin Watson is below, Kevin talks about his time at Ebbsfleet and what happened in and round the time the season was halted last year before we went into the lockdown:

TK: I watched you three times last season, firstly at Barnet when we won 5-2.

KW: That was a going over that night!

TK: I think it wasn’t long after that game things started to come together for you.

KW: Yeh it was, that game though! We got back to 2-2 and I thought we looked like the only team to go on and win the game, but we conceded immediately after equalising which deflated us and I had turned to Trist (Lewis) after we scored and said we can go on to win this now because we’d started so well but that third goal really did it for us.

I wouldn’t say it was a one off night either as we got a good tonking at Barrow as well but they were a very good side and that game was probably my lowest ebb in football, sitting on the train on the way back was just the worst.

TK: Then I saw you at Maidenhead, they were going downwards you were heading upwards in the table, the performance that night was very strong and the momentum carried forward into the Halifax game which I sat and watched on TV as it was the only game going on in Europe let alone England.

KW: The boys’ strength of character in that Maidenhead game on a Tuesday night not long after we’d been beaten 4-0 at Chesterfield was excellent. I’d made a point for the Chesterfield game in leaving out both forwards, I felt they were stale, Gozie Ugwu and Josh Umerah, and it was a bit of a kick in the teeth for them but also to the detriment of the team that day.

It was 0-0, nothing in the game until the last twenty minutes. Then Nathan Tyson who I played with at Reading came on and scored a hat-trick and it looked like a real thumping on paper but it wasn’t, a capitulation at the end for sure and the goals we gave away were poor, the final score looked far worse than it was.

What I liked though about that game was Gozie only got ten minutes so no time to affect the game at all, Josh I left out of the sixteen completely but after that game he was sweeping and tidying our dressing room and I thought then he recognised he needed a break, his attitude was superb that day.

Both of them were back in on the Tuesday night at Maidenhead and as you saw they were both unplayable, so I took a little bit of credit for dropping them and losing for the response in the next game, That first half at Maidenhead was special no doubt about it.

 For the last few games after that they were fantastic as a pairing and as a result Josh got his move to Torquay and Gozie is up in Scotland doing well.

TK: Watching the game on that Tuesday night you see the togetherness that possibly wasn’t there when you go back to for example the game at Barnet and at Barrow.

KW: Yeah, we definitely ended up with that. We were a work in progress that did get better and better until the season was stopped. We had setbacks, but we always bounced back from them, I think from the 29 games we played from when I took over we never lost two in a row and that shows some resilience from the players.

It’s a very, very tough league as it’s shown again this season, the top 8 will comfortably compete in League Two. We ran Notts County close in the FA Cup, Stockport at home played very well but lost in the last minute, we competed well in most games, just the odd ones like the Barnet’s and Barrow’s in my mind where we came a cropper.

TK: And then waiting to find out you’d been relegated by 0.002 points to the National League South must’ve have been the toughest point to take after the run of form you had put together.

KW: Regardless of what happened to me leaving the club, I felt everyone’s hard work had just gone to waste, where was the integrity in that when we still had seven games to play?

We were fourth in the form table and were due to play Bromley on the coming Saturday and I said to Smudge (Neil Smith) as they were going the opposite way down the table that he wouldn’t have wanted to play us at our ground at that time, he was probably doing handstands at the time!

Great lad though Smudge, have got a lot of time for him, we were together at Spurs and we’ve shared a few phone calls over the last few months, he did invite me down to Bromley to share ideas while I was out of work, very kind of him.

Watson: It was a challenge, a challenge I enjoyed

It’s been a long time coming but this week I finally sat down with Billericay Town boss Kevin Watson to talk about his time at Ebbsfleet Utd, how it was being out of work since his recent appointment in Essex and what it’s like being a manager under the current conditions, here is part one:

TK: One of the things I noticed is on your CV you’ve got a lot of promotions as a player and a coach; do you think it’s something that surprises a lot of people?

KW: Yeh I think so. My playing career was very successful, four promotions at three different clubs, captained Rotherham Utd to back-to-back promotion campaigns, went to Reading and got another one there as well and ended up at Colchester where I picked up the final one.

I was never brash or ‘out there in your face’ as a player and just did what I had to do, all in all nearly 500 games if you all count all the mickey mouse cups as well, so not a bad career overall.

I finished up at Luton Town under Mick Harford with a six month contract around the time they had the money troubles and financial irregularities but ended up retiring as a player there in Dec 2009 after my achilles and calves had had enough so I became assistant to Mick there, we went to Wembley and won the Johnstones Paint Trophy in front of around 52,000.

From there it was Soccer Saturday with SKY for five years and onto Stevenage with Teddy Sheringham which was an eye opener for me, the first real foray back in the coaching game. Then followed a stint as Bishops Stortford manager where I brought a lot of academy kids through having also worked with them whilst managing the first team, the last matchday squad I had there contained seven boys who had come through with four of them starting that day, that was pleasing to see.

After Stortford it was teaming up with Ronnie Moore at Eastleigh, we were going really well there, 7th in the table and having just beaten Swindon in the FA Cup who were a League One side at the time, and then Ronnie was relieved of his duties which we only put down to a clash of personalities with the chairman and that was me done there.

Hungerford was my next stop as assistant to Ian Herring who to this day has become a really great friend of mine despite us only knowing each other about two and a half years, I actually looked forward to doing the two hour drive there and back on a Tuesday and Thursday night getting back at 1am, and on Saturdays because I loved the place and the people there.

For us to stay in the National League South on the budget we had was like winning promotion and we told the boys that, staying up on the last day of the season.

Then November 2019 I had a call from one of the lads I knew at Ebbsfleet Utd who said he thought Ian Hendon was leaving and there might be an opening there and would I be interested. So I went along, had a chat with Garry Hill, drove to Hungerford that evening and told Ian I would be leaving, it was an opportunity for me.

I took training that night and Ian nicely dropped me in it with the lads ‘Watto’s got something to say to you all’. It was a bit emotional I’ll admit as I felt very comfortable there and grown with those boys but there it was and the next day I was in at Ebbsfleet with Gary.

Then literally ten days later Garry lost his job and he said to me not long before ‘there might be a chance for you here, I’m a couple of defeats away from losing my job I think’, but that’s not the reason I wanted to go there, it was a National League club and I wanted to progress back up the ladder.

I was in interim charge for I think five games, winning three and drawing and losing one each off the top of my head. There were loads of impressive CV’s on the chief executive’s desk, some good names in there and I think that those results put me right at the front of the owner’s mind and that’s where the job came from.

TK: And definitely not the easiest time to be involved at the club either.

KW: No, it wasn’t. We had ups and downs I think it’s well documented, and I don’t think I need to go into it too much but it was a challenge, a challenge that I enjoyed and having taken over when we were on ten points from sixteen games I think we finished on 42 points from 39 games and that last win at Halifax effectively pulled us out of the bottom three.

We knew it was only three going down due to the Bury situation and we felt it was such an achievement for not just me or the staff but the players as well as we worked hard on the pitch, in training, we had a settled team and formation of 3-5-2 which I like so much and we nailed it, won the last three away games and from the last nine that we played we had a better record than Barrow who went up at champions. It was a really good time and we were just disappointed that lockdown came about just when it did.

Shots on target against improving Bees

When Tim Flowers arrived at Barnet FC the size of the task in hand was a long hard slog. Six games later and despite some signs of improvement he might be thinking a trek over the Himalayas might prove less challenging.

Flowers was absent from the Bees Tuesday night trip to Aldershot, the club stating a non-covid illness, but assistant Gary Whild in the post-match interview suggesting the boss should get a covid test on the assumption of how he looked, make of that what you will!

Having watched the Shots live on BT Sport on Saturday evening away at Bromley, it was a good chance to see what to expect when facing Barnet. A liking to attack down the flanks where Barnet are weak was going to cause a few problems, strong across midfield and a cohesive back four, although that four described by the commentators were all centre halves by trade.

The one change for the Bees bringing in Michael Petrasso for Ephron Mason-Clark was like for like on what was to be another heavy pitch but of course nowhere near as tough as the conditions a week ago at Dover.

Best word to describe the first half, sluggish. The Shots didn’t create as much as I expected nor targeting the full backs either, although they were the only side to look as if they might score, Barnet once again less than potent in the opposition box, something that we’ve not managed to address since Flowers’ arrival.

By half time I duly believed that the game was there for the taking if we could somehow remember the opposition had a goal we were supposed to score in and funnily enough the memory came back.

A superb, whipped ball into the box by Antony Wordsworth found the head of an unmarked Petrasso to give the Bees the lead eight minutes into the second half, minutes where we seemed to remember that attacking play brings goals.

Minutes later Barnet should have had a second, Petrasso again with a shot that looked like it was heading into the net only for Shots keeper Mitch Walker to pull off the save, the loose ball then evading Courtney Baker-Richardson.

Just four minutes later however the hosts were level, a short corner from the Bees right hand side was not picked up quick enough and on hand at the far post unmarked was Jamie Sendles-White to volley past Scott Loach for parity.

The Shots almost took the lead a minute, a long ball over the top saw Frank Nouble beat the on-rushing Loach only to see the ball come back off the crossbar and evade the incoming Ricky Miller before the Barnet defence cleared the ball.

It wasn’t long in coming however for Aldershot to take the lead, a silly free kick given away by Miles Judd just outside the penalty area and former Bee Mo Bettamer fired the ball under the wall and into the net, sweet justice maybe for a player whose career stalled very quickly after signing for Barnet from Braintree but has ignited once more in Hampshire.

That goal did seem to knock the brittle confidence of the Bees once more and although Mason-Clark had a goal bound effect deflected over by JJ Hooper the Bees ran out of ideas and steam and once again defeat on the road for the struggling side from The Hive.

Petrasso since his return from injury has been a leading light for Barnet, it wasn’t surprising to see him withdrawn after an hour as he builds up fitness once again, the team can’t afford to have him suffering on the sidelines.

Defensively away from the goals conceded the centre halves looked better, but still concern in the full back positions, Jerome Binnom-Williams caught out of position far too often and Judd offered very little in either half of the pitch.

Good to get ninety minutes in the tank for both Wordsworth and Baker-Richardson, the lack of games played for the former due to suspension and for the latter a lack of action prior to arriving on loan, match fitness many need but quickly.

Evident once again that while we are getting better slowly defensively, the other end of the pitch is still causing concern and while quite a few have dug out Alfie Pavey over the last few weeks, most of which I agree with, Hooper should not be without criticism.

If the ball isn’t forthcoming too often, then let’s get some work-rate going please. Mo Faal doesn’t look to be in favour, looking for a goal last night in the last ten minutes and we chuck Liam Daly up the pitch instead of bringing on the tall striker. Hooper needs to do more for me, it’s the one area where we now need major improvement if we are to get out of the bottom three and if anything he has more help now in Petrasso and Baker-Richardson.

No win in fourteen league games now is a sorry statistic and a far cry from twelve months ago when the club were in the middle of what turned out to be a run of one defeat in seventeen games when the season came to a halt in March. A weekend off is probably not what is needed at the moment, but when Halifax visit the Hive next Tuesday it must signal the start of a run if the Bees want to finish outside the bottom three. Forget what is going on with the vote, that distraction and reliance on things going our way is not going to help, muddled thinking will only result in a failure to escape relegation in that someone or something else will help us out.

Games are starting to run out and while it still looks like there are plenty of matches and time on our side that soon evaporates and it becomes nigh on impossible to not lose another one, never dull being a Bees fan is it………..