Stones draw first blood

Saturday featured my third Barnet awayday of the season compared to one visit to The Hive this season. Wealdstone away was one on the calendar for a few Bees fans, for the home side they had been waiting for this one for a long time.

As stated in my preview on Friday evening there is a lot of bad blood between the clubs and managers, but it was three points on offer during the afternoon, no more or no less and of course early season bragging rights.

Both sides went into the game at opposite ends of the form table, Barnet under Dean Brennan one defeat in seven whilst Stuart Maynard had presided over one win in seven.

A record attendance for the Stones on the afternoon of 2662 including what must have been close to the 800 allocated for Barnet fans in the away end, saw more than a few comments about the state and size of the ground.

Barnet comfortably settled the quicker on the decent playing surface and with Aston Oxborough in command of his box early on the Bees fans expected much but as with most local derbies plenty of passion and commitment but very little showing in the end product.

Adam Marriott had a good chance to open the scoring on 16 minutes, forcing Stones keeper George Wickens into a fine save. The dual wing combo of Rob Hall and Ephron Mason-Clark was looking to be the route into the game for the Bees, but resolute Stones defending sent away any dangerous ball into the box.

Mason-Clark thought he had given the Bees the lead just before the half hour mark after rounding Wickens but the ball skewed off the outside of the post to keep the scores level.

Despite the Bees again enjoying more of the possession and getting balls into the box, neither side did enough in the first half and the scores were level at half time.

Both sides traded chances early in the second half but neither managing to cause either keeper too much trouble and despite both managers making substitutions to try and get something going in the game it still looked to have 0-0 written all over it.

Wes Fonguck looked bright when he came on for Hall and did look as if he might spark something in the final third for the Bees, certainly more urgency was injected.

Sam Beard’s fierce effort on 74 minutes was deflected away when looking likely to give the visitors the lead and as the game looked like it was drifting away towards the 0-0 draw, the inevitable happened.

As Oxborough came racing out from his goal and clashed with Beard, Rhys Browne nipped in on the loose ball and gave the home side a priceless lead with 12 minutes to play.

The visitors did start to play with a bit more intensity needing to find an equaliser and thought they had it with a minute to play. A goalmouth scramble saw the ball end up in the back of the net but the referee with a view from a few yards away sought the advice of his assistant some 15 yards the other way and promptly ruled the goal out.

Jamie Turley and Mason-Clark had chances in stoppage time to rescue a point but the Stones held out and picked up a valuable three points to lord it over their visitors until the return at The Hive.

I wouldn’t say either side deserved to win, moments of quality were few and far between and with the winner coming from a defensive mix up it wasn’t a surprise.

The Bees should have really taken the game by the scruff of the neck in that first half but failure to be more clinical once again in the final third is becoming an achilles heel. For all the good work Mason-Clark does down the flank, the end product is lacking severely and work needs to be done to just get the ball in the box.

Good to see Turley finally on the pitch and no surprise he was blowing after about an hour, Sam Woods had his best game yet which is no surprise as his fitness levels are picking up.

Great to see a lot of new friends there and lots of others I’ve known for a long, long time as well, too many mention or I’ll be here all night!

Whilst criticising the officials might sound like sour grapes and up to you if you read it like that, the amount of blatant shirt pulling was beyond belief. It’s not the first time, seeing both Beard and Mason-Clark with ripped shirts after the Aldershot game suggests the National League should be picking up on this, but then we’re not likely to see the chairman at a game on a Saturday to point some fingers at what’s going on, too busy elsewhere for that……….

Wealdstone vs Barnet preview

When I opened up the floor on Twitter for blog pieces, this was another one I added to the list but one that needed to be written closer to the time rather than ‘lost in the post’ a week or so ago.

Wealdstone vs Barnet this weekend has a lot riding on it, three points essentially but of course it goes much deeper than that. I think it’s fair to note there is a fair few grudges held, namely over what is now The Hive and home to Barnet FC.

There is the bad blood between the current two bosses of both clubs to give it that extra edge and then the recent thumping the Stones dished out to the Bees last season which finally caused Tony Kleanthous to sort out his managerial problem, well at least for a few months.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the nitty gritty bits mentioned above, after all we’re there to watch a National League game on Saturday afternoon where the three points on offer are crucial for both sides.

For those reading this who don’t know and if any part is incorrect then please advise me otherwise. My understanding is the land where The Hive now sits was part completed by Wealdstone and their financial partners but was unable to be finished off. Kleanthous then identified it as a training complex for the Bees, swooped in and made it what it is today.

Reading back through historic articles online the Stones were told by Harrow council that as part of the planning agreement with Barnet they were to be allowed a groundshare on reasonable terms, that as we know has never materialised.

Now I’m not going to get into the rights or wrongs over it, you can all discuss that to death on social media, but please be pleasant. I’m sure there is added stuff to this, there might also not be but that is my basic understanding of it all.

Then we come to the managers, Dean Brennan and Stuart Maynard. The former of course an ex-Stones boss who spoke to Barnet last season with permission, declined the move, stayed where he was and then found his P45 arriving. Maynard stepped into the breach, with it believed he was working behind Brennan’s back, a friendship ruined and more to separate the two sides.

Onto the football as that’s what we’re here for! It’s a strange rivalry for me as I’ve only really been used to Stevenage as local rivals over the 20 odd years I’ve been a Bees fan, now credit to both the Stones and Boreham Wood for reaching this level as we’re a million miles away from a return to the Football League.

Last season saw the balance shift towards Wealdstone in their first season back at this level, dishing out a 5-1 thumping at home to the Bees, one of many lowlights last season, in fact far too many to want to remember!

Barnet are currently enjoying their highest position in the table going back twelve months, but only since sacking Harry Kewell who registered no wins in the first seven games of the season. Since Brennan has taken interim control of the side, he has registered just one defeat to big spending Wrexham in the same amount of time as Kewell had with the team.

Contrast that to the Stones and they’re in a bit of freefall currently, just one win in their last seven games but a very big win over high flying Grimsby Town at home which would have relieved a bit of pressure on Maynard and the team. Neither side has played a National League game since the end of October so we’re either going to see a little rustiness or refreshed players ready to go.

Being a part time outfit does make it hard to compete in this division and given some of the sums of money clubs parted with over the summer staying in this division and upsetting some of the bigger clubs is an achievement in itself.

I can see this being quite a feisty affair both on and off the pitch given the history and the current as well, I can’t say I’d like to be the man in the middle for this one! Of course though I’m hoping it’s me and the Bees fans celebrating come the final whistle and then possibly the talk of how much longer we continue under an interim manager……..

Bees slump to a new low

A local derby is normally the first highlight as a fan you look for when the fixtures come out, before my time it was Enfield for Barnet fans and more recently Stevenage. Now it’s the turn of Wealdstone just a few miles down the road from The Hive and Boreham Wood in the opposite direction, clubs with smaller infrastructures and smaller fan bases although Barnet might be matching support size next season.

Just three days after the Bees notched up defeat number 21 of the season at home to Solihull the short trip up the road was made without Michael Petrasso through injury and Themis Kefalas suspended which meant Harry Taylor dropping into a back three, Xander McBurnie and Antonis Vasiliou coming into midfield while Courtney Baker-Richardson replaced JJ Hooper up front with the former Wrexham man on the bench.

In the bright sunshine, the Bees began quite sharply but as is very much the norm this season Barnet failed to make it to ten minutes without conceding a goal, a free header for Jermome Okimo from a corner put the home side in front, the Bees as per usual unable to deal with a ball into their own box.

The visitors did respond well, Vasiliou at the heart of most things going forward setting up a good chance for wing back Lee Vaughan who cut across the ball to send it the wrong side of the post.

The Bees then put themselves at fault on the half hour mark, a poor pass from McBurnie saw Matt Preston struggle to keep the ball in play, the Stones broke and Dennon Lewis’ deflected shot was past Aymen Azaze and into the net.

Barnet did have two fantastic chances to equalise, the debut making Jake Askew saving brilliantly from Vasiliou while a minute later McBurnie was just wide from 25 yards out.

Vasiliou should have hit the net just before half time latching onto Baker-Richardson’s cutback but inches wide of the target.

The first 15 minutes of the second half belonged to the Bees, Vasiliou yet again at the heart of things with a strong run into the Stones box and squaring for Baker-Richardson to score just his second goal in Barnet colours two minutes after the re-start.

Just a minute later Vaughan’s cross just evaded the goal-scoring striker as for the first time in the game the Stones looked rattled.

Six minutes later and the game turned on its head, a 21 man melee missed by the video camera saw Baker-Richardson show a straight red card and Barnet down to ten men for the second game in a row and for the fifth time in just eight games.

The Bees didn’t actually let that faze them and carried on looking for a second goal and their first change of the afternoon saw Muhammadu Faal replace Alexander McQueen and a minute later breaking through one on one with Askew, but the striker’s finish was very poor and straight at the keeper as he advanced off his line.

From that point onwards Barnet capitulated as has been the case most of the season. With no extra midfielder on the bench striker Tomi Adeloye replaced the injured McBurnie and altered the shape, Wealdstone went further in front.

Lewis was played inside the Bees back line to square the ball to Craig Fasanmade to slot home unmarked on 70 minutes. Two minutes later the home side were awarded a penalty after Taylor dangled out a leg and brought down Jacob Mendy Mendy who stepped up to fire the ball home past Azaze’s dive.

Worse was to come just three minutes from time as Lewis fired home giving Azaze no chance with Barnet defenders nowhere to be seen.

The Bees finished with nine men after Antony Wordsworth limped off injured in the final ten minutes with Barnet done as an attacking outfit despite having three strikers on the pitch for the final part of the game.

Only a couple of plusses out there were Vasiliou and Vaughan, if anything was going to materialise it was coming from either of those two players. Today should have been the day for ‘having a go’. The hosts form has been patchy and why not give a bash in these games instead of going conservative, we find it impossible to keep the score down in games, might as well try and remember where the other net is.

The lack of protection afforded for Azaze is staggering, a young keeper who is highly rated but still only 19 years of age. Surely we can do a bit better than this before we shoot his confidence down the pan and we see mistakes creeping in everywhere?

The lack of conviction from Faal in front of goal has no excuse, he’s paid as a professional footballer to score goals and hasn’t looked likely to find the net since arriving on loan from Bolton earlier in the season, why haven’t we said thanks very much but back you go up north, it’s not working out and has never looked like it would.

We’re on manager number four, someone who clearly doesn’t want to be doing it and the fourth one not being able to get enough out of the players. If they really are that limited then surely we put in place a basic strategy not outside the limits of this bunch, they can’t deliver what is being asked for, keep it simple!

I mentioned on Friday about the indiscipline that has been evident throughout, it’s pretty appalling that nine times we’ve been giving teams a man advantage. It’s about time the players as a group took some responsibility once they cross that white line, we all know football is a sometimes passionate affair but the stupid decisions made for some of these red cards is on the individual, some respect maybe for your team-mates?

The club on the outside looks an utter shambles, no pride, no performance. There might be no danger of the club sliding down one division but on the basis of what has been seen this season not many if any should be anywhere near this team next year, the quality is not good enough.

As a prospective manager incoming that’s going to be an easy decision to make and it would seem a clean slate to work from providing you are given an appropriate budget to make a go of it, but that has to happen if the club want to be competing and not bumbling along, many state it’s more akin to a circus than a football club.

This week we would expect to see a new manager getting appointed, I’m almost at the point where I’m really not that bothered, it’s dragging on so long and when you see other clubs sack a manager and then appoint within a few days you have to ask why they have their shit together and we don’t?

Just wake me up when we finally get there, do we really have to sit through 13 more games though…………..