It is often said that fans are unbelievably fickle, and to an extent I do believe this to be the case – we are never happy – but if you consider we, as supporters are paying good (and in our case, a lot of!) money, we have the right to voice our opinions and concerns. Over the last few weeks there have been a lot of those…
I’ll start with a positive from the weekend – Sam Deering actually started a game; for the first time since the Accrington game, which was almost a month ago now! There is without a doubt, that he was one of the best players of last season – a wonderful acquisition from Oxford United! He has of late been appearing as a substitute, if at all. I am still yet to find a reason for why this is the case; him and Mark Marshall make a wonderful partnership down the flanks and often cause defenders problems. I can’t help but think that maybe Sanchez doesn’t rate him as highly as the management teams of the last campaign; answers for this on a postcard please!
The performances of late haven’t been so good: a drubbing away at newly relegated Swindon Town the previous weekend (I didn’t go, so can’t really pass judgement, although the overall consensus was “not good enough” and “turned over too easy”) and further disappointing performances at home to Oxford United and Plymouth Argyle (despite a win against the latter). We started brightly on Saturday, though; trying out a 4-3-3 formation (although I saw it more of a 4-1-3-2, with Clovis Kamdjo in the solitary defensive midfield position). With both teams creating a number of chances and the respective keepers being pulled in to make saves aplenty (as well as the woodwork that came to the Cobblers’ rescue on a couple of occasions), it could have gone either way. We could have been a goal down, or easily been at least three-up! It was, however, 1–0 to us at the interval.
Now onto the negatives. With Ricky Holmes (the goal scorer) suffering from suspected concussion, Sanchez was thrust into making a first substitution at halftime. Would it be Kabba partnering McLeod again? Or maybe an opportunity to see more of new(ish) signing Lloyd Owusu? No, it’s Charlie Taylor! Now, I certainly don’t think my managing capabilities are any better than Sanchez’ but anyone could see this was a bad move, especially considering the other options on the bench. The general consensus from the Bees’ faithful is that Taylor just isn’t up to it – and may even be more suited to a loan move to the Blue Square Premier (particularly given the fact, we gained him from Non-League outfit, Sutton). Despite this being the case and I know this is going to be an unpopular thing to say, but I do feel sorry for the lad – after all, he’s only trying to do his job (albeit, not at a very good level!) and Barnet are his first Football League club. The abuse he gets every game is slightly unnecessary, and it started earlier on in the season, even in his first couple of games. The abuse isn’t going to help his confidence in any way, he’s not going to play any better and sometimes I just feel like shouting “come on Charlie, head up”, or “keep at it” – instead of abusing the individual player, maybe vent your frustrations at the manager instead, after all, he’s the one picking the team! I’ll even admit, I’m not Taylor’s biggest fan, especially when we have the likes of Steve Kabba only on the bench, but some of the comments I hear from the people around me are just not fair. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for voicing concerns at the final whistle, when I'm not satisfied - aimed at the team as whole, after all it is a team game! I just think the continued abuse up until Charlie leaves the pitch (whether that be as a substitute, or at the end of the game) is totally unneeded.
My next complaint – a double substitution made by Sanchez, with the score levelled at 1–1. Captain Hughes (on a yellow card) off and replaced by Mark Byrne (who I was surprised to see only on the bench) – no complaints with that, as it’s never worth risking players who could be shown a red. Now the second was just unbelievable – “number 23: Izale McLeod to be replaced by number 9: Steve Kabba”. One of the League’s top scorers and one of the better players on the pitch?! He squandered a fair few chances, a couple of those being deemed ‘easy’ one-on-ones, warranted, but to take him off when he looked like the only one likely of scoring? Sometimes, words fail me…
Now onto the manager and the abuse. I can’t help but think Lawrie may have brought it on himself. A comment a couple of weeks ago slating Nigel Worthington’s capabilities as manager of Northern Ireland and hinting at a possible move back to the National side (read here) certainly hasn’t helped matters – with chants of “Sanchez for Ireland” as well as other unpleasantries being thrown around the ground. He then came out last week and said he and his coaching staff were unsure of the best XI (read here) – certainly not encouraging news for us fans; if he doesn’t have a clue, we haven’t a hope in hell. The penny must have eventually dropped though, with Super Sammy Deering starting and playing a whole 90 minutes. The abuse rang out throughout the second half though, and continued at the final whistle, with Sanchez staying in the dugout for a good 15 minutes after the game; the final result a defeat, 2–1 to Northampton.
The table makes for grim reading once again, with us fourth from bottom in the League, above Bradford, Hereford and Plymouth. We’ve not yet reached double figures in terms of points tally, from 11 games and we are four points adrift of our nearest rivals Dagenham + Redbridge and Crewe, both on 13 points respectively.
We have near enough the same squad as last season and the way we finished the previous campaign was nearing promotion form – getting points on the board when it really mattered, albeit under pressure. So what has changed? If the team perform best and strive under those dreaded circumstances, it’s going to be a long and tough season for us fans.
So what is the answer?