Friday, 28 December 2012

League Two round-up: 26/12/12

Boxing Day saw the traditional near-full programme of fixtures, with just a couple of postponements due to transport disruption and the weather. The AFC Wimbledon-Northampton tie was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, but that didn’t stop the rest of League Two springing into action. The round-up begins with the top three, where the pressure was surprisingly on Martin Allen’s early pace-setters Gillingham at the top of the division.
Continuing their recent mini-slump, The Gills suffered a shock defeat to lowly Barnet at Priestfield. The only goal of the game came in the 19th minute – Jake Hyde bagging his seventh of the season – enough for the Bees to snatch all three points. Gillingham had a number of opportunities to earn a point, or even seize victory themselves, but Graham Stack in the visitors’ goal pulled off a number of good saves. Barnet move up a place to 21st, level on points with Aldershot; both teams sit three points clear of the drop zone.
Meanwhile, Port Vale remain in second place but close the gap to two points after their 2-1 win away at Rotherham. It took as long as the 56th minute for the first goal to arrive – Louis Dodds’ strike giving Vale the lead. Less than 10 minutes later and they had a second through the division’s top scorer: Tom Pope against his former club netted his 21st goal this campaign. Kieran Agard pulled one back for the Millers late on but it wasn’t enough and Vale fully capitalised on their rivals’ slip-up.
After their defeat on Friday night against Rochdale, Cheltenham bounced back in emphatic style when they tore apart Wycombe, who themselves have been doing well of late. Two goals in each half meant the game was settled with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. Jake Taylor put the home side ahead midway through the first period and their advantage was doubled just four minutes later when Jeff Goulding headed in. Darryl Duffy added a third after the break and the victory was complete when Jermaine McGlashan’s simple finish made it four. It’s still very close at the top of the table, with three of the teams in the playoffs also registering wins.
Southend stay in fourth, two points behind the Robins – they saw off Dagenham & Redbridge at Victoria Road. Gavin Tomlin’s brace in the first 15 minutes helped the Shrimpers extend their unbeaten run to 14 games. His first arrived as early as the opening 60 seconds: his shot taking a deflection and beating Chris Lewington in the Daggers’ goal. His 14th of the season came in as many minutes from close range and a third was added early in the second half to kill the game off – Kevan Hurst this time with the finish – a 25-yarder ensuring the Daggers wouldn’t make it three consecutive victories.
Bradford maintained the pressure on the rest of the teams at the head of the table after their win against Accrington. Stanley, on the other hand, have hit some poor form of late – they last picked up maximum points on November 20th. The Bantams went ahead halfway through the first half: a clever assist from James Hanson allowed Garry Thomson to tuck home. With just over an hour played, Stanley were a man light – Dean Winnard picked up his second yellow card after fouling substitute Nahki Wells. But the visitors were next on the scoresheet – Rommy Boco with their goal and only 10 minutes to hold on. But Bradford won the game with less than five minutes remaining – Alan Connell’s header giving their promotion push a helping hand.
There was also a win for Fleetwood – League Two’s new boys in seventh place with a superior goal difference to Burton Albion. A solitary goal in their derby against Morecambe handed new manager Graham Alexander his first win as boss of the Lancashire outfit. The strike came in the 69th minute – Junior Brown’s cross being met by the head of David Ball. Morecambe haven’t won a game in December.
Following their victory on Friday night, Rochdale were on the losing end of a five-goal thriller at Burton Albion and have now won only once in six league matches. A brace from Billy Kee helped the Brewers record their first win in three and keeps them within touching distance of the playoffs. The home side went ahead on 15 minutes – a low free-kick drilled in by Kee, who turned provider for Calvin Zola with under half an hour played. His neat back heel made it 2-0, but the deficit was halved before the first half was out – Peter Cavanagh’s volley meant Dale finished the opening period the stronger. Buoyed by the goal back, Rochdale came out fighting in the second half and the scores were levelled when Bobby Grant netted his second in as many games. The Brewers had the final say though and three minutes later the winner came – Zola on the assisting end allowing Kee to score his second of the match.
At the wrong end of the table, Plymouth picked up a point against local rivals Torquay, while Aldershot and Bristol Rovers played out an exciting 2-2 draw. At Home Park, it looked as though Torquay would have Devon bragging rights when they went ahead through Aaron Downes’ header with 12 minutes left to play. But teenager Tyler Harvey spoilt the visitors’ party when he scored on his full debut in the closing minutes to snatch a point for the Pilgrims. Elsewhere at the bottom, Aldershot twice went ahead against a Rovers side, who now prop up the rest of the Football League. Michael Hector, on loan from Reading, put the Shots in front midway through the first half before David Clarkson levelled for the Gas early in the second period. His equaliser came from the spot after Aaron Morris was adjudged to have fouled Tom Eaves. The Shots restored their lead when they themselves were awarded a penalty – Craig Reid stepped up and it looked as though the hosts would be well on their way to victory. But Rovers came from behind for the second time in the game: Eliot Richards salvaging a point in the final minutes.
There were also wins for Cheltenham and Oxford, beating York and Exeter respectively. Cheltenham move to within a point of the playoffs after three second half goals saw off York, another team to have endured mixed results of late. The Spireites’ opener came just after the break when Drew Talbot tapped in from close range. Two goals in as many minutes for the home side wrapped up the victory – first Danny Whitaker netted with his first touch since arriving on the field of play as a substitute, before he turned provider, allowing Tendayi Darikwa to fire in a third. Over the border in Devon, a Jamie Cureton penalty was no more than a consolation for Exeter as they were beaten 3-1 by Oxford. A James Constable double helped the Us secure a surprise win, his first coming just before the 20 minute mark from Tom Craddock’s pass. Two goals in quick succession extended their lead – Constable netted his and Oxford’s second on 50 minutes before the points were made safe by Peter Leven’s low drive.
With the next round of fixtures coming on the 29th, there are only two clubs who can make it a nine point Christmas: Barnet (who travel to Exeter) and Southend (away to Burton). Elsewhere, Plymouth meet fellow strugglers Wycombe.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

2012 round-up – part two

The 16th gave us the news we had all been waiting for, even though it was slightly overdue (!) – Lawrie Sanchez was relieved of his managerial duties. The man to replace him for the remainder of the season (the usual final three games) was of course Martin Allen in his third spell with the club. Having won a measly 15 of a potential 53 games, we knew it was coming eventually. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy about the decision. Meanwhile, with nine points up for grabs, there was a buzz again, one that had been lacking for the majority of the campaign. For anyone else, it would be a difficult task but we had faith in Mad Dog.
Pre-match v AFC Wimbledon. The spirit of Mad Dog.
His first game in charge wasn’t what he was expecting – a trip to Southend culminated in a 3-0 defeat with Bilel Mohsni scoring a hat-trick. With two games remaining and now only six points to play for, the final two games were vital. The penultimate game saw a 4-0 home win against AFC Wimbledon, setting up a potential grandstand finish on the final day. Either the Bees or Hereford would be relegated along with Macclesfield.
Izale McLeod was named in the PFA’s League Two team of the Year. As you’d expect, he was the only Barnet representative, with a number of players from league winners, Swindon.
League – 03.04.12 – Barnet 0-2 Swindon Town
League – 06.04.12 – Cheltenham Town 2-0 Barnet
League – 09.04.12 – Barnet 1-2 Crawley Town
League – 13.04.12 – Barnet 1-1 Hereford United
League – 20.04.12 – Southend United 3-0 Barnet
League – 27.04.12 – Barnet 4-0 AFC Wimbledon
Points – 4/18 ––– Goals scored – 6 ––– Goals conceded – 10 ––– League position – 22nd
Lap of honour for the final home game of the season.

And to the final game of the season and for the third year running it was going down to the wire. The Bees travelled to Burton Albion, while Hereford (also in the dogfight) were hosting Torquay. A Win for the Bulls and Barnet needed to match that – a draw wouldn’t be enough, with our inferior goal difference. Here’s all you need to know about the 5th May 2012 and this is my write-up from my day out. Oh, and I was in FourFourTwo.
Final day of the season. Nerves at the Pirelli.
Following that masterstroke, Allen made it clear that he’d like the job permanently. He believed he’d be able to guide the side to the playoffs. As it was, he wasn’t spoken to and the search for a new manager began...
After much speculation and confusion, it was announced that Mark Marshall would be given a two-year ban from football. It was with regards to the failed drugs test after the Boxing Day game at Dagenham & Redbridge. He hadn’t played since mid-January and after an FA hearing, it was revealed his ban from football would be from January 20th – the time in which he was suspended by the club.
With a number of ins and outs, the futures of three players remained in the balance – Mark Hughes, Sam Deering and Jack Saville.
Players out:
A number of players departed the club; the biggest name being Izale McLeod. As a result of his ban, Mark Marshall left. There were also a couple of surprises in goalkeeper Dean Brill and Sam Cox who was a real credit to the club, outside of the game. Alassane N’Diaye was a fifth departee, but no real loss, with many saying he was one of the worst players to don the black and amber shirt. Jordan Parkes, who rarely played in the campaign and long-term injured Darren Dennehy also left the club.
Players in:
Elliot Johnson – the young defender was offered his first professional contract and became the first summer signing.
League – 05.05.12 – Burton Albion 1-2 Barnet
Points – 3/3 ––– Goals scored – 2 ––– Goals conceded – 1 ––– League position – 22nd

The search for a manager came to an end, when the club announced Mark Robson to be Martin Allen’s successor. A former player with the likes of West Ham and Charlton, Robson arrived at Underhill leaving his post as Peterborough’s first team coach. He would also be aiding the development of the academy. Paul Fairclough described the appointment as “a new dawn”.
As part of the “new dawn”, all existing coaching staff were sacked. Assistant manager Giuliano Grazioli and coach Michael Stone were shown the door along with remaining medical and backroom staff.
The League Cup draw was announced, with the Bees travelling to Championship side Birmingham City in the first round.
Four days later and the 2012/13 fixtures were released. A trip to Port Vale on the opening day of the season would be followed by two home games – against Bristol Rovers and newly-promoted York City. The final match would mean a trip to Sixfields, with Northampton the hosts.
Players out:
With the change in management, Mark Hughes and Sam Deering were the next players to be released. Skipper Hughesy was said to “not fit in the new manager’s plans”, while the club couldn’t agree with Deering’s agent. Just like the fans, Captain Fantastic was disappointed to leave, saying: “I have given my all for this football club since I joined. I think the fans have seen that and fully appreciate not only the level of commitment I gave shown in every game as captain but also what I have done”.
Players in:
Robson raided his old club by landing 19-year-old goalkeeper Sam Cowler and then Jordan Brown (left back). Both players he described as “promising”.

Part one can be found here.

Monday, 24 December 2012

2012 round-up – part one

In the transfer window, Izale McLeod and Mark Marshall were both on the radar of a number of clubs. McLeod was the club’s top scorer with 15 goals to his name in the league and 19 in all competitions.  Marshall on the other hand had wowed with a number of good performances and clubs like Portsmouth, West Ham and Leeds were rumoured to be after him. But at the end of the month, it was reported that the club had suspended him after he tested positive for a banned substance. He had missed the last two games following the match against Dagenham & Redbridge on Boxing Day.
Young Mauro Vilhete signed a one-year extension to his current contract which would see him at the club until the summer of 2013.
Players out:
Anwar Uddin – contract terminated.
Gary Borrowdale – the QPR loanee was unable to agree terms.
Jack Saville – returned to parent club Southampton, despite nine appearances in two months. A decision with the Saints wasn’t agreed, regarding his extension.
Players in:
Arsenal defender Sead Hajrovich joined on a one-month loan.
Jordan Mustoe arrived from Wigan on a deal lasting until the end of the season.
Another successful trip to Sixfields
Danny Senda dislocated his knee with the 1-1 draw with Swindon in the JPT and would be out for the remainder of the campaign.
For the first time in the club’s history, Barnet made the area final of the JPT. A home and away leg would decide who would play at Wembley in the final against the winner of the northern area final. A draw in the first leg at Underhill set up an exciting match at the County Ground.
League – 02.01.12 – Barnet 2-0 Bristol Rovers
JPT – 10.01.12 – Barnet 1-1 Swindon Town
League – 14.01.12 – Accrington Stanley 0-3 Barnet
League – 21.01.12 – Northampton Town 1-2 Barnet
League – 28.01.12 – Barnet 2-0 Crewe Alexandra
Points – 12/12 ––– Goals scored – 9 ––– Goals conceded – 1 ––– League position – 17th

The weather interfered with matches across the Football League – first the Bees’ away game at Oxford was postponed and rescheduled for a Tuesday later in the month and then the home tie with Swindon had to be called off (it ended up being played the first Tuesday in April).
Sead Hajrovich, the teenager on loan from Arsenal, extended his stay for another month.
Another defender, West Brom’s Paul Downing also lengthened his spell at Underhill, signing until the end of the season.
Stoppage in play against Oxford
Players in:
Jack Saville – a couple of days after his return to Southampton, the defender arrived back with the Bees, signing on a permanent basis after his Saints’ contract was terminated. Jack took to Twitter to share the good news with fans.
The Bees were knocked out of the JPT by league leaders, Swindon. After a draw in the first leg, The Robins ran out winners in the second leg, which was televised on Sky. This meant they’d play Chesterfield (who won the Northern section final) at Wembley.
JPT – 07.02.12 – Swindon Town 1-0 Barnet
League – 14.02.12 – Plymouth Argyle 0-0 Barnet
League – 18.02.12 – Barnet 1-2 Shrewsbury Town
League – 21.02.12 – Oxford United 2-1 Barnet
League – 25.02.12 – Aldershot Town 4-1 Barnet
League – 28.02.12 – Barnet 0-4 Bradford City
Points – 1/15 ––– Goals scored – 3 ––– Goals conceded – 12 ––– League position – 19th 

As always there was furore surrounding the ground and club’s future. It was reported that the 2012/13 would be our last season at Underhill, with the time in between looking for possible alternatives. Kleanthous said: “As always, our supporters will be first to know once the club is able to announce any future plans”. Really?
The month ended with another famous ‘Sanchezism’. Following defeat to Torquay he came out to the press and said “we were mugged”. It got better too, as he continued: “mugged twice as well, as we played well down their place and lost in the 93rd minute”. Chin up, magician.
Players in:
Scott McGleish – the month began on a high with the news that the former Bee and fans’ favourite would be returning on a one-month loan from fellow League Two club, Bristol Rovers.
Before kick off v Dagenham & Redbridge
Ben May – Stevenage striker who would be at Underhill until the end of the season. He made an instant impact, scoring an equaliser on his debut against Port Vale (a game the Bees went on to win).
Paul Downing was stretchered off during the game against Macclesfield, but after an X-ray it appeared his neck injury wasn’t as bad as previously suspected. He returned to parent club West Brom whilst he recovered.
League – 03.02.12 – Barnet 1-1 Rotherham United
League – 06.02.12 – Gillingham 3-1 Barnet
League – 10.02.12 – Port Vale 1-2 Barnet
League – 17.02.12 – Barnet 0-2 Morecambe
League – 20.02.12 – Barnet 2-2 Dagenham & Redbridge
League – 23.02.12 – Macclesfield 0-0 Barnet
League – 30.02.12 – Barnet 0-1 Torquay
Points – 6/21 ––– Goals scored – 6 ––– Goals conceded – 8 ––– League position – 22nd

Sunday, 23 December 2012

League Two round-up: 22/12/12

Matches in the Football League dropped like flies this weekend, with the weather interfering with playing conditions. In League Two, the three Friday night games went ahead and there were a couple of surprise results. Seven games on Saturday were postponed, with only two being played – a pitch inspection at midday ensured that Northampton v Aldershot went ahead and in the three o’clock kick-off, Accrington met Plymouth.
Starting with Friday’s games, Barnet will go into the Christmas period outside of the relegation zone after they came from a goal down to beat Burton Albion. The referee was certainly full of Christmas spirit in a game that included three penalties. The first was awarded to the Brewers after Barry Fuller was deemed to upend Jacques Maghoma – Billy Kee stepped up and put away the spot kick. The Bees were level before half time with Ricky Holmes netting, after a dodgy back-pass from Damien McCrory allowed him to round the keeper and tap into an empty net. The home side were the next to be awarded a penalty, when in the second half, Burton’s Cleveland Taylor handballed. Holmes stepped up and scored his – and Barnet’s – second. His hat-trick was completed 13 minutes later after a cool finish extended the Bees’ lead by two goals. The final penalty came in second half stoppage time and it was another for the visitors after loanee Andy Iro fouled Maghoma. The midfielder duly scored but it wasn’t enough and the Bees held on. Defeat for Burton prevented them moving into the playoffs.
Five goals were also scored at Spotland where Rochdale entertained third-placed Cheltenham. In-form striker Bobby Grant opened the scoring for Dale with an edge-of-the-box curler with the first half coming to a close, and their lead was doubled on the stroke of half time though Ashley Grimes’ 25-yard strike. During the time of giving and goodwill, Phil Edwards turned the ball into his own net to reduce the deficit, but two goals in two minutes for the hosts wrapped up the victory. First Grimes again bagged his brace with a fine strike before the experienced forward, Dele Adebola, completed the rout with his tap-in with 20 minutes left on the clock. Cheltenham remain in third but Dale’s first win in five sees them within a point of the playoffs.
The final game on Friday night saw Southend take on Chesterfield. The win for the Shrimpers sees them move up to fourth and capitalise on Cheltenham’s slip-up – they now sit two points behind the automatic promotion places. All three goals at Roots Hall came in the second half and the first was scored six minutes in – Ryan Cresswell’s volley after Marc Laird’s initial shot had been saved, gave the Shrimpers the lead. A double from Gavin Tomlin saw the game off. His opener came just after the hour mark when he headed in from Kevan Hurst’s cross and the victory was wrapped up eight minutes later – another header, this time from a ball by Chris Barker. That was Tomlin’s 11th goal in 10 games, enough to see Chesterfield drop two places to 12th.
In the first of Saturday’s two games, Northampton dispatched strugglers Aldershot in a 2-0 victory at Sixfields – their first win in five. The Cobblers’ opened the scoring in the 49th minute: Jake Robinson ran onto a long-ball and slotted the ball past Jamie Young in the Shots’ goal. The home side doubled their lead in the third minute of stoppage time after a cheeky lob from Clive Platt hit the back of the net.
Elsewhere Accrington and Plymouth played out a score draw, but the game at the Crown Ground certainly wasn’t short of drama. Argyle took the lead in the opening period when Onismor Bhasera was quickest to pounce after Robbie Williams’ free-kick struck the post. Stanley equalised early in the second half – James Beattie with a low drive ensuring both teams would get a point. The action didn’t stop there though and the Pilgrims were awarded a penalty after Paris Cowan-Hall was bundled over by Michael Liddle – but Warren Feeney’s spot-kick was saved by Paul Rachubka. And in the spirit of panto season, Rabchubka turned villain before the game was out: his headbutt on Luke Chadwick was deemed worthy of a straight red. A point for Plymouth sees them four points clear of the drop-zone.
With fixtures coming thick and fast over the festive season, weather permitting, the next round of matches will be played on Boxing Day. Both Devon sides Plymouth and Torquay meet at Home Park. At the top, 5th meets 2nd as Rotherham host Port Vale, while at the foot of the table, Bristol Rovers travel to Aldershot.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Two minutes with… AFC Wimbledon

Better late than never is the instalment of ‘Two minutes with...’ with Wimbledon fan, Rob.

Had you been to Underhill before?
I had been to Underhill once before for the 4-0 thrashing last season. (You can read Rob’s views from the last game, here)
How did you get to the game?
I travelled to the game by tube, on the Northern Line with my 3 year old son. He wasn't impressed with the 30 odd stops.

The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
I managed to get a seat in the corner of the away stand because the terrace was really packed last time.
What did you make of the game?
It was an awful first half, but the game sparked into life in the second half.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
The man of the match for me was Edgar Davids (it was great to see the man in the flesh and he is still class).

Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
Yes, a draw was a fair result.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
We have got Port Vale away next match and hope to get three points. (The match was postponed today, so their next game should be Northampton at home on Boxing Day).

Cost of match day ticket
Good value for money, particularly as my son got in for free ––– 10/10
Purchases made at ground
I bought a hot dog which was nice ––– 8/10
I couldn't really see part of the pitch due to being in the front row ––– 7/10
Quality of football
As you’d expect of two struggling teams, it was average ––– 5/10
Overall experience
A good day at another REAL football club. I’ve got a soft spot for Barnet and hope we both stay up ––– 8/10

Total ––– 38/50

Thursday, 20 December 2012

League Two round-up: 15/12/12

Last weekend, most teams in League Two must have been full of the Christmas spirit – points were shared in seven of the twelve matches. With no change at either end of the table, the round-up begins at the bottom where both Wycombe and Aldershot won their respective matches in a bid to move up the table.
Victory for Wycombe at the Crown Ground extended their unbeaten run to five league matches and saw them move up to 17th – eight points clear of danger. Bruno Andrade gave Wanderers the lead in the 11th minute – the QPR loanee’s deflected shot from 12 yards beating Paul Rachubka in the Accrington goal. Matt McClure made it two before half time when he reacted quickest to a shot by Dean Morgan that came back off the post. But McClure soon turned villain when he was shown two yellows in six minutes and despite having a man advantage for over half an hour of the game, Stanley could find no way back.
Meanwhile, Aldershot ran out winners when they entertained a Rochdale side without a win in December. The Shots took the lead in the opening 10 minutes – Dani Lopez with his fourth goal in five games. The striker, on loan from Stevenage, headed in from close range. Dale drew level minutes later through Ashley Grimes' low shot but Aldershot restored their lead when Peter Vincenti turned in Danny Hylton’s cross. The home side increased their advantage through Danny Rose’s penalty in first half stoppage time. With an hour gone, Rochdale managed to get a goal back – Ashley Grimes on the score sheet again – but Aldershot restored their two goal cushion when, with minutes remaining, Craig Reid added a fourth. The drama didn’t end there and with four minutes of injury time played, the Shots had defender Ben Herd dismissed.
Bristol Rovers remain in the bottom two, after their heavy defeat to newly-promoted York. The game was wrapped up in the first half – with all of the goals coming in the opening 33 minutes. The Minstermen were gifted their opener as Rovers’ defender Garry Kenneth headed into his own net. The visiting side levelled the scores a minute later when Tom Eaves fired home from just outside the box. In an exciting opening period, York quickly retook the lead as Ashley Chambers headed in from Matty Blair’s cross. And the home side ran rampant as they added a third, with less than 20 minutes played through Jason Walker’s volley. The misery was compounded on Bristol Rovers and manager Mark McGhee when Chambers got his second with a neat chip. With nine defeats from 11 games, McGhee was shown the door after less than a year in charge.
There were also narrow victories for Rotherham and Dagenham & Redbridge – both against sides in the bottom four. At Kingsmeadow, a late goal for Kieran Agard handed the Millers victory, against AFC Wimbledon. The substitute netted with a little over 10 minutes left to play, as his shot hit the post and went in off Neil Sullivan between the sticks. Across London, a solitary goal for Dagenham & Redbridge was enough to keep Barnet rooted to the bottom of the Football League. The goal came on 17 minutes through Matthew Saunders and sees Daggers move into the top half of the table.
At the top of League Two, Gillingham remain leaders as they salvaged a point after going two goals down against Fleetwood. The visitors were cruising with half an hour on the clock: first, Junior Brown netted from close range, before Alan Goodhall’s head met Barry Nicholson’s corner. The Gills reduced the deficit before the break when Charlie Lee’s strike hit the back of the net and their comeback was complete midway through the second half after Myles Weston scored from six yards out.
Port Vale stay second and five points behind Gillingham after they played third placed Cheltenham. Both teams left Whaddon Road with a share of the spoils. The home side took the lead in the second half when midfielder Darren Carter struck from 12 yards out. Vale quickly levelled through Louis Dodds’ close-range shot, leaving both teams as they started.
Bradford and Southend –both in the play-off places – fought out a 2-2 draw, with the Shrimpers grabbing a late equaliser. The Bantams, buoyed by their cup victory against Arsenal in the week, went ahead through Nahki Wells and their goal advantage stood as both teams went in at the break. Their lead was doubled halfway through the second half when Luke Prosser sliced the ball into his own net. But the hosts earned a point in the final 10 minutes: Ryan Cresswell’s header set up a final flurry and Gavin Tomlin’s strike in time added on gave both teams a point.
The points were also shared in the Devon Derby as Exeter took on Plymouth, with the teams residing at opposite ends of the table. The Grecians went ahead when Liam Sercombe's chance deflected into the bottom corner in the opening period. Joe Lennox scored his first goal for Argyle – and an important one – as they found an equaliser. Despite having Maxime Blanchard sent off for a second bookable offence late on, the Pilgrims managed to hold on.
There were also late goals at Plainmoor where Torquay took on Northampton and the Globe Arena, with Morecambe hosting Oxford. In the south west, the Gulls took the lead through Ryan Jarvis, just after the half-hour mark. The Cobblers left it late, but skipper Kelvin Langmead netted in second half stoppage time. Elsewhere, two goals in 10 minutes gave Morecambe and Oxford a point apiece. It took as long as the 78th minute for the first goal – Kevin Ellison giving the home side the lead with his finish from close range. With two minutes left on the clock, Harry Worley turned in Alfie Potter’s cross and his equaliser secured Oxford’s fourth consecutive draw.
And it was draws galore, as Chesterfield and Burton played out a 1-1 finish. Jacques Maghoma gave Albion the lead in the first half before the Spireites snatched a point through Marc Richards’ header. Jack Lester saw red 22 minutes after entering the field, but it was too late to make a real impact on the game.
Friday night sees three games as Rochdale entertain Cheltenham, Burton travel to Barnet and Southend and Chesterfield meet at Roots Hall. As for Saturday’s matches, the stand-out game has to be Torquay versus Exeter.

Monday, 10 December 2012

League Two round-up: 08/12/12

The game of the weekend in League Two undoubtedly came at Sixfields, where Northampton took on Cheltenham. The hosts were two goals up in the opening 15 minutes – their first came from a predictable source, Adebayo Akinfenwa, with his 13th of the campaign after a minute and a half had been played. The Cobblers were gifted their second when Robins’ defender Billy Jones put through his own net. The deficit was reduced 10 minutes later when Darren Carter’s close-range effort went in and he turned provider for Cheltenham’s equaliser – Chris Zebroski’s header levelling the scores. The visitors’ turnaround was complete late in the second half when Darryl Duffy fired home. Victory for Cheltenham sees them remain in the top three, while Northampton slip to 12th.
Five goals were also scored at Spotland were Rochdale entertained Exeter. The Grecians’ win moves them to within a point of the playoffs and victory was ensured at half time despite Dale’s comeback. Pat Baldwin opened the scoring halfway through the first forty-five, before a brace from John O’Flynn had them cruising at the interval. His first came before the half-hour mark, after converting Jamie Cureton’s cross and 10 minutes later he doubled his tally, sending Exeter into the half time whistle 3-0 up. Rochdale hit back in the second half – Terry Gornell with both their goals. After pulling one back, it took until the closing minutes for Gornell to net again but any chance of a very late equaliser were scuppered when in stoppage time, he turned villain. A wild kick on Kevin Amankwaah saw Gornell shown a straight red and Dale had to see the final minutes out a man short.
Gillingham remain top of the league following their 2-1 win away at Rotherham, but their victory was marred by the injury to Brighton & Hove Albion loanee, Romain Vincelot, which saw a lengthy stoppage. A double from former Miller, Deon Burton, helped the Gills to their first league win in three. Burton’s opener came early in the first half after he latched on to a throw-in before his individual effort doubled the Gills’ advantage in the second period. Rotherham pulled one back through Jason Taylor’s 18-yard shot but the game was stopped for 10 minutes midway through the second half when Vincelot clashed with Taylor in the air – the Gillingham midfielder was eventually stretchered off in a neck brace before leaving for hospital. After being knocked unconscious, Vincelot travelled home with the squad.
The Gills also extend their lead at the top from two to five points after Port Vale (who stay in second place) lost their first in seven league matches against Chesterfield. Jay O’Shea fired the Spireites ahead before the break, with Tendayi Darikwa doubling their lead in the second half. Victory for Chesterfield sees them move up into the top 10.
Staying with the top of the table, a late goal from Bradford keeps them in the playoffs, but Torquay made the task easier once Brian Saah was shown a straight red for his elbow on James Meredith. Despite holding out until the 85th minute, the Gulls were denied a point when Alan Connell’s volley stole victory for the Bantams.
There’s no change at the bottom with Barnet still propping up the rest of the division. They faced fellow strugglers AFC Wimbledon, with both teams desperate for all three points. Jake Hyde put the Bees ahead with his sixth goal of the season after he turned in Ricky Holmes’ cross at the near post. Stacy Long equalised late on for the Dons giving both teams a share of the spoils and keeping Wimbledon a point above the drop zone.
Elsewhere in the basement, Aldershot picked up a point to see them out of the bottom two, with Bristol Rovers taking their place following their defeat at home to Dagenham & Redbridge. Sam Williams’ 12-yard volley was enough to secure the points for the Daggers and sees them move 10 points clear of relegation, also consigning the Gas to 23rd place. Meanwhile, a late equaliser for Aldershot gave them a point at the Kassam. Adam Chapman scored his first goal of the campaign, putting the home side in front with just over half an hour played. Substitute Adam Mekki’s curling strike had the Shots level with five minutes remaining and Oxford finished the game with 10 men after Simon Heslop was dismissed for his foul on the Shots’ goal scorer.
There was also a surprise win for Plymouth – their first in seven league matches – against York, who have recently slipped down the table. Argyle took the lead when Jamal Fyfield turned into his own net, following a goal-mouth scramble and Nick Chadwick scored in the last minute to wrap up the victory.
A last minute header from Morecambe’s Jack Redshaw denied Wycombe all three points in a game where the hosts were leading. A goal in each half for Dean Morgan put the Chairboys two goals to the good. His first came from the edge of the box on 20 minutes. Despite having Joel Grant sent off for a rash challenge before the first half was out, Wanderers extended their lead early in the second period. Less than 10 minutes later and their lead was halved, with Richard Brodie on the score sheet and the Shrimps allowed their man advantage to count when Redshaw netted for a point a-piece.
In Sunday’s game, Burton moved within a point of the playoffs after they defeated Accrington Stanley. A tenth minute goal from Billy Kee secured the Brewers all three points. And finally in League Two, Fleetwood and Southend played out a goalless draw in Graham Alexander’s first game in charge for the Lancashire outfit.
Looking to Saturday’s games, Exeter meet Plymouth in a Devon derby; Southend host fellow playoff contenders Bradford and third meets second as Cheltenham take on Port Vale. At the bottom, Barnet travel to Dagenham, Wycombe face Accrington and Wimbledon have a tricky tie as they host Rotherham.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

League Two round-up: 24/11/12

There wasn’t a single goalless draw last weekend in League Two and the points were shared on only two occasions. There were goals aplenty as well with a number of teams scoring three and only six teams out of the twenty-four failing to hit the back of the net. The game of the day undoubtedly came at the Memorial Stadium where struggling Bristol Rovers met Bradford, who sit at the other end of the table.
It’s fair to say Rovers went away from the game unhappy with only a point, particularly given they were ahead three times – but when you’re at the wrong end of the table luck always seems to go against you. The home side went in front within the opening two minutes when newly-signed Guy Branston scored. It was the defender’s first touch having joined from fellow strugglers Aldershot earlier in the week. The Bantam’s top scorer, Nahki Wells hit back before the half-hour mark, but the Gas went into the break with the lead – Tom Eaves’ low drive enough to separate the sides. Bradford equalised again, early in the second half, when Carl McHugh’s header made the score 2-2. There were a further two goals just after the hour – Bristol took the lead for a third time, but Michael Smith’s volley was cancelled out by James Hanson’s leveller six minutes later. The drama didn’t stop there and both sides finished the game a man down – a touchline scuffle ended with a straight red card for Bradford’s Nathan Doyle, while Rovers’ Wayne Brown received a second yellow.
The points were also shared between Accrington Stanley and Gillingham. The League leaders went ahead late in the first half through Myles Weston. But they were reduced to ten men when goalkeeper Stuart Nelson brought down Stanley’s Padraig Amond. The first thing substitute keeper Tommy Forecast had to do was pick the ball out of the net as James Beattie levelled for the home side with his spot-kick – his second goal in three games. The 10 men of Gillingham managed to hold onto a point, but the gap between themselves and Port Vale in second has been closed to just two points.
Victory for Vale saw them extend their unbeaten run to six games and capitalise on Gillingham dropping points yet again. Aldershot are back in the relegation zone following their defeat, with Wycombe also picking up a win. A 17th minute strike from Ben Williamson put Vale ahead but Aldershot pegged them back through Dani Lopez’ header. That was the loanee’s third goal in as many games since joining from Stevenage. Two second half goals from the visitors killed the game off: first Ryan Burge was in the right place at the right time after Tom Pope’s initial chance was saved and then Jennison Myrie-Williams scored from the penalty spot after he was fouled in the area.
Also at the top, Cheltenham remain in third following their home win against the League’s bottom side, Barnet. The Bees could have taken the lead when Darren Carter’s handball gave Mark Byrne the opportunity to convert from the spot. Scott Brown kept the score at 0-0 when he saved Byrne’s penalty and Barnet were to rue that mistake when Cheltenham scored 10 minutes from time – a 25-yard shot from substitute Jeff Goulding enough to hand the Robins all three points.
Southend move up to fourth following their 3-1 win against Rochdale, who themselves drop out of the playoff places. Dale took the lead early in the second half when Terry Gornell scored his first goal for the club since joining on loan from Shrewsbury. But two goals in as many minutes from Southend swung the game in their favour – their equaliser came from the in-form Britt Assombalonga and they took the lead through Gavin Tomlin. A Marc Laird chip extended their advantage with over 10 minutes remaining.
A single goal for Rotherham against playoff rivals Exeter was also the Grecians’ first loss in five league games. Defender Ian Sharp secured all three points for the Millers when his header late in the first period hit the back of the net. However, Rotherham were reduced to 10 men towards the end after substitute Mitchell Rose saw red for his foul on Aaron Dawson.
Elsewhere there were surprise wins for Wycombe, who climb out of the bottom two after their 3-0 drubbing of Burton Albion, while a stoppage-time penalty for Dagenham & Redbridge saw them overcome high-flying Fleetwood. Matt McClure opened the scoring for Wanderers when he reacted quickest to Dean Lyness’ parry. Burton’s afternoon then went from bad to worse when they were reduced to 10 men – Zander Diamond hauled down McClure and Joel Grant duly put away the resulting penalty. Wycombe added a third five minutes later when McClure scored his second brace in a week. Despite back-to-back defeats, the Brewers remain in the top half of the table. Fleetwood continue to stay in the playoffs, despite losing to Dagenham. With the game looking like a goalless stalemate, the home side were awarded a penalty in injury time after Sam Williams was felled by Youl Mawene – Williams stepped up, putting away the spot kick and handing the Daggers a dramatic winner.
Wimbledon continue to struggle and are a point above the drop zone; a comfortable win for Morecambe was largely thanks to a hat-trick from Kevin Ellison. The midfielder opened the scoring after seven minutes, before doubling the Shrimps lead when he latched on to Stewart Drummond’s through-ball. Wimbledon halved the deficit when Jack Midson scored from the spot, but Ellison grabbed his hat-trick and restored Morecambe’s two-goal cushion with a little over 10 minutes remaining. The task became even harder for the Dons when defender Paul McCallum was dismissed minutes later.
Also at the bottom, Plymouth were beaten by a solitary goal when they hosted Chesterfield. Marc Richards delivered the deciding strike midway through the second half, Jack Lester supplying the assist.
Oxford won their first league game of the month, beating Northampton 2-1 in a closely contested encounter. The hosts were a goal-up at half time – James Constable’s tap-in separating the sides after forty-five minutes. The Cobblers were back on level terms when a Chris Hackett cross was met by Clive Platt. But the Us restored their lead minutes later – Jon-Paul Pittman firing home. Northampton had on-loan defender Clark Carlisle sent off for two bookable offences late on, making a comeback even less likely.
Finally in League Two, Torquay won their second away game of the season, also consigning York to their seventh game in all competitions without a win. A goal in each half for the Gulls saw the Minstermen slip to 17th. Danny Stevens latched on to Kevin Nicholson’s low cross early in the game before Joe Oastler bundled home midway through the second period.
With this weekend dedicated to the second round of the FA Cup, there are just the three fixtures scheduled for League Two, with teams playing catch-up. Wycombe and Bristol Rovers meet, both teams looking to push further away from the drop zone, while Torquay host Dagenham & Redbridge and York travel to Rochdale.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Two minutes with… Oxford United

Following our first round FA Cup clash a couple of weeks ago, Oxford were the visitors again at Underhill last Tuesday. Oxford fan, Myles, gives his views in this instalment of ‘Two minutes with...’.

Had you been to Underhill before?
No. This was my first time. As it's Barnet's last season at Underhill I was keen to make the visit, despite the horrible weather! It's my closest game to where I now live so seemed daft to miss despite a lack of enthusiasm on my part.
How did you get to the game?
A quick drive down the M1 from Luton.

The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
At the back of the East Terrace, about mid-way down the side.
What did you make of the game?
Well, it wasn't exactly a classic! That said, despite this clearly being two poor teams, both were trying to play a bit of decent football – to greater or lesser effect, and not helped by the constant rain. On the Barnet side, Clovis Kamdjo is clearly a limited player, but his desire and determination meant that he largely ran the midfield, constantly looking for the ball and trying to create something. This was in marked contrast to Oxford's Peter Leven who has the talent to be one of the best midfielders in this league but went missing in this game. In fact, it was Leven standing off and failing to make a challenge which was the start of the build up to Barnet's second goal.
The referee had a generally quiet game and seemed to be cutting the players a little slack to account for the greasy conditions. He did produce one complete howler though when giving a free-kick for a back-pass to the Barnet keeper which actually came from a mishit clearance 25 yards out which looped skywards and backwards into the six-yard box.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
As above, Clovis Kamdjo would be my man of the match.

Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
Yes, a 2-2 draw was about fair. If anything, Barnet probably just about deserved to take the three points, as they had the better efforts to snatch a winner. To be honest, I wouldn't have been unhappy as usual at such a defeat as it would almost certainly have seen Chris Wilder getting the sack. I'm fairly sure that he is now a dead man walking and, unless we go on a run of wins, the next defeat is likely to see a change.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
We have Northampton at home next. With Jonny Mullins being recalled from his loan by Rotherham, I'm concerned that our back line won't be able to deal with Akinfenwa who can be a bit of a human battering ram. Being at home, I hope we can get a draw but I wouldn't be too surprised to see us lose this one.

Cost of match day ticket
£16 for a terrace is about the going rate these days. ––– 7/10
Purchases made at ground
Again, the programme was around average for the league, but maybe a touch advert heavy. I always love spotting the classic, local companies linking their product to the club however odd it may appear – official Barnet FC coffin anyone?! ––– 7/10
Not a bad view from the back of what was a fairly shallow terrace. You know you're at a traditional old ground though when the view is partly obscured by large pillars! ––– 7/10
Quality of football
Two teams appearing low on confidence and, to a lesser extent, skill and not helped by the weather conditions. Not a classic, but it could have been a lot worse. ––– 5/10
Overall experience
As ever, the low point of a trip to football is the football itself! My lack of enthusiasm for the game wasn't misplaced, but the gallows humour on the terrace made it more bearable. ––– 6/10
Total ––– 32/50
And you can follow Myles on Twitter @MylesOUFC

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

League Two round-up: 20/11/12

Despite it being another Tuesday night of Champions League football, teams of Leagues One and Two were still in action. In League Two there were shock results at both ends of the table, with vital points being won. With it being all-change yet again at the bottom of the Football League’s basement division, the round-up begins with the three clubs fighting over that all-important 22nd place.
A single goal was enough to take Aldershot out of the bottom two, after they beat Burton Albion 1-0 at the Pirelli. A fourth minute effort from on-loan striker Dani Lopez saw the loanee bag his second goal in as many games since joining from League One’s Stevenage. You could almost forgive Albion for being tired, given it was their third game in six days, with an FA Cup replay against Altrincham last Thursday night preceding two league matches.
Meanwhile, a point wasn’t enough for Barnet against Oxford and they go back to prop up the rest of the division. Jake Hyde opened the scoring for the Bees on four minutes but their lead was cut short in dramatic fashion, as Oxford equalised 90 seconds from the restart. Sean Rigg’s powerful strike levelled the scoring and the visitors took the lead early in the second half – yet another set-piece proving the hosts’ undoing – when Andy Whing’s header hit the back of the net. Twenty minutes from time, Hyde bagged his second and the Bees’ equaliser when he latched on to a well-judged cross from Ricky Holmes. Barnet are two points from safety, a point behind Wycombe who move up to 23rd following their shock win away at Rotherham.
Wanderers came from behind twice and probably thought it wouldn’t be their evening when Daniel Nardiello netted after 18 seconds to put the Millers ahead. A Josh Scowan free kick met the head of Dave Winfield for the equaliser but Steve Evans’ men regained the lead when Mark Bradley struck minutes later. Two goals in five second half minutes won it for Wycombe and with 35 left on the clock, they managed to hold on for a vital three points. A double for Matt McClure settled it – first the equaliser from inside the penalty box, before lobbing Andy Warrington in the Rotherham goal to grab the winner that saw them off the bottom.
There were surprises, too, at the top of the table. Gillingham remain league leaders but their lead has been cut to four points after a five-goal thriller against Exeter City saw them on the losing end. Chris Whelpdale struck an early close-range shot to give the Gills the lead, but a free kick from Alan Gow made it all-square halfway through the opening period. The Grecians went in front in the second half when the in-form Jamie Cureton netted his fourth in as many games. A 79th minute goal from Danny Jackman levelled the scores for the second time in the game and set up a dramatic final 10 minutes. Cureton grabbed his second goal on 87 minutes and could have easily had a hat-trick and prior to their winner, Exeter were awarded a penalty. A foul on Steve Tully by Gillingham’s Romain Vincelot gave Cureton the opportunity to net from the spot – but Stuart Nelson denied him.
Also at the top, Cheltenham remain in third despite their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Chesterfield. The Spireites were two goals to the good at the break – Chris Atkinson got their opener before Sam Togwell was quickest to pounce once Tendayi Darikwa’s shot cannoned off the crossbar. A second half header from Kaid Mohamed gave the visitors hope, but any chance of a comeback was shattered once Marc Richard’s restored Chesterfield’s two-goal cushion and Jack Lester added a fourth towards the end.
Port Vale were able to capitalise on Gillingham’s slip-up, closing the gap, while compounding the misery on Bristol Rovers, sitting in peril towards the bottom of the table. A 47 minute hat-trick for Vale’s Tom Pope made him the fastest player in the club’s history to score three goals, his first coming in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Pope was on the score sheet again minutes later, this time with a close-range header before Ben Williams added to their tally, making it game over at the break. Pope rounded off the victory in style when he completed his hat-trick halfway through the second half and, on an individual level, Vale’s front-man tops the goal tally chart with 19 for the season.
There were also big wins for Southend, who travelled to AFC Wimbledon, and Northampton who continued their good form against Morecambe.
Wimbledon are now two points clear of the drop-zone, following their large home defeat to Southend. Gavin Tomlin netted first for the Shrimpers as they held a goal’s lead at the interval. Ryan Cresswell added a second with half an hour remaining before Tomlin struck again for his fourth in two games, heading in from Kevan Hurst’s free kick. With no way back for the Dons, Barry Corr completed the rout in the game’s dying stages.
Adebayo Akinfenwa was on Northampton’s score sheet again last night when he scored first at Sixfields. Despite a goalless first half, the Cobblers were gifted a second minutes later after Kevin Ellison’s header hit the back of his own net. A curling free kick that went straight in from Ishmel Demontagnac gave Northampton a 3-0 win, all three points and sees them a point off the play-offs.
A solitary goal for Bradford City against Plymouth Argyle mounted continuing pressure on Carl Fletcher. The Bantams’ victory was marred by the injury to John Egan and the defender on-loan from Sunderland was stretchered off before 20 minutes had even been played – a broken leg, which could potentially end his season – ensuring seven minutes of first half stoppage time. Bradford’s goal, however, came minutes after that incident and Gary Jones earned his side all three points, keeping them in the play-off places.
Finally Fleetwood lost their first league game in seven when they faced Accrington Stanley. Recent big-name signing James Beattie scored his debut goal as a Stanley player – and his first in three years – converting from the penalty spot after Rommy Boco was fouled in the area. George Miller doubled the visitor’s advantage before Boco scored a third. A consolation goal for Fleetwood was just that – Jamie McGuire firing in from close-range. Fleetwood stay in fourth, whilst Accrington move up three places to 14th.
On Saturday: Gillingham will be looking to return to winning ways when they travel to Accrington, Port Vale and Aldershot meet with both teams looking to win for differing reasons, Cheltenham host the league’s bottom club Barnet and Wycombe entertain Burton, hoping to make it back-to-back wins.