Sunday, 28 October 2012

League Two round-up: 27/10/12

With Gillingham losing to Torquay and Port Vale dropping points on Tuesday night, it’d be interesting to see how both teams bounce-back, particularly given the sustained pressure from the following pack. It’s also very close at the bottom of League Two, with Barnet still holding up the rest of the league, but closing the gap on Aldershot and Wycombe above them. It was by no means an exciting weekend in terms of goals but the round-up begins with the 2pm kick-off at Sixfields.
Port Vale’s seven game unbeaten run came to an end when they travelled to Northampton, but the result was unfortunately marred by the injury to Cobblers’ striker Alex Nicholls. He put the home side ahead on 20 minutes after capitalising on a mistake by Vale’s defence. In scoring the goal, however, he was fouled by John McCombe, who saw red. After staying down, the lengthy period was followed by ambulance onto the pitch and Nicholls went straight to hospital. He’s broken both his fibula and tibia in his left leg. Northampton didn’t allow this affect their performance and doubled their lead before half time: Adebayo Akinfenwa teed-up substitute Louis Moult. After back-to-back defeats, Northampton’s win sees them move up three places to 14th.
Elsewhere, there were big wins for Cheltenham who move into the top three and Oxford who pile the misery onto caretaker manager Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe side. Exeter haven’t won in five and find themselves slipping down the table. They went behind early in the second half against Cheltenham – Lawson D’Ath, on-loan from Reading, scoring on his debut. A brace from Keith Lowe wrapped up the three points. Meanwhile, Oxford responded to their midweek defeat to Rochdale by putting three past Wycombe at Adams Park. The opener came as early as the fourth minute – Tom Craddock with the assist and James Constable with the finish, a half-volley hitting the back of the net. From provider to getting the score sheet himself, Craddock got Oxford’s second early in the second half before Wycombe pulled one back. Constable fouled Ainsworth and Joel Grant stepped up and converted the resulting penalty. But Oxford restored their two-goal advantage when Johnny Mullins headed in from Sean Rigg’s cross. Wycombe remain above the relegation places, on goal difference only.
Barnet made it seven points from nine and three consecutive clean sheets when they left it late to score against Chesterfield. Both sides had chances and it’s fair to say Bees’ keeper Graham Stack kept the visitors in the game. The solitary goal came towards the end of 90 minutes – Andy Yiadom was brought down in the box and Mark Byrne coolly converted from the penalty spot. The Bees remain bottom, two points adrift from their rivals; the turnaround since Edgar Davids arrived is pretty remarkable though.
Gillingham remain top of League Two and extend their lead to five points following Port Vale’s loss. One goal settled it at AFC Wimbledon and it came from debutant Romain Vincelot. Brought in from Brighton and Hove Albion, Vincelot’s goal came midway through the first half and was enough to seal all three points.
Rotherham beat Plymouth to secure a third consecutive victory and keep them in the play-offs. The winning goal came in the 73rd minute from Kieran Agard. A solitary goal was also enough for Torquay to secure three points against Morecambe – also maintaining their unbeaten record at home. A strike in the 30th minute from Danny Stevens – his first of the season – and back-to-back wins sees the Gulls move into the 7th and occupy the final play-off spot. Burton move up to 8th and a point behind the three teams ahead of them, following their win against Bradford (who remain in 5th). Ricky Ravenhill was dismissed for the visitors just after half an hour played and it was always going to be a tough ask to hold on, a man lighter. The winning goal came 10 minutes from time – Burton’s Jacques Maghoma converting Damien McCrory’s cross. Accrington Stanley were the only other team to win – their first in five, and a first three points for caretaker manager Leam Richardson. A 79th minute goal from Padraig Amond sealed it against Bristol Rovers, leaving the Gas in 20th and two points clear from the drop-zone.
Elsewhere, Aldershot remain in 23rd following their 0-0 draw with Dagenham + Redbridge. The points were also shared in the North West, where Rochdale entertained Fleetwood. The visitors had Alex Marrow sent off with 25 minutes left to play, but Dale couldn’t make their man-advantage count. Southend and York also shared the points in a dull goalless draw.
With FA Cup weekend next Saturday, the next action in League Two comes on Tuesday 6th November. In the pick of the games: Aldershot host Wycombe in a bottom-of-the-league encounter, whilst at the top it’s first meets third as Cheltenham travel to Gillingham and there’s a play-off battle as Fleetwood and Rotherham meet.
As for the FA Cup, there are a number of all-League Two ties: Barnet v Oxford, Morecambe v Rochdale, Northampton v Bradford and York v AFC Wimbledon.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

League Two round-up: 23/10/12

Tuesday night saw another round of fixtures played in League Two, and whilst there was no change to the top, nor bottom of the table, there were certainly a few surprises.
At the top, Gillingham suffered their first away defeat of the season, despite going ahead at Plainmoor. Deon Burton put the Gills in front early in the second half but his volley was soon cancelled out by Torquay’s Nathan Craig. His free kick came a mere three minutes later and put the hosts in the ascendancy. The winner came six minutes from time and the Gulls were awarded all three points through Kevin Nicholson’s 25-yard strike. Despite losing, Gillingham remain top and two points clear of Port Vale who failed to win at Burton. Win for Vale could have seen them overtake the Gills, but a quick-fire two minutes gave both teams a share of the spoils. Jordan Chapell on-loan from Sheffield United put the Brewers ahead on 73 minutes before substitute Ben Williamson replied almost instantly. Despite failing to capitalise on Gillingham’s slip-up, Port Vale are unbeaten in their last seven games on the road.
Elsewhere at the top, Fleetwood won away at Chesterfield – largely thanks to a late own-goal from Spireites’ Chris Atkinson. The Cod Army took the lead as early as the sixth minute when Steven Gillespie opened the scoring. The home side equalised before half time when Tendayi Darikwa’s volley took a deflection on its way in. It looked like it was going to remain all-square before Atkinson’s error gave Fleetwood all three points.
There were also wins for all four teams currently occupying the play-offs: Cheltenham, Bradford, Rochdale and Rotherham. Cheltenham came from behind to run out 2-1 winners against Plymouth. Arygle took the lead on the half hour mark through Conor Hourihane, but the home side levelled seven minutes later – Billy Jones’ free kick headed in by Steve Elliott. Plymouth had a penalty shout ruled out and Cheltenham got the winner when Kaid Mohamed scored his third of the season. Meanwhile at Sixfields, a solitary goal separated Northampton and Bradford. Nahki Wells broke the deadlock early in the second half for the Bantams, also consigning Town to their second straight defeat. Oxford came back to earth with a bang following their 5-0 demolition of Accrington Stanley on Saturday. Two second half goals were enough to push Rochdale into the top seven. George Donnelly netted first, fresh from the bench, before he set up Bobby Grant with three minutes remaining. Two goals in two minutes from Rotherham’s Daniel Nardiello gave them victory against Morecambe, even though the visitors were in front. Former Miller, Kevin Ellison put the Shrimps ahead, when he slotted in Jack Redshaw’s pass. The Rotherham turn-around came midway through the second half when Nardiello scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season – first scoring from close-range before being in the right place and the right time.
Torquay and York also kept the pressure on the teams above them and sit just outside of the play-offs following their wins. A single York goal was enough for victory against Accrington Stanley, who are on a run of four games without a win. An 83rd minute goal from Jason Walker sealed all three points.
Towards the bottom of the table there were surprise wins for AFC Wimbledon (their first under Neal Ardley) and Aldershot, who still remain in the bottom two. At Kingsmeadow, the Dons grabbed three goals in 13 first half minutes to kill the game off early on. Rovers’ Garry Kenneth scored an unfortunate own goal before Rashid Yussuf doubled the home side’s lead. Will Antwi made it three goals without reply just after the half hour mark. It took the 70th minute for the visitors to score what was no more than a consolation and their evening went from bad to worse when Tom Parkes was shown a second yellow late on. Aldershot, meanwhile, won their first game in seven after scoring at the death to register three points at Southend. Danny Hylton broke the deadlock within 20 seconds of kick off and it took as long as the 68th minute for the Shrimpers to reply – Mark Phillips with their goal. The home side had a chance to take the lead when Britt Assombalonga was fouled in the penalty area, but cult hero Freddy Eastwood missed the consequent spot kick. A Sonny Bradley header a couple of minutes from time gave Aldershot the lead and gave them their first three points since September 18th.
Also in League Two, the points were shared between Wycombe and Barnet who played out a rather dull goalless draw and Jamie Cureton’s equaliser for Exeter gave them a share of the spoils against Dagenham + Redbridge.
Saturday sees a two o’clock kick-off as Northampton host Port Vale; Wimbledon look to spring another defeat on Gillingham whilst sixth meets third when Fleetwood travel to Rochdale.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Two minutes with… Northampton Town

Friday’s visitors to Underhill were Northampton, and in this instalment, Cobblers fan Damien gives his views.

Had you been to Underhill before?
No, I hadn't been before, but I'd heard some stories that I can certainly see now, such as the odd slope you have there.
How did you get to the game?
Got there by coach, which was a nightmare seeing as the traffic was diabolical and ended up missing 20 minutes of the first half. Who'd have thought that it would take three hours to get to somewhere that on a good day, takes an hour?

The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
Stood in the away terrace, halfway between the corner flag and the halfway line. Let's just say the view wasn't superb seeing as we got there late.
What did you make of the game?
My honest truthful answer? The worst away game I've ever been to, from the Cobblers side of things. Everyone was a little surprised that Edgar Davids was starting, and we knew regarding his age, he'd still have something in him that shows the quality that he had/has. It wasn't the Davids show by a long shot, which everyone probably expects after the result. We were shocking in the first half, and made you guys look like a team at the top of the table, rather a team who hadn't won a game in 14 games. I wasn't happy on the way home.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
Well, I can only choose a Barnet player really because there was certainly no Man of the Match from our side. Probably John Oster - thought he did well and deserved his goal at the end.

Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
At the end, I'd say so because we didn't play at all. In fact, I'm surprised it wasn't more.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
Well, we played Bradford last night (23rd) and lost 1-0. We have Port Vale next at home. A game I'm worried about as it'll no doubt be three losses in a row. Having lost to you guys, Bradford and Port Vale are the teams we really didn't want to face next seeing as they are two of the in-form teams at the moment. We just need to start playing well and get our players back from injury.

Cost of match day ticket
£16 is about the average for a ticket these days. On that basis, it's just standard. Based on the game and we arrived late, it's the worst £16 I've ever spent, but had the game been decent, and got there on time, it'd been worth it ––– 7/10
Purchases made at ground
Bought a programme, as I always do for away games. Most of them are all £3 anyway, so that's normal ––– 9/10
The view was okay, but didn't get the best of views because we arrived late. Had it been normal, then I'd have picked a good spot, but the view would have been good. Not restricted (unless you have someone with a big head) ––– 8/10
Quality of football
As I said earlier, I thought it was one of the worst away games I've been to. We didn't play, and had we have done, the score line wouldn't have been as big – and Barnet would have been an average team ––– 4/10
Overall experience
Horrid, if I'm honest. Diabolical traffic which made us get there 20 minutes after the traffic. Horrid performance and a horrid result which I'm going to be honest and say that I expected to win, because if we're to challenge in the top half, like some of us predicted, we have to beat teams who are on a poor run of form. Having said that, we always seem to struggle against Barnet, so the result probably isn't too surprising, just maybe the score line ––– 5/10

Total ––– 33/50

And you can follow Damien on Twitter @DHCobbler_NTFC


The Edgar Davids effect

It’s funny what difference a win can make, especially when it’s your first of the season! The weekend prior to last, I found myself moaning at a woeful display at home to Plymouth that saw us lose 4-1 at home. I write (or wrote as it was last Saturday!) this on the back of Friday night – our first win, against Northampton Town. Once again the weather was fairly miserable, but the football wasn’t, at least in the second half!

Like many others, I was caught in the traffic on the M25 which soon extended as far as the A1081 into Barnet, so I missed the first twenty minutes or so. Having spoken to a couple of people, it sounds like I didn’t miss much, and the rest of the first half wasn’t up to much either – with Northampton creating the best of the chances.

The second half was very good, and I think I’d go as far as saying it was the best 45 minutes I’d seen so far this season. It wasn’t even a case of Northampton looking extremely poor (did Stack even make a save?), we just upped our game. There have been times this season where I’ve been bored senseless at our attempt to pass the ball around, largely unsuccessful and to no avail. I’ve seen performances where we haven’t even had a single shot on target, whereas other times we’ve created chances but had no end product. On Friday we created opportunities and finished them – and we did it in some style, alright!

The main man

For most of Thursday and Friday, match previews highlighted the fact that Edgar Davids was eligible to play, having been assigned the number 38 earlier in the week. Maybe it was the cynic in me that said “he won’t play and if he does, he won’t last long. The club are using it as a ploy to get a decent crowd (like at the Plymouth game) and for obvious media coverage”. Boy was I wrong. He started, made himself captain and played all 90 minutes – also getting the ‘Man of the Match’ award. I think Yiadom deserved it, but never mind. His experience was there for all to see – his presence on the pitch was great: telling players what to do and encouraging the little ones, running his socks off and playing some great passes. It’s true to say he certainly hasn’t lost that skill – even at 39!

Even looking back, I don’t really think anyone had a bad game. Oster was exceptional, him and Davids had a great partnership in midfield – and he capped off his performance with a super goal. The central defence partnership look reasonably more assured and even Kamdjo had a couple of good touches here and there. I saw a few negative comments regarding Hyde on Twitter, someone said he looked “anonymous” – he may not have looked likely to score but he held the ball up well for others and had plenty of options left and right to give the ball to. In the first half I thought we missed Holmes’ pace and skill down the wing, but having banged four goals in, I thought we did okay without him!

The plaudits

It was always obvious that Davids would come in and get the credit when we finally won a game and in my opinion that was the case after Friday. Of course it’s largely down to his status within the game. At the final whistle, the team from the Football League Show followed him off the pitch, interviewing him as they went. The post-match reports again were largely dominated by the famous Dutch man. But what was nice to see was the manner in which young Andy Yiadom celebrated his goal – running towards the bench and hugging Mark Robson. It was just lovely to see that his efforts (whether you think they’ve been good or bad) haven’t gone unnoticed with the team. One thing I will say about Friday is, the tactics looked a lot more positive than usual – there was still an awful lot of back passing which I imagine will be eradicated with confidence, but the ‘total football’ paid off.

The win got me to think about our previous form. The last time we won 4-0 at home was against AFC Wimbledon (28/04/12) – we won our following game (2-1 away at Burton on the final day of the season). The last time we scored four goals in one half, we won away at Burton (02/04/11) and Steve Kabba scored all four – we won the following game then too (2-1 at home to Crewe Alexandra). With the facts evident, I thought we’d win away at Wycombe (last night), as it was, we drew 0-0. Four points from six isn’t bad at all, especially with two consecutive clean sheets. Chesterfield away on Saturday – three points would be perfect, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

League Two round-up: 20/10/12

It was goals galore this weekend in League Two: eight teams managed to net three or more goals and only three teams failed to score. The round-up begins at Underhill where Barnet hosted Northampton in the only Friday night encounter.

The Bees won their first game of the season after putting four second half goals past Northampton, in a shock victory. Edgar Davids made his debut since arriving as player/joint manager and made himself captain – also playing the entire match! Defender Krystian Pearce opened the scoring for the home side on 56 minutes, before a second came 10 minutes later – young Andy Yiadom’s shot taking a massive deflection on its way in. A quick last minute double made the victory complete: first John Oster drove in a shot from 20 yards out before Edgar (Anthony, not Davids) got on the score sheet with his effort. Barnet remain bottom, but only two points behind Aldershot following their defeat.

Oxford round out triumphant winners when they played hosts to Accrington Stanley on Saturday afternoon. Tom Craddock scored four as Oxford recorded their biggest Football League win since 2001 and his individual feat was the first for 20 years. The home side were three goals to the good at half time and Craddock recorded his hat trick within 36 minutes. Opening the scoring in the 12th, his second came in the 23rd minute (a near post effort) before completing the hat trick when James Constable’s shot was parried into his path. Oxford – and Craddock’s – fourth didn’t come until 20 minutes from time, thanks to a tee-up from Constable. The rout was complete six minutes later when Alfie Potter netted.

Gillingham and Port Vale both won their respective games 4-1 to increase their pressure on the teams around them at the top of the table. At Priestfield, the Gills ended Burton’s eight-game unbeaten run in style. Tom Flanagan opened the scoring before fellow defender Matt Fish doubled their advantage. The deficit was halved when Burton’s Zander Diamond’s close range shot hit the back of the net but the Gills restored their two-goal margin through Myles Weston, five minutes later. The scoring was complete midway through the second half when Joe Martin’s long-range volley handed Gillingham a 4-1 victory. Elsewhere at Vale Park, Port Vale beat Wycombe to keep them in second place and three points behind Gillingham. However, it was the visitors that went ahead when Bruno Andrade was fouled by John McCombe – Joel Grant netting the consequent penalty. Wycombe went down to 10 men before the end of the first period when Jo Kuffour was shown a second yellow card. Vale equalised early in the second half through Ben Williamson and a double for League Two’s current top scorer, Tom Pope soon followed. His 14th and 15th goals of the season made it 3-1 and Ashley Vincent completed the scoring late on to extend Vale’s unbeaten run to six games.

There were also two five-goal thrillers at the weekend – York won their first game in four and Bristol Rovers defeated 10-man Torquay. At Bootham Crescent, the home side took the lead on 19 minutes when Ashley Chambers opened the scoring. A close-range header from Daggers’ Luke Wilkinson soon levelled the scoring but Chambers scored his – and York’s – second before the first half was out. York’s lead was extended halfway through the second half when Matty Blair slotted home and Dagenham got no more than a consolation when Wilkinson netted his brace. Meanwhile, Bristol Rovers’ Tom Eaves scored twice since joining on-loan from Bolton. He opened the scoring for the hosts with a beautiful chip before Matt Lund doubled their lead, two minutes later. Things went from bad to worse to Torquay when they had Joe Oastler dismissed for a second bookable offence.  However, the Gulls fought back and equalised in six second half minutes: first Rene Howe’s curling drive and then Aaron Downes’ header. Eaves rounded up the scoring 15 minutes from the end, earning the Gas all three points.

Elsewhere in League Two, there were massive home wins for Bradford, who entertained Cheltenham and Plymouth, who hosted Rochdale. At Valley Parade, Cheltenham took the lead through Marlon Pack’s spot-kick; the Bantams equalised on half time – another penalty, converted by Nahki Wells. Wells’ second gave Bradford the lead in the second half and James Meredith smashed in a third, seven minutes from time. At Home Park, Plymouth took the lead as early as the fourth minute – Guy Madjo netted from the spot after Dale’s Ryan Edwards handled. Three minutes later, Argyle doubled their lead through Andres Gurreiri. Rochdale reduced the deficit in the 76th minute through Dele Adebola and they had a previous opportunity, but Jake Cole in Argyle’s goal saved Bobby Grant’s penalty. A second penalty scored by Plymouth’s Madjo (on-loan from Aldershot) made sure of all three points.

Rotherham ran out 3-0 winners in Steve Evans’ first game back, following his stadium ban, also inflicting a seventh straight defeat on Aldershot, who remain in the drop-zone.  Lee Frecklington scored on his debut since joining on-loan from Peterborough) on 34 minutes. Bob Harris’ free kick doubled their advantage early in the second half and Alex Revell sealed the win with his late tap-in.

Elsewhere Morecambe and Chesterfield recorded narrow victories. It was the Shrimps versus the Shrimpers at the Globe Arena, where a late goal from Jack Redshaw gave Morecambe all three points. Exeter suffered their fourth home defeat when Chesterfield’s solitary goal from Chris Atkinson was enough for the win.

AFC Wimbledon gained their first point under new manager, Neal Ardley when they drew the only game in League Two at the weekend – 1-1 against Fleetwood. The Dons fell behind to a 10th minute goal from Steven Gillespie but grabbed an equaliser through Byron Harrison.

It’s another round of Tuesday night matches tonight. At the top of the table, it’s sixth versus second as Burton take on Port Vale. At the bottom of the league Wycombe take on Barnet and AFC Wimbledon host Bristol Rovers.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Two minutes with… Plymouth Argyle

This weekend’s instalment of ‘Two minutes with…’ comes from the point of view of Plymouth fan, Sam.

Had you been to Underhill before?
Nope, this was my first visit! I always look forward to visiting grounds I haven’t yet been to and going to Underhill was no different.
How did you get to the game?
I stayed at my girlfriend’s house in Stoke-On-Trent for the weekend, so I travelled by train to Barnet. It was a relatively straight-forward journey, although we got a little lost between Euston station and Kings Cross on the way there!

The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
I was in the North-East terrace. With a low roof, us travelling Argyle fans found it easy to kick up an atmosphere in there!
What did you make of the game?
Well, as we won 4-1, I obviously enjoyed it! I think the referee had a bit of a nightmare when he awarded us that penalty, but apart from that I thought we played very well and deserved the three points. I also thought your fans were very loud and proud early on, but our two early goals killed the atmosphere in the home end a bit.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
For Argyle I would say Paris Cowan-Hall. He was a constant menace to the Barnet defence with his pace and agility and fully deserved his goal. He has had a slow start to his Argyle career since joining from Woking this summer but is starting to come into his element of late.
Man of the match for Barnet for me was Ricky Holmes. Without being too disrespectful he was the only player in the Barnet team that really looked like opening our defence up. I imagine our right-back, Durrell Berry, breathed a sigh of relief when Holmes had to go off injured. He struggled to get to grips with him all game.

Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
Without a shadow of a doubt, yes. Apart from a shaky ten minutes after we conceded we totally controlled the game. The three goal winning margin was fair and on another day we could have had more. I was initially worried we would let the two-goal lead slip after Barnet pulled one back as we lost composure for a while, but other than that we deserved the win.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
We have Rochdale at home, which will be a tough game as they are flying quite high in the league. Our away form has been significantly better than our home form this year, but with our victory over Aldershot in the JPT followed by this win at Barnet I would like to think we can improve on our home record and get something against Rochdale. If we take our form and confidence into the game against Dale I reckon we could sneak a win.

Cost of match day ticket
£13 is a reasonable price, can’t really complain. Won’t get many grounds that are cheaper than that for my age group in this division ––– 8/10.
Purchases made at ground
I bought a programme for £3 which seems to the going rate for a match day read these days in League Two – good content that kept me entertained at half time! I also purchased a bottle of coke that turned out to be 50p more expensive than advertised in the sign! ––– 7/10
Despite being very low down it was quite good. Always find it odd having the away ‘end’ on the side of the pitch but the view of the action was not impeded in any way ––– 10/10
Quality of football
By Argyle 9/10. By Barnet 3/10. Sorry, you were pretty dismal! ––– 6/10
Overall experience
Even if I ignore the result, I really enjoyed my trip to Underhill. The stewards were helpful and your fans were friendly ––– 10/10

Total ––– 41/50

As a side note, I really do hope you stay up again this year. I have come to enjoy your annual great escape from the clutches of relegation season upon season and I would not be surprised if you pulled the rabbit out of the hat again this time around too. As I found out today you are a friendly club with friendly fans. All the best for the rest of the season.

Thank you Sam.
And you can follow Sam on Twitter @_SamBarker_ and for all-things Football League, particularly Plymouth Argyle, check out 'The blog of Sam Barker'.

League Two round-up: 13/10/12

Although it’s been International weekend, there was still a full programme in League Two and it was it sure to excite given the news that Chesterfield signed Luis Boa Morte in the week and Barnet gained the expertise of former AC Milan and Barcelona midfielder Edgar Davids as joint head coach. It is at Underhill where this week’s round-up begins and it wasn’t a great start for the Dutch man of the moment.
The Bees are still looking for their first win of the campaign and went a goal down in the opening minutes against Plymouth – Mark Byrne supposedly fouling Luke Young and Rhys Griffiths netting the awarded penalty. Argyle doubled their lead just after 10 minutes through another set-piece – Maxime Blanchard heading home from a corner with the Bees defence at sixes and sevens. It went from bad to worse for Barnet when Collins John on his debut went off injured with not even 15 minutes played; but the home side got a goal back through David Stephens. Plymouth scored their third halfway through the second half (Paris Cowan-Hall) and although the points were easily secured prior to that goal, Argyle piled on the misery and scored a fourth in the final minutes – yet another set-piece through Young’s free-kick. Plymouth move up to 18th whilst the Bees stay bottom, five points behind Aldershot in 23rd and seven points from safety.
With Port Vale not playing until Monday when their match against Oxford is televised, Gillingham extended their lead at the top to six points following victory against Aldershot – who haven’t won in four games now. Charlie Allen opened his own personal account and scored the Gills first, before they doubled their lead from the penalty spot. Aldershot’s Sonny Bradley was adjudged to have handled and Danny Kedwell stepped up and calmly slot home. The home side were three goals to the good at half time when Kedwell turned provider, allowing Myles Weston onto the score sheet and Chris Whelpdale wrapped up proceedings when his strike went in off the post, midway through the second half.
There were also big wins for Northampton beating Exeter 3-0 and there was a similar score-line when Southend travelled to Rotherham. At Sixfields, ‘beast’ Adebayo Akinfenwa opened the scoring on 25 minutes with his volley and Kelvin Langmead added to their tally with five minutes of the first half remaining. Victory for the Cobblers was assured in the closing minutes – Alex Nicholls headed in from Chris Hackett’s free-kick. Win for Northampton sees them creep into the top half of the table, whilst the Grecians have lost two on the spin. Meanwhile at the New York Stadium, three second half goals from Southend were enough to kill off the Millers in their last match without Steve Evans, who had been disciplined with a stadium ban. A brace from Britt Assombalonga – first, a header on the 51st minute, before a top-corner strike 15 minutes later – could have easily been a hat-trick. With 20 minutes left to play, the Zairian’s shot was parried onto the crossbar; luckily David Martin was on-hand to tap-in, making the final score Rotherham 0-3 Southend and sending the Shrimpers fans home delighted.
Torquay were also back to winning ways when they entertained an Accrington side unable to win a game in October so far. Rene Howe netted his ninth of the season from the penalty spot in the fifth minute, after Stanley’s Michael Liddle handled. Padraig Amond levelled for the visitors in the second half but Torquay hit back immediately, restoring their lead when Billy Bodin headed in from Nathan Craig’s cross. The points were wrapped up for the hosts with 10 minutes left on the clock – captain, Lee Mansell concluding the score.
Cheltenham, Dagenham and Morecambe all secured narrow victories away from home. Neal Ardley’s tenure as AFC Wimbledon manager started with a defeat against Cheltenham. Marlon Pack scored for the Rubies on 25 minutes and their advantage was doubled half an hour later through Kaid Mohamed. Byron Harrison got no more than a consolation for the Dons in the dying stages, leaving Wimbledon just above the drop-zone. Elsewhere, Luis Boa Morte played 90 minutes on his debut for Chesterfield, but failed to inspire as his new team slumped to defeat. Three goals in 15 minutes either side of the half time whistle made for an exciting game, but Dagenham went away with all three points courtesy of Sam Williams. He opened the scoring towards the end of the first 45, before Jack Lester pegged Daggers back at the start of the second half. Two minutes later, Williams was on the score sheet again when he got his – and Dagenham’s – second and wrapped up all three points. Meanwhile, Rochdale’s poor home form continues and they’re without a win in five at Spotland. Morecambe went away with the victory yesterday, thanks to a double from former Dale striker, Jack Redshaw. One in each half from him was enough for Morecambe, and despite the signs of a late comeback from Dale when George Donnelly pulled one back for them, the score-line remained 1-2 and Rochdale stay in sixth.
Elsewhere in Lancashire, Wycombe move further from the relegation zone after their narrow win at Fleetwood. The solitary goal came from debutant Bruno Andrade, on-loan from QPR and was enough to give the Chairboys all three points – and also their first clean-sheet for 23 games.
It had been 16 years since a Yorkshire derby between Bradford and York took place and it was a point-a-piece at Valley Parade as the match finished 1-1. York netted first when Ashley Chambers was quick to pounce on a blocked shot, but the Bantams levelled 15 minutes later, through Zavon Hines. Burton Albion and Bristol Rovers also had a share of the spoils, when their match at the Pirelli also finished 1-1. Burton are now unbeaten in eight, but went behind on the half hour mark to a strike from David Clarkson. Billy Kee managed to get their equaliser and it could have easily been all three points for the home side when Cleveland Taylor was through on goal – he blazed his shot well over the bar.
Next weekend sees two in-form sides meet as Gillingham take on Burton and it’s the return of Gareth Ainsworth to Vale Park when his Wycombe side are hosted by Port Vale. Cheltenham have a tough visit to Bradford, whose home form is keeping them near the top of the table and in Friday night’s game, Barnet, desperate for that first win, host Northampton.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Dutch Revolution… does NOT start here!

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this strongly to vent my frustrations after a game, in fact the last time was back in March when Sanchez was in charge (if you can even call it that) and we lost at home to Bradford, who at the time were a fairly woeful side. After watching us get absolutely turned over by Plymouth (who according to their fans have been pretty bad of late), I feel the need to rant.
Starting on a positive note, mind, the attendance was excellent – double the average. That was largely down to the Plymouth fans who always travel well and as I’ve said before they are a real credit to their club and League Two in general. Last season during their times of financial turmoil and other off-the-field issues, they still brought near enough to the 1,000 mark and were vocal for the whole 90 minutes. This afternoon was the same. On a part, a lot of people were obviously dying for a glimpse of Edgar Davids, although he did keep a fairly low profile (I was expecting to see him introduced to the crowd, but no such luck). The overall attendance was 3,229 with 1,053 of that being Argyle fans – I wonder how many will return for Friday night’s encounter against Northampton…
To Davids – and boy, has he got a challenge on his hands! Lord knows what he thought of that display, as he sat at the back of the Main Stand and watched on like the rest of us; he must have been embarrassed. And it was an embarrassing display – what must the players have thought playing that badly in front of someone of his stature: a footballing legend. I just hope he has a lot of patience, as he will need it. There was no passion, no creativity, no-one really wanting the ball, no-one knowing what to do with it when we got it, no closing down or pressurising the opposition and no-one getting stuck in. Just nothing.
Onto Collins John – and what a debut (!) He lasted just over 10 minutes, by which point we were already two goals down and in that time he had done nothing, although I think that’s more to do with the fact we were penned in our own half. I’m not sure to what extent his injury is, but he seemed to be walking fine as he left the pitch. A couple of people told me he played in Monday’s friendly against Borehamwood, but only lasted 45 minutes – and looked abysmal! He clearly wasn’t match fit, so other than sheer desperation, why did he start?
Now this is going to be me complaining a lot more. Not just negatives from today but things I have realised for a while. A performance like today just brings it all out of me.
Three words: not good enough. It’s bad enough the defence looks fragile and nervous, so what we really need is someone between the sticks to motivate and encourage them. A goalkeeper that’s communicative and demanding – and likes to come off his line. Preferably one that can also kick in a straight line and not knock it out from a throw when in a dead-ball situation, but that’s a different story. A goalkeeper like Cole was, one that could save the defence’s behinds when they got themselves into trouble. Admittedly, he wasn’t at fault for either of Plymouth’s opening two goals and he did pull off a couple of good saves, it says a lot about the standard of the Scottish Leagues that he’s hailed as some kind of hero. Just not seeing it.
Defence, er what defence?
Every week it seems the defence look like they’ve either just met the day before in training, or rolled out of bed 15 minutes before the game’s supposed to kick off. They play it around nervously amongst themselves, inviting pressure, and sometimes go all adventurous (!) and pass it back to the keeper, only to have it launched out of play (or the ground). Our defence has been the weakest part of the squad for I don’t know how long, but this season especially, it’s just absolutely awful. The less said about Jordan Brown the better, to start. Fuller is not captain material. We need someone who will communicate and isn’t quick to blame everyone else except themselves. As far as captains are concerned, we’re certainly missing our Captain Fantastic in Mark Hughes. The middle of the park just isn’t the same, either.
We seem to have loads of options:
John – even though his debut was short-lived, I don’t think he’s up to it at all, and I will be surprised if he even plays or sticks around.
Lowe – looks a decent enough prospect, but why oh why was he left on the bench when John was taken off? He deserves an opportunity to show what he can do, but how demoralising to be second choice to a midfield player; surely it’s just a straight swap, especially at two goals down – we needed a bit of pace and another outlet.
Holmes – he’s such a creative player, I’d rather class him as an attacking midfielder that’s turned forward. Although he gets goals, he just loves to run with the ball, turn-over defenders and whip the ball in. Unfortunately for him, there’s never anyone on the end of it. I’d be very surprised if he stays past January.
Hyde – three in three was impressive, but today he looked anonymous and was often standing near the touchline waiting for service.
Nurse – no offence but it speaks volumes if you can’t even get into Dagenham and Redbridge’s side…
It seemed at times today we were playing 4-6-0 or not even playing a formation at all, everyone was just bunched up and jogging around like headless chickens. It’s times like that we should have signed Ben May – someone with a great first touch and that can hold the ball up well for a strike partner who specialises in poaching goals.
Finally, Robson
Anyone else frustrated with this ‘total football’ nonsense. You play to your strengths and within your means. We do not have a squad of world class players that can pass around in triangles or play ‘tiki-taka’ – we can barely string more than three passes together. It’s all well and good playing the beautiful game the way it’s supposed to be played if it’s successful – but let’s face it; this has not proved successful for Barnet!
Even worse than that is the glossing over of our current situation with excuse after excuse: “we were unlucky” and “we deserved more” are fair enough on the odd occasion but after 12 games? And after every game as well? We seriously can’t have been that unlucky? Football is a results business and we just aren’t getting the results; the table doesn’t lie: played 12, won 0, drawn 3, lost 9, points 3. Three points from a possible 36. Embarrassing. That’s worse than relegation form.

I’ll be going into Friday night’s game with Northampton with zero expectation. What’s the point of getting my hopes up the way I did for today’s game (which, by the way, was the most excited I’d been about a Barnet game for probably about a year, maybe more) to have them dashed by a group of professionals’ ineptitudes. Expect the worst and then you can’t be disappointed – well and truly, the Barnet way!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Never a dull moment…

Life is never boring as a Barnet supporter and that was certainly the case last night when the club revealed “Dutch legend Davids signs for Barnet FC” – two weeks after rumours had previously been spread across Twitter.
September 24th:
Although a lot of the comments at this time have been deleted, fans and players alike were adamant it wasn’t just rumour and there was more to it than just a visit to The Hive. The youth player who initially tweeted claiming he saw Davids at the training ground (with Theo Walcott – apparently filming an advertisement) removed the ‘gossip’ and later apologised for getting everyone’s hopes up. But in the end, I guess he was right after all.
So to last night, and the first I – and many others – saw of it this time round was via the club’s official Twitter account: “Dutch legend; former Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax and AC Milan midfielder Edgar Davids joins Barnet and becomes joint head coach with Mark Robson”. This quickly spread like wildfire with over 1200 retweets at the time of writing. A mere 20 minutes later Karl Bates tweeted: “hard to believe but I have had confirmation from the club, Davids is now a Bee as reported earlier”. The man himself even took to Twitter:
I still don’t think it has properly sunk in either – how have we, little Barnet, bottom of the Football League managed such a coup? Obviously he’s been living in London, but had he even heard of Barnet before? More importantly, Edgar himself claims he will fulfil a “player/coach” position – didn’t he retire two years ago following a rather unimpressive stint at Crystal Palace? Has he even got his coaching badges or got any experience in that kind of role? There seems to be hundreds of questions running through my head and we’ll have to wait and find out the answers. Whether or not it ends up being a good appointment, from a PR point of view, it’s an excellent call – attendance this Saturday against Plymouth should certainly be better than the last couple of home games, and apparently Davids shirts are already on sale, that should certainly make a bit of money! Everyone seems to have Davids fever – I just wonder when that novelty will wear off.
My personal reaction was “wow”. I just remember watching him for Holland when I was younger and thinking he was really cool because of his hair and those goggles – although I never understood why it was he wore them. A couple of people that claimed they “didn’t see that coming” obviously turned a blind eye to the hoo-ha that went on the last time the rumours took over social media. On reading the news, I ran upstairs to my dad who was attempting to go to sleep. His reaction: “that’s absolute drugs”, followed by: “he’s 39, retired and hardly set the world alight in his previous spell at Palace”. At this point, I hadn’t realised he’d be playing.
As if often the case with news like this, it didn’t take long for fans of other clubs to pipe up. There was a fair bit of laughing and mocking – not sure if that was aimed at him or us – one fan even said: “and to think I used to like him”. My personal favourite, however, had to be this:
@chris_brookes: “just seen your team for Saturday – Van der Sar, Reiziger, De Boer, Blind, Bogarde, Overmars, Seedorf, Winter, Zenden, John, Mols”.
This wasn’t the only madness at Barnet either, on September 22nd the club revealed: “International forward signs” – that forward being former Dutch star, Collins John.
It was also reported on Tuesday he will finally be eligible for selection having received international clearance. Will he play a part in Saturday’s game against Plymouth?
And it isn’t just crazy old Barnet, everyone went mad earlier in the week when recently relegated Chesterfield revealed that they had signed Luis Boa Morte. Clearly League Two is where it’s at.
So, what next:
Fernando Morientes to Burton Albion?
‘Fat’ Ronaldo enjoying a stint at somewhere like Accrington or Rochdale (for the pies obviously)?
Maybe even Zinedine Zidane swapping the French Riviera for England’s equivalent; Torquay?
Who knows how this will pan out and how long it will last (just remember Sven and Sol Campbell at Notts County!); although it seems like utter madness, surely there’s some method in the madness?

League Two round-up: 06/10/12

A Lancashire derby and a Yorkshire derby – it was another exciting weekend of football in League Two; yet again there were late winners, remarkable comebacks and plenty of goals. The round-up begins at Victoria Road where Dagenham + Redbridge took on Bradford – a team who have largely relied on their home form so far this season.
The game did not disappoint with seven goals scored and the result, 4-3 in Dagenham’s favour was only their second win of the season. The home side went ahead in the opening five minutes through Billy Bingham’s strike and their advantage was doubled with half an hour played – Mickey Spillane with a strike from inside the penalty area. The Daggers continued to cruise in the second half and it was 3-0 when Luke Wilkinson head in from Medy Elito’s cross. Bradford hit back four minutes later through Nahki Wells and he doubled his – and the Bantams – tally when he converted from the penalty spot. Dagenham’s two-goal cushion was restored when Dwight Gayle got on the score sheet, but Bradford’s Alan Connell set up an exciting closing couple of minutes with his late goal. Final score: Dagenham + Redbridge 4-3 Bradford.
In Lancashire, Accrington Stanley took on Rochdale and it was the return of John Coleman to the Crown Ground. He spent 12 and a half years as manager of Accrington but his new side, Dale got off to a flying start in this game. It took little over 20 seconds for Dale to open the scoring – George Donnelly from 30 yards out. The away side doubled their lead just after the half hour mark: Dele Adebola felled by Toto Nsiala and Ashley Grimes converting the resulting penalty. The fight-back was on minutes later after Piero Mingoia drilled in a shot from 20 yards out and their equaliser came on the other side of the half time whistle through Rommy Boco. Dale got the decisive goal, however, with minutes to spare – Jason Kennedy giving Coleman’s side bragging rights.
Elsewhere, Bristol Rovers picked up their first home win of the campaign after they beat Northampton 3-1. The Cobblers were reduced to 10 men early on – defender Anthony Charles’ challenge on Derek Riordan deemed worthy of a red. From that point on it was always going to be a tough ask for Aidy Boothroyd’s side. However, the first goal didn’t come until the second half and it was two in four minutes for the hosts: first Tom Eaves converting Eliot Richard’s cross before Garry Kenneth doubled their lead. Adebayo Akinfenwa got what could have sparked a Northampton comeback but with five minutes left to play, Rovers restored their two-goal cushion through Ollie Norburn’s header.
There were surprise wins for managerless AFC Wimbledon who beat Plymouth away from home and Wycombe, who picked up their second win of the season when they entertained Torquay. At Home Park, Wimbledon took the lead in the first half through Byron Harrison. The three points always looked like they were heading the Dons way despite an exciting closing couple of minutes. Rhys Griffiths got an 89th minute equaliser for Plymouth – scoring on the rebound after his penalty was initially saved – but Rashid Yussuff got the Dons’ winner in injury time. Meanwhile at Adams Park, Wycombe’s run of eight games without a win came to an end. Gary Doherty opened the scoring, nodding home from caretaker manager, Gareth Ainsworth’s cross. Torquay hit back before half time when Rene Howe netted but victory for the Chairboys was ensured when Josh Scowen’s header hit the back of the net. Win for Wycombe sees them out of the bottom two, on goal difference.
Barnet are still looking for their first win of the season and after being two goals up against Southend, chances don’t come much easier than that. Ricky Holmes’ ‘worldie’ put the Bees ahead in the second half and they found themselves two without reply when Jake Hyde netted his third goal in as many games. Freddy Eastwood hit back immediately for the hosts after Barry Fuller handled in the penalty area and a point was secured for the Shrimpers when Kevan Hurst scored late on. Either side could have won it at the death, the best chance being handed to Barnet’s Jamal Lowe – his air-kick with an open goal proving you don’t have much luck when you’re down the bottom! There was a similar score line at Whaddon Road where Cheltenham took on Conference champions Fleetwood. The visitors took the lead in the first half when David Ball scrambled the ball over the line. But Cheltenham hit back, scoring two in 10 minutes – Jeff Goulding came off the bench and got their equaliser before a Sido Jombati header took the score to 2-1. The rubies looked good value for all three points but a last minute goal from Fleetwood’s Junior Brown gave them a share of the spoils. With Exeter losing, Fleetwood remain in third.
There were also wins for Port Vale who travelled to Exeter and Chesterfield who played Aldershot – who now find themselves in the bottom two. A second half double from Tom Pope was enough to hand victory to Vale, and with Gillingham drawing, close the gap at the top to three points. A solitary goal was enough to hand Chesterfield their first away win of the season – Chris Atkinson scoring there.
In the Yorkshire derby, it was a point a-piece for York and Rotherham; Gillingham’s 100% away record came to an end as they were held by Oxford and Morecambe and Burton also played out a goalless draw.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Two minutes with… Rotherham United

Better late than never are the views of Rotherham fan, Danny.

Had you been to Underhill before?
Yes I had been before.
How did you get to the game?
I got to the game by coach.

The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
I stood in the away section of the East Terrace.
What did you make of the game?
It could have been a good game, but unfortunately it was spoilt by the referee.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
It’s hard to choose a man of the match, to be honest. I’d have to go for Pringle (Rotherham)

Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
Yes, I think so.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
Since playing Barnet, we have played Oxford at home where I was expecting a 3-0 win [Rotherham won 3-1], our midweek game with Accrington was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, and I was expecting a win against York in the Yorkshire derby [York 0-0 Rotherham].

Cost of match day ticket:
£16 for an adult ––– 10/10
Purchases made at ground
I bought a cheeseburger and a Mars bar. The burger was pretty good and a bargain at £2.80 ––– 10/10
The view was pretty good from the terrace ––– 8/10
Quality of football
We didn’t play at our best and Barnet didn’t look very good either ––– 5/10
Overall experience
It was just average – not the best away day, but by no means the worst ––– 7/10

Total ––– 40/50

And you can follow Danny on Twitter, @Danny23Gray