It took an age, but FINALLY the football season has finally returned. So now the season is back, there was only one place I could really go to kick things off… and that was at Barnet FC.
I have been watching Barnet on and off since 2011 when they still occupied Underhill, first travelling to see them with a friend at an away day against Crawley Town in League Two. Fun fact: only 23 Barnet fans turned up for that game and I did not blame them for staying away, considering it was a drab 1-0 defeat. After moving to The Hive in 2013 and a brief spell as season ticket holder in 2015/16, I have usually visited Barnet for games every now and then as the club have surged to promotion and fallen to relegation.
Anyway, I plan on visiting Barnet several times this season, just to see how their progress in the National League goes this season. So let’s start with today’s opponents: Yeovil Town.
The Opponents: Yeovil Town
Fresh from their relegation from the Football League, Yeovil Town fans are slowly coming to terms with their freshly fallen status. A Championship club as recently as 2014, they suffered successive relegation’s to League Two before flirting with relegation for three further years. The warning’s were not heeded, as Yeovil eventually succumbed last season and now face their first non-league campaign since 2002.
Signings, including Myles Hippolyte from Dunfermline and Tom Whelan from Salisbury City, are a big part of The Glovers bid to recover and aim for promotion from a division notoriously difficult to get out of. Darren Sarll has his work cut out then, not helped by the loss of player-coach Andrew Crofts to manage the Brighton Under-23’s after only arriving at Huish Park a few weeks before. They will want to gloss over that.
Key Player: Barnet and Yeovil Town
Simeon Akinola (Barnet) – the man tasked with the goal scoring for The Bees this season, with Coulthirst set to play as backup for the most part. 6 league goals in 62 appearances for Barnet since January 2017 does not scream confidence, but his pace and eye to create chances will hopefully improve his scoring stats this season. Barnet’s progress may rely on it.
Carl Dickinson and Myles Hippolyte (Yeovil) – Two players with bigger league experience could prove vital for Yeovil this season. Hippolyte was bought in over the summer from Dunfermline but Dickinson was part of the (awful) Yeovil team relegated last season. Nevertheless, Dickinson’s experience from promotion at Stoke (to Premier League in 2008), plus Hippolytes experience in a promotion winning team (St Mirren) will stand Yeovil in good stead in their bid to return to the Football League.
Watching the warm up from both teams, it became clear that some players still had rustinness, in terms of their positioning; their shooting; their passing and in connecting fluently with their new and existing teammates. This was VERY obvious during a first 45 minutes which was monotonous and lacking quality. The only chance of note: an unexpected Akinola skimmed shot that hit the crossbar. That took 40 minutes to happen, by which point my eyes were barely open.
The second half was the complete opposite. Barnet swarmed Yeovil after moving the ball out wide and reverting to crosses (they played too narrow and right through the middle in the first half). Barnet benefitted with chance after chance, mainly to Akinola, whilst Yeovil’s defenders struggled to clear their lines.
The frustrating part was the clear cut chances that were missed, even when gifted to us by Yeovil. Keeper Nelson threw the ball out wide, except it was easily intercepted by Akinola and controlled well around the keeper at a tight angle. Instead of coming back round nearer to the goal, he played it across the area… and the ball was cleared. The fans were just waiting to celebrate but vented frustration instead at the missed opportunity.
Thankfully, on the hour mark Akinola was bought down in the area by a defender (after Yeovil yet AGAIN lost the ball in their own half) and got back up to convert the penalty. It was just as well, considering it was the only goal of the game but it was enough to give Barnet a 1-0 win to start their season.
Overall, a good start for Barnet in a not quite spectacular match, but it was the first competitive match of the season and player rustiness and stamina is not going to be the highest. Saying that, I do not see either team in the promotion hunt this season. Barnet do not have the strength in depth, whilst Yeovil may take a bit of time acclimatising to non-league football all over again. Just ask Leyton Orient (still in non-league) and Luton Town (stayed in non-league for fiver years).
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