League Two Form Guide
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Recovering from a Bee Sting
By: Andrew Doherty
RECENT results apart, it's been impressive that Town have had squad options, and the manager has known how to use them. Unlike some previous managers, you sense that Mr Hurst has a plan for each game and has been rotating players well to keep the squad fresh and available.
Of course, this is the fifth tier so it would be unrealistic to expect total quality and consistency, but it's been gratifying to witness the rebirth of players like Scannell, the solidity of Waterfall and the development of others like Amos and Smith. Once the tension and impatience are overcome, there have been signs of the whole team pulling in the same direction and it's been particularly encouraging that Town have not resorted to panic and desperation when going a goal behind, but have got back in the game and won against rival teams.
Today's game was on familiar territory. We've had a few days out at Barnet. The tradition seems to be that we play here at the end of season, and on previous visits, there's been a party atmosphere, but today there was something to play for as we continue making progress towards the play-offs and hopefully beyond. Barnet is corporate but in the right way. The yellow and black represent the Bees, as they are known, and the Hive is a tidy stadium with a big congregation and bar area. Today Stand 66, which sounds to me either like a concentration camp, a variant of the 99 Red Balloons or possibly the name of a posh wine bar, was full of up to 1600 expectant Town supporters. Booking a ticket here was not a difficult operation but required organisation. You got what you were given so if you wanted to be near your mate and didn't book together, you stood to be 100 yards away, leading to a “Where's Wally” scenario as you peered through the Grimsby hordes looking for their familiar face. Barnet don't have this problem as they haven't got any supporters, unsurprisingly as their team languishes helplessly in the lower reaches of the table. The thing to remember is that We Are Town and so long I wasn't near The Moaning Bloke, I was happy.
Red balloons weren't appropriate today as Town wore blue. The team in blue were: Crocombe - Efete, Waterfall, Smith, Crookes - Jones, Holohan - Sousa, Clifton, Scannell - Taylor. Mr Hurst had hinted at illnesses in the squad earlier in the week but Sousa and Crookes, the replacements for Maguire-Drew and Amos, are both capable players. Barnet looked like bees, well sort of and in a more orangey way. As Town attacked the empty end, the first chance came in the first 45 seconds. Town conceded a free kick. De Havilland's ball flew across and Marshall incredibly managed to miss from one yard out. Barnet were superior in the initial stages and twice Waterfall showed his skill and experience in shaking off Marriott. Fonguck almost burst through while Mason-Clark was causing problems with his pace and ball control. Town were not equal to this but did win four corners in the first 20 minutes. All of them were wasted with Waterfall's header over the bar the nearest Town came to threatening Barnet's keeper Azaze. Efete injured himself while winning a corner and had to be replaced by Cropper. Town continued to struggle but Sousa did manage to get a shot on target. On 27 minutes Scannell was fouled on the edge of the box and delivered a low free kick. The move halted because of a foul but this change had finally caused defensive problems and was more inventive. Sousa was working well up front and there were nice touches from Scannell and Taylor but the midfield was missing sand Town weren't putting it together. Barnet on the other hand looked lively and showed their pace, skill and endeavour. Waterfall was booked on 37 minutes after tangling with Marriott who looked to break clear. The free-kick came over. Marriott's shot was blocked. There was a suggestion of handball, but Marriott was alert and picking up the rebound drilled in a low shot to make it 1 - 0 to Barnet. Clifton visibly tried to generate some life into Town's performance, first shaking off Mason-Clark and then being fouled in midfield. Smith had a header which went over and Crookes crossed for Taylor who was penalised for leaning on the defender. The half ended with a succession of high balls. It was lacklustre and disappointing from Town.
Abrahams replaced Jones at half time, giving Town two players up front. Town attacked. Scannell was fouled. Taylor was too slow for Azeze and Scannell couldn't follow up. Waterfall had headers, the first going wide from a Scannell free-kick and the second from a Cropper cross but it had no power. Town looked to be trying to gain the momentum with Abrahams geeing up the fans, when on 56 minutes Barnet countered. Hall crossed to no-one. Crocombe came out and met Waterfall who unchallenged glided his header into the net for an own goal. Barnet 2, Town 0. On 60 minutes great skill by Scannell saw a.cross pass to Holohan whose cross found no-one. Good work by Sousa earned a corner. The ball was cleared. Clifton intercepted and ran forward but instead of bursting into the box, played a horrendous pass which Scannell couldn't reach. Barnet's Taylor was booked for pulling back his Grimsby namesake. The ball came in, but Smith's header went wide. A nice move between Scannell and Sousa was placed to Clifton but the ball bounced too high with Clifton well placed. Fox replaced Holohan on 71minutes. Scannell, Scannell, Scannell, Scannell ....Town's maestro needed help as he twisted and turned and took the ball from left to right in search of an opportunity. He got help in the form of Fox who proceeded to place a terrible ball into touch. Clifton followed up by over hitting a through ball. Town were not going to win with just Scannell and Sousa showing any signs of quality. Fox did well on 75 minutes to intercept the ball in midfield, supplying Abrahams who found Sousa bit Azeze saved the shot with ease. On 77 minutes a Scannell free-kick was cleared for a throw. Barnet countered. Marriott ran forward from the half way line and was held back by Smith who was booked. Town attacked on the right. This time Smith beat the packed defence to fire his low shot home from 10 yards. Barnet 2, Town 1. Town pressed. A Sousa shot was too hard for Abrahams to direct. On 88 minutes, Sousa went clear on the left. Waterfall was free and headed the ball down but without power. Scannell threaded a ball in from the right but as had happened to Clifton earlier, the ball bobbled and Abrahams was unable to control it. Sousa and Clifton then worked together. Showing great determination Fox moved into the box. From a tight angle Fox's pass was cleared, but came out to Watefall who made amends for his earlier lapse by pouncing and firing home. After the silence from Town's fans in the first half and the frustration in the second, the residents of Stand 66 erupted in scenes of mass joy and jubilation. Barnet supporters had to be reminded of the situation, so this was duly fine: "Two nil up, and you did not manage to uphold the standard that you should have been expecting" was the gist of it. Town continued to press as time was added. Sousa and Scannell carried on causing havoc. A Fox shot was deflected off a Barnet defender and Azeze was forced to make a save. Abrahams won a throw after putting pressure on Richards-Everton. Cropper launched a throw - corner to Town. Scannell delivered. Abrahams swivelled and fired in a left foot shot which Azeze did well to save. It was exciting but too late for a win. The game ended; Barnet 2, Town 2. This was a wake-up call.
This in a nutshell is what football is about: abject rubbish followed by jubilation. We went home satisfied after what was a lucky escape. And I didn't have to sit next to the Moaning Bloke. In fact, my mate Andy turned up and we went through all the agony together with all the other Town fans. We saw both sides of Mr Hurst's tactical prowess today. Taylor up front on his own didn't work and the midfield was overrun as Barnet won the first half with tactical and footballing superiority against a clueless and negative Town side. But Town turned it round in the second half with the introduction of Abrahams at the expense of Jones, and Fox for the equally underperforming Holohan. Once again the midfield let us down up to the introduction of Fox, and it was Scannell and Sousa who created all the play, often without support. Scannell and Sousa were instrumental in wearing Barnet down, and after a wasteful and almost costly first half, the Bee sting was at least cancelled, and we still sit nicely in play-off contention. But as at Weymouth and Kings Lynn we made hard work of it and we have to be more positive in our formation and approach if we are to make the progress that we want.
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