Barnet 1 – Exeter 4: What we learned about the Bees from a dismal defeat

Let’s not be squeamish – it’s time to accept relegation from League Two is a possibility

Defeat means Barnet take the position of the second-bottom team in English league football from Exeter and will feel it is not a title they deserve.

In pieces they have demonstrated they can apply themselves in countless different ways this campaign.

But worryingly for the Hive faithful, they have rarely strung together a full 90 minutes. The comeback against Doncaster (only to lose 3-2) was impressive and today’s showing against the Grecians was excellent for 40 minutes. They played several passing moves which showed their ability with ball at feet and when they identified that the strength of John Akinde was too much for the defence, they exploited it.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Allen said of the first 40 minutes.

“But it was a determined, hard-working, Barnet performance.”

The disintegration that followed Jake Taylor’s thunder-strike was far from it and it was reminiscent of a team for whom the whirlpool of the drop was starting to loom on the horizon.

Barnet CAN pass the ball when they have the right personnel

Ryan Watson’s absence from the team can probably be put down to Martin Allen’s preference for bulldogs in midfield and distaste for the former Leicester man’s often-mercurial stylings.

However, his class on the ball cannot be underestimated. Allen himself is probably unused to shouting ‘pass and move’ but he has recognised that on the surface The Hive provides it is possible to knock the ball around.

But it needs a midfield who is firstly able to do so, and secondly prepared to work extremely hard to cover back if they suddenly give it away while in settled possession.

Sam Togwell faces six weeks on the sidelines after Thursday’s hernia operation meaning Watson will likely find himself as a regular partner to Curtis Weston and he must prove, to his manager at least, he has the grit and determination to go with his composure on the ball.

The youngsters will get the chance to shine

Almost every time a young Bee has been given an opportunity in the first team at Barnet this season, I have been impressed.

Sam Muggleton, Harry Taylor and brother Jack are all players whose ability could establish them as regular first-teamers one day.

And in another post-match huddle where Allen tried desperately not to criticise his senior players, the boss broke.

He remembered how when he first took over at the club he replaced the winless team with players who, in his words, had hunger, desire and commitment. Those players went out and beat top-of-the-league Hereford 1-0.

It was clear Allen felt those in black and amber against Exeter – apart from Michael Nelson and the youngsters – lacked those qualities, that fight. Expect a very different side against Wycombe.

Gash is a huge miss

It was a big day for Alex Nicholls. He faced the side he left in the summer whose fans gave him a kind reception and he did come close to haunting them with a goal.

However, deployed up front with Akinde he found himself out of position countless times. Allen screamed himself hoarse giving the winger instructions, mostly ‘get in the box’, which betrayed the inexperience of the player in the position.

Akinde is one of League Two best strikers in the air and he quite simply needs to play alongside someone who understands the position better than Nicholls and has more athletic ability than Shaun Batt.

Michael Gash has all of these things in spades but his knee will not be right for quite some time. The number of times the manager has mentioned his name since the injury tells you all you need to know about how much he misses his presence.

Is patience in the Barnet hierarchy slowly running out?

As the ground-going fans among you know, Barnet usually (like most clubs) pick a home Man of the Match irrespective of the result.

Today, there was none. Allen told me Michael Nelson was his best player but the club and the chairman declined to name one. It is not a good sign for anyone involved.

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