Barnet v Portsmouth: Kevin Nugent’s first game in charge and what we learned about the Bees from the 1-1 draw

Conor Chaplin’s late strike from 20 yards cancelled out Mauro Vilhete’s terrific free-kick as Barnet were denied a famous rearguard win at The Hive.

A 1-1 draw was probably a fair result given both sides struggled to get out of first gear – but what have we learned about the Bees and their new manager?

Barnet playing against Portsmouth at The Hive in front of nearly 5,000 fans

Barnet came within seconds of beating Portsmouth at The Hive in front of nearly 5,000 fans

Kevin Nugent: what does the new boss stand for?

Having only been in the job since Wednesday, I probably won’t get my knives out for Nugent quite yet. Give it a week.

I’m joking of course but we learned a little bit about his ideas for the side today.

Tom Champion played in a screening role in front of the back four while Curtis Weston, Mauro Vilhete and Ruben Bover had some freedom to work behind John Akinde and Simeon Akinola.

It was a system without width, but that allowed Akinola and Akinde to exploit any space down the sides and get one-on-one with defenders.

Nugent told me afterwards that he will not be afraid to tinker with the team so Barnet will at least be unpredictable in the final 14 games of the season, which could prove crucial.

They also look like they are going to play football from a little deeper, although the boss was still keen to give anyone messing around with it in their own third a dressing-down.

“Go forward Ruben!” was heard more than once – it was eerily similar to Martin Allen shouting at Ryan Watson.

An experienced football man, if not manager, I expect a pragmatic approach to the run-in before Nugent, he hopes, is given a full summer to shape the team.

Simeon Akinola might not be good enough at this level

Akinola is someone Rossi Eames and Henry Newman identified as a player they thought they could “upscale” with their coaching. On today’s showing, there is plenty of work to do.

His raw pace is undeniable and it causes problems both with and without the ball while he also seems to beat a man with some regularity – albeit without necessarily knowing how.

But his final ball is sorely lacking consistency and his touch is at one moment miraculously deft and the next impossibly heavy.

He is starting to look like a luxury player and in a side that tends to play on the back foot, that might be one they cannot afford.

Josh Vickers or Jamie Stephens?

At the moment, this is not a question that Nugent needs to ask himself. Stephens is still sitting in the back of the directors box with Shaun Batt and Michael Gash while he recovers from a groin injury.

But when he is fit again, the first team coach will need to decide who is his No 1 goalkeeper.

Allen claimed never to have made up his mind while Eames wasn’t forced into the decision many times thanks to the injury.

The pros and cons of both are clear: Stephens appears the better shot-stopper but his distribution is very poor, while Vickers may not be as talented with his hands but is far better with his feet.

That said, the 21-year-old Swansea loanee has produced some fine saves this season and I even saw some (unfair) criticism of him in the aftermath for being beaten by Chaplin’s bullet. However, his kicking was sub-par and if he cannot provide that, he will fail to outdo Stephens for the spot.

You don’t need to be the best team to win

This of course is old news to Barnet fans, who now see their side on the verge of the League Two playoffs despite regularly being played off the park.

The most important thing in football is not how much you have the ball but where and what you do with it.

Barnet can rarely be accused of overplaying, although there were times today when Bover and the relentless man in the trenches Champion played a square or backwards ball when a forwards one was on.

It is not always pretty or exciting but it is an effective way of playing football that allows them to compete at a level often above their ability on the ball.

The pitch at The Hive has seen better days

Portsmouth boss Paul Cook had a good old-fashioned whinge about the pitch today – and in at least part I sympathised.

He said he’d expected a good surface and picked a team accordingly, and he didn’t get one.

By League Two standards, the pitch was not in bad nick but equally it was far from perfect.

In the end it’s grass and it’s mid-February. It’s never going to be a carpet.

But it was the same for both sides and in the end, I don’t think it affected the result.

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