Rossi Eames suffered his first defeat as Barnet manager losing 2-1 to Stevenage at the Hive.
But what fresh pearls of wisdom can we garner from a disappointing derby result?
Jack Taylor is a quality player
I always like to focus on individual players – it’s a hangover from Martin Allen, who hated doing it.
Jack Taylor returned from loan shortly after Allen left and was the focus of much of my attentions on Saturday.
He started at right-back at Matt Godden, a canny player at this level, made his life very difficult indeed. Dale Gorman at left wing is also a talent and Taylor wanted to go and get close to him but Godden was more than adept at exploiting any space in the channel between him and Michael Nelson. It was a struggle for the youngster.
But in the second half he moved into his natural position in the middle of the park and it was a totally different performance. He has good vision, the ability to execute a pass and unlike Ryan Watson, he wants to be direct and go forward.
“Jack has always been a central midfielder,” Eames told me in post-match.
“He’s got huge potential and he’s very good to coach.
“He’s very receptive. Long-term, he’ll be in midfield.
“But he did very well at Yeovil last week at right-back and there was no need to change it.
“But once we put him in the middle, he looked after the ball well and his tenacity was good as well as his off-the-ball defending.”
Youth is great – but experience pays its way
Bees chairman Tony Kleanthous was talking a lot this week – or at least, typing a lot. In the wake of Bondz Ngala, Martin Allen, Sam Togwell and Gavin Hoyte all heading off to Eastleigh, he felt he had to respond to widespread criticism over the exodus of experience from the club.
He refused to apologise for a focus on youth – rightly so – and Barnet fans can expect to see more and more young players in black and amber.
But in the first half against Stevenage, there was something lacking. Ryan Watson, Ephron Mason-Clark and at times Luke Gambin all looked panicked on the ball when Stevenage pressed them high up the pitch, resorting to a fruitless long lump over the top as opposed to trusting their ability.
But when Eames brought on seasoned pros Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Alex Nicholls, even if they themselves were not the specific instigators, there was a change in attitude as the whole team appeared to play with more authority and swiftness of pass.
That 15 minutes after half-time was a glimpse into the future of how Barnet will try to play from now on – they just have to believe.
Rossi Eames has got the dressing room behind him
I tweeted at half-time that the second half would be the biggest test of Rossi Eames’ (short) managerial career.
“We told them at half-time to be brave and play like they have,” Eames said.
“They were eight unbeaten and there is a reason for that – the spirit they have, the way they play their football.
“There was no ranting and raving. If you find problems in the first half, find solutions for them.”
After a quarter of an hour he appeared to have found those solutions. Two strikers up front and Taylor into midfield solved many of the problems they had in the first half moving the ball as well as at the back.
It was unfortunate for him that the second goal – from a set-piece where Barnet were troubled all day – took the wind out of them and punctured that confidence which sometimes seems so frail in this team.
A response after half-time is so often the sign of a manager with the ability to motivate a team – this performance told me there are plenty in the team who believe Eames is the right man for the job long-term. Only time will tell to see if those upstairs agree.
“Henry and I are working to the point where what happens, happens.
“We’re enjoying every minute.
“It’s a great experience. It’s a great privilege.
“I’ve been at this club for seven years and this is the pinnacle.”
January is going to be busy as Barnet ‘evolve’
Eames was predictably tight-lipped on transfers, despite Kleanthous’ midweek promises that there will be plenty of business.
“We can be excited,” he said.
“We’ve lost a couple of players. Sam Togwell was a great servant and had three great years here and was part of a championship-winning side.
“But football evolves and we’re evolving. There’s a recruitment process in place.
“We’re putting targets together and everyone should be excited.”
Well I may not be the manager but there are obvious areas required.
In the short term, right-back seems like an obvious requirement. Jack Taylor did indeed do well there last week but he was found out by Godden’s clever movement today.
Mauro Vilhete is capable there but not a natural and his talent going forward is useful. A specialist would be a good addition.
N’Gala’s departure also leaves a hole in the defence should either Bira Dembele or Nelson go down. An experienced alternative looks essential.
And finally up front. If John Akinde goes, as seems now beyond possible and even likely, one or even two strikers will be on the shopping list. Ben Tomlinson’s torn quadricep is likely to keep him out for the rest of the season while Michael Gash will not be back any time soon.