THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Bees face Bristol Rovers on Tuesday

icon sadfan20 August ~ Barnet have started the season as they ended the last one – a single place above the relegation zone. The rather happy pre-season feeling of a new manager and a couple of good friendly victories has been squashed unmercifully by heavy defeats at Birmingham and Port Vale. Bees fans now feel the despair of a harassed father who has just seen the bouncy castle erected for his son's first birthday demolished by the unruly stamping from the wayward kids next door. After two games last season we had travelled to Morecambe in the league and Portsmouth in the League Cup, won them both by a single goal and hadn't conceded.

The level of our ambition could be gauged by the reaction of some of our support after the win over the Shrimps – celebrating that the three points took us closer to the 50 believed to be needed for safety rather than a real shot at promotion.

The 3-0 defeat on Saturday came against a Vale side who played like a team that had spent the whole of pre-season camped out in bivouacs on the moors, learning how to survive on bark and road-kill. They had the kind of understanding and close bonding required when there's 20 of you sharing a single toilet roll for a fortnight.

Barnet did defend like a top-quality international side at times. The desperate attempts of centre-back Clovis Kamdjo, a youngster of much promise, to rob Tom Pope just prior to the same player netting a third were eerily identical to Billy Wright being left flat on his arse by Ferenc Puskas during England's 6-3 defeat by Hungary in 1953.

After disappointment away from home, tomorrow night offers a chance for Barnet to redeem themselves in front of their own fans in the last opening home fixture to be held at Underhill for the foreseeable future. On paper it also seems winnable.

Bristol Rovers, along with Accrington Stanley and Plymouth Argyle, failed to register a goal against Barnet last season and they were the only side that we did the double over. Two 2-0 victories came in the space of just over seven weeks, during an awful run of form for Rovers that cost manager Paul Buckle his job.

Buckle's replacement is Mark McGhee, a respected manager who I once saw spending several hours of his spare time in the bar at the East Midlands Airport Hilton in early 1994 trying to convince a nervous-looking Garry Parker that Leicester City was the club to join.

Our stag party tried desperately to listen in from an adjacent table but were distracted by the arrival of the Liverpool squad checking in at the same time wearing matching shell suits, including Robbie Fowler with his trousers the wrong way round.

McGhee's side lost 2-0 at home to Oxford at the weekend, having had a seemingly good goal chalked off. Bees fans may take heart from the fact that Oxford's second goal was scored following a mazy run by Alfie Potter from inside his own half. A similar defensive display by Rovers at the theatre of perpetual disappointment would be very gratefully received by the Bees. Let's hope it's not reciprocated. James Castle

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