A look ahead to tonight's game
On Friday night Bristol Rovers take on Barnet in what promises to be a pivotal game for the Gas. A victory would put them back in touch with the security of mid-table and take them above the Hertfordshire team.
On 21 August Rovers gained their first point of the season when they drew 1-1 with Barnet at Underhill.
Barnet took the lead when Ricky Holmes won possession out wide near the halfway line and set off for goal, showing a clean pair of heels to the Rovers defence. Once he reached the area, he calmly slotted the Ball past Sam Walker.
Rovers’ equaliser came on 55 minutes when Matt Harrold powered home a header from Matt Gill’s corner. A superb display by Barnet’s Liam O’Brien ensured that his team shared the points.
The Bees’ season has been as disappointing as Rovers’; it took them 13 games to gain their first victory, a 4-0 thrashing of Northampton. In the 12 games before United had picked up just 3 points from the 36 on offer. In the 17 games since (51 points) the Bees have secured 26 points. During that run they have three times secured back to back victories.
Prior to their defeat last weekend at Burton they had picked up 13 points from 6 games, promotion form. In the Burton game Billy Kee had already missed a good chance for the Brewers before Jacques Maghoma converted from the spot on 4 minutes after he had been fouled by Barry Fuller.
Ibra Sekajja missed from seven yards for Barnet after good work by Ricky Holmes, and Kee and Calvin Zola both put shot wide for the hosts in a closely fought game.
Speaking after the game, the Bees Assistant manager explained Manager Edgar Davids’ absence and commented on the match. "Edgar has a virus and wasn't well enough to travel. I spoke to him on the telephone the whole day on how we were going to play right up to five minutes before the game. “
"I'm disappointed with the result because we played quite good, except for the first five minutes. We knew how Burton would play with the long ball to the striker and everyone working around him. We trained on that but that was what got them the goal. “
"We had a few chances but generally the final ball into the box was disappointing after some good build-up play and we didn't give the goalkeeper a lot of pressure.
"I don't think you can ever overplay, but sometimes you can play a little bit more direct into the box."
Until last season the Bees had never beaten the Gas, but that changed with a vengeance, the Londoners winning both games 2-0. The clubs first met in the FA Cup in 1983/84 season with a 0-0 draw at Underhill and Rovers winning the replay 3-1.
When the Bees played their only season in (the Old) Division 2 in 1993/94 they met Rovers for the first time in a League encounter. Rovers had been relegated the previous season and the Bees promoted. Marcus Browning and John Taylor scored the goals that gave Rovers a 2-1 victory at Underhill in October, with Kelly Haag being on the scoresheet for the Bees.
In the return fixture having lost their previous five games Rovers were in dire need of a victory and a Justin Channing hat-trick lead the way to a 5-2 win. An own goal by Alan Walker and a contribution by Marcus Stewart completed the scoring for Rovers, whilst Russell Edwards and Paul Wilson scored for the Hertfordshire team.
Summer signing Harry Crawford made his debut for the Bees as a 70th minute substitute in the 1-0 loss at Burton. It was a result which meant Barnet remain 20th in League Two but Crawford feels he has joined a club with a bright future.
He said: "It is a club that is going forward and everything is very positive here. We have top class training facilities and when I spoke to the chairman and the manager they all want to take the club forward. So I feel that it is a club that will progress and hopefully we will move up in the table.”
"With Edgar Davids being here as well, that was a big selling point for me. With all he has done in his career, playing in World Cups and European championships, I feel that I can learn from him. It is a fantastic club and I didn’t think twice about joining."
There is no doubt that Davids has had a very strong and positive influence on the Bees, with a number of former Dutch internationals turning out for the North London team.
Their recent form suggests that they won’t be confined to the lower part of the Division for too much longer. John Ward’s challenge is to ensure that the Bees do not secure their 8th victory of the season on Friday night.
Written by Gerry Prewett