By Gerry Prewett.
After securing a 3-0 victory away to Blackpool last weekend, Rovers hit the road again this week, heading up the M4 to face National League Barnet in the FA Cup. The Rovers and the Bees have had some great games until recently when they have headed in different directions.
Most Gasheads will recall that in the 2014/15 season Rovers unsuccessfully chased down the North London for the Vanarama Conference title, and ended up with the high tension of the Play Offs. Having established an early season buffer the Bees were always ‘in the driving seat’ but it wasn’t until Rovers fell to a last minute equaliser in their last away game of the season at Dover that the Gas were forced to relinquish realistic hopes of a top spot to the North London team.
Of course, Rovers then went on to gain a second promotion whilst Barnet had two seasons comfortably in mid-table. In November of the 2017-18 season Mark McGhee was appointed Manager. By January they were bottom of League Two and took the decision to move Mark McGhee to the Technical Director position and appoint Graham Westley first team coach.
Into March and still sitting at the bottom of the table, Barnet took the decision to sack Graham Westley and reappoint Martin Allen for his fifth spell. It was also reported that Mark McGhee had left the club. Allen turned Barnet fortunes around with five wins out of the next eight matches leaving it to the last day of the season to determine their fate. Barnet won their final match against Chesterfield but with Morecambe drawing leaving both teams on the same points, Barnet were relegated.
They have struggled to emulate their previous spell in the Nationwide and currently sit right in the middle of the table in 12th spot. With only 18 goals scored from 18 games, they are suffering the same problems finishing that have cursed Rovers. They started the season brightly and had a run of 5 successive victories, but then went 4 games without a win.
On Saturday they went down 2-0 at home to Maidstone, who ended a run of five matches without a win. The Stones made the breakthrough after 28 minutes when Blair Turgott latched on to a pass from Jake Cassidy and calmly beat Mark Cousins.
Elliott Romain and Turgott threatened further goals, and only Cousins' alert saves at full-stretch kept the Bees in the game past the interval. In the second half, Cousins saved Jack Paxman's low effort as Harry Wheeler's men continued to dominate.
The visitors continued to press after the break but they had to wait until 10 minutes from time to make sure of the win when substitute Gold Omotayo tapped home after Cousins had denied Cassidy.
Overall there have been 18 games between the clubs with 10 Rovers’ victories, 4 draws and 4 wins to Barnet. The clubs first met fittingly in the FA Cup in 1983/84 season with a 0-0 draw at Underhill and Rovers winning the replay 3-1, with goals by Neil Slatter, Ian Holloway and Micky Barrett for the Gas and Nick Evans scoring for Barnet.
The first League clash took place on 2nd October 1993 in Division 2. 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, 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.
In 2006/07 in Rovers’ dramatic run to a Play-Off spot they clinched a 1-1 draw at Underhill on 14 April. Until 2011/12 the Bees had never beaten the Gas, but that changed with a vengeance, the Londoners winning both games 2-0.
Rovers’ first home victory of the 2015/16 season was the 3-1 defeat of the Bees in September. Lee Brown opened the scoring with just two minutes gone. Chris Lines picked out Lee Brown on the edge of the area and he took a calm touch before firing past Graham Stack from range to put the home side a goal to the good.
On 77 minutes Rovers doubled their advantage as Matty Taylor's shot in the box was blocked by Sam Muggleton before falling perfectly for Jermaine Easter to open his account for the season.
Barnet pulled a goal back with just under five minutes to go as skipper Curtis Weston put the ball in the back of the net to a stunned silence at the Mem but it was less than a minute later when the party atmosphere was restored as Chris Lines powered through the middle and found Matty Taylor in the penalty area. Taylor took a touch in the area and calmly slotted the ball past Stack to restore Rovers two goal lead.
The last meeting between the teams was later on that season, on 9 January 2016, with the Bees winning 1-0.
Barnet have announced the signing of striker Mohamed Bettamer from Braintree Town. The deal will take Bettamer to the Hive Stadium where he will continue his career having joined Braintree from Staines Town in the summer. The 25-year-old is one of the National League’s top scorers this season with six goals from 1,256 minutes played, an average of a goal every 209 minutes in the league.
Bettamer’s six-goal haul included two goals against high-flyers Salford City in his final game for the Iron. Braintree manager Hakan Hayrettin will now be forced to seek a replacement, the forward has not featured for Braintree for the last few weeks.
The signing of Bettamer, who scored 29 goals last season for Staines Town and can play as a wide forward or striker, should help manager John Still’s side be more productive in the goalscoring stakes.