Npower League Two Preview: Barnet v Plymouth Argyle

After a dismal performance a week ago against AFC Wimbledon, Plymouth Argyle will be hopeful that they can perform more like they did on Tuesday night against Aldershot in the Johnstones Paint Trophy when they travel to Barnet this weekend.

A virtually second string Argyle side beat the Shots 2-1 which will give Carl Fletcher plenty of food for thought about the starting XI this weekend. We are still looking for our first competitive back-to-back wins under Fletcher and a game against winless Barnet will surely provide the best possible opportunity to do so.

Last Time Out

Following the dreadful display against AFC Wimbledon and a host of injuries and suspensions, confidence was far from high heading into our JPT 2nd round game against Aldershot Town.

Carl Fletcher was forced to make most of the six changes to the side that had lined up three days earlier. Darren Purse was suspended, Onismor Bhasera was away on international duty, Max Blanchard and Robbie Williams were injured and Guy Madjo & Alex MacDonald’s loans had expired.

Rene Gilmartin made his competitive debut for Argyle in goal whilst Jamie Richards did the same in defence. Scott Griffiths, on loan from Peterborough, only arrived at Argyle quarter of an hour before the pre-match meeting made his Pilgrims debut at left back.

There was only 33 seconds on the clock when Argyle took the lead.

A neat flick from Nick Chadwick in the centre of the park found Joe Lennox who raced away down the right-wing. The ease of which he beat the Aldershot left-back, Anderson, was alarming and before the defender could react Lennox was past him and squaring the ball perfectly for Paris Cowan-Hall who won’t have many easier chances in his career.

Paris Cowan-Hall celebrates his early goal on Tuesday.

The electric start had the 2500 Pilgrims in attendance buzzing as Argyle proceeded to boss the next ten minutes. Joe Lennox especially was having a great game and every time the pacey winger got on the ball Argyle looked dangerous.

It all meant that it was surprising, yet perhaps inevitable, when Aldershot scored with their first meaningful effort on target.

The ball rolled invitingly into the path of Peter Vincenti 30-yards out who lined himself up for the long-range attempt. His effort was going wide but cruelly hit an Argyle player on the edge of the box. The ball fell perfectly for Craig Reid just inside the box who took the chance with aplomb.

Quite how the visitors didn’t take the lead five minutes still puzzles me as in the space of ten seconds they managed to rattle both the crossbar and the post with Argyle keeper Rene Gilmartin well beaten on both occasions.

Conor Hourihane could have restored the Pilgrims lead just before the half hour mark but rather scuffed at his shot, allowing Aldershot keeper Glenn Morris to comfortably catch the ball.

Just a minute later though, Argyle did reclaim the lead.

Joe Lennox was heavily involved again as he cut inside from the wing and squared the ball for Andres Gurrieri to stroke home from 25-yards out for his first goal in English football. It was a really good finish as the Argentine was not facing the goal when he took the shot on.

Before the half was out Gurrieri went close again as hit the outside of the post with another effort from range before Paris Cowan-Hall really should have got his second of the night as he seized on a lapse in concentration in the Aldershot defence to race through with only the keeper to beat, he fired his shot too close to Morris though who saved well.

After an entertaining first half, one of the best seen at Home Park this season, it was always going to be interesting to see if Argyle could keep the tempo up in the second period. Early signs suggested they could as Nick Chadwick was denied at close range by a fine save from Morris.

The game did peter out a little towards the end however with Jared Sims going closest for the Greens with a dipping half-volley from 25 yards out. A poor back pass from Curtis Nelson nearly allowed the visitors to equalise but Rene Gilmartin saved well to ensure Argyle went through the area quarter finals.

Argyle will not be joined in the last eight of the Southern area by Barnet however, who were knocked out by Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road on Tuesday night.

A single goal from Moses Odubajo was enough to make sure that the home side progressed and leave Barnet still looking for their first competitive win this campaign – they received a bye along with Argyle to the second round the JPT.

Ones To Watch

Collins John

Having scored goals in the Premier League as recently as 2007 for Fulham, including one at the Etihad stadium, Collins John signed for Barnet on a free transfer two weeks ago in what is one of the shock signings of the season. John, 26, had been with Iran Pro League side Mes Sarcheshmeh last season before leaving this summer after only making nine appearances, scoring three goals. Since his Fulham days, where he also went on loan to Leicester and Barnsley, Collins John has plied his trade in a variety of countries. As well as Iran he has also played top flight football in Holland, Belgium, America and Azerbaijan. Although John has not scored on consistent basis for a fair few years he will undoubtedly be a threat for Argyle to deal with, after receiving international clearance to play for the Bees earlier this week.

Jake Hyde

With 3 goals to date this season, Jake Hyde is Barnet’s top scorer and has scored in each of the Bees last three league games. The 22-year-old striker was actually with Barnet for the 2009-season but was released after scoring only 6 goals in 34 appearances for the club. Between his two spells with the Bees, Hyde spent time playing conference and Scottish league football. Although not a prolific goalscorer, he is in form so the Argyle defence will have to be on their toes to stop the 6ft striker on Saturday.

The Manager – Mark Robson

Being in charge of Barnet represents Mark Robson’s first steps into the managerial world after being given the job this Summer. Robson enjoyed a long-playing career as a midfielder which included a loan spell at Argyle during 1989. Since he stopped playing he has been a coach at various football league clubs and holds a UEFA Pro Licence. He has had far from a comfortable start in charge of the Bees, having lost 10 of his 13 competitive games in charge so far, gaining draws from the other three.

Past Five Meetings

14.02.2012 – nPower League Two – Plymouth Argyle 0 – 0 Barnet

13.09.2011 – nPower League Two – Barnet 2 – 0 Plymouth Argyle

27.01.2007 – FA Cup Round 4 – Barnet 0 – 2 Plymouth Argyle

20.09.2005 – League Cup Round 2 – Barnet 2 – 1 Plymouth Argyle

03.03.2001 – English Division Three – Barnet 1 – 1 Plymouth Argyle

The View From Barnet

Lucy Waldon, Barnet fan.

We go into Saturday’s game having not won a game in all competitions so far this season. Even at this early stage, the table makes fairly grim reading – five points separates us and both Wycombe and Aldershot who occupy 22nd and 23rd respectively and we’re eight points behind our visitors on Saturday afternoon. That said, our home form is marginally better than our away form – we’ve drawn two games, scored more goals and conceded less – so I guess that’s a positive, right?

I didn’t go to the game last Saturday away at Southend, but to find ourselves two goals up with 20 minutes remaining and come away with a solitary point was disappointing. Our main problem is shipping goals and our defence constantly looks shaky. Our goalkeeper doesn’t seem to like coming off his line much which is a problem when the ball is played nervously back – I feel like my heart is constantly in my mouth. The main positive we can take from last weekend’s match is that we can create – and convert – chances, and our striker Jake Hyde has scored three goals in as many League games. Our previous home match was against Exeter and despite losing 2-1 there were positives to be taken from the performance. Our manager, Mark Robson has practically had to rebuild an entire squad and quite a lot of the players came in towards the end of pre-season, so it has taken a while for the squad to come together. He’s also trying to encourage ‘beautiful football’ and whilst we have seen the ball played on the floor a lot more this season, football is a results business and understandably a number of fans are already fairly frustrated.

To Saturday’s game – I can’t see Robson making too many changes. Graham Stack was back in goal for Tuesday night’s JPT second round tie against Leyton Orient and I imagine he’ll stick with him. In all honesty I don’t rate any of the three keepers we currently have – two of which are young and fairly inexperienced – all have been to fault for goals we have conceded, so I don’t really care who Robson decides to start. Collins John received international clearance earlier this week and although he didn’t play on Tuesday, I imagine he’ll be on the bench on Saturday, match fitness dependent. Ricky Holmes and Hyde are starting to look a partnership and following last weekend’s performance (Holmes scored an absolute wonder goal), I’d guess Robson would remain with those two upfront.

Like many other Barnet fans, I’m not expecting much generally, let alone from Saturday. From interviews and Twitter it sounds like our players are confident that we can turn it around and what better time than in front of our own fans this weekend. It depends what Barnet side comes out, but the first goal will be crucial. If we get it, I’d like to think after Saturday we’ll be able to hold on (and hopefully grab a couple more), but if we concede first, heads will drop and it’ll end up a cricket score. I think it’ll be a fairly close game that’ll finish 2-1 to either team – I’m just not sure which way it’ll go. I’d take a point though and hope that the few teams above us lose.


My Opinion

I really enjoyed the game on Tuesday night. There was a real freshness about the way Argyle played and I imagine that quite a few of those that performed well against Aldershot will have given Carl Fletcher a headache over the selection for Barnet. Joe Lennox was the standout performer, whilst Curtis Nelson and Jamie Richards were assured at the back. Andres Gurrieri seemed to relish playing ‘in the hole’ whilst Paris Cowan-Hall was lively and threatening throughout. Although the JPT is far from our main priority it is nice to be on a ‘cup run’, we really need to get a win in the league though.

A three-point margin between ourselves and the relegation zone is worrying at the best of the times, but with an incredibly tough and unforgiving fixture list until Christmas after the Barnet game, the match at Underhill has taken on a greater sense of importance. Victory could see us put space between us and the drop zone and give the team some confidence due to back-to-back wins. A loss could be devastating to our league position and morale, I really don’t fancy our chances over the next few weeks if we head into the next few fixtures off the back of a loss to the team bottom of the league.

Starting XI I would like to see (taking into account player injuries);

This is just the kind of game I dread and look forward to in equal measures. Barnet have not won so far this season so why should we fear them? However I would imagine their fans will fancy their chances against us as we have hardly been setting the league alight this season. The arrival of Collins John is also bound to give them a boost in morale and it would not surprise me if they go straight for our throat from the kick-off. Sadly this is just the type of game that Argyle have failed to produce the goods in recent seasons, so I am genuinely worried! If we can get a goal within the first 20 minutes it could do the world of good for our chances, opposition heads would probably drop. If we do go a goal up we need to go and look for another, instead of sitting back on the lead!

I am really looking forward to this game, I just hope Argyle can finally get out of the habit of winning a game and then failing to push on in the next game!

Score Prediction: Barnet 1 – 1 Plymouth Argyle (Madjo)


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