Impressive Bromley lay down a marker at Barnet in battle to assert play-off credentials
Barnet 1 Bromley 3
It’s probably not a good idea to read too much into one game, but on the evidence of these 90 minutes at least, Bromley look a better bet to have a crack at the play-offs than their north London rivals.
With Barnet, you always wonder. This is a club seemingly forever hovering between League Two and the National League – never quite sure whether their long-term destiny is among the 92 or whether they belong where they are now, in the fifth tier of the football league pyramid.
But the south London visitors showed little inclination to kow-tow to the hosts’ superior CV and deservedly claimed the points. They looked stronger, hungrier and more potent in attack. They remain unbeaten away from home this season.
The Ravens were particularly impressive in the first half and led 2-0. After 12 minutes, Frankie Raymond’s inswinging corner was headed home at the far-post by full-back Joe Kizzi and on 26 minutes, a fine first-time ball from Chris Bush from the left touchline found Michael Cheek and an unselfish lay-off gave James Alabi all the space he needed to rifle into the roof of the net.
The hosts were run ragged by the industrious Raymond in midfield and the thrilling Recco Hackett-Fairchild on the left, who came so close to adding to the tally with a raking low shot after a dropped shoulder had allowed him to ghost past several players and his inviting cross later was almost converted by Ben Williamson.
The closest the home side came in the first half was when former AFC Wimbledon midfielder Anthony Wordsworth sent in a deflected drive that keeper Mark Cousins did well to save after readjusting to the change of flight.
Hackett-Fairchild launched another dipping shot just over the bar before the break and he was never far away from the action.
Bromley’s cruise to victory seemed confirmed when a mistake in the home defence by Jerome Binnom-Williams – once on Crystal Palace’s books – allowed Cheek to profit with a perfectly executed shot into the far corner.
But Barnet finally managed to rouse themselves to offer belated resistance when Michael Petrasso fired home with 20 minutes to play.
“We want to be in and around the play-offs this season,” Bromley boss Neil Smith told Capital Football. “It’s very difficult with budgets and everything that’s gone on, but that’s always been our aim.
“We probably let ourselves down at the end of last season, just before Covid interrupted everything and we want to be up there and in and around it this year.
“We know it’s going to be difficult, because we’ve never had a consistent run of games where we’ve had the same team, but having players coming back from injury gives us that opportunity.
“I know how good we can be. It’s been up and down with players coming in and players coming out but today you saw a squad of players that wanted to put themselves back where they want to be and that’s in and around the play-offs.
“This is a great win for us. We needed it. We go into a run of games that will be very difficult and if we can pick up points, especially away from home, we have to.”
Barnet boss Peter Beadle will not have long to contemplate the defeat as his side are back in action on Tuesday night against King’s Lynn Town, and no doubt the hope and expectation will not have been especially dimmed by this setback.
That optimism is probably all Barry Fry’s fault for getting them up to the Football League 1991. It elevated hopes that have not always been easy to fulfil.
Promotion that year began a tale of yo-yoing that has seen them go up three times from what is now labelled the National League.
Three times they have dropped back down and two years ago, they suffered the latest of their demotions and are now in their third season among those battling for a way back to the promised land.
They no longer have the famous old Underhill slope to help them now they play at the Hive, of course, but they have a tidy home and remain ambitious.
They are in good company, however and competition is stiff. The clubs rubbing shoulders with them include many with football league pedigree like Notts County, Torquay, Stockport County, Chesterfield, Hartlepool and Wrexham.
Finding a way back ought to be easier than in those far-off days when it was less of a meritocracy and you needed to be elected to what was Division Four. But it remains a tough ask.
They finished seventh in last season’s Covid-curtailed campaign, but at the moment, the club is perhaps more geared up to making a mark in the FA Cup than in sustaining a promotion push.
Last week, Wesley Fonguck’s wonderful winner got them past League One Burton Albion to earn them another home tie in the second-round in a fortnight - against another League One outfit, MK Dons.
Two seasons ago, they reached the fourth road after eliminating Bristol Rovers, Stockport and Sheffield United.
But while that is fun for the players and the fans – when they can be there – the longer-term has to be to try and get back to where they once were and those bread-and-butter league points will be vital. A 5-1 thrashing at home to Eastleigh in the opening fixture was a warning of the task ahead.
At the moment, though, they may just be pleased to be playing. A month ago, they had nine players plus Beadle out of action after positive coronavirus tests among players and staff.
Bromley, who also started the game in mid-table, have no FA Cup glory to dream of, as they lost 1-0 to Yeovil last week. But perhaps they can harbour a few dreams of their own when it comes league placings.
Barnet: Loach – Pascal, Taylor, Nugent, Binnom-Williams – McQueen, Wordsworth, Petrasso, Mason-Clark (Vasiliou 68) – Faal (Pavey 68), Fonguck (McBurnie 77). Subs not used: Azaze, Connors
Bromley: Cousins – Kizzi, Webster, Roberts, Bush – Williamson, Bingham, Raymond, Hackett-Fairchild (Kyprianou 86) – Cheek, Alabi. Subs not used: Holland, Purrington, Vincent, L’Ghoul