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Pre Season Friendly
By Gerard Butler
Barnet take the shortish journey across North West London to the characterful Church Road ground to play Conference South outfit Hayes.
This is the sides' first meeting since the 2001/02 season when the Bees completed a double over the Missioners, winning 3-1 at Underhill in front of just 947 fans, and then 2-0 in West London on 2 March in what was Peter Shreeves' and Martin Allen's first game in charge.
Since then there have been great changes, as poor home form saw them narrowly relegated from the then Nationwide Conference, despite some stirring away results in the run-in, after long serving manager Terry Brown left the club to take over at Aldershot Town with the club deep in trouble. His assistant, Willie Wordsworth, who still manages Hayes nearly kept them up, but not quite.
That meant life in the Ryman Premier Division, but a poor start cost them a sustained place in the title chase, as they staged a recovery which saw them virtually unbeatable on home turf. They finished that campaign in seventh spot, and followed that up with an eighth place finish in 2003/4 which was more than adequate for an automatic spot in the new Conference South.
Last season's highlight was a stirring Trophy run, a competition the club has continued to do quite well in, before a defeat at Eastwood Town proved something of an anti-climax. They could have snatched a play-off place with their games in hand, but failed to gain an adequate return points-wise as they finished in twelfth spot, with their home form not as strong as previous seasons.
The close season has been one of great change, as two of the players who had featured in the last Conference season left for pastures new; Matt Gray (a one-time Barnet reserve) departing for Havant & Waterlooville, and long serving midfielder Mark Molesley, who had come through the youth system, joining Cambridge City. Other key defenders Jon Case and Yiadom Yeboah have been other losses, alongside Rob Bixby and midfielder Rob Bixby. It leaves Wordsworth with a major rebuilding job, which a strong pre-season will form an integral part of.
On the bright side, he can still call on Kieran Knight, who, in his debut season for the Missioners, grabbed 21 goals in 53 appearances, ably assisted by Josh Scott, who graduated from the youth team. Player of the season, Kevin Davies, continues in goal after signing a new contract, as has Peter Collins.
Orlando Jeffrey slots into the heart of the defence, after switching from Hampton & Richmond Brorough, whilst Mark Donovan comes in at left back from another Ryman club, Northwood, and young striker Michael Bartley adds options up front, with Paul Ellis filling a gap in midfield. Kevin Warner is the only player remaining from the 2001/2 season where his creativity nearly enabled survival.
This should be an entertaining game against strong and committed opposition, and Barnet will hope to continue their good pre-season form. Admission is £9 for adults, £5 for concessions whilst under-12s accompanied by an adult pay just £1.
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