Empty-handed Return From The Hive.
Saturday 16th December 2017 1500 hrs
Attendance: 1123 (74 from Morecambe)
Even if Mark McGhee`s Barnet won today`s game against Morecambe, they would still be two points adrift of the visitors. This is the harsh reality of life at the rock-bottom of the EFL. Before the contest, only four points separated Forest Green Rovers - the team just above the Bees in twenty-third place - and Crawley in seventeenth position in League Two. Barnet have won only one of their last fifteen league matches whereas the Shrimps have lost only one of their previous five. Historically, the Shrimps have the upper hand over today`s opponents with seven wins and five losses with four games drawn in the past. Rarely, however, has a game between the two clubs had as much potential significance as this one did before the first whistle sounded. Would Barnet fall further into the mire? Or would Morecambe earn themselves a little bit of breathing space at the wrong end of the Division?
Barnet started the better in a ground where the atmosphere was surprisingly flat for a game of this importance. After six minutes, the ball fell kindly to Barnet captain Michael Nelson`s feet but his scuffed shot in a situation where he had time to take aim and do better barely troubled Barry Roche in the Shrimps` goal. At the other end, though, Baz`s opposite number Jamie Stephens was forced into action just a minute later when he was forced to push away a shot from Elliot Osborne. With almost ten minutes on the clock, Ricardo Santos played a long ball which John Akinde chested-down to Shaquile Coulthirst only for him to screw a shot just wide of the post on the turn. Barnet`s next good chance fell to Jack Taylor who forced Roche into a decent save high to his left after a run and shot on the move from twenty-five yards out with eighteen minutes played. A minute later, Adam McGurk - who had already tried his luck and missed from 30 yards after twelve minutes - narrowly missed Stephens` left hand post with a decent effort. The bottom of the table club took the lead after half an hour however, when Jamal Campbell-Ryce on the Bees` left spotted Roche out of his goal and brilliantly beat him with a world-class strike from all of thirty yards out. Things got even worse for the visitors just four minutes later when they lost possession and allowed Akinde to play a clever pass through the Morecambe defence which allowed Jack Taylor a clear run on goal. He kept his head and slotted the ball past Big Baz from twelve yards out to put the Bees two goals up. With the home crowd woken from their earlier stupor, the team from Lancashire attempted to get back into the game before the half time whistle sounded. After 39 minutes, the home goalkeeper was quickly off his line to deal with a threat from Vadaine Oliver. Then Aaron McGowan cut inside only to have his attempted shot well blocked by Nelson three minutes later. Morecambe captain Michael Rose then made an attempt from the edge of the box shortly before the break only to see his curling shot go just over the bar. But with the first half at an end, the hosts were good value for their lead.
Morecambe came out in the second half with a re-shuffled pack and started to put some concerted pressure on Barnet. Garry Thompson played in Oliver who set-up Callum Lang whose deflected shot hit the bar after just two minutes of the re-start. Two minutes later, Lang had an even better chance from just six yards out but scuffed a shot which Stephens gratefully collected. The potentially decisive moment of the match arrived after 65 minutes though when Akinde broke through the Shrimps' defence and Roche brought him down but stayed on the pitch. The last time Baz faced a penalty from this giant of a man, he saved it. Today, he didn`t have to: Barnet`s Number Nine blasted the ball high over the bar from the spot. Thommo was taken off after 69 minutes and possibly his first touch of the ball saw substitute Adam Campbell reduce the arrears with a shot into the top corner of the net from the edge of the Bees` penalty area. Although the home team forced a couple of further half-chances, the rest of the match was largely a rearguard action for the bottom of the table club. As the Shrimps pushed for an equaliser, Campbell went close again from all of thirty yards after 83 minutes. But try as they might, the visitors had set themselves too high a mountain to climb and the men in white trailed off at the end of the game with yet another defeat against a team immediately around them. Fortunately for them, fellow-strugglers FGR and Chesterfield also lost today to slip back into the relegation positions in League Two, leaving the Shrimps in twentieth position. Against Coventry last week, the Shrimps looked too good to be relegated. If they play like they did in the first half today with exactly the same players though, their survival is anything but guaranteed.
Barnet: 1 Jamie Stephens; 4 Charlie Clough; 5 Ricardo Almeida Santos; 6 Michael Nelson (C); 7 Ryan Watson; 9 John Akinde (14 Simeon Akinola 86 mins); 10 Jamal Campbell-Ryce; 11 Shaquile Coulthirst (Y); 12 Jack Taylor; 20 Mauro Vilhete (26 Dan Sweeney 54 mins); 24 Andre Blackman.
Subs Not Used: 21 Craig Ross; 2 Richard Brindley; 13 David Tutonda; 18 Wesley Fonguck; 23 Alex Nicholls.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Aaron McGowan; 22 Max Muller (Y); 5 Steven Old; 3 Patrick Brough; 24 Michael Rose (C); 21 Elliot Osborne (11 Kevin Ellison 45 mins); 8 Andy Fleming; 9 Vadaine Oliver; 28 Adam McGurk (29 Callum Lang 45 mins); 7 Garry Thompson (10 Adam Campbell 69 mins).
Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 17 Mitchell Lund; 4 Alex Kenyon; 16 Sam Lavelle.