Barnet slowly climbing out of trouble

It may not have been pretty, but The Bees’ 1-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon may prove to be a vital result come the end of the season.

A late strike by debutant Keanu Marsh-Brown saw them  extend their unbeaten record to four games; as well as lifting us up to the lofty heights of 18th. It was also the fourth consecutive game Barnet had kept a clean sheet.

After 12 games, Barnet were a shambles defensively. We had conceded a total of 26 goals, an average of 2.1 goals a game.

Four games saw them ship three goals; while they conceded four in the humiliating home defeat against Plymouth Argyle. The defence was chopped and changed, but to no effect. Bar David Stephens, none of the defenders could emerge with any credit.

Now it is a completely different story. Edgar Davids has changed the whole dimension of the club since his arrival in October. Results have improved dramatically, as has the playing style. A key reason for their rise from relegation certainties to relegation candidates has been due to the form of their defence.

In the past 30 games, we have conceded 26 goals: the same amount which we let-in in the first 12 games.

Clean sheets have gone from being an irregularity to regularity, with us having kept a total of 14 clean sheets since Davids’ arrival: this is more than any other League Two club in the same period.

They have now got a regular – and very solid – defence, who have rarely put in a bad performance in recent months.

Goalkeeper Graham Stack has been a calming presence behind the back four, as well as being an excellent shot-stopper. Elliott Johnson has made the step-up from the youth-team with ease while Barry Fuller has cut out the inconsistency that used to plague him.

There is one defender that stands out among that crowd. That is David Stephens. It is hard to believe that he is only 21-years-old, with him having been the cool head among the backline. He is comfortable with the ball, strong in the air and good in the tackle.

What makes his performances all the more impressive is the fact he has never had a ‘regular’ centre-back partner, with a raft of solid loanees – such as Andy Iro and recent acquisition Tom Flanagan – having been brought in to cover this area.

With the relegation battle as tight as ever, it may just be the defence who play a big part in retaining their League Two status.

They may be three points off the relegation zone, but few League Two teams can match the defensive solidity of Barnet in recent months

 

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