BARNET’S visit to Home Park last season makes for an interesting case study.
Also a Tuesday night fixture, Argyle v Barnet in 2015-16 was a little earlier in the season than this encounter – it was September 29 – but many of the protagonists remain in place.
To that point last season, Barnet were yet to gain a point on their travels, and manager Martin Allen went in for a spot of counter-psychology. In a statement on Barnet’s website, he declared how good Argyle were, and how he intended to put men behind the ball and – to use the popular footballing idiom, ‘park the bus’.
What Allen failed to note was that he had stolen the bus that morning from Keanu Reeves in Speed, because Barnet flew at Argyle that night, and at the hour mark of the game deservedly led 1-0. Graham Carey and Jake Jervis both scored to get Argyle the three points, but the Bees had made it very hard for a sub-par Argyle on the night.
This week, Allen has had similar positive comments to make. This time, it has to be said, they were slightly less in-your-face. As a studio guest on Channel 5’s Goal Rush programme, Allen was asked about league-leading Argyle, and called the Pilgrims the best in the league. Given Argyle status, and the fact this was a calm answer to a direct question, it does not quite match up to the bait-and-switch tactics of the last encounter.
At 1-0 in that game, Barnet’s John Akinde went through on goal. He slipped the ball past Luke McCormick, only to see it rebound off of a post. Shortly afterwards, Argyle equalised, and would go on to win. Small margins. Akinde had the ball in the back of the net later on, but a flag ruled him offside.
At that stage, Akinde had scored a modest three goals in 12 appearances that season. He would go to score a further 21 in 36 matches, scoring more than a third of Barnet’s tally for the season.
This season, he is in even better form. His 14 goals in 19 games included a run of seven in five, before drawing a blank in Barnet’s 0-0 draw against Crewe on Saturday.
No-one, then, needs to flag up Barnet’s manager or star striker to Argyle boss Derek Adams. He had heard the buzz for himself.
“Martin has done a fabulous job there,” said Derek. “He’s taken them up from the conference, and been able to keep them in the league.
“They’ve got Akinde up front who is their goalscorer – he gets a lot of goals and a lot of assists - and obviously we’ve got to look after him. It’s important we do that, to give us a better opportunity.”
Argyle still have, on the whole, an excellent goal conceded per game ratio, but the game in which three goals were scored by Grimsby was the seventh League Two game in succession where the Greens had failed to keep the sheet clean.
Adams, though, is not concerned. Argyle won five and drew one of those seven games. It is the points that matter to Derek, not the semantics of the score.
“I like to win football matches,” he said. “Three points is what I’m looking for. It doesn’t matter how we win the game, it’s important that we get three points. If we do that with a clean sheet, that’s all well and good. If we concede a goal and win, we’ll take that as well.
“I don’t have to emphasise anything to the players. We know how well we’ve done to this moment, and we just want to continue picking up points.”