Date: 3rd January 2012 at 12:47am
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Izale McLeod and Clovis Kamdjo struck as Bristol Rovers’ winless League run continued to 8 games.

Paul Buckle made 3 changes to the side that lost 5-2 against Crewe as Poke, Downes and Richard made the starting XI.

Following a 1-0 defeat at table-topping Crawley, Lawrie Sanchez brought in Jack Saville and Ricky Holmes to replace Borrowdale and Byrne.

Rovers started the game in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Craig Stanley holding a very deep role just in front of the central defensive paring of Downes and Bolger. Harrold played the solitary striking role, with the 4 midfielders using Stanley’s defensive cover to drive forwards in support.

Following 2 poor performances, Sanchez retained Barnet’s 4-2-3-1 shape. Hughes and Kamdjo covering the back 4 (albeit playing slightly higher than Stanley) whilst Marshall, Deering, and Holmes supported McLeod.

As expected, the initial stages were scrappy as both sides struggled to keep the ball. The presence of Stanley in central midfield stifled the creative flair of Barnet’s attacking quadruple as the pitch became narrow and congested.

Barnet’s early promise soon subsided as the game stalled. Harrold provided a strong aerial outlet for Rovers – holding up countless punts before playing through the advancing midfield four.

Indeed, as the first half drew to a close, it seemed as though the Bristol club were the more likely to take the lead. The energetic Carayol was troubling Senda with his pace and Brill had to be alert to tip over Sawyer’s rasping drive just before the interval.

Following the break, Barnet seemed devoid of ideas as to how to penetrate a congested midfield. Balls from the back four became more and more aimless, whilst Marshall and Holmes were pushed deeper by the Rovers’ full-backs.

Crucially though, Rovers lost the aerial threat and support of Harrold when he was withdrawn at half-time to be replaced by McGleish. Although the latter looked enterprising, Hector and Downing were spared the constant nuisance of Harrold and Rovers’ threat from set-pieces diminished.

Rovers were forced to search for Carayol more, and whilst the wing man was the best player on the pitch, he was unable to find the cutting edge to his driving and promising runs.

Once a stonewall penalty had been turned down by the generally weak referee, it became clear that either a mistake or moment of magic was going to break the deadlock.

Considering the position and form of the two sides, it was unsurprising that the former was the cause of the game’s opener in the 69th minute.

Hector launched another aimless long ball at the heart of the Rovers defence as Bolder, Downes, and Stanley all stood stationary, allowing McLeod to nip in and lob the onrushing Poke.

After stifling all of Barnet’s creativity in the final third, it was a terrible goal to concede – reminiscent of Germany’s first goal against England at the 2010 World Cup.

In an attempt to provide some attacking impetus, Buckle replaced Stanley with Anyinsah as The Gas switched to a 4-4-2. Whilst the switched seemed a logical attacking move, in reality it freed up the space that Holmes and Deering craved and Barnet began to create more and dominate posession in front of the Rovers’ back four.

10 minutes later, a short corner routine found its way to Kamdjo who fired into the net from 6 yards. Crushed and lacking all belief, Rovers couldn’t muster a sustained attack as the game petered out to an inevitable conclusion.

Buckle’s position will now come under even more intense scrutiny but his side aren’t too far away from being a decent League 2 outfit. Harrold, Zebroski, Stanley, Carayol and Sawyer all look accomplished players and Carayol in particular is a real threat.

One thing they are lacking is belief and purpose, but with the right motivation they could be a strong team. Whether Buckle is the man to provide this is a different matter.

For Barnet, an important win to move them 5 points clear of the relegation zone. The football was not pretty, and without the calamitous first goal it is difficult to argue that it was effective.

Nonetheless, 3 points is 3 points and certainly a better start to 2012 than to 2011 for the Bees