What will it take to get Barnet into the National League play-offs?
Background image: Kafuffle, CC BY 4.0.
In the next couple of weeks, Barnet have a decision to make whether they want to try and crash the end of season play-offs or let the season tail off into mid-table mediocrity. Having sold star midfielder Jack Taylor to League One Peterborough United earlier this month, the Bees are now in a position to re-invest this money into the squad and give manager Darren Currie a much-needed boost as he seeks to return the club to the Football League.
Currie's hands have been effectively tied this campaign, operating largely with a set of players signed by previous manager John Still on two-year contracts - which will all expire this coming April. With a top-heavy squad and a budget at its limit, Currie has only been able to bring in three new faces since the summer. He's already lost one of those, Alfie Pavey, to a broken ankle in November. He's not due back in action until late March.
The loss of Pavey so soon after signing once again showed the flaws within the Bees squad. A lack of goal scoring options coupled with not being clinical enough in front of goal, is why Barnet sit close but not in the play-off places. They have operated with two strikers for a majority of the season in Jack Barham and Josh Walker, the former having now signed for Dorking Wanderers earlier this week and wide man Simeon Akinola pushed up front. Credit where it's due, he has responded well with 13 goals in all competitions so far this season.
Currie will be the first to admit his side haven't been consistent enough across the first part of the season. A run of one defeat in the opening ten games fell away to just two wins in the next ten and despite the poor run of the form, the Bees remained in touch at the top but they're seemingly lacking that final piece of the jigsaw to get the club challenging in the top seven. The right investment should ensure Currie helps the club into the play-offs, though there is too much ground to make up to catch Barrow in the chase for the title.
The club is expected to release one or two more players this month using some of that cash received for Taylor. While another striker remains a priority, there also needs to be a replacement found for another midfielder and if Currie can sign players who can come in and make a difference, as James Dunne and Scott Loach have done since they arrived in the summer, then Barnet will be expected to go on a run and move into a prime position.
Much remains to be seen how much money, if any, Currie will receive. Last season's FA Cup cash was reinvested back into the playing staff, this season has seen a struggle off the pitch, largely due to low attendances. That cash will come in handy to plug the gap in cash deficits that clearly hamper any side when it dips below the break-even figure...
There is a realisation in some supporters' eyes that everything should point towards a promotion push for next season, but with two games in hand on most of the clubs around them, while sitting on a six-match unbeaten league run, there's a chance. Convert more draws into wins and Barnet are right in the middle of things, that missing striker could well be the difference...