Martin Allen says leaving players out of Barnet’s matchday squad is the hardest part of his job, so the Bees boss was understandably pleased with the impact of his fringe players in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Mansfield Town in EFL League Two.
Striker Shaun Batt came into the starting XI to make his first start in the league since February while Mauro Vilhete – restored to the line-up for the Checkatrade Trophy match at MK Dons – was given the nod at right-back.
And, speaking on Tuesday morning, Allen praised the work ethic of the duo after the Bees picked up their second win of the new campaign at the One Call Stadium on Saturday.
“The hardest and worst part of my job is leaving players out – I hate it,” Allen said. “I don’t like upsetting them or disappointing them and I will never get used to it. I do try my utmost to make sure I look after them well.
“I don’t put them on another training pitch, I try to keep them with me if I can. At times those players have had to train in Ross Eames’ group because I’ve had too many numbers.
“I’m pleased I can call on them. I think I’ve treated them well so hopefully they will now want to get in the frame and stay in there.”
He continued: “Shaun would be the first to admit he hasn’t set the world alight at Barnet. It has been a frustrating time for him personally. My job is to help him, look after him and get him back to good form and feeling good about himself.
“I’ve got to thank the supporters for giving him tremendous backing. I wanted the supporters’ help and he needed the supporters’ help. There’s nothing worse than people criticising and knocking you all the time.
“I’m sure Shaun would admit some criticism has been justifiable. But to help him get out of that rut we have worked really hard with him. He trained all through the summer and has come back in really good shape.
“I know he can do it because I have seen him do it in the past. Now we have to keep working to get some consistency into his game because he is a real threat with the pace he has got.”
On Vilhete he added: “Mauro has done tremendously well. He has trained hard all summer to come back in good shape and he’s been very bouncy and confident in training.
“Harry Taylor has done really well at right-back. But when Harry got injured I had no hesitation in putting Mauro in. Now Mauro has got the place in the team and it’s up to other people to get Mauro out.”
Bees supporters who travelled to Mansfield were not only treated to Barnet’s first win at the home of the Stags since 2000, they also saw what experienced winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce could do when he was introduced from the substitutes’ bench 20 minutes from the end.
“Jamal is a good player,” said Allen. “I’m not sure he will play the full 90 minutes three times a week, but if you give him the ball it’s hard to get it off him. We have lacked that little bit of quality since we lost Luisma Villa last summer.
“We were able to put him on when Mansfield were playing with more players up front. We gave him the ball and he held on to it and won fouls.
“He had a frustrating little calf strain but that is all over now so that is good news. I know he can play in that number ten position as well. He is 33 but once he gets going he will be a favourite with the crowd.”
John Akinde got Barnet’s winner early in the second half. As well as being his 60th league strike in black and amber, the goal was his 12th in as many games — a run which started at the end of last season.
But Allen says the powerful forward offers so much more than just a goal threat.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement in John’s game,” said Allen. “The goals have been great but it’s the other side of his game he’s worked on which I’ve been really pleased with.
“People only see the goals but it’s the defending for the team, his work-rate and his overall contribution to his team which matters.
“He has really taken on board what he needs to contribute to be part of the team. He is getting more consistent and I think he is getting better.
“I remember seeing him quite a few times when he was young and he never had this level of consistency. He constantly needs pushing, though, because he is the most laid-back and nicest guy you could hope to meet.
“I’m not being funny, I really do believe he can get 40 goals. He shouldn’t be looking for 20 or 30 because he can smash this division and that comes from hard work on the training ground.
“He has adopted a good attitude on the training pitch and he has been a sponge for information.
“He has turned out to be a decent free transfer.”