It wasn’t Martin Allen was pleased with the resolve that his team showed to come back from a goal down to earn a late 2-1 win over Alfreton Town at The Hive on Saturday, as Barnet recorded their fourth consecutive win to maintain their position at the top of the Vanarama Conference.
Speaking after the game, the Barnet manager said:
“It wasn’t easy. I think every Barnet supporter, player and member of staff – and myself – have all looked over the last few days and seen Barnet top and Alfreton bottom and we all knew that today was going to be a tricky, testing, difficult game.
“Top versus bottom, it’s a tricky fixture. People will have to get used to it. They were very direct. They had two big fellas playing up front and they got it to them as quickly as possible. Their lads competed and I thought that they played very well.
“To go 1-0 down just after half time – the stadium was quiet, the players were a bit flat. Coping and dealing with that situation and these types of game is always going to be difficult.
“When you are top there is always an extra added pressure. We’ve all seen it over the years – these games are always what you would call banana skins.”
Having seen substitute Luisma Villa come off the bench to score a late winner, Martin was full of praise for the match winner:
“The fact that we could make those substitutions is testament to the strength of the squad that we have together. We can change it, we can bring people on, we can play people in different positions.
“Luisma played so well at Luton on Tuesday, he was fantastic. I knew that he was going to be going on today; he was very close to actually starting the game. He’s got magic. The boy has got magic.
“I think that it is only right to let everybody know that when I sat down with the chairman over the summer, Luisma was in the grey area. There was a question mark over whether we were going to sign him or not.
“The chairman said to me that Luisma has the ability to come on and do something different, to make a great pass or to score from a free kick.
“And lo and behold, the game goes to the 94th minute and Luisma finds the free kick and Mr Kleanthous was absolutely spot on. That decision has won us the three points.”
The manager also singled out his other two substitutes Sam Muggleton and Matt Stevens, who became the youngest ever player to play for Barnet at 16 years and 207 days:
“Today we made the substitutes and we finished the game with an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old on the pitch. Both of them did really well and that is testament to the way that we are training and giving young players a chance.
“Stevens scores goals. Every week I have a report done on the Youth Team performance and Ross the coach tells me “he scored a hat trick again.”
“The other day he didn’t score and apparently he had the right hump and kicked a football in the dressing room. He scored in training against the first team yesterday and he scored at Luton.
“The boy has got that Robbie Fowler-like knack of finding the gap to score. He scored 30-odd goals last year and got released by Reading, so I think that we have done pretty well to get him.”
Martin also revealed that he was delighted with the character shown by his players as they scored an injury-time winner, and believes that this ability to claim three points even when they are not at their best can only bode well for the future:
“I don’t think that we really put in a great performance for our supporters, but I am sure that they will be very impressed, relieved and pleased that they keep going right until the end.
“You could buckle. Let’s be honest, we’ve all seen games where there’s no spirit, there’s no fight back, there’s no comeback and the result just goes out of the window and everybody goes home naffed off that they players haven’t found extra.
“We have trained the players so that they can find extra. We have beasted them at times during pre-season training, and then asked them to do another session practising for exactly this.
“We’ve started the week now with three points. We go to Dover on Wednesday and then we’ve got a really busy time ahead of us. Everybody knows – supporters, media, players, staff – everybody knows that we are not going to be on top form every game, but we always have to try and keep improving.”