Bailey Hobson’s first-half goal was enough to earn Harriers a first win in 12 games, denying Wanderers what would have been a record-breaking third win on the trot in the National League.
Despite a fine run of Wanderers form which had seen them register four wins in their last five outings, it was Russell Penn’s side who seemed to arrive at Meadowbank with the impetus, forcing two strong saves out of Wanderers POTM for September, Harrison Male, in the opening five minutes. Sustained pressure throughout the first forty-five preceded Harriers’ opener, a deflected clearance up-field landed at the feet of Joe Leesley, the midfielder’s cute back heel then found the oncoming Bailey Hobson who was able to make the early Harriers pressure count, lashing home his side’s eighth goal of the campaign. A buoyant Harriers almost went on to double their lead late in the first half after Amari Morgan-Smith met a fantastic pass from Barry Maguire, only for the crossbar to deny him and his side from a two goal cushion. An improved Wanderers in the second half resulted in a number of chances for the hosts, with last weeks hero, Harry Ottaway, being introduced to try and emulate his cameo at Ebbsfleet United, the forward however struggled to find his range, squandered some chances to get his team on level terms. As pressure on the Harriers backline increased, George Francomb’s volley hitting the crossbar later in the half perhaps epitomised Dorking’s off-day in front of goal, failing to find the back of the net for the first time in six games.
The defeat saw Wanderers drop into 14th place in the league, still retaining a relatively healthy position in the table as we move beyond the quarter-way point of the season. Looking ahead, the visit of Barnet welcomes a fresh challenge of denying The Bees a fourth successive win, the additional element of a first televised game will no doubt bring another level out of fans and players alike, in what is set to be another momentous day in the clubs history.
In his weekly catch up, the Wanderers boss was keen to emphasise how welcome the two week break from league action will come to his squad, as multiple players can use the break to ramp up their return to action.
White confirmed James McShane (hamstring) is set for four weeks on the sidelines, with Matt Briggs also struggling with a hamstring problem. He also revealed last week that Tony Craig may be back in contention for the match day squad this weekend.
Returns for Barry Fuller (knee) and Luke Moore (hamstring) may follow the two week league hiatus, as the pair near a return to full fitness.
It was confirmed earlier this week that Alfie Rutherford will join former club Bognor Regis Town on a short term loan as he continues his remarkable journey back to match fitness, the striker joining fellow Wanderers Jimmy Muitt and Joe Rabbetts on loan at The Nye Camp.
Opposition Focus: The Bees
The Bees have enjoyed their best start to a National League season since returning to the division in 2018, with 10 wins in their first 14, Dean Brennan’s side currently sitting three points off the table’s summit, currently occupied by Chesterfield. They make the trip to Surrey unbeaten in their last five outings, however both defeats in the league for The Bees this term have come away from The Hive.
Last season marked Barnet’s second play-off place finish in four seasons, their first coming in 2019/20, where they would run out 2-0 losers to Notts County in the semi-finals. A strong campaign last year saw them finish 5th, but would again go on to fall short in the quarter finals to Boreham Wood.
A clear emphasis to build on last seasons quality has included a number of incomings at The Hive. Zak Brunt, who spent last season on loan at Boreham Wood, has arrived on a permanent basis from Sheffield United. The 21-year-old, who was part of the Boreham Wood XI that defeated Barnet in the play-offs last season, has netted four times this season for his new club. Other recruits who come with familiarity of this level include Ben Coker from Solihull Moors and Reece Hall-Johnson from Wrexham United.
Last Time We Met
Wanderers came from a goal down to beat The Bees at Meadowbank last season, George Francomb’s sweet strike from outside the box securing the victory. Harry Smith’s looping header put The Bees in front after 10 minutes, before Josh Taylor converted Tony Craig’s cross just before half-time to ignite the comeback which was completed with Francomb’s strike from range. It was a crucial win on Marc White and his sides journey to National League safety, the win itself moved Wanderers four points clear of the relegation zone and came among a string of positive results.