The Return Of The Captain? Barnet’s Predicted XI For Top Of The Table Clash With Chesterfield – Opinion

Despite only being November, many National League fans believe that one of the biggest games of the season will play out tomorrow at the SMH Group Stadium as league-leaders Chesterfield take on Dean Brennan’s Barnet, who sit just two points behind the Spireites.

The Bees will know that a win would take them to the top of the league for the first time since the season’s opening weeks, whilst Paul Cook’s men could go five points clear of Barnet, with a game-in-hand on their rivals, if they prevail.

After something resembling an injury crisis in defence over the last few weeks, Barnet fans were pleased to see Danny Collinge, Adebola Oluwo and Ben Coker back in action over the last few days and the signing of Jordan Cropper has further bolstered the Bees’ defensive options. It means that the only players Dean Brennan will be missing are Reece Hall-Johnson (injury) and Connor Stevens (suspension).

With that in mind, here is The Real EFL’s predicted starting eleven for the match:

Goalkeeper – Laurie Walker

One of the first names on the team sheet, Laurie Walker will definitely start if he is fit. Due to Barnet’s better defensive record, he hasn’t had as much of an opportunity to make the eye-catching saves which he made last season. However, performances like the one at Curzon Ashton just under a week ago show that he is still a top-quality goalkeeper. It will be more interesting to see if Brennan names Jordan Gillmore on the bench or risks going without a substitute goalie.

Right Wing-Back – Jordan Cropper

Although Jordan Cropper only made his first start since re-joining the Bees in the County Cup on Tuesday, he should retain his place in the eleven on Saturday. Barnet fans know how dangerous he can be offensively as he has good recovery pace and is comfortable in defending in one-on-one situations which will allow Barnet to play more daring football against Paul Cook’s side (that is all without mentioning his long throw which is also a massive asset to his game).

Ben Wynter is also an option if Cropper isn’t ready to play 180 minutes across five days, but his inconsistent performances may worry Bees fans.

Centre-Back – Danny Collinge

One of the best centre-backs in the league this season, both defensively and offensively, Danny Collinge is simply a must-start. He had been out for a couple of weeks due to injury but the 25-year-old has played 45 minutes in each of the Bees’ last two games which hopefully means he should be ready to face Chesterfield.

Centre-Back – Adebola Oluwo

Similarly to Collinge, Adebola Oluwo has been a star for Barnet so far this season and, although he has been injured for slightly longer than Collinge, he played 45 minutes in midweek and therefore should be ready to face Chesterfield. It will be one of, if not the biggest games and the biggest crowd that Oluwo has played in front of throughout his young career, but he has shown the necessary ability to be able to cope with that pressure.

Centre-Back – Jerome Okimo

One of the few defenders to have not been injured in recent weeks, Jerome Okimo has shown no signs of slowing down due to his age this season and he will have a massive role to play against Chesterfield. His aerial ability and capacity to win duels will be key in helping Barnet sustain consistent pressure on a Chesterfield backline which has been prone to letting in goals at points this season.

Finley Potter has hardly put a foot wrong since he’s been given a more consistent run in the side, but Okimo’s physicality and experience are too important to lose in a game like this.

Left Wing-Back – Idris Kanu

Some Bees fans may feel that Idris Kanu is ‘wasted’ at wing-back. However, in the system that Barnet are currently playing, that seems to be where he thrives. He may have to expend a lot of energy doing defensive work which he doesn’t necessarily need to do, but he is a perfectly solid defender. Furthermore, playing Kanu as a wing-back makes it easier to isolate him against opposing full-backs which is where he excels. The experienced Ben Coker is also an option on the left.

Central Midfield – Anthony Hartigan

Hartigan has been immense in black and amber this season and, barring any special one-off plan, he will surely start against Chesterfield. Hartigan is extremely composed in possession and his passing range will allow the Bees to dictate the game more than they did on their previous visit to Derbyshire. His ability from dead-ball situations, particularly free-kicks, also gives the Bees another goalscoring option.

Central Midfield – Harry Pritchard (C)

People who don’t watch Barnet week-in week-out may see Harry Pritchard’s goal-return of four goals in 21 games and think that his performance levels have decreased compared to last season when he scored 16 times whilst playing in midfield. However, this is not the case and he is a must-start.

Pritchard has largely been used in a deeper role this season and his outstanding stamina and work-rate have allowed the Bees to win a lot more second balls. As Barnet fans will know from last season, he is also a big-game player and that makes him undroppable in this situation.

Club captain Dale Gorman is extremely unlucky to miss out, but it seems as if he has been carrying an injury and the competition for places is such that there isn’t a space for him in the team right now.

Attacking Midfield – Callum Stead

Moving on to the player who many fans would take out in order to incorporate Gorman. Dean Brennan himself said just a couple of weeks ago that Callum Stead had made himself undroppable, so it’s likely that he will start. Fans are worried about a lack of control that Barnet may have without both Gorman and Hartigan in the team, but Stead provides an option running in behind the Spireites’ defence and his immense work rate means that he will be able to provide the Bees with defensive solidity. The fact that he was rested from the squad entirely in midweek is telling.

Attacking Midfield – Zak Brunt

Young midfielder Zak Brunt has come under increasing amounts of scrutiny over the last few weeks as his performance levels have slightly declined. Despite that, he is certainly a player who is capable of a moment of magic and that could be the difference in what looks like being a very closely contested game. He has been ever-present so far this season and it should stay that way for such a big game.

Striker – Nicke Kabamba

Gary Hooper played his first 90 minutes in black and amber on Tuesday but he has almost no chance of getting in over Nicke Kabamba for this game. Kabamba is pretty much a complete forward at this level and his goalscoring numbers show that as he is currently the joint-third top goalscorer in the league. The Chesterfield defence might still be scarred after what Kabamba did the last time these two teams met, having scored a brilliant hattrick and he will hope to repeat that performance on Saturday.

Barnet Predicted XI vs Chesterfield

Whilst it is undeniably a big game, with both fanbases looking to support their team in big numbers, neither side must place too much extra importance on the result. A 46-game league season will not be won or lost in a single match in mid-November, it will be won or lost through consistency.

Barnet can lose to Chesterfield twice and still win the league, and the same goes for the hosts. So, whilst the players must relish the occasion and the opportunity to play in front of such a big crowd, they must also remain aware of the bigger picture.

Given the style of football that both teams play, it promises to be a good match with the possibility of a lot of goals. If Brennan’s men can come out on top, it would be a massive boost in morale for a group of players who are already in a very good position.


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