Buzz around born-again Bees
The favourites are getting heavy in League Two, presenting us with a weekend when the preferred course of action is to dabble on a couple of speculative long shots in the absence of a single solid wager. Naturally, the caveat is that the league table offers little encouragement.
Let's start with Barnet, the headline act in the division right now. The arrival of Edgar Davids has obviously trigerred a frenzy of media interest but the early indications suggest the move is being driven by the right motives and we see them causing problems against inconsistent Chesterfield.
The Bees had shown quality in patches under the sole guidance of Mark Robson but their game-management was woeful, so it makes perfect sense that Davids might have something substantial to contribute both as a player and a coach.
The Dutch maestro is being scrutinised for flashes of brilliance, leaving many observers disappointed at his relative anonymity. Yet his contribution should be judged on what you don't see, the one thing Barnet really needed: a player to hold his position in the midfield and dictate the tempo according the circumstances at any particular moment in time.
Of course, it goes without saying that the other players have stepped up their efforts in the presence of a master and that's no bad thing either. It's an impetus that might keep the Bees switched-on for a few more weeks yet.
The counter-argument is that forthcoming opponents have been placed on red alert. Barnet might be bottom of the league but they've suddenly become a prize scalp, which makes their goalless draw against resurgent Wycombe in midweek almost as impressive as the 4-0 hiding of Northampton.
After the circus that surrounded the game against the Cobblers, the Londoners needed to guard against a sense of anti-climax at Adams Park but the clean sheet was a reassuring demonstration of defensive discipline, so we see no reason to turn our noses up at odds of 9/2 about the visitors here.
Paul Cook is being lined up for the Chesterfield job, prompting much head-scratching in light of Accrington's dire form of late, and it could prompt a mixed reaction in the home dressing room given that the popular Tommy Wright made no secret of his desire to land the job. Either way, Barnet are good value.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon have made quick progress under new boss Neal Ardley and they could be worth chancing at nearly 4/1 for the visit of leaders Gillingham. It's a bet that requires a leap of faith but the Dons deserve a clean slate after the disastrous end to the Terry Brown era and Ardley has impressed so far.
The former Cardiff youth academy coach has brought a renewed sense of urgency to their play since his half-time team-talk at Fleetwood last Saturday. Wimbledon were 1-0 down at Highbury Stadium but followed Ardley's instructions to be brave and, in the end, they were unlucky to return with only a point from the Fylde coast.
Nonetheless, it was a result Ardley framed perfectly, insisting it could only be viewed as a good point if they followed up with a maximum haul against Bristol Rovers. The Dons duly obliged and now Ardley is saying all the right things by playing down their chances against Martin Allen's men.
Gillingham's impressive win over Burton last weekend has forced us to readjust our long-term projections and while we're quite prepared to accept them as worthy title favourites, we're not convinced they will run away with the division.
Traditionally, the Kent club don't travel well and the bare statistics this term (five wins in seven away matches) mask some pretty convenient fixtures. Wycombe, Dagenham and Barnet were all in a mess when the Gills turned up, while Torquay have been labouring a little, yet they turned the leaders over in midweek.
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