By Tony Leighton
Rookie boss Mark Robson was given a baptism of fire as his Barnet team suffered a 5-1 Capital One Cup defeat at Birmingham City in what was the former West Ham United and Charlton Athletic winger's first match as a manager.
Despite the margin of defeat, however, Robson was able to take solace in a fine first half display - the npower League 2 side were the better side until half-time and deservedly went in front against their Championship opponents - and he is justifiably looking forward with confidence to Saturday's start of the League campaign.
"I was proud of that first-half performance," said Robson, who has taken over at Underhill after coaching roles at Charlton, Gillingham and Peterborough United.
"We were outstanding in those opening 45 minutes," added the 43-year-old new boy on the management block. "We came in at 1-1 but could have been two or three goals up by half-time, and then after conceding early goals in the second half the only disappointment was the last 10 minutes when we caused our own problems.
"The 5-1 scoreline wasn't a true reflection of the game though, and there are lots of positives to take out of it for the young team that we've put together."
Robson was not the only Barnet debutant on view at Birmingham, where the Bees had seven players in the starting line-up making their first appearance for the club.
So it was encouraging for all concerned to see the team gel so quickly in their first competitive match of the season. Now they head into their League 2 campaign with a trip to Port Vale for what could be a very difficult opening match.
Robson said: "Port Vale are a good side who pass the ball well. They've got an experienced manager in Micky Adams and I'd expect his team to be up for the fight.
"It's a nice place to go, though. As a winger I used to love going to play on that big pitch because you got lots of chances to get on the ball. I'm looking forward to the game, especially if we can repeat the level of our first-half display at Birmingham."
Robson has taken on the task of reviving Barnet's fortunes after some difficult years for the club. The last three seasons in particular have been traumatic, the Bees avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth in each of the campaigns.
"The last few years have been disappointing for the club," said the manager, "and we don't want that again. The players have got the aspiration to move back up the ladder and this is an opportunity to show what they're about - and on their showing in that first half at Birmingham, they should be confident for the League season."
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