James Meir takes an in-depth look at Barnet's 2014/15 Conference Premier rivals...
Nicknamed The Iron after being founded as Manor Works in 1898, the new club took over the fixtures of the then defunct Braintree FC in the North Essex League. They adopted their current name in 1983 and gained promotion to the Conference in 2010/11 as Conference South champions.
Last season, Braintree narrowly missed out on the play-offs, exceeding all expectations by finishing 6th on 74 points. This summer they have signed former Luton Town striker Dan Walker, who scored three times in 44 games last season for Hereford. In addition, winger Dan Sparkes and defender Sam Habergham have extended their current deals with the club.
Last season, the Bees won 3-0 at Cressing Park with goals from Keanu Marsh-Brown, Mark Byrne and Jake Hyde after Braintree were reduced to nine men after half an hour. At The Hive, the sides played out a 1-1 draw in the Bees’ final home match of the 2013/14 season. Marsh Brown opened the scoring with a superb strike just before half-time, but Braintree levelled just before the hour with a Kenny Davis penalty.
Bristol Rovers were originally founded as the Black Arabs in 1883 and obtained their current name in 1899. They obtained their Football League status in 1920 and maintained this for 94 years before relegation from League Two last season. Their highest ever finish was 6th in Division Two on two occasions, in 1956 and 1959, then the second tier of English football.
Summer signings include experienced midfielder Lee Mansell, who had previously made 389 appearances for Torquay United before joining the Gas. 20-year-old winger Jake Gosling has also been signed, giving the team an injection of pace on the flanks. He has also made two appearances for the Gibraltar national team, scoring in a 1-1 draw against Estonia in a friendly in May.
minute.thThe last 4 meetings with Bristol Rovers came in League Two with Barnet winning two, drawing one and losing one. The last time the sides met was at The Memorial Stadium back in February 2013, when Barnet suffered a 2-1 defeat despite Harry Crawford equalising in the 89
Chester won the Conference in 2004 before spending six years in the Football League. However, financial problems meant that they were expelled from the Conference in 2010. However, since being taken over by their supporters, the club has achieved three successive promotions, winning the Conference North in 2012/2013.
Last season, they finished in the relegation zone but were awarded a reprieve after Hereford United’s expulsion from the division. Their most notable summer signing is veteran striker Chris Iwelumo after he was released by St Johnstone. The 35-year-old has previously played for Stoke City, Wolves, Burnley and Watford. Peter Winn, a 25-year-old winger, and John Disney, a 22-year-old defender, have also been signed from Macclesfield and Hednesford Town respectively.
The Blues recently shared in a part of Bees history, playing in the first competitive match at the Hive where Barnet ran away 3-0 winners last August. At the Deva Stadium Chester won 2-1, with Jake Hyde grabbing an 84th minute equaliser only for Chester to regain the lead a minute later through Jamie Reed.