Barnet continued their preparations for the new season on Tuesday night with a well-deserved 1-0 victory against Stevenage at the Hive thanks to a first-half goal from Charlie MacDonald.
The result rounded off another promising pre-season performance from the Bees, with Martin Allen’s men comfortably outplaying a side who were plying their trade in League One last season.
Barnet: Stack; Muggleton, Saville, Stephens, Yiadom; Marsh-Brown, Mahon, Weston, Johnson; Akinde, MacDonald.
Barnet’s starting side featured nine of the player who began the game against Peterborough at the weekend and they continued in the much the same vein as they started the game brightly, controlling possession and creating plenty of chances.
The first came just five minutes in when Keanu Marsh-Brown showed a good piece of trickery to beat his marker on the right and create the room for a cross which John Akinde was first to reach, but his header looped over the bar.
The big striker was playing a much more prominent part in proceedings and was a constant thorn in the side of Stevenage, winning plenty of headers and using the chance to show off his pace and power with the ball on the floor.
Stevenage were creating some opportunities of their own, and caused a scare after 11 minutes when Graham Stack was dispossessed on the edge of his box by trialist Connor Calcutt but the Barnet defence got back well to recover.
The visitors’ best chance of the first half came just a minute later when Tom Pett planted a perfect cross onto the head of Chris Whelpdale, but Stevenage’s new signing was unable to keep his header down from just a few yards out.
Barnet soon recovered their momentum however, and were enjoying good spells of possession with Gavin Mahon orchestrating things well from the centre of midfield.
The Bees took a deserved lead just before the half-hour mark. The ball was played up to Elliott Johnson who did well to hold off his marker before slipping a well-disguised through ball for Charlie MacDonald. The 33-year-old striker made no mistake, curling a first-time finish just inside the far post.
The goal was just rewards for a first-half display that had been full of endeavour and commitment, typified by Curtis Weston winning a crunching challenge on 40 minutes despite a dangerous slide by Stevenage left-back Bira Dembélé.
Barnet picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, and were unfortunate not to double their lead after 56 minutes. Johnson was involved once more, powering towards the byline before cutting the ball back for Weston whose close-range finish was just about kept out by the sprawling legs of goalkeeper Chris Day.
The save brought a succession of corners for the home side, one of which was nearly converted by Jack Saville who saw a looping header fall just the wrong side of the left-hand post.
As promised, Martin Allen made mass substitions on the hour mark, with only David Stephens staying on the pitch as the Bees experimented with a new line-up.
Barnet team from 63 minutes: Sam Cowler; Nurse, Bondz N’Gala, Stephens, Abdulla; Vilhete, Luisma, Sheriff, Gambin; Sykes, Lowe.
Predictably, the flow of the game was interrupted by such wholesale changes, with Stevenage making numerous substitutions of their own as the second half wore on.
The visitors began to see more of the ball, but with Barnet continuing to press them in possession they struggled to fashion many clear-cut chances. As a result, they were reduced to efforts from distance which didn’t trouble goalkeeper Sam Cowler, training with the club once again.
Barnet nearly scored a second on 73 minutes, when Luisma Villa produced a moment of magic with a dipping volley from 30 yards out that dropped narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
The Bees came even closer with five minutes left on the clock. Jamal Lowe showed good persistence on the left before putting in a deep cross towards the back post, as a sliding Ahmed Abdulla sent a bobbling effort past the keeper but George Sykes was unable to mop up the rebound.
Stevenage nearly stole a draw in the final minute when Roarie Deacon controlled in the box and sent a low half-volley towards the bottom corner, but David Stephens produced a brilliant sliding block to send the ball over the bar and preserve Barnet’s clean sheet.
The narrow win was the least that the Bees deserved on a night that offered much to be optimistic about as the new season draws ever closer.
Barnet continue their preparations with another friendly at The Hive on Sunday afternoon against last season’s Conference champions Luton Town.