Barnet claimed a narrow 1-0 win over Aldershot Town at The Hive on New Year’s Day to start 2015 in style.
Captain Charlie MacDonald’s poacher’s finish in the first half proved to be the difference between the two sides, as Barnet kept a stubborn Aldershot side at bay to claim a victory that stretched their lead at the top of the table to nine points.
Ahead of the game, Martin Allen made three changes to the side that came back to claim a point against Dover on Sunday. The big news was a first league start for Keanu Marsh-Brown since August, with Mauro Vilhete lining up on the other wing as both Lee Cook and Luisma Villa dropped to the bench.
There was also a recall for David Stephens to the heart of the Bees’ defence, with Jack Saville the man to make way.
The two wingers nearly combined to give Barnet the lead on ten minutes, when Vilhete rose highest to meet an outswinging corner by Marsh-Brown at the near post but his glancing header flew just over the bar.
Barnet were enjoying the vast majority of possession throughout the early stages, but they were nearly caught out after a quarter of an hour when Andre McCollin sprinted onto a ball in behind the Bees’ defence before slicing his shot from the edge of the box wide of the target.
The chance did little to put Barnet off their stride, as the home side took the lead just four minutes later from a concerted period of pressure. Phil Smith produced an excellent reflex save to keep out John Akinde’s initial effort, but was then unable to hold Vilhete’s curling shot after collecting the rebound, as the ball fell for Charlie MacDonald to poke in from close range.
Barnet grew in confidence after the goal and had a glorious chance to double their lead on the half-hour mark after Elliott Johnson slipped Curtis Weston in behind the visitors’ defence. The midfielder then cut the ball back for Marsh-Brown, but his sidefooted effort was well blocked on the line by an Aldershot defender with the keeper beaten.
The Bees went close again during stoppage time at the end of the first half, when a clipped free kick by Andy Yiadom was only cleared to the feet of Weston, who off-balance was just unable to get his shot away.
It was the visitors who had the first opportunity of the second half when a clearance by Graham Stack was charged down, but Dan Holman could only steer the rebound wide under close attentions from Stephens.
The game quickly settled back into the rhythm of the first half however, as Barnet carved out a string of chances. Vilhete went the closest after ghosting into the area and receiving a pass from Akinde before shooting on the turn and forcing a spectacular save from Smith who tipped over the top.
Captain MacDonald then nearly grabbed his and Barnet’s second on 77 minutes when he raced onto a chipped pass over the Aldershot defence by Curtis Weston. After controlling on his chest the striker then showed excellent strength to outmuscle his marker before spinning and shooting in the area, but Smith was once again on hand to save.
Aldershot applied some pressure of their own during the closing stages as Martin Allen replaced Marsh-Brown and Akinde with David Hunt and Lee Cook.
They went close to stealing a point in the final minute of normal time when substitute Dan Fitchett sent a shot across goal that trickled just wide of the far post.
However, Barnet held on for a deserved three points that extends their lead at the top to nine points heading into the New Year.
Their final assignment of a hectic festive schedule comes with a trip to Lincoln City on Sunday.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Elliott Johnson; Mauro Vilhete, Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston, Keanu Marsh-Brown (David Hunt 64); John Akinde (Lee Cook 74), Charlie MacDonald (c) (Jack Saville 90).
Aldershot Town: Phil Smith, Jayden Gibbs, Joe Oastler (c), Chris Barker, Jordan Roberts; Sam Hatton, Kieron Forbes, Manny Oyeleke (Dan Fitchett 83); Brett Williams (Tristan Plummer 46), Dan Holman, Andre McCollin.