Barnet returned to the top of the Vanarama Conference table on Saturday with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Nuneaton Town at The Hive.
An emphatic John Akinde strike twenty minutes from time was enough to prove the difference as the Bees’ number nine registered his 30th league goal of the season – the first time a Barnet player has done so since Gary Bull in 1991/92.
Ahead of the game, the big news was a return to the starting line-up for captain Charlie MacDonald having fully recovered from a calf injury as Martin Allen named two changes to the side that drew away to Fleetwood last time out.
Luisma Villa was the other man to be recalled, lining up on the left-hand side of midfield as both Conor Clifford and Sam Muggleton dropped to the bench.
With Nuneaton fighting for their lives in the relegation zone they were always likely to prove to a stern test, and there was no doubt how much they were up for the fight as Elliot Wheeler went into the book inside a minute for a rash foul on Elliott Johnson.
Despite seeing plenty of the ball Barnet struggled to find their usual fluency during the first half, with a Luisma free-kick that dipped narrowly over proving to be the closest they came during the opening half an hour.
They came within inches of opening the scoring on 36 minutes however, as an excellent move tore the visitors apart.
David Stephens started the attack from the back with a pass into Luisma who flicked it around the corner for the onrushing Mauro Vilhete to play in Charlie MacDonald. The captain then took a touch before shooting towards the near post, but with the keeper beaten the ball bounced back off the inside of the upright and away to safety as Barnet were forced to go in level at the break.
Martin Allen made a double change early in the second half, introducing Michael Gash in place of MacDonald – making his first start in seven – and Luke Gambin in place of Vilhete who had recently been booked.
The pair certainly helped to provide some added impetus, with Gash sending an acrobatic bicycle kick narrowly wide within moments of coming on before a deep cross from Gambin caused havoc in the Nuneaton box, as Theo Street was forced to head over a corner following Akinde’s nod back across goal.
Barnet’s pressure eventually told however, as they found the all-important breakthrough with twenty minutes left on the clock. Andy Yiadom was the architect as centre-half Gareth Dean got caught beneath his raking crossfield pass, with Akinde on hand to chest down and hammer the ball past Max Crocombe and into the net to give the Bees a 1-0 lead.
The visitors threw everything at Barnet in search of an equaliser during the closing stages, but with both David Stephens and Bondz N’Gala dominant in the air in truth Graham Stack was never troubled.
The victory takes Barnet back to the top of the table following Bristol Rovers win on Friday, one point clear of the Gas and three clear of Grimsby Town.
Next up for the Bees is a local derby away to Dartford – currently nine points from safety – as Barnet head into the final four games of the season.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Elliott Johnson; Mauro Vilhete (Luke Gambin 63), Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston, Luisma Villa; John Akinde (Jack Saville 90), Charlie MacDonald (c) (Michael Gash 59).
Nuneaton Town: Max Crocombe; Elliot Wheeler (Rob Ogleby 88), Theo Street (c), Gareth Dean, Connor Franklin; Lucas Dawson, James Armison (Adam Walker 67), Josh Rees, Anton Brown; Jaanai Gordon (Onome Sodje 58), Andrew Brown.