Barnet were crowned champions of the Vanarama Conference on Saturday, defeating Gateshead 2-0 at a packed out Hive to finish one point clear at the top of a league that they have led virtually from start to finish.
Mauro Vilhete was the star of the show for the Bees, scoring in each half to give Barnet a comfortable win that ensured that they could not be caught at the top of a table despite Bristol Rovers’ 7-0 win over Alfreton Town.
As announced on Thursday, Martin Allen named an unchanged side to the team that both drew away to Kidderminster last weekend and defeated Halifax 3-0 in their last outing at The Hive.
Barnet started the game brightly and came close to taking the lead with just six minutes on the clock when John Akinde robbed goalkeeper Adam Bartlett of possession inside his own area before squaring for Conor Clifford, but the Irishman’s mishit effort was cleared off the line.
Barnet did have the ball in the net with 11 minutes gone as Andy Yiadom burst through the Heed defence, but referee Darren England had already blown for a foul on James Curtis before the full-back stroked into the bottom corner.
Their early pressure was eventually rewarded midway through the first half, as Sam Togwell curled in a free-kick for Mauro Vilhete to leap above the crowd of bodies and power a header past Bartlett and put the Bees ahead and lift the roof off The Hive.
The hosts came within inches of doubling their lead on 37 minutes, as captain Curtis Weston saw a dipping volley from the edge of the area clip the top of the crossbar on its way over, as the Bees were forced to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break.
They did not have to wait much longer for a second however, as a whirlwind start to the second half saw the Bees double their advantage on 49 minutes. Michael Gash forced a superb save from Bartlett with a glancing header at the near post after John Akinde had forced a corner, as Mauro Vilhete was on hand to smash home his second from close range with the keeper helpless on the floor.
Barnet had goalkeeper Graham Stack to thank for preserving their two-goal cushion just a minute later however, as the player-coach produced a superb save by diving low to his right and clawing away a goal-bound header from Carl Finnigan.
Vilhete was a fraction away from completing his hat-trick on 66 minutes, seeing another header fly marginally wide after peeling away to connect with a flat floated cross by Michael Gash towards the back post.
Gateshead did cause another moment of panic with ten minutes to go as Kevin Saint-Luce cut in from the right and unleashed a shot towards goal that took a deflection before flying just wide.
Martin Allen responded by throwing Jack Saville on for Conor Clifford as the Bees looked to soak up the late pressure. Charlie MacDonald and Luisma Villa were also introduced during the final few minutes, with match winner Vilhete and top scorer John Akinde being withdrawn to hero’s ovations.
Four minutes of added time came and went, until all that was left to do was for the referee to blow the full time whistle that confirmed Barnet FC as Conference champions and sparked scenes of celebration that will live long in the memory.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Elliott Johnson; Mauro Vilhete (Luisma Villa 86), Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston (c), Conor Clifford (Jack Saville 82); John Akinde(Charlie MacDonald 86), Michael Gash.
Gateshead FC: Adam Bartlett; Craig Baxter, James Curtis, Ben Clark (c), Matty Pattison; Jamie Chandler, Josh Gillies (Jon Shaw 57), Carl Finnigan; Kevin Sainte-Luce, Michael Rankine, Alex Rodman (Rob Ramshaw 46).