Barnet kicked off the Christmas period in style on Saturday, defeating a stubborn Chester side 3-0 at The Hive to maintain their lead at the top of the Vanarama Conference.
A first-half goal from John Akinde followed by further strikes by Charlie MacDonald and Curtis Weston in the second half were enough to wrap up a vital win that will provide the perfect Christmas present for all Barnet fans by ensuring that the Bees will be seven points clear of the chasing pack at Christmas.
Following a fortnight long break from league duties, Martin Allen made one change to the side that won 2-0 away at Torquay last time out with Luisma Villa returning on the right side of midfield in place of Mauro Vilhete.
Jack Saville therefore continued in the heart of the Barnet defence alongside Bondz N’Gala, with Lee Cook lining up on the left and Charlie MacDonald partnering John Akinde in attack.
The visitors came out of the traps quickly and spurned a good opportunity to take the lead after just three minutes when Sean McConville nodded a deflected cross wide from six yards out.
Chester did have the ball in the net after a quarter of an hour when debutant Kane Richards lobbed the ball over Graham Stack, but not before the linesman had flagged him offside in getting to the ball.
Barnet had Graham Stack to thank for keeping them on level terms midway through the first half, when the goalkeeper produced a superb reaction save to keep out a header from Chester captain Matty Brown before recovering quickly to block Richards’ effort from the rebound.
Quite how important those saves would prove to be became clear just five minutes later, as Barnet took the lead with their first attempt of the game.
The chance came out of the blue, as midfielder Kingsley James misplaced a pass from the halfway line which John Akinde gratefully received before wrong-footing the goalkeeper and rolling into the net for his nineteenth goal of the season.
Having profited from an underhit back pass by the opposition to take the lead, Barnet nearly allowed one of their own to let Chester back in shortly before half time as Graham Stack was forced to wait for Bondz N’Gala’s ball to reach him before seeing his clearance charged down by Richards and roll just wide.
Chester started the second half brightly in much the same way that they had started the first, and rattled Graham Stack’s crossbar through a 25-yard strike from Craig Hobson just three minutes after the interval.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors on 52 minutes however, when left-back Gareth Roberts was shown a red card for an elbow on Luisma Villa after a tussle out by the touchline.
Barnet wasted no time in making the most of their numerical advantage, doubling their lead shortly before the hour mark after Charlie MacDonald turned in Lee Cook’s cross from the left with a side-footed volley to register his first goal since returning from a lengthy absence through injury.
With this the first game in a busy festive schedule for the Bees, Martin Allen made substitutions at regular intervals during the second half – bringing off Lee Cook, Charlie MacDonald and John Akinde off for Mauro Vilhete, Bernard Mensah and David Stephens, with the central defender being deployed up front during the last ten minutes.
He did not take very long to make an impact, teeing up Curtis Weston on the edge of the box to drill a low shot into the bottom corner and make it 3-0 to Barnet as the Bees made the perfect start to the Christmas period.
Next up for Barnet is a trip to Aldershot on Boxing Day, followed by a double header at The Hive with the visit of Dover on the following Sunday and the return fixture against the Shots on New Year’s Day as Martin Allen’s men look to carry their lead at the top into 2015.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, Bondz N’Gala, Jack Saville, Elliott Johnson; Luisma Villa, Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston, Lee Cook (Mauro Vilhete 61); John Akinde (David Stephens 77), Charlie MacDonald (c) (Bernard Mensah 69).
Chester FC: Jon Worsnop; Ben Heneghan, Matty Brown (c), Kieran Charnock, Gareth Roberts; Craig Mahon, Kingsley James, John Rooney, Kane Richards; Sean McConville, Craig Hobson (Ibou Touray 55).