Barnet began the 2014/15 season with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Chester at the Swansway Chester Stadium on Saturday as the Bees produced a superb performance to kick the new campaign off in spectacular style.
In truth, Barnet dominated the game from the outset, with Andy Yiadom giving the visitors an early lead before a red card for Chester’s Danny Harrison on 14 minutes helped give the Bees complete control. Goals in each half from Lee Cook, a penalty from Charlie MacDonald and a fifth from susbstitute Keanu Marsh-Brown then helped to wrap up a memorable afternoon for the Bees.
There were few surprises in the side named by Martin Allen ahead of the game, with Bondz N’Gala, Sam Togwell, Lee Cook, John Akinde and Charlie MacDonald all starting their first competitive games for the Bees as Mauro Vilhete started on the right wing after impressing against Wycombe last weekend.
Barnet took the lead with their first real attack of the game after just four minutes when Curtis Weston picked the ball up in midfield and fed Mauro Vilhete just inside the penalty area, who laid the ball off first time to Andy Yiadom. The full-back, running from deep, then took a touch to cut inside the defender before placing an excellent finish with the outside of his right foot into the far corner.
There was a scare for Barnet on 10 minutes after a cross from the left flashed across the face of their goal where it found Craig Hobson at the back post, but Elliott Johnson managed to block the striker’s goal-bound effort as the ball bounced across the goal line into the arms of Graham Stack.
Things got worse for the home side on 14 minutes after they were reduced to ten men. Danny Harrison, playing his first game in over a year following a long-term injury, was the man dismissed, lunging in on Sam Togwell after he received a short pass from Danny Taylor.
Chester were rocked as Barnet began to take a stranglehold on the game, controlling the tempo with periods of composed possession in midfield and lightning-quick counter attacks.
The Bees doubled their lead on 19 minutes through debutant Lee Cook. An excellent move began with Graham Stack as the ball was worked up the left wing before being clipped in to Cook, who let the ball bounce before unleashing a fierce left foot volley beyond the diving goalkeeper into the far corner.
The home side went close again after half an hour, with Hobson attempting a lob over Graham Stack that bounced narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
However, Barnet would go on to score their third just one minute later after a lofted pass from Curtis Weston released John Akinde on goal. Despite a heavy touch, the big striker collected the ball before being felled by the onrushing goalkeeper Jon Worsnop. Charlie MacDonald, captaining the Bees for the first time, stepped up to take the spot kick, lashing the ball into the left-hand side of the net to give Barnet a 3-0 lead.
The goal capped a dominant first-half display from Martin Allen’s men, yet they nearly saw their three-goal cushion reduced on the stroke of half-time, with Chester winning a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area as Bondz N’Gala saw yellow for a tangle of arms.
Rooney’s effort was blocked, yet the referee Steven Rushton adjudged Vilhete to have deliberately used his arm as part of the wall, a decision that appeared more than a little harsh. Rooney stepped up once more to take the penalty, but Graham Stack dived low to his right to keep it out and maintain a perfect first half for the Bees.
Barnet did not let up in the second half, and scored their fourth just four minutes after the interval. John Akinde powered down the left wing before slipping a cute pass back inside for Lee Cook, who swept home first time for his second goal of the afternoon.
Martin Allen made two changes on 54 minutes, bringing off N’Gala and Vilhete and replacing them with Jack Saville and Keanu Marsh Brown.
The latter had an immediate impact, netting Barnet’s fifth goal of the afternoon three minutes after coming on. A ball out to the right found Marsh-Brown in acres of space who stood up Gary Roberts with a neat dummy that fashioned a yard of space, as the winger used it to fire across the goalkeeper just inside the far post.
Barnet made their final change just before the hour mark, with Luisma coming on for two-goal hero Lee Cook who received a rapturous ovation from the 153 travelling Bees fans.
With the game in the bag, Barnet looked to close out the game during the final half an hour, focusing on maintaining possession of the ball and counter-attacking at pace when the opportunity presented itself.
Chester did force Graham Stack into action on a couple of occasions, but the goalkeeper was more than equal to the task, producing a couple of spectacular saves to first deny Rooney on 66 minutes before bettering it two minutes later to claw a Craig Mahon effort out from under the crossbar.
John Akinde went close for Barnet during the closing stages, bringing down an Elliott Johnson cross before seeing a half-volley deflected over the bar and having a close-range effort on 86 minutes blocked by Worsnop rushing off his line.
It proved to be the last moment of note in a near-perfect opening game of the season for Barnet which saw them claim three points away from home, score five goals and keep a clean sheet to ensure that they sit top of the Vanarama Conference tonight.
Chester: Worsnop; Taylor (Menagh 58), Brown, Charnock, Roberts; Harrison, Rooney, James; Mahon, Hobson (McConville 78), Winn (Iwelumo 58).
Barnet: Stack; Yiadom, Stephens, N’Gala (Saville 54), Johnson; Vilhete (Marsh-Brown 54), Weston, Togwell, Cook (Luisma 58); MacDonald, Akinde.
Attendance: 2,514 (153 Barnet).