Barnet maintained their position at the top of the Vanarama Conference on Saturday, defeating Dartford 1-0 at Princes Park in the day’s early kick-off to temporarily stretch their lead and leave the Darts on the brink of relegation.
Curtis Weston’s first-half strike – the vice-captain’s fourth goal in his last six games – was enough to prove the difference between the two sides, as Barnet secured their twelfth away win of the season in front of the BT Sport cameras.
With two games in three days, Martin Allen named four changes to the side that beat Nuneaton Town at The Hive just two days earlier.
With Andy Yiadom missing through a foot injury, Mauro Vilhete reverted to full-back with Lee Cook replacing him on the right side of midfield. Sam Muggleton started on the opposite wing in place of Luisma Villa, with Conor Clifford coming into the centre of midfield for Sam Togwell as both men making way were named on the bench.
Michael Gash was also handed a start in attack in place of Charlie MacDonald, as the skipper continued his recovery from a calf injury.
Barnet started brightly on a beautiful afternoon at Princes Park, and nearly took the lead within a minute of kick-off only to be denied by an acrobatic tip over the bar from Darts keeper Deren Ibrahim from John Akinde’s point-blank header following a Clifford cross into the box.
However, the visitors would go even closer to opening the scoring with their first attempt on goal from Ryan Hayes after 11 minutes. After hitting the inside of Graham Stack’s far post the ball looked destined for the net, only to bounce across the goal line and off the opposite upright as Barnet enjoyed a narrow escape.
The visitors were still well on top however, and were able to apply the pressure with a series of long throws from Sam Muggleton into the penalty area.
First Bondz N’Gala sent a diving header narrowly wide of the post after a quarter of an hour before Conor Clifford hit a half-cleared ball on the half-volley from the edge of the area only to see the ball rattle the crossbar on its way over.
Their perseverance eventually paid off on the half-hour mark however when Curtis Weston put the Bees ahead with his fourth goal in six games, drilling into the top corner from inside the area after an Akinde knock-down had fallen at his feet following another Muggleton throw.
Having gotten their noses in front, Barnet looked to consolidate their lead during the second half with their pressure leading to a series of corners and set pieces, but some resolute Dartford defending ensured that they were unable to take advantage.
Martin Allen had a reshuffle of his midfield shortly before the hour mark, replacing Muggleton with Sam Togwell as Lee Cook switched to the left and Conor Clifford moved out to the right.
The Irishman’s tireless energy and industry was typified on 64 minutes, when in appearing to chase a lost cause he managed to win possession from centre-half Tom Dallison in the final third before drawing a foul as he looked for support. With the Darts’ defence caught short Barnet looked to take the free-kick quickly but it came to nothing as a ball to the byline rolled out for a goal kick.
Barnet made their second change with twenty minutes remaining as Luke Gambin replaced Lee Cook on the left wing, picking up where he left off on Saturday to provide an constant threat with his pace and trickery.
On 77 minutes the winger collected Johnson’s pass before turning his marker inside then out and unleashing a fierce shot towards the near post which Ibrahim was forced to palm away for another corner.
Gambin then nearly wrapped the game up in the final minute of normal time with a delicious ball across the face of goal that just eluded the lurking Akinde but it would not matter, as having successfully dealt with a couple of Dartford set pieces during four minutes of added time the referee blew his whistle to confirm another vital three points for the Bees that was greeted with an eruption on the terraces from the travelling Barnet fans who had backed their team throughout.
Following the victory, Barnet remain one point clear of Bristol Rovers in second and three clear of Grimsby Town in third – who both won later in the day – as they approach the final three games of the season.
Next up for the Bees is a home game against Halifax Town at The Hive on Saturday, who also have their sights set on promotion as they chase a place in the play-offs.
Dartford FC: Deren Ibrahim; Callum Driver (Ebrima Adams 78), Rory McAuley (c), Tom Dallison, Jamie Richards; Ryan Hayes, Lee Noble, Nathan Collier, Danny Harris (Tom Bradbrook 78); Harry Crawford, Jordan Chiedozie (Andy Pugh 50).
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Mauro Vilhete; David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Sam Muggleton (Sam Togwell 58); Lee Cook (Luke Gambin 71), Curtis Weston (c), Conor Clifford, Elliott Johnson; John Akinde, Michael Gash.