Barnet returned to winning ways on Saturday with a convincing 2-0 win away to Gateshead to move five points clear at the top of the Vanarama Conference.
Early goals from Curtis Weston and Luisma Villa within the first ten minutes were enough to wrap up the points as the Bees secured their first win in three from their longest trip of the season.
With Sam Hoskins picking up a minor knock against Kidderminster last weekend, Martin Allen was forced to shuffle his side as the Bees lined up in a 4-5-1 formation. Mauro Vilhete returned to the starting line-up at left back with Elliott Johnson pushing forward into the centre of midfield.
In what is becoming a recurring theme this season, Barnet came quickly out of the traps and took the lead with just four minutes on the clock. A through-ball from John Akinde was not dealt with by centre-half Callum Howe – making his home debut after joining on loan from Scunthorpe United – as captain Curtis Weston nipped in to dink over the goalkeeper and register his first goal of the season.
The Bees soon capitalised on their fast start and they quickly doubled their advantage seven minutes later. Weston was again involved, beating the defender to the ball to send in a high cross with the outside of his boot which Luisma Villa showed tremendous bravery to convert with a leaping header.
Barnet were on a role, and nearly made it three before the quarter-hour mark after John Akinde peeled off to meet a low Andy Yiadom cross but his effort was well-blocked from close range.
Barnet were well in control, and nearly scored a spectacular third when Luisma saw Adam Bartlett off his line and tried an audacious shot from well inside his own half that had the keeper backpedalling before drifting over the crossbar.
Gateshead made their first change on 35 minutes, introducing Michael Rankine for Matty Pattison. The substitute quickly made an impression as he registered the hosts’ first effort of the afternoon with a close-range shot that Graham Stack did well to gather.
It did little to stem the flow of the game however, as Barnet twice went close to stretching their lead even further during the closing stages of the first half as first Bondz N’Gala sawa glancing header flash wide of the far post before Luisma fired a powerful half-volley inches over the top.
Gateshead made their final two changes at the break, bringing Ryan Wilson and Rob Ramshaw on in place of Tom Allan and former Bee John Oster as they sought a way back into the game.
However, Barnet were standing firm and continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides. They somehow failed to make it three on 64 minutes when a clever pass by Cook sent Vilhete racing into the area. His cut-back was miscued by Weston into the path of Luisma, but after taking a touch his shot was well saved by Bartlett.
Barnet then replaced one goal scorer in Luisma with Adam Mekki on 65 minutes before replacing the other in Curtis Weston seven minutes later with Luke Gambin as Graham Stack took over the armband.
Gateshead threw everything at the visitors during the closing stages, and went close twice in quick succession with quarter of an hour remaining. A through-ball by Danny Wright set up Jon Shaw but a combination of a sliding block by N’Gala and diving save from Stack meant his shot was kept out, before Stack tipped the header from the resulting corner wide of the post.
Gambin was withdrawn just eight minutes after being introduced – during which time he was booked – for Jack Saville as Barnet switched to five at the back to see the game out. The substitute did not disappoint, flinging himself in front of a shot from Danny Wright on 82 minutes to preserve the Bees’ clean sheet.
It was as close as the Heed would come, as they were consigned to their first defeat in ten matches by a rampant Barnet side who looked worthy winners from the very first whistle.
Next up for Martin Allen’s men is the visit of Braintree Town to The Hive on Tuesday night – the only Conference fixture of the evening – as the Bees look to stretch their lead at the top even further.
Gateshead FC: Adam Bartlett; Andrai Jones, Callum Howe, Ben Clark, Tom Allan (Ryan Wilson 46); Phil Turnbull, John Oster (Rob Ramshaw 46), Alex Rodman, Matty Pattison (Michael Rankine 35) ; Danny Wright, Jon Shaw.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Mauro Vilhete; Luisma Villa (Adam Mekki 63), Elliott Johnson, Curtis Weston (c) (Luke Gambin 72, Jack Saville 80), Sam Togwell, Lee Cook; John Akinde.
Attendance: 1,747 (142 Barnet).