Barnet return to the top of the league with their third away win of the season against Southport.Barnet returned to the top of the Vanarama Conference table on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Southport at the Merseyrail Community Stadium.
Two superb first-half goals from Lee Cook and John Akinde were enough to see off the Sandgrounders, as Barnet put in another professional performances away from home to bring all three points back to The Hive.
Martin Allen named two changes to the side that defeated Dartford 4-0 at The Hive on Bank Holiday Monday, recalling hat-trick hero Lee Cook and Elliott Johnson on the left-hand side in place of Jack Saville and Luisma Villa.
Barnet started brightly and controlled the opening stages of the game, creating numerous chances in the first few minutes. First John Akinde scuffed his shot inside the penalty area after fashioning himself some room on four minutes before a Lee Cook free kick from the right was flicked back across goal by Charlie MacDonald at the back post one minute later, but nobody was on hand to turn the ball in as it bounced across the face of goal.
The hosts barely caused Barnet any problems during a first half in which they failed to register a shot on target. However, there was still a moment of panic on 19 minutes when a cross skidded off the back of Andy Yiadom’s head and onto the roof of the net with Graham Stack backtracking. From the resulting corner, Luke George flung himself headlong at a dangerous cross from the left but was unable to make any contact.
However, Barnet’s good play would eventually pay off on 24 minutes when Lee Cook scored his sixth of the season with a sublime finish. After receiving the ball in the penalty area under close attention from the defence, he fashioned a yard of space before clipping a chipped finish up and over the goalkeeper and inside the far post to give the Bees a 1-0 lead.
Following the goal the visitors continued to attack, and got their second on 38 minutes through John Akinde. After receiving the ball inside the box from a neat pass inside by Elliott Johnson on the left, the striker bent a beautiful finish around his marker and beyond the outstretched goalkeeper just inside the far post to give the Bees a two goal cushion seven minutes before half time.
Southport came out of the traps quickly for the second half and put Barnet under some early pressure as they searched for a way back into the game.
There was another nervous moment on 54 minutes when Graham Stack came racing out of his area in an attempt to make a clearance but caught Mark Hattersley in the process. The home fans bayed for a red card, but with the striker running away from goal the referee deemed that a yellow would suffice. One minute later, the hosts hit the woodwork after Barnet failed to clear a corner at the near post.
Martin Allen rung the changes throughout the second half, with Sam Muggleton coming on for the injured Mauro Vilhete on 64 minutes and Jack Saville replacing Charlie MacDonald four minutes later as Barnet switched to a 5-4-1 formation in order to see the game out.
The tactical switch helped to soak up the pressure from the home side, and it was Barnet who went closest to scoring in the second half through Lee Cook once again on 73 minutes, but the winger’s shot on the turn flew wide of the far post.
It was two Southport substitutes who combined to create the home side’s best chance on 79 minutes, as a jinking run and cross by Paul Rutherford was met by John Marsden, but his glancing header flew just wide of the near post.
Luke Gambin was also introduced on 83 minutes, and the winger made an immediate impact with a couple of mazy runs into the box but the danger was cleared on both occasions as what was in truth a tame second half drew to a close.
There was still time for Southport to register their first shot on target through a 25-yard effort from Luke George, but Stack was able to save comfortably to preserve his fifth clean sheet of the season.
The result means that Barnet are now top of the table on goal difference following Halifax’s defeat away to Bristol Rovers, and are still yet to concede a goal away from home having claimed three victories from three.
Next up for the Bees is bottom side Alfreton Town at The Hive on Saturday.
Southport: Danny Lloyd-Weston; David Fitzpatrick, Dominic Collins, Luke Foster (Andy Mitchell 71), Joe Connor; John Gorman, Luke George, Scott Kay, Micah Evans (Paul Rutherford 62); Danny Hattersley (John Marsden 62), Richard Brodie.
Barnet: Graham Stack; Elliott Johnson, Bondz N’Gala, David Stephens, Andy Yiadom; Lee Cook (Luke Gambin 83), Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston, Mauro Vilhete (Sam Muggleton 63); John Akinde, Charlie MacDonald (c) (Jack Saville 68).