Akinde hat-trick sends Barnet eight points clear.Barnet returned to winning ways on Saturday with a hard-fought 3-1 win over bottom side AFC Telford United at The Hive.
John Akinde was star of the show, as the big striker netted a hat-trick including a penalty in either half to take his tally for the season up to sixteen.
Ahead of the game, Martin Allen had been keen to take responsibility for Tuesday’s defeat to Torquay, and the manager once again rung the changes for the visit of the Bucks.
The big team news was a first start for Bernard Mensah as Charlie MacDonald dropped to the bench following two successive starts after a long injury lay-off.
Meanwhile, Jack Saville enjoyed a first start since the trip to Macclesfield in early October, coming into the heart of the Bees’ defence in place of Bondz N’Gala who dropped out of the starting line-up for the first time this season.
There were also three changes in midfield as Lee Cook and Luisma Villa returned on either wing with David Hunt pushing into the middle, as Elliott Johnson reverted to his usual position of left-back and Mauro Vilhete switched to right-back.
The re-jig certainly had the desired effect, as Barnet took the lead with less than a minute on the clock. David Hunt did well to win the ball in midfield before playing it out to Lee Cook who whipped in a cross that was turned in by John Akinde to put the Bees 1-0 up.
The early goal clearly shook the visitors, with Barnet setting the tempo throughout the opening stages. The home side doubled their lead shortly after a quarter of an hour, and once again it was the Bees’ number nine who was heavily involved.
The initial chance had seemed to disappear following a heavy touch from the striker, but as the goalkeeper raced out to claim the ball it was Akinde who got there first, outmuscling the defender before having his ankles clipped to win the penalty which he duly converted for his fifteenth of the season to make it 2-0.
After a shaky opening the visitors did begin to grow into the game, with Ryan Higgins forcing Graham Stack into a superb low save to keep out his diving header shortly before the half-hour mark.
It served as a warning shot as they did pull one back in spectacular fashion on 35 minutes with a spectacular volley from the edge of the area by Sean Cooke flying high into the net meaning that despite Barnet’s superiority there was very little to choose between the two sides at the break.
The Bees continued to set the pace at the start of the second half, and came within inches of stretching their lead three minutes after the break after Lee Cook twisted and turned his way into space on the edge of the box before seeing a shot crash down off the underside of the crossbar, onto the goal line and away.
They had another good chance after an hour, when a free kick by Lee Cook picked out David Stephens unmarked four yards out, but the defender could not keep his header down as the ball sailed over the bar.
Martin Allen brought Charlie MacDonald on after an hour in place of Bernard Mensah, who moments earlier had seen a half-volley from 25 yards fly narrowly over the bar.
The visitors were forced into a change of their own six minutes later, after an innocuous looking tumble by both John Akinde and Neill Byrne led to the centre-half being stretchered off with his leg in a brace.
Barnet continued to threaten without killing the game off, but finally found the goal they had been craving with seven minutes remaining. It came from the penalty spot once again, with Charlie MacDonald the man to win it following a clumsy challenge from behind in the area.
With his hat-trick at stake, John Akinde stepped up to put the ball in the opposite corner and make the score 3-1 in the dying stages.
With other results going their way, Barnet are now eight points clear at the top ahead of next weekend’s trip to seventh-placed Woking.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Mauro Vilhete, David Stephens, Jack Saville, Elliott Johnson; Luisma Villa (Adam Mekki 85), David Hunt, Curtis Weston (c), Lee Cook (Luke Gambin 80);
John Akinde, Bernard Mensah (Charlie MacDonald 60).
AFC Telford United: Freddy Hall; Ryan Higgins, Neill Byrne (Kyle Brownhill 69), Andrew Parry, Rod McDonald; Sean Cooke, Godfrey Poku (c), Karl Ledsham, Andy Todd (Charlie Barnett 83); Adam Farrell (Tony Gray 83), Sam Smith.