Akinde penalty and Michael Gash's first goals for Barnet give Bees vital away win.Barnet returned to winning ways on Saturday, defeating Altrincham 3-1 at Moss Lane to keep their destiny in their own hands.
An early John Akinde penalty for which the hosts saw Tom Marshall sent off set up the win, with Michael Gash grabbing a goal in each half to seal the win after Damian Reeves had made it 2-1 shortly after the break.
As hinted earlier in the week, Martin Allen shuffled his pack following last weekend’s defeat against Grimsby by making four changes to the starting line-up.
Injuries to Andy Yiadom and Sam Togwell saw Mauro Vilhete and Conor Clifford come into the side, with Sam Muggleton lining up at left-back as Elliott Johnson pushed forward into midfield in place of Lee Cook.
Meanwhile, John Akinde returned up front alongside Michael Gash having served his one-match suspension, as Charlie MacDonald dropped to the bench with Curtis Weston taking over the armband.
Barnet made a bright start to the game, and their early endeavours were soon rewarded when they won a penalty with just five minutes gone.
John Akinde did not take long to make an impression on his return, bustling onto the ball in the penalty area before being shoved over by Tom Marshall as he steadied himself to shoot, a foul for which the centre-half saw red as the last man. Akinde then picked himself up to calmly roll the ball to the left of Stuart Coburn and into the net to give the Bees a deserved early lead.
With a man advantage Barnet were able to command proceedings, moving the ball well around in midfield through Weston and Clifford with both full-backs in Muggleton and Vilhete pushing forward at every opportunity.
Their dominance was rewarded with a second goal on the half-hour mark when Luisma Villa swung in a free-kick from the left of the penalty area, as the ball crept through a crowd of bodies for Michael Gash to touch into the far corner.
Barnet should have stretched their lead further in the final minute of the half, as Akinde beat his man to race to the byline but his cut-back was pulled just behind the onrushing Gash and Luisma with the goal at their mercy.
Altrincham then had an even better chance to cut the deficit during two minutes of added time, as the referee awarded the hosts a penalty after adjudging Bondz N’Gala to have bundled over Damian Reeves in the box. However, Nicky Clee was unable to take advantage as he sent the ball high over the crossbar from the spot just as the half-time whistle sounded.
With N’Gala already on a yellow card before conceding the penalty, Martin Allen decided to make a change at the break by bringing Jack Saville on in his place.
The hosts did not have to wait much longer for their goal however, pulling one back just three minutes after the break when Reeves snuck in behind the Barnet defence to claim a high bouncing ball before firing low across goal into the corner of the net.
Barnet responded by introducing club captain Charlie MacDonald in place of Luisma Villa as they looked to steady the ship by maintaining possession of the ball at every opportunity.
The tactic helped them to restore their two-goal cushion shortly after the hour mark, when Conor Clifford played a free kick short to the unmarked Elliott Johnson to clip a diagonal pass into the box onto the head of Michael Gash who claimed his second of the afternoon.
The goal helped to steady any nerves, and after introducing more fresh legs by bringing Lee Cook on for Sam Muggleton the Bees looked even more in control as they took the sting out of the game.
However, having made all of their changes they were forced to play the final ten minutes with ten men themselves after Charlie MacDonald was forced off with a knee injury sustained in a mid-air collision.
They did have the ball in the net again with seven minutes remaining when Curtis Weston controlled on his chest and clipped a sumptuous half volley into the top corner, yet the referee had already awarded a foul against John Akinde in knocking the ball down to him.
David Stephens was forced to intervene with a goal line clearance to deny Reeves after he had been forced wide by Graham Stack as Altrincham mounted a late push during four minutes of stoppage time, but it was as close as the hosts came as Barnet ran out comfortable victors.
Following the victory, Barnet remain two points off the top with a game in hand ahead of next weekend’s visit of fellow promotion chasers Forest Green Rovers to The Hive.
Altrincham FC: Stuart Coburn; Shaun Densmore (c), Gianluca Havern, Tom Marshall, Adam Griffin; James Lawrie (James Lawrie 16), Jake Moult, Simon Richman, Nicky Clee (Jordan Sinnott 78); Kyle Perry (Peter Cavanagh 78), Damian Reeves.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Mauro Vilhete, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala (Jack Saville 46), Sam Muggleton (Lee Cook 62); Luisma Villa (Charlie MacDonald 57), Curtis Weston (c), Conor Clifford, Elliott Johnson; John Akinde, Michael Gash.