It was the perfect return to Barnet for Martin Allen. His fourth Bees reign started with a 2-0 win against Hereford United at The Hive – a result that ended a losing run which stood at four matches.
A first half brace from Keanu Marsh-Brown put the hosts in command. The winger scored directly from a corner and then curled home a sumptuous second.
The Bees coasted through the second period as the Bulls offered little in attack. Luke Gambin clipped the crossbar in the closing minutes but it was a comfortable victory for Allen’s men.
Barnet knew a victory was vital if they were to keep their fading hopes of reaching the Skrill Premier play-offs alive.
Allen made three changes to the side that had started the 2-0 defeat to Macclesfield Town on Tuesday. New signing James Harper came into midfield while Elliot Johnson and Jon Nurse returned to the starting XI. Connor Dymond and Alex Peterson dropped to the bench, Kieran Cadogan wasn’t included in the squad.
There was also a formation switch and the Bees began with a 4-4-2 shape with Nurse and Harry Crawford leading the attack. The duo linked well throughout the first half.
Barnet’s approach play was more direct and it resulted in chances. Curtis Weston had an early shot saved before Crawford fired over.
Marsh-Brown looked reinvigorated and his powerful strike was deflected wide. From the corner, the Bees went ahead.
Marsh-Brown’s cross to the back-post cleared everybody and, despite the best efforts of Jarrod Bowen on the line, the ball ended up in the top corner. Barnet were in control of the contest and Nurse and Crawford caused the Bulls defence several problems.
In the 23rd minute, the Bees doubled their advantage. The ball was passed to Marsh-Brown on the edge of the area, he took a touch and delicately placed his shot in the corner.
Crawford was then denied by a good save by Daniel Lloyd-Weston while Bees stopper Nick Jupp did well to hold a powerful drive from Hereford’s Sam Smith.
The Bees went off at the interval to a standing ovation. There was a change at the break, Luke Gambin replaced Crawford.
It was a quiet start to the second period from both sides. The substitutions continued for Barnet as Marsh-Brown was replaced by Dymond while Jack Saville came on for Elliot Johnson.
The Bees’ tempo dropped in the second period but they came close to a third goal through Gambin. The winger escaped the marking of Luke Graham and sent a low shot past Lloyd-Weston. Fortunately for the visitors, Chris Bush hacked the ball off the line.
Mauro Vilhete then rasped a strike from distance narrowly wide of the post. Barnet were in full control.
Hereford offered little threat to the hosts’ goal and rare attacks were easily snuffed out by the Bees defence. When a shot was attempted, it was off target.
Barnet coasted through the second half but Allen remained animated on the touchline. He barked out instructions until the final whistle.
The last chance of the game came in stoppage time. Dymond broke forward and played in Gambin.
The winger clipped his effort past Lloyd-Weston but the ball struck the bar and went over. Seconds later, the full time whistle was blown.
The result leaves the Bees outside of the play-offs but only on goal difference. Several teams have games in hand on Barnet and securing a place in the top five will be difficult.
But, with Allen back in charge, there is increased optimism - especially amongst the supporters.
Barnet: Jupp; Yiadom, Stephens, Gjokaj, Johnson (Saville 60); Marsh-Brown (Dymond 59), Weston, Harper, Vilhete; Nurse Crawford (Gambin 45).
Barnet substitutes: Barnes, Peterson.
Hereford: Lloyd-Weston, Collins, McDonald (Purdie 35), Graham, Bush, Bowen (Pilkington 69), James, Artus, Brown, Smith (Walker 69), Sharp.
Hereford United substitutes: Edge, Moore.
Attendance: 1,497 (197)