Lee Cook kept up his remarkable scoring run by bagging an exquisite opener in Barnet’s 2-0 win at Southport this afternoon to send the Bees back to the summit.
The 32-year-old winger netted his sixth in as many appearances to give Barnet the lead with a stunning chip after 24 minutes, before John Akinde doubled up with a well-taken effort before the break.
Barnet were in total control until half-time, with the hosts unable to test Graham Stack in the Barnet goal. The second-half was an entirely different story, though, with the Sandgrounders seeing much more of the ball, without converting possession into chances.
Keanu Marsh-Brown did not travel up to Merseyside with the rest of the squad, following several offers for his services.
Martin Allen made two changes to the starting XI, with Elliot Johnson and Mauro Vilhete coming back into the side.
Johnson and Vilhete, who were rested against Dartford on Monday, take the places of Jack Saville and Luisma Villa, both of whom return to the bench.
Stack, Andy Yiadom, David Stephens and Bondz N’Gala comprised the rest of the back five.
In midfield, Curtis Weston and Sam Togwell continued in the middle, with Cook on the left-hand side.
Skipper Charlie MacDonald and Akinde were once again selected up top.
Southport boss Martin Foyle named the same starting XI which drew 3-3 with AFC Telford United on Bank Holiday Monday.
Barnet took control of proceedings from the outset and, much like against Dartford five days earlier, struggled to make their superiority count.
Vilhete and Akinde both saw penalty claims turned down by referee Mr Darren England, whilst the latter just failed to connect with MacDonald’s header across goal from a free-kick.
Southport’s best chance came after 20 minutes when a shot from distance hit Yiadom and floated onto the roof of the Barnet goal for a corner.
Stephens then popped up with a chance shortly after, earning a corner with a low effort which was blocked on the line.
In the 24th minute, Barnet took the lead in fine style, thanks to the irrepressible Cook.
Having created a little bit of space on the left-hand side of the area, Cook took aim from a position better suited to a chipped cross, lifting the ball over Daniel Lloyd-Weston and in at the far post in stunning fashion.
The Sandgrounders looked to respond when a searching ball found Richard Brodie, the forward cutting inside but taking too long to shoot, before the ball fell to Scott Kay on edge of the area to slam just wide.
Six minutes before the break, Akinde doubled Barnet’s lead with a perfectly-placed shot inside the far post.
A pass into feet from Johnson found Akinde on the left-hand side of the penalty area, the powerful forward briefly assessing his options before bending a shot past Lloyd-Weston and into the far corner of the net.
Vilhete could and should have added a third just before the break but instead took too long to get a shot off from eight yards, allowing Luke Foster to win the ball back with the Portuguese poised to pull the trigger.
The hosts started the second-half much brighter than they had ended the first and were perhaps unfortunate not to be playing ten men when Stack was only booked for taking out Danny Hattersley as he charged onto a loose ball.
From the resulting free-kick, the Yellows earned a corner, which struck the base of the post before being cleared by Barnet.
Barnet struggled to threaten Southport in the same way they had in the first-half – a fact reflected in the Bees’ first two substitutions, which saw Sam Muggleton and Jack Saville introduced in place of Vilhete and MacDonald.
With 16 minutes remaining, a rare Barnet chance fell the way of Cook, who swept just wide of Lloyd-Weston’s left-hand post with a first-time effort after Akinde had been felled inside the area.
Two Southport substitutes combined to create a good chance for the hosts late on; Paul Rutherford making enough room down the right-hand side to pick out John Marsden, who stooped to head narrowly wide of the near post.
Foyle’s side continued to try and force their way back into the game but to no avail, with Luke George’s 90th minute drive from 20 yards well fielded by Stack.
Akinde responded in kind, firing narrowly wide of Lloyd-Weston’s near-post from a similar distance but neither side could add to two excellent first-half finishes.
Barnet: Stack; Yiadom, Stephens, N'Gala, Johnson; Vilhete (Muggleton 64), Weston, Togwell, Cook (Gambin 84); MacDonald (Saville 69), Akinde.
Subs: Villa, Nurse.
Southport: Lloyd-Weston; Connor, Foster (Mitchell 72), Collins, Fitzpatrick; Evans (Rutherford 63), George, Kay, Gorman; Hattersley (Marsden 63), Brodie.
Subs: Lynch, Smith.
Attendance: 909 (105 Barnet).
Referee: Mr Darren England.