Having led the Conference since a 2-0 win at Southport on August 30, Barnet have been there to be shot at, yet they have always dodged the bullet until now.

However, their recent run of form – four defeats from seven league fixtures in 2015 – has seen their once intimidating nine-point barrier cut to a mere point. On Tuesday evening second-placed Bristol Rovers host Braintree Town in 16th.

Will the bullet finally arrive?

Victory will send the Gas top – having played a game more – and you would expect them to do exactly that.

For me, Barnet have been fortunate since the win at Aldershot on Boxing Day. The same swagger has not been there and in their three wins since you can pinpoint a moment or incident on which the game could very easily have swung the other way.

Twitter is usually home to over-reaction but after defeats at Lincoln City and Grimsby earlier in the year the year it was business as usual post match. The Mariners’ win on Saturday could have proved something of a watershed moment.

And for the first time this season, there is real concern Barnet might not win the Conference.

I put out four questions on Twitter on Saturday evening for Bees supporters to answer. They were – 1. What went wrong against Grimsby?

2. What has been going wrong recently?

3. How do Barnet correct those issues?

4. Will Barnet win the Conference title?

There was a wide-ranging response but there were several re-occurring themes, most of which I agreed with. Here are five reasons I believe Martin Allen’s men have faltered since the turn of the year.

1. Over-reliance on John Akinde: This is a two-fold problem. The big forward has undoubtedly been crucial for the Bees this season – scoring 26 times – but he is one of only two players in double figures for the season, the other being Luisma Villa (10 goals).

Six goals in four matches in December won Akinde the Conference player of the month gong and deservedly so. He was literally the difference in the win at Aldershot, the game I feel bookends the current slump.

Since the turn of the year he has scored three in six; no problem, merely a return to the one-in-two ratio you would expect from any good striker. However, the issue lies in the fact Barnet have only seven more goals in 2015 which weren’t scored by Akinde.

And three goals in the final ten minutes against a tired Southport side boost the statistic somewhat. Another goal was Joey Jones’ own-goal winner against Woking, whilst Luke Gambin’s deflected consolation at Lincoln arrived at 4-0 down.

So of those seven non-Akinde goals in 2015, how many have actually been meaningful goals scored by a Barnet player? Arguably only two Charlie MacDonald strikes, the first against Aldershot Town (1-0) and the second to put the Bees 1-0 up in a 4-0 win over Southport.

Times Series: Picture: Dave PetersPicture: Dave Peters

2. An over-reliance on Akinde part II: Being dependent on your top-scorer is one thing but a separate issue is the change in the style of play in recent months.

Earlier in the season the Bees were a nice team to watch and at times they still are. But there has been an undeniable shift in the modus operandi of Allen’s side from keeping possession and working opportunities to looking for the quick, direct route into either the area Akinde is operating within or the channels.

There can be no denying Akinde’s effectiveness running at the last defender or charging towards the goalkeeper. History suggests he scores or wins a penalty more often than not.

But when he has been marshalled out of the game (see below), long balls do not pose the same threat.

Although Michael Gash provides a similar physical presence to Akinde, he is not going to brush aside a couple of defenders and power towards goal. Yet I lost count of the amount of times on Saturday I witnessed hopeful cushioned knocks up the line or balls aimed towards Gash.

The best teams are adaptable. I have my doubts Barnet are.

3. Teams have figured Barnet out: Put together the lack of adaptability and the reliance on Akinde’s goals and style of play and the Bees are pretty easy to negate.

Put two defenders on Akinde, sit deep to deny the space in behind your backline and ask Barnet instead to pick the lock and you’ve got the beating of them.

The frustrating thing is there are players who can unpick locks (see below) but without sounding like a broken record, the over-reliance on Akinde has arguably rendered said players less effective.

4. Lee Cook is out of form: The former Fulham and Queens Park Rangers man oozes class, there is no denying that. Unfortunately the reserves appear to have run dry in recent months.

It would be unrealistic to expect a 32-year-old with a history of serious injuries to maintain the form he showed in the early months of the season right through until April without a dip but it’s growing increasingly hard to recall the last time he truly affected a game.

The class is still there. Even against Grimsby he worked himself out of a hole in the first half with impeccable close control and his style of play shows you don’t have to have pace to be a threat (see below).

How you unlock the kind of displays he was putting on earlier in the season once more is a question for Allen, though.

Times Series: Picture: Dave PetersPicture: Dave Peters

5. Cook might not have pace but Barnet need some: When your wide players are Cook and Luisma, pace is not on the menu. And whilst they are the most technically gifted players in the squad they are not going to beat their full-backs for speed.

Everything in football is about balance and when you have got Gambin sitting on the bench and Keanu Marsh-Brown kicking his heels in frustration somewhere it is baffling to persist with two slow wide men, especially when the style of play has become direct.

Gambin and Marsh-Brown might not appreciate balls knocked over their heads into the channel but you’d back them to reach more than Cook or Luisma. You’d also back them to evade their marker when they get there.

The issue lies in the consistency of delivery with Gambin and that is probably why he has started so few league games this season (4). But if Cook is not even going to reach the ball then it matters not a jot whether he can deliver a telling cross.

Marsh-Brown got an assist against Dover Athletic and was a menace against Aldershot on New Year’s Day. Saturday’s bench had one attacking threat in Gambin. Surely he is worth a place in the squad?

It is one of Andy Townsend’s go-to clichés but defenders are scared of pace. Barnet have two quick, dangerous, unpredictable and exciting wide players. Let’s see them more often.

All that said, top of the league with 11 games to play - it is all to play for.