A second-half strike by the in-form Alex Nicholls saw Barnet deservedly claim all three points at Colchester United’s Community Stadium with a 1-0 win, keeping alive their hopes of avoiding relegation to the National League.

The Bees had suffered a demoralising second-half collapse at home against Carlisle United, losing 3-1 in midweek, and with the U’s having a play-off spot firmly in their sights the Bees travelled to Essex more in hope than expectation.

Boss Graham Westley made a positional change with Mauro Vilhete vacating his midfield role to replace Charlie Clough at right-back.

Ruben Bover and Shaq Coulthirst won recalls with debutant George Legg, on loan from Reading, replacing Craig Ross in the Barnet goal. Jordan Henderson, Ross and Clough all dropped to the bench.

Barnet were scarcely recognisable from the team that had so meekly succumbed to Carlisle just a few days previously.

With an ice-cold wind swirling around the stadium both sets of players had difficulty in mastering the conditions in the opening exchanges.

It was the visitors who were the first to settle, created a number of half-chances and looked the most likely to break the deadlock.

Midfielder Ryan Watson was repeatedly getting shots away, but not every effort was on target.

Legg needed to be at his best to keep Colchester at bay during time added-on at the end of the first half, the Barnet stopper was quickly off his line and managed to foil Courtney Senior’s effort.

During the interval Colchester made changes to their formation and personnel, but their impact was minimal with the Bees continuing to look the more impressive outfit.

The winning goal came in the 67th minute. From Legg’s long punt forward John Akinde took control of the ball before passing to Nicholls inside the Colchester penalty box.

Nicholls deftly took the ball away from a defender and then used his left foot to find the target, leaving U’s keeper Sam Walker wrong-footed.

The expected response from Colchester did not materialise with Legg and the Barnet defence, with Dan Sweeney once more outstanding, only rarely troubled.

The closest the U’s came to a leveller was Frankie Kent’s long-range effort that flew over the crossbar with Legg totally unconcerned.

Barnet saw the game out comfortably to record their first away clean sheet of the season and their first away victory under coach Westley since he took charge in mid-January.

Barnet: Legg, Vilhete, Sweeney, Santos, Tutonda, Watson, Weston, Bover (J.Taylor 78), Coulthirst (Nicholson 86), Akinde, Nicholls. Subs not used: Clough, Shomotun, Ross, Payne, Plavotic.