Barnet were forced to play 87 minutes of their match with Braintree Town with 10 men after goalkeeper Mark Cousins’ early red card, which helped the hosts on their way to a 4-0 win.

The defeat leaves the Bees 16th in the National League but with four games in hand on the majority of their opponents, while Braintree remain nine points from safety at the foot of the table.

Barnet created an uphill task for themselves right from the start when, after just three minutes, Cousins was dismissed for hauling down Callum Morton.

Substitute keeper Rihards Matrevics, 19, entered the pitch in place of Ephron Mason-Clarke, but could not keep out Morton’s penalty.

The Bees’ first chance came not long after going behind when Shaq Coulthirst was played in by Medy Elito, but his rushed effort was deflected wide.

The visitors then had a lucky escape when Ricky Gabriel struck the crossbar from two yards out after meeting a corner, and Braintree then hit the post from similar distance before Barnet managed to clear.

Their last did not last though, as Craig Robson had his header cleared off the line at one end before the hosts broke away with Morton and he finished well after dispossessing Dan Sweeney.

Braintree were then lucky not to be down to 10 themselves after Gabriel’s reckless tackle on Jack Taylor, but the referee deemed it worthy of only a booking.

Braintree almost put the game beyond doubt when Danny Rowe missed a glorious opportunity from 10 yards out, but within minutes they did make it three when Morton converted from the penalty spot once again to complete his first senior hat-trick after Robson fouled his marker in the box.

Justin Amaluzor, playing against his former side, almost extended the Iron’s lead further but was denied by a terrific Matrevics save, flying across his goal to palm away a first-time volley.

They did round off the scoring late on though, as Barnet were caught on the counter after committing too many men forward and Iffy Allen, another former Bee, slotted past Matrevics with ease with plenty of time and space.

The Bees’ next game will be the televised FA Cup fourth round fixture at home to Brentford on Monday, January 28, with their next league fixture not scheduled until Saturday, February 9 when they welcome Sutton United to the Hive.