Mansfield Town emerged comfortable 2-0 winners of the clash between two play-off contenders at The Hive and with a goal in each half they always had the edge over a Barnet team that rarely hit their stride.

The Bees made just two changes to the side that had earned a creditable 1-1 draw at high-flying Carlisle United the week before; Curtis Weston returned from injury and after impressing as a substitute at Brunton Park Nana Kyei kept his place.

The duo replaced the suspended Simeon Akinola and Luke Coulson was dropped to the bench.

The game began in a very scrappy fashion, with both sides having difficulty producing coherent football.

The versatile Mauro Vilhete was Barnet’s best hope of making a breakthrough in the first half. Playing further forward than usual, operating just behind John Akinde, he showed invention and a willingness to surge forward.

Midway through the first period Ben Whiteman’s shot hit the post with Barnet keeper Josh Vickers requiring treatment after the resulting goalmouth melee.

Shortly afterwards Akinde broke clear of the defence but his advance was soon thwarted. Barnet’s top scorer was well shackled by the Mansfield defence who used all manner of means to keep the home side’s main goal threat quiet.

Barnet should have taken the lead in the 32nd minute when Jamal Campbell-Ryce was set-up by Vilhete, who had made a positive run down the left. Campbell-Ryce’s effort was blocked and within five minutes the visitors themselves went ahead.

Former Tottenham Hotspur forward Shaq Coulthirst made inroads before providing an opportunity from close range that Whiteman eagerly accepted.

Barnet made brave changes to their formation during the interval. They opted for a three-man defence and introduced Ephron Mason-Clark and new-signing Ruben Bover at the expense of Campbell-Ryce and Tom Champion.

Mason-Clark played in a central attacking role and he impressed with his work rate and skill on the ball. Bover, a talented midfielder, showed a desire to get on the ball and dictate the play.

Mansfield’s Coulthirst was increasingly causing the Barnet rearguard problems with his direct style and Ricardo Santos was guilty of a rash challenge on the striker in the penalty area on the hour mark.

Coulthirst regained his composure and duly despatched the resulting spot kick without further ado to put his side 2-0 up.

Mansfield, now in pole position, retreated, content to defend their lead with the home side now looking increasingly unlikely to find a way back into the match.

A glimmer of hope did come when Bover hit the woodwork with an audacious free-kick in the 74th minute and Kyei should have done better after Akinde had burst into life down the left flank with ten minutes of normal time remaining.

Had either of these chances been converted into goals there may well have been a grandstand finish, but Barnet’s lack of a cutting edge is currently costing them dear.

Barnet: Vickers, Clough, Santos (Coulson 73), Nelson, Johnson, Vilhete, Champion (Bover 45), Weston, Kyei, Campbell-Ryce (Mason-Clark 45), Akinde. Unused substitutes: Dembele, H. Taylor, McKenzie-Lyle, Sweeney.