Barnet 0 Torquay United 2
- Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK
Two top-drawer goals by Ben Whitfield and substitute Jake Andrews, left-foot drives early in the first half and late in the second, carried Torquay United to a clear and deserved victory at struggling Barnet and extended the Gulls’ lead at the top of the National League to ten points.
The Bees seldom looked like scoring against Gary Johnson’s side, let alone beating them, and the only worries for United fans came during a slightly flat spell in the second half which gave Barnet some hope of saving themselves from a seventh successive defeat.
But Torquay, who had scored a brilliantly conceived and finished opener by Whitfield, moved their game up a gear in the last half-hour and Andrews’ rasping shot from 22 yards put his team’s 13th win in 20 matches to bed.
Goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald did not have a serious save to make, new signing Joe Lewis was impressive in a defence which has not conceded a goal in four matches and it was impossible not to note the influence of fit-again captain Asa Hall in midfield.
Johnson gave young Crystal Palace loanee Rob Street his first start up front, and he also switched to a 3-5-2 formation, after suspended left-back Dean Moxey joined several other defenders on the sidelines.
Lewis might have been playing at right centre-back, at least in the first half, but that didn’t stop him putting in a powerful overlap run and cross which saw United nearly take the lead with a flurry of early shots.
They had to wait less than eight minutes to score anyway. A slick interchange of passes between Aaron Nemane and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans just inside their own half set up Hall to hit a 40-yard ball inside Barnet right-back Miles Judd to Whitfield.
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United’s left-winger held his man off at pace before driving a perfectly placed left-foot shot low across Scott Loach from 20 yards…1-0.
Lemonheigh-Evans and Armani Little both went close as United looked a cut above their opponents, but they failed to make the most of good possession and Barnet roused themselves just before half-time.
JJ Hooper headed over from a Judd cross moments before the interval – it was the nearest they came to scoring.
Johnson changed formation early in the second half to counter Barnet’s beefed-up attack, reverting to 4-4-1-1 with Lewis to left-back and midfielder Adam Randell to right-back.
United conceded possession too easily for a while, which kept Barnet in with a chance, but they snapped out of it with 20 minutes to go and stamped their quality on the match.
When Whitfield and Street, whose hard work lacked only a goal to top it off, missed good chances, you wondered whether it might come back to haunt them.
But in the 83rd minute Randell moved up, cut in from the right, fed Andrews, on for Little only seven minutes earlier, and he took a touch before giving Loach no chance with a peach of a low drive from well outside the area…2-0.
Hartlepool leapfrogged over Sutton, whom they beat 1-0 at home, into second place, while Stockport also moved above the Ambers after winning at Woking.
But Torquay are now ten points clear going into Tuesday’s home game against Altrincham, and their goal-difference (+23) is worth another point.
Barnet (4-3-3): Loach: Judd, Daly, Richards-Everton, Binnom-Williams; Dunne, Wordsworth (McBurnie 78), Mason-Clark (Petrasso 46); Taylor, JJ Hooper, Baker-Richardson (Pavey 60); subs not used – Kefalas, Azaze.
Booked: Taylor 29, Wordsworth 61.
Torquay United (3-5-2) : MacDonald; Lewis, Sherring, Cameron; Nemane, Little (Andrews 76), Hall (Sheaf 84), Randell, Whitfield; Lemonheigh-Evans, Street (Waters 73); subs not used – Hamon, Umerah.
Referee: Gareth Rhodes (W Riding).