Barnet look to keep pace with Chesterfield with a return to the winning circle in mind when they welcome Oldham Athletic to the Hive Stadium on Wednesday.
The Bees have finally hit a stumbling block in the National League with successive defeats for the first time since February, whilst they had previously lost just twice in their initial first 18 league games.
Gateshead handed Barnet their first home defeat of the season and their first since April in what was a fine display from the visitors. The hosts had somehow managed to keep the ball out of their net in the first half but a second half brace from Stephen Wearne saw Gateshead move within ten points of Barnet.
Latics meanwhile secured their first league win in four following a 1-0 win at Woking. James Norwood prodded home his eighth National League goal of the season after the hosts had kept Oldham at bay for much of the fixture.
It was just Norwood and Mike Fondop’s first start of the season together up top, but they looked like they had been long-time partners causing major concerns for Woking’s backline through their intelligent link up.
Both forwards had opportunities to open the scoring early in the game. Alexis Andre was kept busy throughout in the Woking net, first producing a fine low stop to deny Norwood before Fondop scuffed a great opportunity wide after latching onto his strike partners cross.
Charlie Raglan’s speculative volley from 25 yards was pushed well wide by Andre in what was a slick performance from the visitors, but to no avail in front of goal. Devarn Green meanwhile made an instant impact off the bench.
The wide man’s deft clip into the box was controlled expertly by Norwood before he reacted quickest by poking into the top corner. In addition, Dan Gardner almost grabbed a deserved goal after a strong performance in midfield.
Green again involved slid a smart first-time pass into the path of Gardner who had made a late run, but his powerful effort was superbly tipped onto the bar by Andre. Green’s explosive turn of pace continued to threaten, his mazy run was followed by a set to Norwood who again was denied by an excellent stop.
The win also saw Oldham secure a first clean sheet in ten league fixtures, and a first away from home in fifteen. It was also a result that saw Latics stretch their unbeaten run to three in the National League, and one that has seen the gap to the playoff spots close to just four points.
Barnet meanwhile failed to score in a National League game for the first time in nine fixtures in their defeat to Gateshead last weekend. An excellent performance from the away side saw the Bees struggle to create anything of substance, particularly in the first half.
Luke Hannant had a cross turned shot tipped over the bar by Barnet number one Laurie Walker inside the opening ten minutes of action, whilst it was just the first of several saves that Walker had to make in the first half.
Billy Chadwick had various opportunities to open the scoring for the visitors, though the home keeper seemed to be at the top of his game by making two fine stops to deny the forward.
Kyran Lofthouse and Greg Olley were both denied by the frame of the goal with excellent efforts respectively. The fullback went on a mazy run from his own half that saw him arrive in Barnet’s box, though his thunderous drive crashed back off the upright.
Olley meanwhile swivelled brilliantly inside the box before arrowing a low strike towards the bottom corner that bounced back off the base of the post, the midfielder meanwhile forced an excellent save from Walker late in the half who had to tip his deft free kick wide after evading a sea of bodies.
Gateshead were halted in the first period of action by a fine display from Walker in the Barnet goal, but it took the away side just two minutes to open the scoring in the second.
Regan Booty’s free kick that was aimed towards the back post was scrambled across the box before Wearne arrived on cue to force the ball over the line with a headed effort, though it seemed the goal finally had sparked a reaction from the home team.
Dale Gorman was fed down the left side of the box by Idris Kanu though his powerful strike aimed towards the near post was met by a strong hand from Archie Mair who was called into action for the first time.
Barnet meanwhile began to sustain some pressure on the visitors, a header from Daniele Collinge was headed over after finding himself free in the box from a corner. Their brief ascendancy was short-lived meanwhile.
Lofthouse continued his good performance, beating Ben Doker down the right before picking out Wearne arriving to the centre of the box who smartly converted the cross with a first-time effort that found the bottom corner.
A largely comfortable afternoon for Gateshead was almost dented in injury time when Callum Stead attempted to poke a goal back for the Bees, but Mamadou Jobe was positioned well to clear off the line to maintain a seventh clean sheet of the season.
Barnet now find themselves in an unprecedented position this season having conceded successive defeats for the first time and face an Oldham side who will be growing in confidence after a good performance against Woking.
The meeting on Wednesday sees consecutive National League fixtures at the Hive Stadium, whilst the last time Barnet lost at home successively runs back to April 2022 when they suffered defeats to Solihull Moors and Southend United.
The Bees meanwhile will feel fortunate to remain in touching distance of league leaders Chesterfield, who missed out on the chance to build an eight-point lead at the top of the standings after a 2-1 defeat at Southend.
It will feel like a wakeup call for Barnet, who were one of five in the top seven to lose at the weekend, though a return to the winning column will feel imperative for a side who cannot afford to lose more ground in the race for the title.
It may come as a surprise the goalkeeper Walker shot to the top of the list when looking at Barnet’s key men, particularly following superb individual displays in the last two outings for his club despite defeats.
Walker has helped the Barnet backline concede 28 times in 20 National League fixtures (1.4), and though the club have only secured six clean sheets so far this season, the man between the sticks has been a massive presence for his side this season.
The 34-year-old brings experience and composure to a Barnet side who have had a strong campaign thus far, whilst his ability to command his area has provided assurance and confidence amongst his teammates when under pressure.
He has also shown a tendency to make timely saves in key moments for the Bees, whilst his performance in the 2-0 win at Oxford City showed his focus during a fixture where he was less active.
Walker’s terrific one-handed stop to deny Oliver Sanderson late on was a key example of his brilliance, where he kept laser like concentration to retain a clean sheet. Moments like these could prove critical, not only for the title, but especially in the playoff chase.
In the dugout
Now having been at the club for a little over two years, Dean Brennan has been given the opportunity by Barnet to completely immerse himself in the culture at the Hive Stadium.
Initially as Director of Football, the 43-year-old then became Caretaker boss from September 2021 to February 2022, where he took charge of 20 games before being permanently appointed by the club which has seen Brennan in the role ever since.
Currently in his longest spell in a managerial position, the Englishman has overseen 88 games as boss and has seen decent success. Last season Brennan led the Bees to a strong fifth place finish in the National League, though their playoff run was cut short after a quarter-final defeat to Boreham.
Brennan will look for the next step at the club and is on course to improve their league position though it won’t guarantee playoff success.
His previous experience comes from his short stay at Wealdstone in the National League South. He led that side to the top of the division in what was a shortened season, and notably Wealdstone won 12 consecutive fixtures in route to the title.
The promotion to the fifth tier of English football initially began strongly for Brennan at Wealdstone after winning five of the first eight, though his run at the club came to end after he lost four on the bounce.
Brennan will certainly be eyeing up League Two, and it has been a good start from his Barnet side who will be desperate for a return to winning ways on Saturday when they host a team who will have their tails up.
Match coverage and information
The match will be broadcast live on TNT Sports, with the programme starting at 7:30pm ahead of a 8:00pm kick-off.
Supporters outside of the UK and Ireland will still be able to stream the game through National League TV.
Please note that, as the game has been selected by TNT Sports, it will not be available on National League's streaming service in this country.
Live audio commentary is available on Latics Player, guiding you through the match.
Alternatively, supporters can also follow the game with live updates on the club's official Twitter account: @OfficialOAFC
As always, we will endeavour to ensure confirmation of the line-up is published as soon as possible on social media.
However, supporters should note that team sheets in the National League are exchanged 15 minutes later than in the EFL and as a result, the line-up is likely to be published slightly later than in previous seasons.