By Dominic Scurr
GATESHEAD ended a four-match winless run with a fine away display at Barnet as they ran out 2-1 winners at The Hive to move back into the National League play-off places.
Scott Boden gave Gateshead a lead inside the opening 20-minutes with Jack Taylor levelling things up for Barnet 12-minutes into the second half before Luke Armstrong fired in the winner late on to send the Heed Army home happy.
Steve Watson made two changes from last weekend’s draw against Sutton as the Tynesiders prepared to face an in form Barnet side who had recently beaten Hartlepool and League One side Bristol Rovers away from home. Luke Molyneux came in for midfielder Jack Hunter and up front Scott Boden replaced Steve Rigg in the starting line-up.
Boden was looking to make an immediate impact on his reintroduction to the side as the first chance of the game fell his way after 15-minutes. Tom White did well down the left wing to get to the by-line finding Boden’s head with a clipped ball to the back post but the effort was well saved by Mark Cousins in the Barnet goal.
Not to be deterred, the Heed number 19 struck to give Gateshead the lead just four minutes later as he arrived in the six-yard box to calmly turn in Greg Olley’s curling cross from the right flank.
The subdued atmosphere at The Hive certainly took a hit after the opening Gateshead goal as Barnet were struggling to create chances in the opening stages despite seeing plenty of the ball.
It took until the 25-minute for the Bees to register their first meaningful shot of the game as Josh Walker pulled the ball back to Charlee Adams whose first-time strike from the edge of the box whistled just past the bottom left corner of the Gateshead goal.
Soon after, Aynsley Pears did well to claw away an overhit cross by Callum Reynolds from the left as a half of few meaningful chances drew to a close with Gateshead leading 1-0.
After hardly threatening the Tynesiders’ goal in the opening 45, Barnet were immediately on the front foot in the second half, forcing a succession of corners.
There weren’t even 50-minutes on the clock when Barnet won their fourth corner of the second half as the threatening Walker fizzed a shot across the Gateshead goal from the right which deflected out.
Gateshead got out of their own half for the first time since the restart and could have doubled their lead as Molyneux’s 18-yard effort cannoned back off the Barnet crossbar with Cousins well beaten.
After that let off, the home side were certainly pushing for an equaliser and it came in the 57th-minute as a determined run into the Gateshead box from Byron Harrison caused trouble as the ball deflected into the path of Taylor who rifled the ball into the top left corner of the goal from 15-yards.
It was a deserved equaliser for the hosts in what was a very tight affair in North London.
But Barnet now had the momentum and continued to push for a second goal. Jack Taylor played a neat one-two with Wes Fonguck on the edge of the Gateshead box but the latter was denied by a clever save from Pears to his left to keep the score level.
The Heed hadn’t created too many shooting chances in the second period as they absorbed Barnet’s pressure. But as the game approached the closing stages, they finally got their chance.
A surging, almost box-to-box run by Molyneux brought the ball into a dangerous position as he spread it out wide to Scott Barrow whose low cross to the edge of the box brilliantly found Armstrong who took the opportunity with both hands to fire the ball into the bottom right corner to make it 2-1 to the Tynesiders.
It was a goal that caught the home side slightly off guard as they urgently tried to find an equaliser for the second time.
Late substitute Manny Duku was almost the hero for the hosts as his header looped over Pears only to be denied by the crossbar with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Barnet continued to push until the final whistle as they fired two efforts across the face of goal in quick succession with Dan Sparkes’ stretched strike going agonisingly wide as Gateshead held on for three points.
It was the Heed’s first victory since they beat Aldershot Town almost a month and one which sees them reach 36 points, equalling their best National League points total after 21 matches.
Barnet (5-3-2): Cousins; Alexander, Johnson, Reynolds (c), Robson, Adams (Bettamer 76), Harrison, Taylor, Fonguck (Sparkes 73), Walker (Duku 83), Sweeney
Subs not used: Matrevics (GK), Elito
Goals: Taylor (57)
Gateshead (3-5-2): Pears; Kerr, Williamson, Mellish; Tinkler (Thomson 67), White, Olley, Molyneux, Barrow; Armstrong, Boden (Rigg 82)
Subs not used: Foden, Hunter, O’Donnell
Goals: Boden (19), Armstrong (76)
Bookings: White (61), Foden (85), Pears (90+1)
Referee: Will Finnie
Attendance: 940 (38 Gateshead)
MOTM: Luke Armstrong