Early kick off on a crisp winter afternoon always promises much and for Mauro Vilhete it certainly did.
On his welcome return to the team after almost a year out, he finished the tie with a beautifully slotted goal as Barnet stormed to a 2-0 victory over Dover.
Barnet welcomed lowly Dover to the Hive at the start of a hectic Christmas period which sees them playing four matches in ten days. However, the finishing wasn’t as warm as the winter sun that shone brightly over the ground. A first half of few clear-cut chances.
Barnet were quicker out of the blocks between the two teams. Medy Elito back in the starting line-up, was the first to have a meaningful effort at goal.
His deflected shot squirmed just wide, and it was the closest the Bees came to testing Mitch Walker in the Dover goal. The battle between Dan Sweeney and Inih Effiong was the highlight of an uneventful first half.
The two giant’s aerial duals certainly offered Bees fans some good defending to cheer on. Dover grew throughout the half. Anthony Jefferey looked very lively down the left wing and it was his shot that was cleared off the line by Elliott Johnson.
Mark Cousins was certainly the busier of the two keepers saving two Dover shots well to his left-hand side. Dover should have taken the lead, a smart turn and snapshot by Effiong from about 6 yards out was the closest anyone came to breaking the deadlock.
It was clear that John Still had had some choice words with the players at the half; the bees stepped up a gear and had Dover all at seas. Barnet had a great number of chances, Ephron Mason-Clark could have had his name on the scoresheet twice, the better of his chances came as he brilliantly rounded the keeper but unfortunately couldn’t apply the finish that was required.
It took only ten minutes for the bees to get their reward for their early second-half pressure. Callum Reynolds playing a 40-yard Pirlo-esq ball over the top of the defence for Jack Taylor to expertly finish. He showed great technique with a cute side-foot volley. How it stayed 1-0 for so long was unbelievable. The bees kept knocking at the door. Wes Fonguck and Mason–Clark having their shots fizz past the post.
With 25 minutes to go Mauro Vilhete returned to the pitch despite not being in the initial matchday squad. An injury to Craig Robson in the warm-up allowed Vilhete to make his fairy-tale return. Dover pushed forward in search of an equaliser but in truth never looked like getting it. Again, had Effiong shown some composure Barnet may have been sweating but it always seemed more likely for the Bees to get their second.
Vilhete’s flick header from a corner tested the Dover keeper and Jack Taylor could have had his second of the day; his long-range effort whizzing narrowly over the bar. As Dover searched for an equaliser they left a lot a room at the back and it would be their downfall. Barnet caught them out on the counter in stoppage time.
Who else but Vilhete he slotted the ball into the bottom corner to a great roar from Bees fans to seal the deal on national television.
The win moves Barnet closer to the playoffs as they look ahead to Boreham Wood on Boxing Day.
BARNET – Cousins, Alexander, Johnson, Reynolds, Adams, J. Taylor, Fonguck, Elito, Sweeney, Mason-Clark (Vilhete 68), Duku (Harrison 45).
Unused – Matrevics, Coulthirst, Bettamer
Attendance – 1,011 (135 Dover)