06:12PM, Saturday 04 December 2021
Jay Mingi battles for possession. Photo: Darren Woolley
Barnet 3, Maidenhead United 0
Maidenhead United have dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this season after losing 3-0 at Barnet, their fourth league defeat on the spin.
The Magpies hardly had the ideal preparation for their trip to The Hive, with the squad having to observe a 10-day isolation period after three or four of their number went down with COVID-19.
During this spell, which saw the postponement of matches at Southend United and home to Chesterfield, they weren't able to train, so it's little wonder they came into this clash a little ring rusty.
Alan Devonshire recalled goalkeeper Rhys Lovett, and midfielders Ryan Upward and Dan Sparkes to the starting line-up following just a couple of training sessions this week, and the visitors initially did pretty well with Remy Clerima heading a Sparkes corner over the bar in the eighth minute.
However, the Bees eventually settled and there were strong shouts for a penalty in the 15th minute when Rob Hall went over in the penalty area under pressure from the Magpies' defence.
The game continued to ebb and flow, with Jay Mingi seeing a strike deflected behind in the 22nd minute and Jamie Sendles-White firing just past the post from a tight angle. But, after some mounting pressure from the hosts, United fell behind to a wonderful strike from Hall.
There was little the Magpies defence could do about it as Hall picked the ball up around 25 yards out and thumped it into the bottom corner past Lovett. It was a setback from which the Magpies, on their current run of form, couldn’t recover from.
They might have fallen further behind in the 35th minute, when Ephron Mason-Clark forced Lovett into a fingertip save, and the United keeper did well to hold onto Jamie Turley's header from the resultant corner.
United continued to create chances on the break, with Upward slicing wide of the mark from the edge of the area in the 42nd minute and Sam Beard bravely blocking Josh Kelly's goalbound shot a minute or two later.
That's how it remained going into the break, but Barnet's second - and ultimately killer - goal arrived just a couple of minutes after the restart.
Once again, the Magpies failed to deal with a Wes Fonguck free-kick into the area and Mitch Brundle stole in at the far post to nod the ball home.
Jordan Thomas fired a shot into the side-netting from out wide a couple of minutes later, but it wasn't long before the Bees made it 3-0 through Ephron Mason-Clark. The ball was played through to him in the 55th minute and he kept his composure to fire the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
By this stage the game already looked a lost cause for the Magpies, but they may well have pulled one back in the 69th minute through Reece James, the young midfielder firing just over the crossbar.
The Magpies continued to press, but that left them vulnerable to the counter, and only some wasteful finishing and some good saves from Lovett prevented the home side from scoring a fourth.
Mason-Clark fired wide in the 75th minute, Beard forced Lovett into a diving save after a good run, and Turley couldn't find the target from Mason-Clark's teasing ball.
United carved out a few chances at The Hive and would have scored late on but for a great save from Aston Oxborough, however, their problems are at the other end with the side having conceded 19 goals in their last five matches in all competitions.
They'll play their rearranged league game at Southend United on Tuesday night where a win for the Magpies would lift them above their hosts and out of the relegation zone. It promises to be a hugely significant clash.