Nuneaton Town 0 Barnet 1
Saturday 19th April 2014 (Skrill Premier)
Match report courtesy of Nuneaton News;
New boss Brian Reid was unable to halt Nuneaton’s slump in form as his first game in charge of the Boro ended in a single-goal defeat to Barnet.
Bees defender Valentin Gjokaj’s stunning 25-yard strike ensured Reid’s reign got off to a losing start as Nuneaton’s winless run was stretched to seven games.
Boro had chances to snatch a point after Gjokaj’s 56th minute rocket but the closest they came was a Gav Cowan effort that was cleared off the line by the goalscorer.
The hosts made three changes from the starting XI that slipped to a 3-0 defeat at Wrexham a week earlier with Sam Magri, Adam Walker and Louis Moult coming in for the trio of Jordan Cranston, James Armson and Andy Brown.
Barnet, meanwhile, made a massive eight changes from their 4-0 home thrashing by Halifax as boss Martin Allen looked to blood a host of youngsters with the Bees’ play-off hopes all but over barring a miracle.
Only Andy Viadom, captain Dave Stephens and Valentin Gjokaj retained their places from the Halifax defeat.
The first 15 minutes were a scrappy affair, typical of an end-of-season clash between two mid-table sides with nothing but pride to play for.
The first shot on goal came just after the quarter-hour but it was a weak 20-yard effort from Wes York that barely troubled visiting keeper Nicky Jupp after a driving run through the centre of the park from the Boro winger.
It took until the half-hour mark for the next moment of excitement as Dave Hibbert crashed a 25-yard drive against the bar but the flag had long been up for an offside in the build-up to the shot.
Barnet’s first real threat arrived a couple of minutes later as Iffy Allen cleverly made space for himself in the area and fired goalwards but his effort was superbly blocked by Gavin Cowan.
A couple of set-pieces almost yielded the opening goal for the Boro towards the end of the half but no-one could get a touch on Daniel Sleath’s teasing free-kick across the face of goal and Hibbert was unable to get enough power on a header from a lofted delivery and Jupp saved comfortably.
The lively York looked Boro’s likeliest source of a breakthrough and after he cut into the box from the right, his goalbound curler was blocked by Barnet defender Valentin Gjokaj.
Having been poor in the first half, Barnet came out of the blocks on fire after the break and had four chances to break the deadlock inside the first five minutes as Boro keeper James Belshaw earned his corn.
The first chance was perhaps the best of the bunch as Sam Muggleton’s long throw – a weapon that caused Boro trouble all afternoon – fell to Allen at the far post but he did not connect as well with his effort as he would have liked and James Belshaw grasped it gratefully.
Belshaw was beaten moments later as Harry Crawford’s 25-yard drive looped up horribly off Gaz Dean but fortunately for the keeper the ball landed on the roof of the net.
The resultant series of corners produced two further opportunities for the Bees but Belshaw pushed Allen’s near-post effort wide and tipped a Crawford shot over.
However, Barnet’s pressure finally produced the opening goal on 56 minutes and this time Belshaw had no chance as Gjokaj’s rocket from 25 yards flew into his top corner.
Nuneaton huffed and puffed in their search for a leveller and they so nearly found one 14 minutes from time as centre-half Cowan lobbed Jupp but the recovering Gjokaj acrobatically cleared off the line.
Cowan came close again moments later as a free-kick reached him at the far post but he knew little about the contact he made with the ball and it floated a couple of feet wide, with Jupp having it covered.
Theo Streete headed wide from a late corner as Nuneaton’s pressure mounted but Barnet defended stubbornly to protect the victory that, on the balance of play, they probably deserved.