Barnet striker John Akinde’s second-half brace condemned 10-man Northampton Town to their first defeat of the season in a frenetic League Two encounter at The Hive on Tuesday night.
A much-changed Cobblers team struggled to get a foothold throughout a scrappy and frustrating affair, and went down 2-0 with Akinde proving a thorn in their side all evening.
Following a goalless first half that was short on clear-cut chances, the tall striker was instrumental in both creating and scoring the opening goal as he got through on goal and was taken down by Jason Taylor, who was sent-off.
Akinde duly converted the resulting spot-kick before wrapping up victory with a late second.
Despite not being at their best, Northampton did have their chances but they failed to capitalise and drop their first points of the campaign.
Following his scathing comments after the win over Exeter, Cobblers manager Chris Wilder kept to his word and shook up the starting line-up with Rod McDonald, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Sam Hoskins and Chris Hackett all coming into the team. It was meant to be five changes with Ricky Holmes named in the starting XI, but the winger was replaced by Lawson D’Ath at the last minute after struggling in the warm-up.
As has been the case so far this season, the Cobblers made a fast start and were immediately on the front foot with David Buchanan firing an early long-range effort straight at Barnet goalkeeper Graham Stack, before Hoskins tried likewise but he dragged his effort well wide.
Andy Yiadam returned the favour at the other end, ballooning an effort well over Adam Smith’s goal
The first real opening of the game went the way of the visitors as D’Ath made a break on the left and fired a low shot that Stack kept the ball out with his feet, before the Barnet stopper also denied Hoskins’ follow-up header.
In spite of those chances, however, the Cobblers were struggling to get control of proceedings, and they were once again indebted to their keeper as Akinde wriggled free in the penalty area but Smith was quick off his line to close down the angle and smother the shot.
Although both sides carried a threat, neither could get a solid grip on the game, with Northampton attempting to get the ball down and play, but they were being thwarted by a hard-working Barnet outfit who gave them no time on the ball.
Hoskins was causing problems down the channels and some nice interplay with Taylor saw him get free on the right, however he flashed an effort well wide of goal, while Calvert-Lewin almost bundled home a corner but Barnet survived and cleared.
The game became more stretched as the half progressed, with Akinde almost capitalising on a Ryan Cresswell mistake, but he chose to pass when a shot may have been the better option, and back at the other end, Calvert-Lewin’s audacious overhead kick sailed harmlessly wide.
Barnet were given all the encouragement they needed by some slack Cobblers defending, though they were unable to capitalise, while Northampton threatened on the break with Stack spilling a shot from the lively Hoskins but D’Ath couldn’t scramble home the rebound.
That was the last moment of note in the first period and the sides went into half-time all square with little to separate the two.
Cobblers then came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock immediately after the restart as Hoskins got clear down the left and pulled the ball back across the six-yard box, but some desperate last-ditch defending denied a combination of Hackett and Calvert-Lewin as the two tried to force the ball home in a mass goalmouth scramble.
Akinde continued to be a handful for McDonald and Cresswell at the other end of the pitch and he bulldozed beyond both of them but scuffed a shot just wide of the goal with Smith beaten.
The game had suddenly spluttered into life as, back at the other end, Hoskins broke clear again and cut inside but saw his shot blocked before Barnet immediately responded with a counter-attack, but Cresswell’s inch-perfect tackle saw off the danger.
It felt as if a goal was coming, and so it proved just after the hour-mark.
And disaster struck for the Cobblers as the ever-troublesome Akinde again got the better of the visiting defence and was about to pull the trigger, only to be brought down by Taylor, who was red-carded.
Akinde picked himself up and calmly converted the resultant spot-kick, sending Smith the wrong way.
Barnet now had a spring in their step and they went in search of the killer blow.
They almost found it when Luke Gambin was denied by Smith, before the visiting keeper brilliantly saved the follow up from Yiadom.
Gambin had made all the difference since coming on having played through Akinde for the penalty and he almost added a second but fizzed an effort wide.
As hard as the visitors tried, they struggled to conjure up a sustained period of pressure on the home goal and instead it was Barnet who looked the likelier to net again.
Calvert-Lewin had a half chance when played through by Nicky Adams but couldn’t wrap his foot around a shot from a tight angle
Akinde was a thorn in Northampton’s side all game and he wasn’t finished yet as he again got behind the defence but was denied by the onrushing Smith.
The Cobblers through everything forward, but a lack of cutting edge and quality in the final third proved their downfall, and defeat was confirmed in the final minute when Akinde once again got behind the defence and rounded Smith before coolly rolling the ball home.
Barnet: Stack, Hoyte, Johnson, Dembele, N’Gala, Yiadom, Weston (c) (Muggleton 90), Togwell, Tomlinson (Gambin 58), Akinde (Nelson 90), Gash
Subs not used: Vilhete, Champion, Batt, Stephens
Northampton: Smith; Lelan, Cresswell, McDonald, Buchanan (c); Taylor, Bryom: Hackett (Adams 58), Hoskins (Richards 67), D’Ath; Calvert-Lewin
Subs not used: Clarke, Potter, O’Toole, Corry
Referee: Lee Swabey
Cobblers fans: 922