Cheltenham Town 1 Barnet 0
EVEN Dutch master Edgar Davids could not fail to have been impressed with the deftness of Jeff Goulding's 80th minute strike as Cheltenham Town returned to winning ways on Saturday.
The forward was hauled off midway through the second half of last Tuesday's 4-1 defeat at Chesterfield after an ineffective display.
But barely a minute after going on against Barnet, the former Bournemouth man's fortunes were transformed.
His first touch was to control Chris Zebroski's pass and his second lifted the ball delicately over Graham Stack as Cheltenham eventually overcame battling opponents and terrible weather conditions to keep their place in the top three.
It could have been so different had Scott Brown not kept out Mark Byrne's 65th minute penalty after Darren Carter was adjudged to have handled in the box.
Brown made a brilliant save after a tip off from Byrne's former Barnet team mate Sam Deering, who was sat on the Cheltenham bench waiting to be introduced to the action at the time.
Deering advised Brown that Byrne preferred striking spot kicks towards the bottom left corner and Brown took it on board to reach it at full stretch low to his right.
Incessant rain and a swirling wind meant it was never likely to be a classic footballing contest and Barnet did a good job of stopping Cheltenham passing the ball in the first half.
Clovis Kamdjo, who spent time on trial with the Robins three years ago, was a stubborn presence in front of the Barnet back four and with Davids more advanced, Barnet always looked capable of snatching something.
A former Champions League winner who has played for some of the biggest clubs in world football, the dreadlocked Davids may be 39, but he still has the ability to effortlessly pick out a pass.
He also did a good job of man marking Marlon Pack, denying the playmaker space and time on the ball and clear scoring chances were limited during the first period.
Byrne forced Brown into a diving save in the 26th minute before Cheltenham debut Jake Taylor blazed wide after being teed up by Steve Elliott.
Shaun Harrad, reinstated in the lone striker's role, looked sharp and hungry and he shot into the side-netting in the 41st minute.
Davids went close a minute before the break with a skidding shot which flashed just wide of the left post.
Cheltenham showed a marked improvement after half-time, with Chris Zebroski causing Barnet problems and he forced Stack into a smart save in the 52nd minute.
Brown's first penalty save since March 2010 kept the game goalless after Carter was penalised for having the ball driven into his arm from close range.
And from that moment onwards, Cheltenham always looked the most likely winners.
Mark Yates sent on Deering in the 72nd minute and the diminutive midfielder added some attacking impetus.
But it was not until Goulding and Russ Penn entered nine minutes later that Cheltenham finally found a breakthrough.
Keith Lowe nodded wide from a good position in the 78th minute after Harrad saw a flick blocked by a defender on the line following Billy Jones' cross.
But Goulding struck and only a good stop from Stack denied Deering a goal he would have savoured.
There was still time for Barnet to go close to a leveller in the 88th minute when Andy Yiadom's cross was headed against the inside of the right post by Kamdjo.
But Cheltenham had done just enough to register their fifth straight home win in all competitions and Pack almost added a second with a shot that was deflected inches over the bar off a defender in the dying seconds.
Cheltenham Town: S Brown; K Lowe, A Bennett, S Elliott, B Jones; J McGlashan (S Deering 72), M Pack, J Taylor (R Penn 79), D Carter (J Goulding 79), C Zebroski; S Harrad. Subs not used: D Duffy, C Roberts, D Andrew, B Graham.
Barnet: G Stack; B Fuller, K Pearce, D Stephens, J Brown; A Yiadom, M Byrne (J Nurse 86), C Kamdjo, E Davids, R Holmes; J Hyde. Subs not used: O Lee, A Edgar, S Cowler, C Weston, G Barker, A Iro.
Referee: A Madley.
Attendance: 2,591 (100 away).
Star Man: Scott Brown.