Three second-half goals condemned promoted Chester to defeat on the opening day of the Skrill Premier campaign.

There was nothing to choose between the teams in the first half and with a little more fortune, the Skrill North champions could have even have been in front at the interval.

But it was a different story after half-time as Barnet, player-managed by former Juventus star Edgar Davids and up until April a Football League club, began to show their class.

Luke Gambin opened the scoring almost immediately after the restart and from that moment on the Bees, whose 51-point haul last season was a League Two record for a relegated club, dominated the Hive encounter.

Jake Hyde doubled their advantage in the 63rd minute and the same player put the outcome beyond doubt 10 minutes later.


Blues boss Neil Young said: “I thought we could have gone in a goal up at half-time, Gareth Seddon had a chance and we worried them from set-pieces.  We were well in the game.

“But then we came out second half and conceded a goal – albeit with the aid of a lucky deflection – and they lifted their game while we wilted a little bit.

“It was always going to be a difficult opening game of the season and I think people have underestimated Barnet a little bit. Only four months ago they were two leagues above us and under Edgar Davids they had a record that would have put them ninth or 10th in the division.

“You’ve got to be realistic and look at the positives – and the positive was our first-half performance. I thought we should have gone in 1-0 up.

“We didn’t and they got their goal and lifted their game. We opened up a little bit, which was the disappointing thing, as once you concede a goal against good sides you have to make sure you stay in the game for the next 20 minutes.”

Legendary Dutch midfielder Davids agreed that Chester had reasons to be positive from their debut display in the non-league top flight.

He told The Chronicle said: “I think they are an organised side who were difficult to play because they have created a winning mentality from getting promotions back to back.

“We knew it was going to be hard but we managed to do it.

“They can play, we knew that from the start, so we did not want to give them space. They tried to push us from high up but we still managed to play out from the back.”

Young watched the match from the stands after being hit with a one-game touchline ban for being sent off against Solihull Moors late last season.

He made one change to the side that started the 3-1 friendly win over Nantwich Town as the experience of Paul Linwood was preferred to youth of Lewis Turner.

Linwood and the rest of the Blues backline had little to do in the opening 10 minutes as most of the action took place in the Barnet half.

Danny Harrison dragged a shot wide from 25 yards and fellow new boy Seddon failed to get a telling touch to an inviting Craig Lindfield cross.

The Bees, whose flamboyant boss elected not to name himself in his matchday squad, survived the scares and slowly began to get a grip on proceedings.

Keanu Marsh-Brown crossed for Curtis Weston to send an acrobatic volley over John Danby’s crossbar and then stung the hands of Chester’s number one from distance. 

Danby did not get close to an another effort from range, from the boot of Elliot Johnson, but fortunately for the fit-again goalkeeper and the massed ranks of visiting fans behind his goal the ball whistled just past the post.

If the hosts were beginning to edge it on the field, the Blues were continuing to win the battle of the fans hands down.

Such was the noise coming out of the away end it was hard to imagine that this was indeed Barnet’s first competitive match at their impressive new ground.

The inspirational travelling support were not rewarded with a goal before the break but Graham Stack’s shakiness at set-pieces – Seddon was close to being a beneficiary –  gave Young’s men plenty of encouragement as they headed into the dressing rooms.

But the course of the game changed within 46 seconds of the start of the second half.

A cross from the right deflected toward the back post where Gambin had the time and space to shift the ball away from right-back Michael Kay before nudging it past Danby.

Chester went close to an equaliser on the hour mark when Stack got down low to his right to prevent centre-back Linwood from heading in a Kevin McIntyre corner.

But three minutes later they fell further behind when Hyde showed clever movement to meet a cross whipped low and hard into the box by the dangerous Marsh-Brown.

The Bees had struggled to break down their opponents in the opening period.

But it was no great surprise when Hyde got his name on the scoresheet for the second time in the 73rd minute.

The clever striker collected a reverse pass from substitute Luisma Villa and displayed neat footwork before dinking the ball over the advancing Danby, Kay’s attempt to clear it off the line proving unsuccessful.

The match was over as a contest although the Blues – still receiving fantastic backing from the stands – nearly reduced the deficit in the dying stages through Harrison.

Their supporters deserved that.

Barnet: Stack, Yiadom, Stephens, Saville, Johnson, Casabella, Weston, Byrne, Gambin (Mengerink 77), Marsh-Brown (Villa 68), Hyde (Crawford 83).  Subs: Vilhete, Jupp.

Booked: Weston, Yiadom, Marsh-Brown, Saville.

Goals: Gambin 46, Hyde 63, 73.

Chester: Danby, Kay, Horan, Linwood, McIntyre, Lindfield, Harrison, Jarrett (N Turner 68), Mahon (M Williams 83), Seddon, Reed (Mills 61). Subs: Fearon, L Turner.

Booked: Horan, Jarrett.

Referee: Nick Kinseley (Essex).

Attendance: 2,543.