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By Chris Holland
Barnet once again proved their ability to frustrate the promotion candidates with a well earned draw from their trip to the Deva Stadium. Though the Bees were denied all three points following Daryl Clare's second half strike.
Barnet made three changes as they looked to erase the disappointment of the midweek FA Trophy exit at the hands of Forest Green. Junior Agogo returned from injury to spearhead the attack, Danny Naisbett returned from suspension and Jason Soloman was preferred to Lee Pluck.
Barnet adopted an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation in a bid to shut down Chester's midfield. Soloman, Heald and Yakabu were in the centre of defence, Midgley and Flynn acted as wing-backs and Ian Hendon was pushed into midfield.
These changes along with the return of the pre-match huddle paid dividends early on, as with less than five minutes on the clock Barnet went ahead. An unmarked Hendon prodded Gower's corner towards goal; Greg Heald reacted the fastest and put the ball home from close range. An eventful start for the Bees captain was completed a few minutes later when Heald was booked for unfairly blocking Sugden.
There were few clear cut opportunities for either side in the first half . Barnet always looked that little bit sharper though, Wayne Purser turning and shooting only to see his effort blocked. Mark Gower's set pieces were also a constant threat for a Chester defence missing both Bolland and Hatswell.
For sustained periods in the first half, it looked as though Peter Shreeves had won the tactical battle of the managers. Chester were largely reduced to long hopeful balls and looked at their most threatening on the counter-attack.
Chester's best chance of the first half came when a header from Davies cross was well anticipated by Sugden who nipped infront of Naisbett only for the Barnet keeper to get enough on the ball to divert it wide for a corner. The resulting corner was cleared as far as Jimmy Kelly though his firmly struck shot was straight at Naisbett. Such was the frustration of the home fans that they booed their team off at the break.
Both sides began the second half purposefully, with the hard working Agogo looking dangerous. Wayne Purser hit the side netting from a tight angle when he perhaps should've tested Brown.
For Chester, new signing Mark Clifford was pushing further forward down the right, his hopeful ball was chased by Daryl Clare who did well to hook the ball dangerously across, the ball fell to the incoming forward whose resulting shot was blocked strongly by both Heald and Hendon.
Clare then found Sugden who's shot flashed across goal. It was the increasingly influential Clare who equalised for Chester with nineteen minutes remaining. Davies dangerous cross from the right was met by Clare who's first shot was blocked by Soloman, however the ball fell nicely for last seasons Conference top scorer and he made no mistake. Clare duly celebrated by eating a chocolate bar.
With the game hanging in the balance, a swift counter attack from substitute Oshitiola resulted in a cross from Agogo, he picked out Gower who's diving header at the back post was narrowly off target.
Chester responded, and Danny Naisbett was forced into two outstanding saves in a minute. Firstly from Guyett who's header destined for the top corner was acrobatically turned round the post. From the resulting corner, Naisbett then fantastically tipped over a ferocious volley from Jimmy Kelly.
With some well organised defending Barnet were able to keep out Chester for the last ten minutes to claim a point. Though Adam Griffin's shot from the edge of the area in the dying seconds hit the outside of the post. Then in the fourth minute of injury time Yakabu got infront of Daryl Clare to deny the striker a very good opportunity and the chance to finish his chocolate bar.
This was a game Barnet could've won though a draw was probably a fair result. You will struggle to see a better save in any league this year than Naisbett's from Guyett. Barnet defended stoutly throughout and the formation employed aided both the balance and solidity of the team, and the players can be proud of their efforts.
Man of the Match
A difficult decision as every Barnet player couldn't be faulted for effort. I'll choose Ismail Yakabu, back in the centre defence, in my opinion, he put in a very mature performance.
G Heald, 8, unsporting
J Kelly, 26, unsporting
Naisbitt, Soloman, Heald, Hendon, Flynn, Gower, Doolan, Yakubu, Midgley, Purser (Oshitola 67), Agogo
Unused Subs: Millard, Toms, Pluck, Lette Jallow
W Brown, Collins, Ruffer, Guyett, McIntyre (Griffin 72), Kelly, Carden, Davies, Clifford (M Brown 60), Sugden (Twiss 72), Clare
Unused Subs: Brady, Carey
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