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By John Lewis
Barnet battled hard to gain a valuable point against a strong Yeovil side at Huish Park after a strong defensive performance.
A dogged Bees performance, combined with a last minute professional foul from Danny Naisbett saw Barnet return home with an unlikely point to the annoyance of the home fans.
The table topping Glovers had an enviable home record going into today's encounter- having dropped just six points at home all season, and never failing to score on a single ocassion. Barnet by contrast, had a mixed record on their travels, and arrived off the back of three poor away defeats in a row.
The impressive Huish Park stadium was close to full, as a 4800 crowd packed in to see Yeovil take on one of only three sides who have managed to beat them this term. Barnet had the backing of a couple of hundred supporters who made the journey- those who had come on the supporters coach were in good voice following a brief stop over in Wincanton for a pint of traditional Somerset cider!
From the kickoff, Yeovil's class was clear, with the home side dominating the early exchanges. Barnet struggled to string more than a few passes together in the face of a well organised and technically strong Yeovil outfit. Manager Gary Johnson has created an efficient side who were by far the strongest side I have seen Barnet come up against so far this season. Efficient, comfortable on the ball and with excellent ball retention, Yeovil had much of the early posession, with Barnet by contrast struggling to get into the game and trouble the Glovers back line.
Reassuringly for Bees fans, the defence looked extremely solid, and coped far better with the early pressure than it had in the second half at Nuneaton or Telford. The centre back pairing of Heald and Hendon appeared to give Barnet much needed stability, and these two, alongside keeper Naisbett dealt comfortably with a string of crosses from the either flank. In front of them, the midfield combination had a solid start too- Doolan at his best as a ballwinner in the middle, and the hardworking Gower playing a much more defensive role than usual.
The strike pairing of Purser and Agogo had relatively little to do for much of the first half, as did the Yeovil keeper Weale. However, they chased hard, and Agogo proved a handful for the Yeovil defence on the rare occasions that he received the ball. For all their territorial dominance however, the Glovers failed to carve out many clear cut chances in the opening period. For the most part, the most they manged was a succession of speculative long distance shots which failed to trouble Naisbett.
The best opportunity came from a free kick on the edge of the box, by McIndoe, whose curling shot over the wall appeared to be heading in, before a fine save by Naisbett to tip it round the post for a corner. As the half time whistle went, and teams went in level, it was Yeovil who were ruing their failure to capitalise on their dominance and Barnet who were relieved to be on level terms with a side who had them on the back foot, in a way that no other team has managed all season.
The second half began more brightly for Barnet who showed signs of coming back into the game. Gower found himself with more time to devote to the creative side of his game, and the lively Agogo was a continual thorn in the side of the Yeovil defence. However, the glovers still enjoyed the lions share of posession, but as in the first half, found it difficult to carve out any clear cut opportunities. Barnet nearly managed to steal an unlikely goal from one second half corner, when a headed corner fell to Agogo at the far post, with seemingly half of the goal at mercy, but Junior inexplicably stabbed the ball wide.
This seemed to spur on Yeovil to get the goal they had threatened all game, and their steady brand of pressing posession football had Barnet defending for long periods. After good build up play, a Yeovil forward was released on the right hand side of the penalty box, only for Naisbett to make a fine save diving to his right to parry the ball not just away from goal, but past several Yeovil attackers running in for the rebound.
Barnet responded with the first of three substitions taking off the heavily marked Wayne Purser, for Toby Oshitola. Toby's pace was a worry to the Yeovil defence, and he worked hard alongside Agogo on fairly limited service for the last 30 minutes. As the game wore on, Barnet drew steadily further back, and largely contented themselves with trying to hang on for an unlikely point. Gower was withdrawn in favour of the more defensive Jason Solomon, who worked hard alongside Yakabu and Doolan in a defensive minded Bees midfield who did a good job of containing Yeovil. Several acts of timewasting and gamesmanship clearly frustrated the Yeovil crowd, though to their credit, this didn't filter to the Yeovil players who continued to press patiently for the breakthrough.
The Bees appeared to be clingong on for a 0-0 as the fourth official held a up a placard indicating 4 minutes of injury time, which ended up turning into an action packed 8 minutes for both sets of fans. Agogo was taken off for Frazer Toms in a move that appeared to owe as much to eating up time, as it did to adopting a more defensive setup. Ironically, within seconds of coming on, Toms found himself presented with the best chance of the afternoon up to then, when a speculative clearance went uncleared by the Yeovil centre backs and he was clean through on goal. Unfortunately, Fraser is not blessed with quite the same pace as Agogo, and he was quickly chased down by the recovering defender, who managed to thwart the immediate danger.
With four minutes injury time played, the referee showed no sign of blowing for full time, and Bees fans were forced to endure another few minutes of determined Yeovil pressure, culminating in the most dramatic incident of the game. A diagonal ball was played over the top towards the Barnet goal, towards the last Bees defender. Yeovil's Andrew Lindegaard challenged the last Barnet defender for a high ball, with a foot raised to nearly head height and won the ball. With the referee waving play on to the fury of Bees fans, Lindegaard raced clean through on the Barnet goal. Naisbett, was quick off his line, but with a deft sidestep, he took the ball neatly around Naisbett, only for Naisbett to trip him with a crude challenge designed to take the man rather than the ball.
Naisbett, clearly incensed by the referees failure to penalise the challenge immediately before, charged angrily towards the referee to vent his frustration. In the meantime the referee awarded the free kick and brandished the inevitable red card, whilst the home crowd and players erupted in fury at having their winner denied in such a cynical way. With three substitutes used up, Barnet were forced to field an outfield player in goal for the remaining two minutes, and after much discussion Jason Solomon donned the jersey and took up position for the free kick. To the relief of the travelling fans, the free kick hit the wall and the resultant rebound was blasted over. Several minutes more stoppage time ensued for the nervous Bees fans, as Yeovil tried to capitalise on the lack of a proper goalkeeper and their numerical advantage. But solid defending ensured that they failed to mount another shot on target, and the Bees held out for a draw.
All in all, it was a hard won point for the Bees who turned out perhaps their best defensive display of the season to keep out a free scoring Yeovil attack. Despite the defensive tactics, and gamesmanship, it was a hard working and well organised performance which won the point and restricted Yeovil to a handful of chances. For Yeovil, it was a case of two points lost, only 48 hours after a dissapointing defeat at Forest Green, which will leave their fans wondering whether they once again be denied the top spot in the final stages of the season.
94 - Naisbitt dismissed for professional foul
75 - Midgley booked for
Weale, Lockwood (Aggrey 78), Skiverton, Pluck, Crittenden, Way, Johnson, McIndoe, Williams (Lindegaard 84), Elkholti, Jackson (Grant 73)
Unused Subs: O'Brien, Collis
Naisbitt, Pluck, Heald, Yakabu, Flynn, Doolan, Hendon, Gower (Soloman 79), Agogo (Toms 91), Midgley, Purser (Oshitola 62)
Unused Subs: Millard, Baimass
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