Barnet conjured up their best performance of the season at Southend and forged into a two goal lead before an extremely harsh penalty decision went against the Bees to allow the home side a lifeline back into the game.
The 2-2 draw, after being two goals to the good, leaves a bitter taste, but this was the best display of the season over the entire 90 minutes. The Bees didn’t rattle at the back, looked creative going forward creating many chances and upfront carried a genuine goal threat.
Graham Stack returned in goal, Andy Yiadom came in on the right on midfield with Jamal Lowe partnering Jake Hyde upfront in a 4-4-2 formation. John Oster dropped to the bench and although Collins John travelled with the squad to Roots Hall the intransigence of the Iranian FA means that international clearance issues have yet to be resolved
Right from the off the teams attacked each other and it was amazing that the first-half finished goalless since opportunities were being created at both ends.
Gavin Tomlin had an effort well saved by Stack on 10 minutes but soon after David Stephens had an excellent chance from close range but his left footed effort went over the bar.
Jamal Lowe was leading the line with no little skill and physical strength. He showed maturity beyond his years in his all-round display and was courageous when the more mature Southend defenders were giving him a most robust introduction to the demands of League 2 football. His pace and skill had them worried and they increasingly adopted borderline tactics to stop him.
Kevan Hurst hit the underside of the bar with a thunderous shot from distance and then another Tomlin effort, this time benefitting from a grotesque deflection hit the cross bar as both sets of defences rode their luck to keep the score sheet blank.
The concern was that after a very decent first 45 minutes could the Bees continue in a similar vein in the second-half.
The answer was a definite yes when on 54 minutes Mark Byrne, rather than lashing the ball forward, steered a pass into the path of Ricky Holmes who proceeded to run some 60 yards, skipping past numerous Southend defenders before unleashing a shot into the top corner of the net. A classic.
Barnet then deservedly took a two goal lead under ten minutes later when Holmes went on a mazy run down the left before delivering a centre for the predatory poacher Hyde to steer the ball past the keeper and into the net.
But before the Bees could blink Southend had reduced the deficit when an exceedingly fortunate hand ball decision was given in their favour against Barry Fuller. The ball travelled at great speed, ricochets and stuck Fuller’s hand. It was difficult to discern any movement Fuller made in the direction of the ball or if he displayed any intent to touch the ball with his hand.
Freddy Eastwood blasted home the resulting penalty and it was clear that the Bees were now going to be put under enormous pressure.
Lowe then fired an effort across the goalmouth and then was desperately unlucky with a particularly well-struck effort from 25 yards hit the upright as the Bees looked to extend their lead while the home side strove to draw level.
With six minutes remaining amidst a ruck of players Kevan Hurst hit a volley into the ground but the ball bounced up and into Barnet’s net to make the score 2-2.
Amazingly in the very last action of the match substitute Jon Nurse cleverly setup Lowe at the far post. The teenager was not able to convert this excellent opportunity but he can be proud of his display today; and you can say the same for the rest of his team-mates.
The Bees are at the O’s on Tuesday in the JPT (7 o’clock kick-off) and are at home to Plymouth Argyle the following Saturday.