Barnet were denied a sixth consecutive win in the Vanarama Conference on Saturday, as AFC Telford United struck deep into injury time to snatch a 2-2 draw against the league leaders.
Having fallen behind to a first-half penalty, the Bees looked on course to secure another win on the road thanks to goals from Lee Cook and Elliott Johnson, but a late header by Mike Phenix in what was virtually the last passage of play meant that they had to settle with a hard-earned point to keep them top of the table.
Martin Allen was forced into making one change to the side that won at Dover in midweek, with captain Charlie MacDonald sidelined with a knee injury sustained just before half-time at the Crabble.
Luke Gambin, His replacement that night and scorer of two of Barnet’s three goals, was the man to come into the team with vice-captain Curtis Weston taking over the armband.
The home side started the game brightly, and it was they who carved out the first real opening of the game on 22 minutes when a cross from the left found Josh O’Keefe unmarked in the box, but having arrived from deep the midfielder was unable to get his header on target.
Telford did take the lead on 37 minutes however with the help of a dubiously awarded penalty, after David Stephens was adjudged to have handballed a shot by Tony Gray from point-blank range. Gray stepped up to slot the spot kick home and register the first goal that Barnet had conceded on the road all season.
The hosts were on a roll, and nearly doubled their advantage shortly after half-time with another crisp shot from the edge of the area by Gray, but Graham Stack got down well to parry his effort away. O’Keefe turned in the rebound, but the linesman’s flag cut short the home fans’ celebrations.
Martin Allen made a succession of changes early in the second period, throwing on Jon Nurse, Adam Mekki and Sam Muggleton for Gambin, Luisma and Sam Togwell.
Barnet were vastly improved, and deservedly levelled on 68 minutes thanks to a 25 yard thunderbolt from Lee Cook that flew beyond the keeper and into the net to send the 168 travelling fans behind the goals
into raptures. It was the winger’s seventh goal of the season, making him the league’s leading scorer.
The visitors should have taken the lead four minutes later when Mekki skinned his man on the left and cut back a cross for John Akinde, but with the ball behind him the big striker could only hook his shot over the bar from three yards out.
However, the Bees did take the lead on 79 minutes as their pressure finally paid off. Another cross from Mekki on the left was glanced on by Nurse, but after Jonathan Hedge was only able to parry the ball out Elliott Johnson was on hand to finish from a tight angle.
Having seen their lead evaporate the home side poured forward during the closing stages in a bid to rescue something from the game, and they thought that they had got back on level terms on 81 minutes when
Andy Todd turned the ball in on the goal line, but once again the linesman came to Barnet’s rescue.
The Bees managed to negotiate a tricky final ten minutes of normal play without too many scares, but were ultimately stung in the last minute of stoppage time when Mike Phenix rose highest to meet a beautiful ball in from the left and head powerfully beyond Stack.
Despite the frustrating nature of the late equaliser Barnet can still look back with pride on another hard-earned point away from home that maintains their lead at the top of the table.
The games keep coming thick and fast for Martin Allen’s men, with two home games in a week to follow against Wrexham on Tuesday before Altrincham visit The Hive on Saturday.
AFC Telford United: Jonathan Hedge; Rod McDonald, Steve Akrigg, Neill Byrne, Wes Baynes (Kristian Platt 56), Andy Owens; Andy Todd (Sean Clancy 82), Charlie Barnett, Josh O’Keefe, Mike Phenix; Andy Gray (Adam Farrell 79).
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Elliott Johnson, Bondz N’Gala, David Stephens, Andy Yiadom; Lee Cook, Sam Togwell (Sam Muggleton 68), Curtis Weston (c), Luisma Villa (Adam Mekki 52); Luke Gambin (Jon Nurse 52); John Akinde.
Attendance: 1,492 (168 Barnet).