Barnet maintained their unbeaten away record on Tuesday night with a 1-1 draw against Braintree Town at Cressing Road to stay two points clear at the top of the Vanarama Conference.
John Akinde had given the Bees another early lead with his seventh goal of the season, but after being pegged back before half-time Barnet were forced to settle for a point in an even contest that saw both sides come close to finding a winner during the second half.
Martin Allen made just the one change to the side that secured a dramatic late win over Forest Green Rovers at the weekend, bringing Sam Muggleton into the side in place of Lee Cook – who picked up a minor knock at the New Lawn – as Elliott Johnson pushed forward into midfield.
Meanwhile Jack Saville, Mauro Vilhete and Luisma Villa all returned to the bench from injury following absences of varying lengths, with Luke Gambin and youngster Alfie Pavey both retaining their places in the squad.
It was the new face in the side who would help the Bees to take the lead after just ten minutes, although perhaps not in the way that you might expect.
With the Braintree defence packing the penalty area in expectation of a long throw, Muggleton caught them out by taking it quickly to Weston who then whipped a delicious cross into the box for John Akinde to tower above the crowd and send a header into the top corner – a seventh goal of the season to take him to the top of Barnet’s goal-scoring chart.
Having just scored his first headed effort of the season the big striker went agonisingly close to notching a second on nineteen minutes, sending a flicked header flashing across the face of goal from a corner swung in by Sam Togwell.
Braintree soon rallied however, and nearly caught Barnet out three minutes later when an under-hit pass by Muggleton allowed Simeon Akinola to be slipped through on goal, but David Stephens got across well to block his shot.
Akinola would have the ball in the net from the resulting corner, but the striker was rightly adjudged to be offside after diverting a shot into the bottom corner with his heel as the Bees’ defence pushed out.
The home side would however go on to level nine minutes before the break. After Muggleton mis-controlled in midfield the home side broke quickly, with full-back Ryan Peters curling in a teasing cross for Jordan Cox to power a header beyond Graham Stack from close range.
It was a goal that came against the run of play, with the home side having given Graham Stack very little to do except come out to collect a string of long balls over the top during the first half.
Barnet regrouped at half-time, sending on Luke Gambin and Mauro Vilhete in place of Johnson and Jon Nurse.
The game began to open up after the interval following a fairly scrappy first period, with both teams enjoying chances during an end-to-end opening to the second half.
The hosts countered quickly on 55 minutes following a Barnet set-piece, but having ignored Akinola who was wide open in the middle James Mulley could only send a shot into the hands of Stack. Akinde then found the roof of the net with a lobbed shot over the onrushing Nick Hamann following an excellent ball by Andy Yiadom.
Barnet were forced into their final change on 68 minutes, with Luisma Villa coming on for Muggleton who was injured by a rash tackle by Ryan Peters for which the full-back saw yellow.
Barnet had a glorious opportunity with quarter of an hour remaining as Curtis Weston chested down a ball won in the air by Akinde before sending a fizzing half-volley towards goal that cannoned back against the goalkeeper’s shins.
Braintree bounced back immediately, going straight up the other end and nearly taking the lead after a cross to the back post picked out Cox. Yet having seen his first mis-hit effort loop up in the air, the striker then scuffed his second shot back across the face of goal as he failed to take advantage.
The visitors continued to press for a winner during a frantic finish but were ultimately forced to settle for a draw that keeps them two points clear at the top.
Next up for the Bees is three games inside seven days with the visits of Eastleigh and Kidderminster to The Hive either side of a midweek trip to Macclesfield.
Braintree Town: Nick Hamann; Ryan Peters, Mitch Brundle, Alan Massey, Sam Habergham; Dan Walker, Kenny Davis (c), Chez Isaac, James Mulley; Simeon Akinola, Jordan Cox.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Sam Muggleton (Luisma Villa 68); Jon Nurse (Mauro Vilhete 46), Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston (c), Elliott Johnson (Luke Gambin 46); John
Akinde, Sam Hoskins.