Second half fightback sees Barnet claim a valuable point.A second half comeback saw Barnet recover from being two goals down to claim a point against an in-form Dover Athletic at The Hiveon Sunday.
Tom Murphy and Stefan Payne had given the visitors a 2-0 lead at the break, but a superb fight back during the second half meant that the Bees shared the spoils with goals from Curtis Weston and John Akinde.
Ahead of the game, Martin Allen named two changes to the side that beat Aldershot 3-1 on Boxing Day.
Bondz N’Gala returned to the heart of the Bees’ defence whilst Luisma Villa started on the right-hand side of midfield as Barnet named the same side that was victorious in their last appearance at The Hive against Chester.
David Stephens and Mauro Vilhete both dropped to the bench whilst Keanu Marsh-Brown was also named amongst the substitutes as he was involved in league duties for the first time since October.
Barnet went close to opening the scoring after just seven minutes when Andrew Rafferty was forced to tip a Luisma free kick from the corner of the penalty area. The keeper was again called into action from the resulting corner, as he blocked a near-post flick by Charlie MacDonald without appearing to know too much about it.
However, it was Dover who took the lead just one minute later when Tom Murphy fired in at the near post after Graham Stack had blocked Stefan Payne’s initial effort.
The home side had strong appeals for a penalty waved away shortly after quarter of an hour when John Akinde was bundled over from behind by Sean Raggett but referee Justim Amey pointed for a goal kick rather than to the spot.
Once again, Dover came straight back and doubled their lead on 17 minutes when Stefan Payne was played through before firing emphatically into the corner to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
Barnet responded positively and enjoyed a sustained period of pressure throughout the rest of the first half.
They appeared to have pulled one back through Luisma shortly after the half-hour mark, but the Spaniard’s shot from the edge of the area curled around the wrong side of the post before kissing the side netting.
The hosts went close again twice in quick succession immediately afterwards, as a last-ditch interception stopped Akinde from turning in Charlie MacDonald’s cut back before both Sam Togwell and Curtis Weston were denied within the area.
Having been kept at bay until half-time, Barnet did not take long to find the breakthrough in the second half, pulling a goal back less than a minute after the restart.
It all began when a quick free-kick was played in behind the Dover defence for Elliott Johnson, who ran onto the ball before pulling a cross back for the onrushing Curtis Weston to fire into the net and make it 2-1.
They went close to levelling the scores five minutes later after an exquisite touch from MacDonald and first-time pass from Luisma sent Akinde away down the left, butafter cutting inside the striker curled his shot beyond the far post.
Martin Allen introduced Keanu Marsh-Brown shortly before the hour mark as he looked to introduce some more pace into the Bees’ attack, and the winger nearly made an immediate impact after collecting a throw in and sprinting across the edge of the box before firing a shot narrowly over.
Barnet were hammering on the door now, and were inches from equalising on 70 minutes when John Akinde could only flick a header wide with the goal at his mercy following a superb cross from the left by Cook.
Five minutes later and it was his strike partner MacDonald who went close, seeing an effort bounce back against the post, although his pleas for a penalty were turned away after he appeared to have been taken out before shooting.
Barnet did not have to wait long to get back on level terms however, as a cross from the left trickled all the way through to Akinde to tap in at the back post and make it 2-2 with his 23rd goal of the season.
Another substitute in Bernard Mensah came close to putting the Bees ahead shortly after coming on for Elliott Johnson, running onto Akinde’s pass before sweeping over the crossbar.
Barnet dominated both possession and territory during the closing stages, but despite winning a string of corners during four minutes of added time they were unable to force the winner that they perhaps deserved as they were forced to settle with sharing the spoils from an enthralling game.
Barnet’s lead at the top of the table is now seven points, with Aldershot next to come at The Hive on New Year’s Day.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, Bondz N’Gala, Jack Saville, Elliott Johnson (Bernard Mensah 72); Luisma Villa (Keanu Marsh-Brown 57), Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston, Lee Cook (David Stephens 88); John Akinde, Charlie MacDonald (c).
Dover Athletic: Andrew Raggett; Tyrone Sterling, Sean Raggett, Richard Orlu, Thomas Bonner, Connor Essam (c); Barry Cogan (Tom Wynter 87), Liam Bellamy, Nick Deverdics; Tom Murphy, Stefan Payne (James Poole 85).