Late winner sees Bees beaten at the Memorial Ground.Barnet suffered a late defeat at the hands of Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night, as a stoppage time winner for the Gas saw them edge a keenly-fought encounter at the Memorial Stadium.
The Bees fell behind early on to a Matty Taylor goal after just five minutes but drew level before the end of a breathless first half thanks to a spectacular free-kick from Luisma Villa.
However, with just seconds remaining in a second half that could have gone either way an Angelo Balanta header was adjudged to have crossed the line before being cleared as Rovers stole all three points at the death.
Ahead of the game, Barnet included a new face in their starting line-up with 21-year-old goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel, who joined on loan from West Ham United earlier today, starting in goal in place of the injured Graham Stack.
Andy Yiadom and Sam Togwell also returned to the team having completed their three-match suspensions following their red cards against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup, with Mauro Vilhete and David Hunt dropping to the bench.
With a big crowd packed into the Memorial Stadium on a cold and wet night in Bristol, Barnet got off to a bad start when they fell behind after five minutes. Matty Taylor latched onto a ball in behind the defence out on the right, and after driving towards goal dispatched a near-post finish into the net.
Things nearly got worse for the Bees five minutes later, when a cross from the left was knocked back into the path of Stuart Sinclair who snatched at his shot from twelve yards as the bail sailed over the bar.
After a frenetic opening, Barnet began to find more of a foothold in the game and registered their first shot on target midway through the first half when Steve Mildenhall got down well to stop a skidding effort from Lee Cook across goal.
Martin Allen made an early change after half an hour with Mauro Vilhete replacing Elliott Johnson, who had earlier been booked, at left-back. It was Sam Togwell who would prove the defensive hero moments later however with a spectacular diving header on the line to deny a certain goal.
Bristol Rovers players quickly surrounded the referee appealing for both handball and claiming that the ball had crossed the line, but after consulting his linesman the referee Nicholas Kinseley decided to award a corner, much to the frustration of the home fans as the atmosphere within the Memorial Ground intensified.
However, the home crowd were soon stunned into silence on 37 minutes as Luisma Villa curled a superb free kick into the net from all of 30 yards out, leaving Mildenhall motionless, as the Spaniard registered his tenth goal of the season to ensure that the Bees were on level terms going into the break.
The Bees looked far more assured at the start of the second half, enjoying long spells of possession as they moved the ball around nicely. Martin Allen looked to capitalise on their momentum shortly after the hour mark, bringing loanee Bernard Mensah on in place of goalscorer Luisma.
The visitors responded my making a couple of changes of their own in quick succession, with Angelo Balanta and Ellis Harrison replacing Nathan Blissett and Andy Monkhouse as the pace of the game lost some of its rhythm.
One of the substitutes nearly made an immediate impact on 75 minutes, when Balanta, with time and space in the box, planted a header wide of the post as Rovers spurned their best chance of the second half.
Barnet had a good chance to take the lead with five minutes remaining when a cross-field pass by Curtis Weston picked out Lee Cook, but after the winger’s low cross found John Akinde in the middle the striker was unable to get his shot on target.
The game appeared to be heading for a draw as three minutes of stoppage time ticked away but after Rovers won a corner with the final play of the game, substitute Angelo Balanta saw a header creep over the line to secure a last gasp win and break Barnet hearts.
The defeat means that the Bees’ lead at the top of the table has now been cut to six points, with an exciting game against third-placed Macclesfield at The Hive to come on Saturday.
Bristol Rovers: Steve Mildenhall; Tom Lockyer, Mark McChrystal (c), Tom Parkes, Lee Brown; Lyle Della-Verde, Lee Mansell, Stuart Sinclair, Andy Monkhouse (Ellis Harrison 70); Matty Taylor (Bradley Goldberg 81), Nathan Blissett (Angelo Balanta 68).
Barnet FC: Raphael Spiegel; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Elliott Johnson (Mauro Vilhete 30); Luisma Villa, Curtis Weston, Sam Togwell, Lee Cook (Luke Gambin 86); John Akinde, Charlie MacDonald (c).
Attendance: 6,012 (148 Barnet).