Late equaliser denies the Bees all three points at North Road.A stoppage-time penalty was enough to deny Barnet all three points on Saturday, as a 1-1 draw with Alfreton Town at the Impact Arena was enough to keep the Bees one point clear at the top of the Vanarama Conference.
Curtis Weston had given the Barnet a first-half lead with a close-range finish, but following a foul by John Akinde on Dan Bradley deep into added time Bradley Wood stepped up to convert from the spot and force the Bees to settle for a draw that keeps them one point clear with five games remaining.
Ahead of the match, Martin Allen named three changes to the side that put five past Welling United at The Hive last time out, with David Stephens returned to the heart of the Bees’ defence alongside Bondz N’Gala having completed his one-match suspension following a red card at Halifax.
There was also a return for Sam Muggleton on the left-hand side of midfield and Conor Clifford in the centre of midfield with both Lee Cook and Michael Gash dropping to the bench as Barnet started with a 4-4-1-1 formation that saw captain Curtis Weston support John Akinde in attack.
Barnet started the game kicking down the slope at North Road with a strong wind behind them which proved difficult to adjust to early on as the first few forward passes towards John Akinde ran away for a goal kick.
However, a perfectly-weighted through ball by Sam Muggleton on 12 minutes nearly unlocked the defence as Curtis Weston beat the two backtracking defenders to the ball only to be denied by Jason Mooney racing out of goal.
Yet it was not much longer before the same two players combined to provide the breakthrough on 18 minutes as another long throw into the box by Muggleton was headed onto the inside of the post by Mauro Vilhete, with Weston on hand to control the loose ball and smash into the net from just a yard out to notch his third goal in four and give the Bees the lead.
Vilhete was again denied a goal of his own four minutes later, when John Akinde won the ball on the byline before squaring for the winger who was winding up to shoot as Mooney took the ball from his toes with a sprawling dive.
There was a slight moment of panic for Barnet shortly before the half-hour mark when Jimmy Phillips charged down a Graham Stack clearance before crossing towards an unguarded net, but after Stack managed to recover and get a palm to the ball Elliott Johnson was in the right place to head clear from danger.
Barnet did go close again before the break when Conor Clifford sent a low free-kick from 35 yards flying through a forest of legs, although nobody could get a touch as the ball whizzed wide.
It would be the Irishman’s last contribution, as he was replaced at the break by Michael Gash having picked up a yellow card on the stroke of half-time thanks to a late tackle on Dan Bradley.
The Bees began the second half brightly and came close to doubling their advantage within a minute of the restart when John Akinde let fly from sixteen yards towards the top corner only to be denied by a spectacular save from Mooney.
They had another chance to stretch their lead on shortly afterwards when an overlapping Andy Yiadom fired in a cross for Mauro Vilhete, but such was the pace and height of the pass the diminutive winger could only head over.
Alfreton were mounting some pressure of their own however, and looked certain to equalise on 54 minutes when Jimmy Phillips sent a dipping volley towards goal, but with the apparently stranded Graham Stack leaping backwards and arching his back the keeper somehow managed to tip the ball over the bar.
Barnet introduced another pair of fresh legs shortly after the hour mark with the introduction of Lee Cook on the left wing in place of Sam Muggleton as Alfreton also made three changes in quick succession by bringing on Niall Heaton, Joe Ironside and Joe Leesley.
The Bees remained resolute however and looked the more likely team to score as the game approached the closing stages.
Indeed, they were inches from putting the game to bed with ten minutes remaining when Mauro Vilhete and Andy Yiadom linked up well down the right-hand side, with the full-back drilling a low shot across the area which took a deflection before John Akinde touched the ball onto the top of the crossbar.
It would prove to be pivotal moment, as Alfreton drew level during four minutes of added time with a penalty that was awarded after Akinde caught Dan Bradley in trying to clear the ball after a scramble in the box that was caused by a long throw into the box. Bradley Wood stepped up to convert and level the scores with seconds remaining.
The result means that Barnet are now one point clear of both Bristol Rovers and Grimsby Town with five matches remaining ahead of an Easter weekend that sees them play two games in three days at home to Nuneaton and away to Dartford.
Alfreton Town: Jason Mooney; Luke Graham (c), Callum Howe, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Bradley Wood; Dan Bradley, Andi Thanoj, Simon Lenighan (Joe Leesley 68), Tom Shaw (Niall Heaton 59), Jimmy Phillips (Joe Ironside 68); Jake Speight.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Elliott Johnson; Mauro Vilhete, Sam Togwell, Conor Clifford (Michael Gash 46), Sam Muggleton (Lee Cook 62); Curtis Weston (c); John Akinde.