November 26, 2014
(Adapted from the Barnet & Potters Bar Times with thanks. Written by Tom Bodell .)
Barnet conceded a last-minute winner to lose 2-1 at Bristol Rovers and see their lead at the Conference summit cut to six points.
With Grimsby Town beating Woking 3-1 at Blundell Park and Barnet dropping points, the Bees sees their advantage at the top reduced by three points.
The Gas deservedly took the lead after just four minutes through Matty Taylor. But eight minutes before half time, Luisma curled home a splendid free kick to level. In injury time, the Pirates snatched victory when Mark McChrystal (maybe it was Angelo Balanta?) helped a free-kick home in a goalmouth scramble.
Barnet have conceded first on just seven occasions this season, but Martin Allen’s side have only once recovered to win – at home to Altrincham when another Luisma special got the Bees out of jail in injury time.
Allen sprung a surprise by signing West Ham United goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel on loan and starting the Swiss stopper in place of Graham Stack.
Andy Yiadom and Sam Togwell returned from suspension, taking the places of Mauro Vilhete and Sam Togwell, both of whom dropped to the bench.
Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala and Elliott Johnson started in front of Spiegel, with Luisma, Curtis Weston, Togwell and Lee Cook in midfield.
Former Rovers loanee John Akinde was partnered up front by club captain Charlie MacDonald once more.
Barnet new-boy Spiegel got off to an inauspicious start when after just five minutes Rovers took the lead.
A searching ball from Lee Mansell found Taylor breaking the line on the right-hand side of the penalty area and the striker shrugged off Johnson’s challenge before firing past the Swiss gloveman at his near post.
The Gas had started the brighter of the two, and backed by a vociferous home crowd, Darrell Clarke’s side were doing all the early running, pegging Barnet back in their own third – something the Bees are not used to.
Stuart Sinclair ought to have at least tested Spiegel, when in the tenth minute a cross from the left fell to him in a good position just inside the area. The hirsute midfield instead fired over as he rushed his effort.
With half an hour gone Johnson, who had already been booked, was replaced by Vilhete after one foul too many for Allen’s liking.
Rovers came dangerously close to extending their lead just after the half-hour mark. After winning a second corner in quick succession, Blissett lobbed the ball over the stranded Spiegel only for Togwell to brilliantly clear off the line with a diving header.
Gas players and supporters were adamant the midfielder had cleared over the bar with his hand, but following consultation with his assistant, referee Nicholas Kinseley awarded only a corner.
The increasingly-dangerous Lyle Della-Verde was causing problems down the right and when he cut back for Taylor, the striker should have hit the target but instead pondered on the ball allowing Barnet to get a block in.
Just two minutes later, the hosts were made to pay for that wasted opportunity when Barnet levelled in some style from a trademark Luisma free-kick.
The Spaniard got the ball up-and-over the Rovers’ wall at alarming pace and planted the ball in the bottom right-hand corner before home keeper Steve Mildenhall could even move.
Barnet just about ended the half on top, but that had not reflected the preceding 45 minutes in which the Bees had been subject of a thorough examination from Darrell Clarke’s side.
After the blood-and-thunder of the first half, the second period began as an altogether quieter affair and it was Barnet who had the first real glimpse of goal.
A ball over the top found Akinde and as the Conference’s top-scorer looked poised to shoot, Rovers centre-back Mark McChrystal came flying in to hook the ball away superbly.
Chances were extremely thin on the ground, but Rovers had the second-half’s best when a cross from the left picked out unmarked substitute Angelo Balanta.
The former Queens Park Rangers forward then somehow contrived to plant his attempt wide of the post from the centre of the penalty area.
It was the hosts pushing for a winner at the death and in the teaming rain a corner kick came all the across the penalty area and was touched home by McChrystal (do they mean Angelo Balanta?). A clearance on the line proved in vain and the assistant awarded in the home side’s favour.
Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall; Lockyer, McChrystal, Parkes, Brown; Monkhouse (Harrison 70), Sinclair, Mansell, Della-Verde; Taylor (Goldberg 81), Blissett (Balanta 67).
Subs: Clarke, Trotman.
Barnet: Spiegel; Yiadom, Stephens, N’Gala, Johnson (Vilhete 30); Luisma (Mensah 61), Weston, Togwell, Cook (Gambin 86); Akinde, MacDonald.
Subs: Saville, Hunt.
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley.
Attendance: 6,012 (148 away supporters).