Akinde pen 39
FOR six minutes, Torquay United had a window of opportunity against a very strong Barnet team but the dismissal of Aaron Downes, and subsequent converted penalty, ended the contest.
Before all the shenanigans, the Bees surged into the lead with a super goal from Mauro Vilhete but a straight red card for Bondz N’Gala presented the Gulls with a clear avenue back into the game.
United were piling men forward but when Downes also saw red for a clash with John Akinde, numbers were level and the big striker climbed to his feet, converting a calm spot-kick to effectively seal the win before half-time.
Courtney Richards raised Yellow hopes with a fantastic strike deep into injury-time but the clock, again, did the Gulls no favours, as Barnet held on for the three points.
United manager Chris Hargreaves resisted the temptation for change, despite the gruelling midweek trip to Dover, sticking with the same starting line-up and substitute bench that battled to a 2-2 draw on the Kent coast.
Barnet boss Martin Allen opted for one change to the team that defeated Macclesfield last weekend, removing Spanish winger Luisma for the Portuguese alternative of Vilhete.
The Launa Windows Stadium was all ready for action but referee Brett Huxtable then became aware of a potential colour clash between Barnet’s amber and black strip and United goalkeeper Martin Rice, who was adorned in his usual orange attire for a home game.
It was a frustrating delay of a few minutes for both teams and one that should never happen, as the visiting team are informed of United’s chosen colours well in advance of the game and, as the away side, it is their responsibility to ensure there is no potential clash.
In the end, Rice returned in a fetching green outfit and the match finally got under way with a decent break down the right from Barnet’s Andy Yiadom and his whipped cross glanced off the head of Akinde to give United’s custodian a comfortable first save.
The Gulls created their first opening of the day through a clever inter-change on the edge of the box, culminating in Louis Briscoe flicking the ball to Jordan Chapell, who skipped past N’Gala before fizzing a low left-foot shot inches past Graham Stack’s far post.
Chapell was involved in the next Yellow flourish moments later, guiding a pass to Ryan Bowman and the number nine displayed tremendous awareness to lob the ball over the approaching N’Gala before hitting a sweet first-time volley that Stack did well to parry clear.
Barnet showed United how it should be done on 15 minutes, pouncing on a loose clearance for Akinde to slip the ball inside the left channel for Vilhete to dance past Downes before planting a fine finish into the top corner.
It was incisive and clinical stuff from the Bees, and it had soon become clear that United would need to show huge physical resilience against an imposing side. One somewhat dubious tactic was to hack down the towering Akinde and Rice did a good job in that sense on 25 minutes, racing off his line to clatter the big striker.
It was a poor challenge from United’s goalkeeper, who was left very grateful to the covering Krystian Pearce for ensuring the deserved yellow card was not any worse.
Barnet were dominating the game but one clever pass from Richards picked out Bowman and when he reached the ball seconds before the lunging N’Gala, Huxtable had a massive decision.
After consulting his assistant referee, the red card was brandished and it was difficult not to question the difference in guilt between Rice and N’Gala. Barnet had no time to complain, as Allen immediately sacrificed striker Charlie MacDonald for defensive substitute, David Stephens.
United had their tails up all of a sudden and captain Luke Young was only a fraction too high with a swerving free-kick. Toby Ajala then lashed in a shot from distance that deflected narrowly wide.
Akinde was left to plough a lone furrow but he still had the strength to muscle past Downes and Pearce, opening the space for Lee Cook to execute a clever shuffle of feet before guiding a left-foot shot over the bar.
The Gulls then committed football suicide with an incident off the ball that saw Downes immediately dismissed and Akinde sauntered forward to slot an easy penalty past Rice. Numbers were level in personnel but United had a mountain to climb.
Hargreaves was placed in the same position as his opposing dug-out, removing the unfortunate Briscoe to bring on Angus MacDonald as defensive cover to complete a first-half that had gone completely wrong.
United were desperate for a fast start to the second period and three quick set-pieces had the Barnet defence under pressure, but plans were thrown in the air by Bowman hobbling off to be replaced by Duane Ofori-Acheampong.
The tempo was excellent from United but credit to Barnet for staying strong at the back, and Allen sought to toughen up his defences even further by introducing David Hunt for Cook.
Captain Young was directing Yellow operations, storming around the pitch to get on the ball in an attempt to make something happen. Hargreaves, meanwhile, opted for a final change, removing Chapell for striker Ashley Yeoman.
The Bees were happy to set up camp in their half but when they did break forward, Akinde clashed with Pearce in the centre-circle. Curtis Weston ignored wild Yellow claims for a foul to surge forward and smash a fierce shot against the near-post.
Akinde’s work was done for the day, as he came off for Jon Nurse and, despite United fury at his robust approach, it was hard not to applaud the visiting centre-forward for a powerful performance.
As the game entered its final 10 minutes, the Gulls were struggling to find any more inspiration and the increasingly desperate policy of launching the ball forward was all too comfortable for the Barnet defence.
The Bees ended the match with nine men, as Vilhete limped off after a reckless challenge from MacDonald but the numerical advantage had been restored far too late for the Gulls to rescue the game, despite Richards lashing home with the final shot of a breathless game.
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 29 Durrell Berry, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes, 25 Levi Ives; 12 Jordan Chapell (14 Ashley Yeoman 64), 8 Luke Young (capt), 16 Courtney Richards, 10 Toby Ajala; 7 Louis Briscoe (21 Angus MacDonald 44), 9 Ryan Bowman (24 Duane Ofori-Acheampong 49). Substitutes (not used): 22 James McQuilkin, 23 Jordan Seabright (GK).
Booked: Rice 25, MacDonald 85
Sent-off: Downes 38
Barnet (4-4-2): 1 Graham Stack; 2 Andy Yiadom, 4 Jack Saville, 5 Bondz N’Gala, 3 Elliot Johnson; 16 Mauro Vilhete, 8 Curtis Weston, 14 Sam Togwell, 11 Lee Cook (28 David Hunt 59); 9 John Akinde (20 Jon Nurse 68), 10 Charlie MacDonald (capt) (6 David Stephens 34). Substitutes (not used): 18 Luke Gambin, 31 Bernard Mensah.
Sent-off: N’Gala 32, Vilhete 48
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Attendance: 1,993 (115 away).