UNITED travelled to Barnet on Tuesday night with the clear mission of banishing gloomy memories from the weekend loss to Harrogate Town in the FA Cup.
That dismal defeat was a big financial blow to the Yellows and the club needed the lift of consolidating a play-off push. Unfortunately, Barnet would prove just as stubborn as Harrogate and United repeated their trick of missing chances.
Once again, profligacy was punished, as Clovis Kamdjo snatched victory for the Bees with a super strike on 79 minutes and the Gulls continue the week from hell.
United boss Martin Ling made two changes from the side humbled by Harrogate, restoring Joe Oastler to right-back in place of Daniel Leadbitter. The Yellow midfield was bolstered by the industry of Craig Easton, with Danny Stevens dropping to a bench that also contained Saul Halpin for the first time this season.
Barnet’s coaching duet of Edgar Davids and Mark Robson were considerably more ruthless in their team selection after exiting the Cup at the hands of Oxford. Davids picked himself for a return to midfield alongside Anthony Edgar. Oliver Lee and Curtis Weston were the men sacrificed.
There was also a change in the vanguard, where Jake Hyde came in for former Fulham forward Collins John. Graham Stack returned in goal ahead of Sam Cowler, and the defensive alterations saw Jonathan Fortune and Jordan Brown replaced by Krystian Pearce and Elliot Johnson.
Within minutes of the kick-off, debutant Johnson had a very lucky escape after swiping the legs of Billy Bodin in the penalty area and the failure of Darren Deadman to point to the spot had the Gulls shaking their heads in disbelief.
Playing up the famous Underhill slope in the first half, it would have been a wonderful opportunity for United to remind themselves of how to hit the net after the painful weekend at Plainmoor.
As it was, the men in Yellow quickly recovered from the perceived injustice and exerted mild pressure on the home side in the early exchanges, with Nathan Craig whipping over a pair of dangerous corners to test the Barnet defence.
Craig Easton found Rene Howe down the left and his cross was cleared under heavy pressure from Bodin. Moments later, the Welsh winger forced a smart save from Stack to keep the scores level.
United were undoubtedly on top, as a brace of crosses from Oastler had the Bees struggling to relieve the pressure. Brian Saah, forward for a set-piece, then prompted Stack into a decent block from stabbed effort.
After a brief spell out of the team, Oastler threatened to score the first goal of his professional career on 23 minutes, smashing a long-range shot just past the top corner with his left foot. Howe then slipped in the lively Bodin for a shot on goal that Stack did very well to turn wide.
Barnet desperately needed some respite and the source was a weaving run from Edgar, ending with Michael Poke matching the gloved heroics of Stack at the other end. Davids, meanwhile, was being well marshalled by Damon Lathrope in the midfield area.
The Gulls came back with a terrific chance for Howe, spinning away from the last man and attempting a delicate chip over Stack, who produced a fine fingertip save to deny United’s leading scorer.
Howe was getting closer and closer, and his next foray left Barnet centre-back David Stephens with twisted blood but the final curling shot just evaded the far post by inches. Bodin was next, flashing the ball wide after more excellent work from the youngster.
It was no exaggeration to say United could have wrapped up the game by half-time but the recent spectre of spurned opportunities once more blighted the Yellows. The one consolation was playing downhill in the second half.
The slope played no part in an early reshuffle for Ling, as an injury to Poke forced the United boss to withdraw his goalkeeper. Martin Rice came on for the first league appearance of his second spell as a Gull.
Stack produced yet another super save at the other end, clawing away a header from Howe and Barnet somehow survived once again. Bodin was terrorising the home side and a delicious cross from the left just missed the outstretched leg of Lee Mansell.
The Bees were simply unable to retain possession and United continued to pour forward in Yellow waves, but the longer the Gulls were frustrated, the bigger concern that Barnet might nick something at the other end.
The game entered a stale period through the midway point of the second half, as United struggled to come up with new ideas to break down a stubborn home defence. Barnet were playing like a side content with a draw and an ambitious drive from Bodin never really looked like changing the pattern.
Robson was the first boss to twist with his outfield players, replacing Edgar with Lee for the final 20 minutes. Ling responded with the introduction of Stevens for Easton.
Sadly, as United know only too well, if you consistently miss chances, the ultimate punishment is often inflicted. In this case, Kamdjo was the home hero, latching on to a pass from Hyde to rifle a shot past Rice from an acute angle.
It was harsh on the substitute ‘keeper who had no chance with the goal and a terrific finish from the Barnet midfield enforcer, but United will be devastated with yet another encounter of wasted openings.
There was no time to feel miserable for the Gulls and Ling removed Lathrope for Ryan Jarvis in the final push, but the action switched to a swinging shot from Lee narrowly missing the top corner.
A bad night got even worse, as a late booking for Howe would lead to a suspension for the weekend trip to Oxford. To say luck has deserted United would be a massive understatement but the facts remain: two horrible defeats in the space of four horrible days.
Barnet (4-3-3): 29 Graham Stack; 2 Barry Fuller, 32 Krystian Pearce, 30 David Stephens, 26 Elliot Johnson; 8 Mark Byrne, 4 Clovis Kamdjo, 38 Edgar Davids, 15 Andy Yiadom, 17 Anthony Edgar (7 Oliver Lee 73); 19 Jake Hyde. Substitutes (not used): 5 Jonathan Fortune, 14 Ahmed Abdulla, 18 Sam Cowler (GK), 20 Curtis Weston, 22 Iffy Allen, 25 Jamal Lowe.
Booked: Pearce 90, Stack 90
Gulls (4-3-3): 1 Michael Poke (13 Martin Rice 48); 2 Joe Oastler, 5 Brian Saah, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 7 Lee Mansell (capt), 6 Damon Lathrope (8 Ryan Jarvis 84), 18 Craig Easton (19 Danny Stevens 75); 15 Billy Bodin, 9 Rene Howe, 20 Nathan Craig. Substitutes (not used): 12 Daniel Leadbitter, 17 Saul Halpin, 21 Thomas Cruise, 23 Ashley Yeoman.
Booked: Easton 20, Howe 89, Downes 90
Referee: Darren Deadman
Attendance: 1,544 (275 away).