Barnet 2-0 Fleetwood
By Michael Woods
Fleetwood Town’s play-off chances took a significant blow on Tuesday night, as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to a struggling Barnet, who looked to increase their own chances of playing League football next year.
Goals in each half from Mark Bryne and Luke Gambin, who capitalised on a defensive mix up, were enough to sink Town on a hugely frustrating night for the travelling Cod Army.
Looking to bounce back from last Saturdays defeat at Plymouth; Graham Alexander made 3 changes.
McGuire, Crowther and the suspended McKenna all made way for Evans, Nicholson and Barry. Fleetwood also missed the chance to see legendary midfielder Edgar Davids in action, whose appeal was turned down following a sending off last Saturday.
It was the home side created the first chance of a quiet opening, as Jon Nurse placed his shot narrowly wide when well positioned after ten minutes.
There were few chances of note by the quarter hour mark, as both sides eased their way into the game, following the previous weekend’s defeats to Plymouth and Accrington respectively. Whilst goal mouth action was limited, Barnet passed the ball about comfortably, with a confidence that defied their precarious league standing.
As the game wore on, Luke Gambin became more of a threat on the left side, and twice Fleetwood’s defence had to be alert to clear some testing crosses. However, it was actually the opposite flank which created the game’s first goal. Some persistent play from Curtis Weston created space in the Town penalty box, with his shot superbly saved by Scott Davies. However, midfielder Mark Byrne was first to react and showed good composure to slide the ball in, with twenty five minutes on the clock.
As the game wore on Fleetwood managed to create a couple of chances, first Gareth Evans had a left foot shot deflected just wide. The resulting corner was taken short, with Browns cross eventually being flicked just over the bar by Alan Goodall.
Barnet’s response was too attack further in search of the second goal, a Nurse right wing cross was cleared only as far as Weston, whose twenty yard strike was well held by Davies.
A frustrating first half for The Cod Army was epitomised on the stroke of half town when a flowing move on the right hand side worked its way to Evans, whose shot flew high over the bar. That was the last action of note in the first half, with Barnet good value for their one goal lead.
In search of a response, Alexander introduced Conor McLaughlin for Goodall at half time, who had earlier picked up his 6th yellow card of the season.
The second half began in a more open fashion, as both sides pressed for the games next crucial goal. First to test was Fleetwood’s Gareth Evans, whose shot was well held by The Bee’s keeper. Meanwhile, the home sides Luke Gambin was a constant threat on the counter.
The faster tempo appeared to suit the visitors as Parkin was soon testing the experienced Stack from a Beeley delivery on 54 minutes.
Despite these encouraging signs, Barnet soon doubled their lead on the hour. A miserable night for Alexander’s men was summed up when a long ball caused chaos between Davies and Beeley. Neither seized control of the ball with the lively Gambin taking full advantage of the miscommunication, slotting into the empty net and claiming a goal that his performance thoroughly deserved.
Alexander reacted by bringing on Ryan Crowther for David Ball straight after the goal. The substitution failed to lift Town from a sluggish performance. In fact, the home side nearly added to the score, when Byrne rifled a 30 yard free kick inches over, after Atkinson had fouled a surging Weston. The visiting skipper was subsequently booked for the challenge.
Full of confidence, Barnet continued in search of a killer third goal. With fifteen minutes remaining Nurse capitalised on a miscued clearance, before seeing his shot fly wide.
Any onlooker would have assumed Barnet to be the team chasing play-offs as midfielder Byrne again posed a threat from distance. His 80th minute effort tested Davies’ reactions, who had to dive smartly to his left to save.
Moments later, a huge chance fell to Pond for the away side, but his looping back post effort was hacked clear, as Barnet looked to keep hold of three vital points. With that chance gone, it ended any hope of a Town fight back, as the home side saw out the final few minutes with relative comfort.
A disappointing night for Town, who will be looking to bounce back with a positive result in their next game at home to Dagenham & Redbridge.
FTFC: Davies, Beeley, Pond, Atkinson, Goodall (McLaughlin 45), Nicholson, Barry, Brown, Ball (Crowther 60), Parkin (Matt 71) , Evans.