Gulls freeze on the big occasion

Gary Johnson, Manager of Torquay United during the National League match between Torquay United and

Gary Johnson, Manager of Torquay United during the National League match between Torquay United and Barnet at Plainmoor Torquay, Devon on Saturday 22nd May 2021 - PHOTO: Dave Crawford/PPAUK - Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK

Torquay United manager Gary Johnson said his players 'froze' after putting themselves in a great position to strengthen their National League Championship hopes against Barnet at Plainmoor. 

With just over half-an-hour gone, the Gulls led 2-0 and their returning fans believed there was every chance that leaders Sutton United would still be caught. 

But lowly Barnet recovered to draw 2-2 and now United need a massive favour from Hartlepool United to keep their hopes alive when they play at Sutton on Sunday afternoon. 

"Today, we froze a little bit, unfortunately, and Barnet rose to the occasion," said Johnson. 

"We went 2-0 up and it was looking OK, although they had a couple of chances before that. 

"But the penalty gave them a bit of oxygen and brought them back into the game. 

"Progressively we didn't quite get our game going and it didn't get better, it got slightly worse. 

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"We ended up drawing a game which feels like a loss. We are frustrated with our performance on the day." 

United have one more game left, away to Altrincham next Saturday, when Sutton travel to Barnet. 

"We've still got a very important season to carry on with," added Johnson. 

"We've just got to wait and see how things pan out. 

"If these (Barnet) play like they did against us, against Sutton, there's every chance. 

"And if we don't make it, there's still another route through the Play-Offs." 

They say 'It's the hope that kills', and Gulls fans weren't just hoping, they were dreaming when Jake Andrews (13mins) and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans (23) with his tenth goal of the season gave United a 2-0 lead that they held until the 36th minute. 

Torquay, level on points with Sutton at that point, should have built on that start in search of the goals which might have transformed the title picture. 

But Barnet had already sounded some alarm bells in a nervous home defence before those goals, and Sam Sherring's mistimed tackle in the 36th minute led to the Michael Petrasso penalty which hauled the Bees back into the match. 

Barnet defender Themis Kefalas had gone close several times with set-piece headers in the first half, and his 56th minute effort on another free-kick drew Barnet level at 2-2 and blew the match wide open. 

Barnet actually created the better chances in the last half-hour, as United offered plenty of effort and pressure but not enough quality near goal.