Gulls slump to frustrating defeat at Barnet

A frustrated Sinclair Armstrong of Torquay United reacts having scored from an acrobatic overhead ki

A frustrated Sinclair Armstrong of Torquay United reacts having scored from an acrobatic overhead kick of which was later disallowed due to an offside call during the Vanarama National League match between Barnet and Torquay United at The Hive London, Harrow, London on Saturday 20th November 2021 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK. - Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK

Barnet 2 Torquay United 1

That man Armani Little's eighth goal of the season - a sumptuous free-kick equaliser on the hour - was not enough to save Torquay United from a narrow defeat by mid-table rivals Barnet at The Hive.

Gary Johnson's Gulls, who had deservedly trailed to Adam Marriott's set-piece header just before half-time, were galvanised by two half-time changes and captain Little's 'special'.

United, again cheered on by vociferous away support, were just looking as if they might go on to win when Barnet caught them on the counter and sub Ali Omar's foul handed the hosts a penalty which Ephron Mason-Clark converted.

It was a disappointing result, ahead of another away game at Aldershot Town on Tuesday night, and it stalled their hopes of moving into the top half of the table after a recent improvement.

As expected, Johnson recalled QPR loanee Sinclair Armstrong to the attack and Dan Holman, who had recovered from a knee knock sustained against Dover Athletic (2-1) the previous weekend, dropped to the bench.

Dan Martin was named as a sub after suspension, but United were still without Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Chiori Johnson, a casualty of the Dover win, while Danny Wright and Asa Hall were still regaining match-fitness after injuries of their own.

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Not for the first time this season, United started slowly and Barnet dominated the first 20 minutes.

The Gulls conceded possession too easily and the Bees, with Kian Flanagan busy in midfield and Mason-Clark's pace and trickery a threat up front, forced them back.

Harry Perritt did well to deflect a Mason-Clark shot behind in the 16th minute and Joe Lewis - both Torquay's centre-backs held up well under the pressure - then blocked a Marriott drive.

United had a big escape in the 24th minute, when Marriott's shot hit team-mate Reiss Greenidge almost on the Torquay goalline.

The withdrawal of Flanagan through injury in the 28th minute should have been a plus for United, but their counter-attacking efforts were still too inaccurate and strikers Armstrong and Klaidi Lolos had little real service.

It took a brilliant save by Shaun MacDonald to deny Mason-Clark after a solo run in the 32nd minute, but two minutes later Armstrong hit the net with an acrobatic 'bicycle' kick - only for the 'goal' to be chalked off for offside.

The flag wasn't against Armstrong, but Keelan O'Connell in the build-up.

Barnet's set-pieces always looked dangerous, and in the 42nd minute they finally made one count.

Wes Fonguck's corner was headed home at the near-post by Marriott…1-0.

And if it hadn't been for two more good blocks by Perritt in quick succession, Marriott would have made it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.

It was no surprise when Johnson decided to take action during the interval - it was a double-change with Ali Omar for Perritt, who had appeared to pick up an injury, at centre-back and Holman for O'Connell with a reshuffle in attack.

The action visibly lifted the Gulls, Woods and Marriott both picking up bookings as Barnet found themselves on the back foot for the first time.

Referee Parsons turned down United shouts for a penalty when Holman went down on an Armstrong flick, but the balance of the game had changed and Torquay's growing urgency was rewarded by a goal in the 59th minute.

Holman was fouled again, and Little produced a peach of a free-kick from well outside the area…1-1.

Armstrong had a shot deflected wide from a Little corner and United were just looking as if they were taking the match over when they were caught by a counter-attack in the 65th minute.

Bloomfield went down in stages on a pass by Mitch Brundle, but Mr Parsons ruled that Omar had fouled him just inside the area.

It was a penalty and Mason-Clark sent MacDonald the wrong way from the spot…2-1.

As the game opened right up in the last 20 minutes MacDonald and Oxborough both saved well, from Fonguck and Lewis,  

Johnson's last card was Jake Andrews for Moore in the 73rd minute, before Barnet starting trying to slow the game down at every opportunity.

MacDonald, trying to haul an opponent back to his feet, was cautioned along with Mason-Clark - proceedings held up just as Barnet were hoping.

But Mr Parsons did add on six extra minutes, giving United just enough time to force a second equaliser.

From one late chance Armstrong headed a Holman cross wide, but there was to be no 'Gary-Time' saver this day - indeed, Moxey had to make one last goalline clearance from Mason-Clark to keep it at 2-1.

Barnet (4-4-2): Oxborough; Taylor, Greenidge, Turley, Beard; Woods (Bloomfield 60), Brundle, Flanagan (Thomas 27), Fonguck (Hall 82); Mason-Clark, Marriott; subs not used - Askew (GK), Richardson-Everton.

Booked: Woods 47, Marriott 57, Mason-Clark 81, Oxborough 90+3.

Torquay United (4-4-2): MacDonald; Wynter, Perritt (Omar 46), Lewis, Moxey; O'Connell (Holman 46), Little, Lapslie, Moore (Andrews 73); Armstrong, Lolos; subs not used - Halstead (GK), Martin.

Booked: Omar 65, MacDonald 81.

Referee: Gary Parsons (Hants).