TUFC vs Barnet: Disappointing draw after promising start

Torbay Weekly

Two goals up in 27 minutes thanks to Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Torquay United allowed two points to slip from their grasp as lowly Barnet fought back in a wind-dictated game of two halves at Plainmoor.

Gary Johnson's Gulls played some sparkling stuff in the first half-hour, with QPR loanee Stephen Duke-McKenna outstanding on the right wing, and they fully deserved one rasping drive by Lemonheigh-Evans in the eighth minute and a close-range volley, set up by Duke-McKenna, just before the half-hour mark.

But crucially, they let outplayed Barnet pull back a goal by Adam Marriott in the 37th minute, and it proved a key moment.

With the wind behind them in the second half, the Bees believed they could save themselves and they did, as United sagged mentally as much as physically.

Even their passing, which had been so crisp and accurate in the first half, deserted them before and after Ephron Mason-Clark scored a high-quality equaliser on the hour.

Indeed, Shaun MacDonald had to make two big saves in stoppage-time to keep United on terms, although Duke-McKenna nearly grabbed a winner in stoppage-time with a half-volley just over the bar from just inside the area.

Dan Holman was unavailable because of a groin strain, so Duke-McKenna came into the side, with Lemonheigh-Evans playing virtually on his own up front, behind a five-man midfield with plenty of young legs.

Sure enough, that midfield swarmed all over Barnet from the first whistle, with a series of pacy, high tempo moves with Duke-Mckenna at the heart of most of them.

After only five minutes he beat the muscular Ben Richards-Everton on the right, Barnet could not clear his cross and Tom Lapslie blazed the loose ball over from 12 yards when he should definitely have hit the target.

But the Gulls did not have long to wait to break through.

In the eighth minute an Armani Little free-kick forced a mistake, as Ben Wynter challenged goalie Aston Oxborough at the far post, the ball broke free again and this time Lemonheigh-Evans made not mistake - a rasping shot into the roof of the net from 15 yards…1-0.

Little sent a couple of free-kicks disappointingly over the bar, and Lemonheigh-Evans had a shot bloked after a terrific crossfield move between Duke-McKenna and Stephen Wearne.

But in the 27th minute United deservedly moved further ahead.

Hall and Duke-McKenna played a perfect one-two down the right, Duke-McKenna's cross was right on the money and Lemonheigh-Evans arrived at the near-post on cue to volley the ball home from close-range…2-0.

It had been a great start by United, but they almost drew breath for a moment, and Barnet sensed it.

Shaun MacDonald, who'd had virtually nothing to do to that point, came for a high cross in the 36th minute, did not get there and Richards-Everton sent a free header over the bar.

A minute later they pulled a goal back, although it was in slightly controversial circumstances.

Dean Moxey, having another polished game in United's defence, was down and clutching his nose as Barnet broke down their right, Teddy Howe crossed and Marriott tapped in with Torquay still waiting for a whistle…2-1

If Gulls fans were unhappy with referee Thomas Kirk then, they were furious in first-half stoppage-time.

Duke-McKenna clearly out jumped Richards-Everton to win a header, quite a feat considering the difference in height, and Hall appeared to have a follow-up shot handled in the Barnet penalty-area by the time Mr Kirk blew up for a foul by Duke-McKenna.

As if to show that he was right, Mr Kirk also booked the United midfielder, which was even more ridiculous.

United struggled into the wind just as badly as Barnet had done.

Barnet were visibly lifted by their goal against the run of play just before the interval, while the Gulls went badly off the boil.

On the hour a loose touch by Wearne on the edge of his own area allowed De Havilland to cross from the right to Mason-Clark, who cut back inside Wynter and slammed a fierce shot into the top right-hand corner…2-2.

As United struggled to retain possession, Johnson sent on Danny Wright for Lapslie and then Klaidi Lolos for Wearne, but it was Barnet who looked the much more likely winners.

Marriott fired over when he should have scored, and in the last few minutes MacDonald had to make two important saves - a brilliant one from Marriott and a good one from sub Dan Powell - just to make sure that Torquay came away with a point.

Duke-McKenna nearly won it in stoppage-time - that would have brought the house down after his performance, but it was still a disappointing end to an afternoon that had promised so much in that first half.

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Torquay United (4-1-4-1): MacDonald; Wynter, Lewis, Moxey, Martin (Felix 82); Hall; Duke-McKenna, Little, Lapslie (Wright 61), Wearne (Lolos 76); Duke-McKenna; Lemonheigh-Evans; subs not used - Halstead (gk), Omar.

Booked: Duke-McKenna 45.

Barnet: 3-5-2): Oxborough; Howe, Marshall (Powell 79), Richards-Everton; Grego-Cox, Flanagan, Taylor, De Havilland, Woods ; Marriott, Mason-Clark (Walsh 83); subs not used - Hall, Fonguck, Askew.

Booked: Marshall 13, De Havilland 44, Grego-Cox 58, Rivchards-Everton 72, Howe 88, Oxborough 90.

Referee: Thomas Kirk (Manchester).

Attendance: 2,221 (69 Barnet fans)

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