County Buzzing, As Late Winner Takes Sting Out Of Bees!
The Hatters’ second trip in under a year to The Hive saw them avenge their FA Cup defeat last December against the ‘Bees’ of Barnet, and achieve a first triumph in the Capital for nearly nine years, to move up to 10th place and two points away from the National League play-off positions.
Elliot Osborne’s strike a quarter of an hour from time and substitute Frank Mulhern’s winner at the end of normal time shaded victory by the odd goal in three, after they had gone behind in the 70th minute.
County took to the field on an overcast North London afternoon, showing two changes from the line-up that had started against Dagenham & Redbridge at Edgeley Park seven days previously. Sam Walker and the scorer of the only goal in the contest with the ‘Daggers’, Nyal Bell, were preferred to Adam Thomas and Mulhern, who were both named among the substitutes.
The hosts launched the game’s opening attack with just 45 seconds on the clock, when Ephron Mason-Clark fired at goal from 12 yards out, but Ben Hinchliffe stood tall to parry the effort away. Six minutes later, Osborne fashioned a first chance of note for the Hatters – only for home goalkeeper Scott Loach, similarly, to block the angled effort from the right.
The Bees were lively swarming forward – not least through their third of the Walker trio on show, Josh, from whom Hinchliffe saved with his legs twice ahead of the half’s mid-point, before punching away an effort delivered by Elliott Johnson who had cut in dangerously from the left.
At the other end, Sam Minihan fired wide of the right post a minute prior to the half-hour mark. Then, following a 10-minute spell in which chances were at a premium, and with half-time beckoning, Medy Elito saw his shot deflected over the crossbar by Festus Arthur.
HALF-TIME: Barnet 0, County 0.
County introduced Mulhern for Bell to lead the line upon the resumption – but the hosts, as they had done in the early stages of the first half, offered the more lively threat going forward at the outset in the second, albeit without a cutting edge in front of goal.
Harry Taylor and Elito both blazed shots well over, before the deadlock was broken 20 minutes from time – with Mason-Clark finding space around the edge of the area, before drilling a low shot past the outstretched Hinchliffe and into the bottom-left corner of the net.
The Hatters immediately responded, courtesy of a electrifying run down the right flank by Osborne, whose low cross narrowly evaded the on-rushing Devante Rodney six yards out. But five minutes later, Osborne made an even more telling contribution – latching on to Minihan’s delivery from the right, before converting a deflected equaliser off Loach from close range.
Elito fired just wide of the left upright, Rodney was denied by a sprawling Loach after attempting to round him, and substitute Ben Jackson had a shot deflected beyond the right post, as both sides went in search of a winner.
And from the corner on the right, taken by Jackson as a consequence of his own attempt on goal, Mulhern connected at full stretch to toe-poke in and send over 400 travelling Hatters home happy.
FULL-TIME: Barnet 1 (Mason-Clark, 70), County 2 (Osborne, 75; Mulhern, 90).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Palmer (Capt.), Arthur, Garratt; Keane, S Walker; Rodney (Thomas, 87), Osborne, T Walker (Jackson, 61); Bell (Mulhern, 46).
Unused Subs: Turnbull, Ormson.
Attendance: 1,536 (405 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.