County 1-1 Barnet FC

Hatters Stung By Early Penalty, Before Ash Gets Them Buzzing Again

A second headed Ash Palmer goal in as many games secured a share of the points for County against the ‘Bees’ of Barnet, and a continued hold on ninth place, after the visiting side had taken the lead at Edgeley Park with an early penalty.

The defender’s decisive contribution on the stroke of half-time represented his side’s sole attempt on target in the course of a tight contest which saw clear-cut chances at a relative premium.

The Hatters took to the field for their first home match in three weeks, and on a sunny, early (meteorological) spring afternoon, showing three changes from the starting line-up at Ebbsfleet seven days previously. Nyal Bell, Connor Dimaio and captain Paul Turnbull were recalled in place of, respectively, Liam McAlinden, Elliot Osborne (who were both named among the substitutes) and the injured Jordan Keane.

Barnet enjoyed a good deal of the early possession, without looking to be a threat to the County goal – until the ninth minute, that was, when Dan Cowan’s foul on Simeon Akinola saw the visitors awarded a penalty. Leading scorer Akinola promptly dusted himself down to send Ben Hinchliffe the wrong way, and give his side the lead, from the spot.

The Hatters responded by earning their first corner, which Dimaio delivered from the left, across the goalmouth and narrowly shy of the far post. And an off-balance Ben Jackson headed Danny Lloyd’s cross on the right well beyond the opposite upright, before being teed up by Sam Walker to curl over a shot from the edge of the area.

Dimaio cleared the Barnet crossbar from a similar distance, as County strove to get back on level terms before the interval. And Wes Fonguck did likewise at the other end – albeit at much greater height, into Cheadle End orbit.

The contest had entered its 45th minute without witnessing a County attempt on target – but Palmer rectified that when, just ahead of the added-time announcement, his looping header from a Liam Hogan cross on the right soared into the near-top corner and sent the teams in all-square at the break – with the Hatters, in the circumstances, buzzing rather more than the Bees.

HALF-TIME: County 1 (Palmer, 45), Barnet 1 (Akinola (penalty), 9).

County introduced McAlinden upon the resumption to boost the front-line – and continued in attacking vein before winning a couple of early second-half corners in as many minutes.

Fellow striker Bell was played through on the hour, following a long clearance by Hinchliffe, but, under pressure from Ricardo Santos, volleyed over. And Palmer twice went close with headers to doubling his and the Hatters’ tallies, as his efforts respectively hit the bar and the far post from two Walker corners on the right.

McAlinden went to ground under a Harry Taylor challenge in the visitors’ box – but Referee Elliott Swallow waved play on – before Sam Minihan, at the home end, cleared off the line a Santos header from Elliott Johnson’s corner on the left.

Barnet’s on-loan striker Paul McCallum who, earlier in the season, netted twice at EP for Solihull, had posed little danger until late on when his well-placed header towards the top-left corner of the net was superbly plucked from the air by Hinchliffe.

FULL-TIME: County 1 (Palmer, 45), Barnet 1 (Akinola (penalty), 9).

Team (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Cowan, Palmer, Hogan; Minihan, Turnbull (Capt.), Walker, Jackson (McAlinden, 46); Dimaio (Osborne, 73); Bell (Arthur, 90), Lloyd.

Unused Subs: Ormson, Clarke.

Man of the Match: Dimaio.

Attendance: 5,011 (204 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.

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