Barnet were eliminated from the FA Cup with a 3-1 defeat at home to Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday in a thrilling first round tie.
Despite taking an early lead the Bees were unable to carry out the giant killing that looked on the cards throughout a superb opening half an hour, as they were eventually reduced to nine men with Wycombe coming back strongly.
As expected, Martin Allen named a strong side for the eagerly anticipated clash between the Conference table toppers and League Two leaders.
Captain Charlie MacDonald was recalled for his first start in two months having fully recovered from a knee injury, partnering the free-scoring John Akinde up front in a 4-4-2 formation that saw Lee Cook and Luisma Villa line up on the wings.
Following an impeccably observed minute’s silence to mark Remembrance Weekend a bumper crowd at The Hive was rocking ahead of kick-off. It certainly had an effect on the Bees who came flying out of the traps and took the lead with just two minutes on the clock.
Charlie MacDonald made an immediate impact, flicking the ball in behind for John Akinde to run on to before the big striker showed fantastic composure to control and round the goalkeeper before slotting in from a tight angle.
Barnet were on a roll and nearly doubled their lead on 14 minutes as Curtis Weston sprung the offside trap to race through. His initial effort was well saved by Matt Ingram before the goalkeeper recovered well to gather the loose ball with the goal at Barnet’s mercy.
There was a moment of controversy midway through the first period when Lee Cook, who was not even in possession of the ball, was on the receiving end of a rash challenge from behind by Josh Scowen for which the full-back only received a yellow card.
The Bees continued on the front foot and had numerous chances to stretch their lead during the first half hour with Cook seeing a dangerous free kick tipped over the crossbar and Luisma sending a spectacular bicycle kick narrowly wide as confusion reigned about whether he was onside or off.
However, despite Barnet’s dominance they were pegged back on 34 minutes as Wycombe were awarded a penalty after Matt McClure tumbled to the floor despite Andy Yiadom appearing to pull out of the tackle. Graham Stack guessed the right way but was unable to keep out Paul Hayes’ spot kick as Wycombe regained parity.
Things got worse for the Bees right at the end of three minutes of additional time at the end of the first half as they were reduced to ten men, with Sam Togwell the man to see red for a tackle on Matt Bloomfield.
Martin Allen responded by bringing on David Hunt at half-time for his home debut to sure up the midfield, withdrawing Charlie MacDonald as Barnet reverted to one up front.
The one man disadvantage was beginning to show however, and their pressure eventually told on the hour mark when Aaron Pierre headed home a corner from the right to give Wycombe the lead.
Barnet’s response to falling behind was to throw on new arrival Bernard Mensah for Luisma Villa followed by Luke Gambin in place of Lee Cook, as Hunt dropped into defence and Yiadom pushed into midfield.
The Bees looked to have equalised on 64 minutes when Yiadom powered a header into the net from a corner, but the referee had already blown for an infringement with the ball in flight.
Barnet continued to attack at every opportunity, but they were punished on 74 minutes as Matt McClure was judged to have beaten the offside trap after running across the line and sending in a looped cross which Sam Cook was able to tap into the net on the line to make it 3-1 to the visitors.
With the rain lashing down on a blustery day at The Hive, conditions were not ideal for chasing the game as both Akinde and Mensah saw efforts saved.
It got worse before the end, as the Bees were reduced to nine men with Andy Yiadom seeing red for a late tackle on Scowen.
It capped a frustrating afternoon for Barnet, who went toe-to-toe with the League Two leaders and were not disgraced in a valiant performance that perhaps deserved more.
Barnet’s attentions now return to the Vanarama Conference where they have a nine point lead, with two more home games coming up in a week with the visit of Torquay on Tuesday and AFC Telford United on Saturday.
Barnet FC: Graham Stack; Andy Yiadom, David Stephens, Bondz N’Gala, Elliott Johnson; Luisma Villa (Bernard Mensah 61), Sam Togwell (sent off 45), Curtis Weston, Lee Cook (Luke Gambin 70); John Akinde, Charlie MacDonald (c) (David Hunt 46).
Wycombe Wanderers: Matt Ingram; Josh Scowen, Sido Jombati, Aaron Pierre, Joe Jacobson; Peter Murphy, Max Kretzschmar, Matt McClure (Hogan Ephraim 82), Sam Wood; Paul Hayes (Paris Cowan-Hall 75), Matt Bloomfield (Stuart Lewis 80).