MATCH REPORT: Barnet 1 Blackpool 1

Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer
Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer
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Gary Bowyer was nearly living a tangerine dream under the glow of a familiar orange background before the Bees finally found their sting at the Hive and struck late on to ruin the Seasiders away day.

Mark Cullen marked his return to the starting line-up with a sublime curling effort and Brad Potts nearly put the game to bed as ‘Pool’s new go-to goalscorer uncharacteristically sent the ball crashing into the post after leaving Barnet keeper Josh Vickers for dust.

The Bees had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the Seasiders over the 90 minutes but only stung in added time as their burly hit-man John Akinde popped up to power the ball home and break Blackpool’s hearts as they looked on course to nab all three points.

It was a shame for the Seasiders who could hold their heads high after a strong performance that was just sunk as they switched off seconds before the final whistle after withstanding a buzz of late Barnet attacks that boss Gary Bowyer likened to be competing against a team of giants.

Bowyer made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 at Morecambe on Saturday as ‘Pool were forced to ditche their normal tangerine strip for their new blue ombre away kit due to the hosts’ black and orange bumble bee inspired get-up.

Striker Kyle Vassell started at the Globe Arena but missed the Hive clash due to a recurrence in pain from the hip knock he sustained in the 2-0 opening day win over Exeter and was replaced by Bowyer’s only other fully fit striker Cullen.

On-loan Leicester City player Michael Cain moved to the bench as Colin Daniel was recalled to the starting XI with Potts pushed up behind Cullen in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

Barnet had the brighter start and a number of opportunities but unlike on Saturday when they squandered a number of opportunities Bowyer’s men were clinical in front of goal whilst their hosts seemed to have forgotten to lace up their shooting boots despite carving out a plethora of dangerous opportunities.

Akpa Akpro just sliced he ball the wrong side of the post in the opening stages.

Akpa Akpro nearly broke the deadlock in sensational style, paying homage to gymnast Max Whitlock who picked up Britain’s first gold in the sport at the Rio Olympics at the weekend, the forward threw himself through the air to meet a cleared corner but his overhead kick just skimmed Slocombe’s right-hand post.

It was an end-to-end affair with Blackpool failing to find the final pass or ball until Cullen marked his return to the starting line-up with a sensational strike in the 23rd minute.

He picked the ball up just outside the box and his right-footed curler sailed past the helpless Vickers into the back of the net.

Barnet had an immediate response with the lively Akpa Akpro finally firing an effort on target and forcing Slocombe into a fine one-handed fingertip save to tip away his deflected effort from just outside the box.

Potts found space in the hole between the hosts defence and midfield just after the half hour mark but he drilled the ball straight down Vickers’ throat.

It was all Barnet as the half wore on with the busy Bees carving out a number of late chances as Nicholls’ shot from the edge of the box sailed past Slocombe and crashed into the underside of the bar before the blue shirts mopped up the danger.

The hosts nearly levelled again from their umpteenth corner but Jim McAlister was well positioned next to the right-hand stick to clear Michael Nelson’s header off the line.

Blackpool made a bright start to the second half with Colin Daniel nearly squeezing a long throw home from close range.

Blackpool’s Aldred stood up to everything Barnet threw at him and after making a vital sliding block to thwart Akinde in the first half and he continued to be a thorn in the big striker’s side as he pulled off another good block to divert the his thunderous long range strike away from the danger zone.

Pool keeper Slocombe was booked for time wasting and Osayi-Samuel and Cullen also found their way into the book as the half wore on.

Barnet piled on the pressure allowing Blackpool to surge forward on the counter with Potts using his pace to exploit holes in the tiring Bees’ middle.

Potts found himself one-on-one just after the hour mark and the blonde-haired make-shift striker looked to have put the Seasiders out of sight as he rolled the ball past Vickers but agonisingly for the pocket of Pool fans in the corner it clattered into left-hand post and spun away.

The man in magenta nearly had to make a big decision as Cullen tumbled under pressure from Nelson in the box but referee John Busby was spared the spotlight by his fellow purple shirted colleague on the line who ruled the striker was offside.

There was a moment of concern for boss Bowyer as the game entered the final 15 with his only fully fit striker Cullen forced to sit on the grass clutching his ankle after a strong challenge but fortunately the blonde hit-man was able to play-on.

Barnet’s Bira Dembélé was shown a yellow card for a bad foul on a Blackpool player as Blackpool looked to be on course to knick all three points at the Hive.

Bowyer withdrew striker Cullen for the final 10 minutes due to him cramping up with Cain entering the fray on the right wing with Osayi-Samuel joining Potts up front.

There was a late scare for the Seasiders as Robertson made a vital block to stop Akpa Akpro’s 10-yard effort.

Bowyer threw on Will Aimson as an extra defensive body for injured Daniel just before the linesman let the crowd know an extra five minutes would be added on as Barnet launched more big bodies up front as they searched for a late leveller.

Within seconds Slocombe was called upon and he did not disappoint as the Blackpool keeper dived across goal to tip Nicholls’s looping effort over.

As the added time ticked away Barnet’s Akinde’s looping header just fizzed past the left post and the burly striker was to have one last chance and it was to be the one that mattered most as the ball dropped to him in the box, for once Aldred was not on hand to pull off another key block and the striker spun before powering the ball past the helpless Slocombe to break ‘Pool’s hearts.

Barnet: Vickers, H.Taylor (Muggleton, 80), Nelson, Dembele, Johnson, Weston, Togwell (Gambin, 53), Watson (Batt, 72), Nicholls, Akpa Akpro, Akinde. Subs: McKenzie-Lyle, N’Gala, Champion, Vilhete.

Blackpool: Slocombe, Mellor, Aldred, Robertson, Taylor, Osayi-Samuel, McAlister, Pugh, Potts, Daniel (Aimson, 89), Cullen (Cain, 80). Subs not used: Letheren, Nolan, Herron, Yeates, Cameron.

Referee: John Busby (Oxfordshire)

Attendance: 1502 (away 269)