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Ten man Barnet suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Luton Town in the Skrill Premier
5:02pm Thursday 26th December 2013 in Sport
When two sides near the top of a division meet there is a risk the game could be a tight and dour contest. Barnet’s Boxing Day clash against Luton Town was anything but.
The Hatters opened up a 2-0 lead at The Hive thanks to goals from Paul Benson and Alex Lawless. The Bees were then reduced to ten men just before half time as Jon Nurse was dismissed.
The winger’s late challenge on Jonathan Smith was worthy of a red card but the referee had booked the winger before changing his decision.
Despite their man disadvantage the Bees dominated the second period and pulled a goal back through Jake Hyde.
Barnet’s players worked tirelessly in search of an equaliser and had chances. But Luton were able to hold out and claim the victory which extends their unbeaten league run to 16 matches.
Prior to kick-off a win for Barnet over a promotion rival would strengthen their place in the play-off positions.
There was only one change to the Bees side as Kieran Cadogan replaced the suspended Keanu Marsh-Brown.
The opening exchanges saw both sides have efforts on goal saved. Luisma Villa’s strike from distance was pushed away by Mark Tyler before Benson fired into the arms of Bees stopper Graham Stack.
The Hatters should have opened the scoring when a header from Benson was met by Joe Davis two yards out. However, the defender could only glance his effort onto the post and Barnet cleared the danger.
Luton began to take control of the contest as the first half progressed and they deservedly went ahead in the 21st minute.
Andre Gray was played through behind the Bees defence and he had time to slide the ball across goal for Benson to tap home.
The visitors gained confidence and looked comfortable. The centre-back partnership of Davis and Steve McNulty easily dealt with Barnet’s sporadic attacks and Luton looked dangerous on the break.
And, in the 33rd minute, the Hatters doubled their advantage. Lawless collected the ball on the half way line and sprinted down the left touchline.
Andy Yiadom came across but the Luton winger cut in and smashed a shot past Stack and into the bottom corner.
It was damage limitation for Barnet until half time as the visitors swarmed forward. Benson saw a shot beat Stack only for Jack Saville to acrobatically clear off his goal line while Lawless dragged a shot wide.
Then, on the stroke of half time, controversy. A poor challenge from Nurse left Smith writhing in pain on the touchline.
A melee broke out but referee Robert Whitton quickly showed a yellow card to the Barnet winger.
Smith received treatment on a suspected broken leg for a number of minutes. Luton boss John Still and his players were outraged with the decision and conveyed their feelings to Whitton.
The referee spoke to Still and then his linesman. He bizarrely then showed Nurse a straight red card and the Bees were reduced to ten men.
Barnet made no changes at the break but the home side applied pressure despite their man disadvantage.
The Bees almost pulled a goal back as Cadogan’s cross eluded everyone in the penalty area before trickling wide of the post.
Barnet brought on Dani Lopez for Villa and switched to a 4-3-2 formation. It led to an incredibly open game with chances created by both sides.
Matt Robinson, who had replaced Smith, shot wide and Gray did the same from 18 yards.
The Hatters then wasted a golden chance. A mix-up between David Stephens and Elliot Johnson allowed the visitors to break through on goal.
Luke Gutteridge faced Stack. He had support either side of him but the midfielder elected to shot and his effort was saved.
At the other end, Barnet looked dangerous. Cadogan had goal-bound shot blocked and Mark Byrne saw a header deflected wide.
The Bees then pulled a goal back. Yiadom chased down a long pass forward and whipped the perfect cross into the area. Hyde escaped his marker and glanced his header past Tyler.
The remaining 20 minutes were frantic. Barnet threw men forward and Luton looked shaken.
Chances were created by both sides. Gray’s attempted chip past Stack missed the target before Lopez fired over from 20 yards and then saw a header saved.
Barnet tried to build momentum but Luton frustrated the home side and kept the ball in the Bees’ defensive third.
The Hatters were able to see out added time and hold on to victory which leaves Barnet seventh in the Skrill Premier table.
The Bees return to action on Saturday when they travel to Salisbury City.
Barnet: Stack; Yiadom, Stephens, Saville, Johnson; Byrne, Weston, Luisma (Lopez 54); Cadogan (Vilhete 82), Nurse, Hyde.
Barnet substitutes: Jupp, Acheampong, Abdulla.
Luton Town: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, McNulty, Davis; Smith (Robinson 45), Guttridge, Lawless, Ruddock; Gray (Cullen 90), Benson.
Luton Town substitutes: Justham, Howells, Mawson.
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