Barnet are off the bottom of League Two but are six points from safety with nine games remaining after missing a big opportunity in a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Port Vale last night.

The Bees got off to the ideal start when the quick reactions of Alex Nicholls gave the hosts a fourth-minute lead, but a goalkeeping error early in the second half allowed Vale to level and earn a deserved point.

Graham Westley gave a home debut to keeper George Legg and unexpectedly called up winger Fumnaya Shomotun for a rare start.

Barnet full-back Mauro Vilhete was the first to show serious intent with a skilful surge deep into the opposition half, with his dangerous delivery into the centre winning the hosts a corner.

Moments later a powerful left-footed shot by Ryan Watson from 30 yards crashed against the crossbar and the alert Nicholls pouncing to steer the ball home to make the early breakthrough.

The Bees almost doubled their lead in bizarre fashion 10 minutes later when Ruben Bover won a block tackle 25 yards from goal and the ball looped high and ultimately over the visitors’ crossbar, with keeper Ryan Boot back-peddling frantically.

Midway through the half play opened up in front of full-back Christian Montano and he galloped forward before shooting towards the Barnet goal, only to see his effort sail out of the ground.

A shot by Vale’s Marcus Myers-Harness was then well saved by Legg down to his right, with the visitors increasingly looking capable of levelling the scores.

Ricardo Santos could have given Barnet a two-goal advantage in the 48th minute when he headed wide from a Watson corner. It was a miss that would prove costly.

Minutes later the visitors drew level when Legg failed to hold a Michael Tonge corner and Anton Forrester stooped low to head home from close range.

The Bees responded with a powerful drive from distance by Curtis Weston and Shomotun, after a quiet first half, was now looking dangerous down the right flank, delivering a constant supply of crosses.

John Akinde and Shomotun were both surprisingly substituted in the 75th minute and thereafter Barnet only rarely threatened the opposition goal.

Despite Barnet’s desperate need for a win, it was the visitors who looked the stronger in the closing stages, with the Bees meekly succumbing and being forced into defending their own goal.

This point enables Barnet to move off the bottom of the table for the first time this year, but come the final whistle there was no sense of achievement, rather the numbing feeling that comes from not fully grasping the opportunity to close the gap and drag others into the relegation mire.

Barnet: Legg, Vilhete, Santos, Sweeney, Tutonda, Watson, Bover (Akpa Akpro 82), Weston, Shomotun (Nicholson 75), Nicholls, Akinde (Briggs 75). Subs not used: Brindley, Coulthirst, J.Taylor, Ross.