Two late goals by table-topping Exeter City consigned Barnet to a 2-1 home defeat in an entertaining fixture at The Hive after the in-form Shaq Coulthirst had given the Bees a deserved lead early in the second half.

Barnet boss Rossi Eames kept faith with the team he had selected to start the victory against Cambridge United at the weekend; the only exception being Jean-Louis Akpa Apro replacing injured forward David Tarpey.

The Bees were able to call upon the fit-again John Akinde, who was named as one of the substitutes for the first time this season after a 10-week absence through injury.

Despite the wind and the rain which made the playing surface slippery, both sides maintained their considered approach, allowing their attacking instincts full rein.

Exeter striker Liam McAlinden was allowed a glimpse of goal in the second minute but his effort sailed over the crossbar.

City keeper Christy Pym had a busy night and with a quarter-of-an-hour play gone he performed heroics to keep out a headed effort by Michael Nelson, with Charlie Clough just unable convert the rebound.

Pym’s opposite number Craig Ross was also in impressive form, keeping the Grecians at bay in the first half with a series of fine saves.

After a mazy 20th-minute run by Harry Taylor, the ball fell kindly to his brother Jack whose shot from 20 yards looked destined for the top-left corner only for Pym to acrobatically tip the ball over the woodwork for a corner.

Pierce Sweeney, the Exeter right-back, was surging forward at every opportunity, but in turn the visitors needed to be on their guard with wing-backs Harry Taylor and David Tutonda eager to augment the Barnet attack.

The game was surprisingly goalless at the interval, due primarily to the excellence of the goalkeepers.

Barnet’s positive start to the second half was rewarded in the 48th minute when Jamal Campbell-Ryce delivered the perfect cross to the near post which Coulthirst had anticipated and he tucked away his sixth goal in four goals with a deft finish from close range.

The Grecians went close to a leveller just ten minutes later when McAlinden astutely picked out Ruben Reid, only for the much-travelled striker to fail to control the ball when the goal was at his mercy.

Barnet had efforts to extend their advantage, with Ricardo Santos being denied by Pym and a header from Akpa Apro going close.

With just over an hour played Exeter introduced Hiram Boateng from the bench and he began to exert a considerable influence over the proceedings.

Boateng distributed the ball crisply and efficiently and he also proved defensively sound, breaking up many Barnet forward moves.

Exeter pushed forward seeking an equaliser, with substitute Jayden Stockley seeing his header thunder against the crossbar in the 74th minute.

Four minutes later the Grecians were level after sloppy play in midfield allowed Jake Taylor to unleash a powerful drive which was pushed against an upright by Ross only for Reid to bundle the rebound over the line.

Barnet immediately responded by introducing Akinde, who replaced Akpa Akpro, with both sides seeking a late winner.

But in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Tutonda conceded an unnecessary free-kick in the left-back position. Exeter’s Lee Holmes then hit a venomous ball into the middle with Stockley’s ungainly but efficient effort ultimately crossing the line.

The Barnet players and supporters were left demoralised at this turn of events as the Bees, for much of the game, had looked likely to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Grecians.

There was much to admire about this Barnet performance, but they can trace back both conceded to elementary errors, basic mistakes that sides as good as Exeter City are always likely to take advantage of.

Barnet: Ross, Santos, Nelson, Clough, H.Taylor, Vilhete, J.Taylor (Fonguck 82), Tutonda, Campbell-Ryce, Akpa Akpro (Akinde 81), Coulthirst. Subs not used: Bover, Shomotun, Mason-Clark, Smith, McKenzie-Lyle.