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Barnet 0 Accrington Stanley 0

FOOTBALL is about taking a gamble sometimes and both Barnet manager Martin Allen and Stanley boss John Coleman decided it was worth taking a chance in a bid to hit the jackpot of three points.

FOOTBALL is about taking a gamble sometimes and both Barnet manager Martin Allen and Stanley boss John Coleman decided it was worth taking a chance in a bid to hit the jackpot of three points.

Allen made the shock inclusion of star striker Giuliano Grazioli. The eight-goal hitman had been ruled out of the clash on Thursday and was expected to be sidelined for three weeks with an ankle injury. But he made a quick recovery and was named in the starting 11 to face Stanley.

"I can't say I was surprised," said the Reds chief with a wry smile. "He is their top scorer and it was probably worth a gamble. If he scores and lasts the 90 minutes, then he is a hero. It could have back-fired if he limped off but it was probably worth the risk."

Meanwhile Coleman was taking a chance with a different formation to combat the Bees' free-scoring strike force and try and catch them on the break. He swapped things around a bit, using Paul Mullin as the lone frontman, dropping Lutel James back onto the wing and starting with Steve Flitcroft in the centre of the park.

"To be honest, Accrington paid us a back-handed compliment to how well we have been playing by playing as they did," said the Barnet boss. "They started out with a 4-5-1 formation, using the two lads James and Prendergast on the wing, and their lads stuck to their jobs well.

"They defended very deep and made it difficult for us and it was up to us to create the chances. The challenge for us was to break them down which we just couldn't manage to do."

Those chances were limited with just seven attempts on goal throughout the entire first half.

Stanley elected to shoot down the slope and Andy Gouck had a great opportunity to break the deadlock after just four minutes. Mullin did well to draw the goalkeeper Danny Naisbitt to the edge of the area and the ball was cleared by former QPR defender Danny Maddix to Gouck 25 yards out. He fired at goal with the keeper stranded but the ball went agonisingly wide for the former Rochdale man.

Rory Prendergast then rifled in a free kick which James just failed to get to and the keeper was relieved to collect. But, on 14 minutes, the Barnet frontmen did get the better of the Stanley backline. Mark Williams fired in a dangerous corner and the tall Ismail Yakubu got up well to head the ball - but it amazingly cleared the crossbar.

The pace of Lutel James and Prendergast caused Barnet a few problems and James provided the ammunition but Mullin headed just over with 20 minutes on the clock. And Stanley were almost gifted an opener when Naisbitt's goal kick fell straight to Prendergast but the winger raced forward but fired wide.

Grazioli then showed what a danger he can be - as the ball bobbled around the Reds area on 36 minutes the striker had an effort from six yards out with goalkeeper Jon Kennedy denying him with a point-blank save.

After the break, Barnet had the advantage of the downhill slope and they made sure they piled on the pressure immediately.

Simon King headed over just after the interval, Joe Gamble put in a stunning cross which was missed by the incoming Grazioli and Ben Strevens had a shot which was inches wide. However, Peter Cavanagh did ease some of the pressure, trying his luck with a 25-yard effort which was just over the Barnet crossbar.

The Reds chief tried to switch things around, bringing on Andy Procter for Flitcroft on the hour, and it looked like Stanley had broken the deadlock nine minutes later. Paul Cook's short free kick found Cavanagh on the right wing, he floated a ball in and Prendergast's header was tipped over the crossbar by Naisbitt. Prendergast held his head in his hands as it had seemed a certain goal.

It was frantic in the last 10 minutes and Procter could have become a hero when Naisbitt flapped at a Prendergast corner but the midfielder's header was straight at the floored keeper. James also had a late chance to grab the glory when he raced through but his first touch let him down. And Coleman was furious when a Prendergast cross seemed to hit Ian Hendon on the hand.

"I thought it was a stonewall penalty," continued Coleman. "Nobody has a chest a foot off the ground. We don't seem to have the best of luck with penalties whether they aren't given for us or are given against us. The referee has been honest enough to admit he may have made a mistake - referees are only human."

However, overall the Reds boss was impressed with his side's show at a tricky Underhill Stadium.

"We are happy with a point although we could have had all three. We limited them to just a couple of chances and their keeper has made a couple of great saves. He had more to do than Jon Kennedy.

"I am relieved to keep 11 men on the pitch after our recent sendings-off - but we did pick up some silly bookings again. I don't mind if it is for tackles but we shouldn't be picking them up for dissent and things like that. But we have three games unbeaten and we are going in the right direction.

"We just need to concentrate at home and make sure we pick up as many three points as possible there."


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
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Beth Abbit
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Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
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Garth Dawson
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