Clist's dramatic header gives Barnet the advantage

Barnet 2 Shrewsbury Town 1

It is only half-time, as they say. But a year to the day since losing their Football League status, Shrewsbury Town's hopes of an immediate return to the Third Division were rocked by a dramatic injury-time goal as Jimmy Quinn's team went down 2-1 to Barnet in the first leg of the Conference play-off semi-final last night.

It is only half-time, as they say. But a year to the day since losing their Football League status, Shrewsbury Town's hopes of an immediate return to the Third Division were rocked by a dramatic injury-time goal as Jimmy Quinn's team went down 2-1 to Barnet in the first leg of the Conference play-off semi-final last night.

The visitors were heading for a battling draw after two first-half penalties, one for each team, when substitute Simon Clist headed home a cross by Ismail Yakubu in the third minute of stoppage time to send most of the 4,071 crowd into raptures.

Playing down the notorious Underhill slope in the first half, Shrewsbury threw everything at Barnet in an attempt to take a crucial advantage back to Shropshire ahead of the final on 16 May. Yet after 13 minutes, they were a goal down when Liam Hatch was clipped by the goalkeeper Scott Howie and Ben Strevens stepped up to score from the spot.

It took Shrewsbury, for whom the winger Sam Alston was a constant threat, until the 43rd minute to get back on level terms, courtesy of another penalty from Luke Rodgers after Ian Hendon was adjudged to have handled in the box. In between, the Barnet goalkeeper, Shane Gore, made a miraculous save from Duane Darby.

After the break Barnet, who finished three points behind Shrewsbury in the League, stepped up a gear and were rewarded with the winner that gives them a crucial advantage going into the second leg on Bank Holiday Monday.

"Shrewsbury were fantastic in the first half and we had to double our enthusiasm, commitment and passion," said the Barnet caretaker manager, Paul Fairclough, who has had to steady the ship since the sudden departure of Martin Allen to Brentford less than two months ago.

Barnet finished one place behind Shrewsbury in fourth and Fairclough said it had been a tough test maintaining his players' confidence after Allen's acrimonious departure. "It's been one of the most difficult things I've had to endure as a football manager. When I arrived, the camp was somewhat split and I had to do a lot of things to put it right."

The Shrewsbury player-manager Quinn was understandably disappointed. "If it had been 1-1, I'd have been very confident. But although they've got the advantage, they are not unbeatable. We'll give it our best shot, that's for sure."

Barnet (4-4-2): Gore; Hendon, Plummer, Maddix, King; Yakubu, Lopez (Clist, 67), Gamble, Strevens; Grazioli, Hatch. Substitutes not used: Millard, Rooney, Redmile, Pearson.

Shrewsbury (4-4-2): Howie; Moss, Tinson (Sedgemore, h-t), Ridler, Challis (Lawrence, 78); Nowe, O'Connor, Tolley, Alston; Rodgers (Quinn, 87), Darby. Substitutes not used: Edwards, Hart.

Referee: T Green (Leicestershire).

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