They say the hallmark of a good side is to be able to grind out a result, even when you are not at your best, and this was certainly the case for Cheltenham at Underhill.
Rubies fans have been spoiled of late by some flowing football and comfortable wins, which have propelled us unexpectedly into the promotion race, but Friday night’s encounter was more of a scrappy affair.
Cheltenham led twice, through Kaid Mohamed and Darryl Duffy’s penalty, but had we taken all three points, it would have been very rough on Barnet, who pegged us back twice through Izale McLeod, and were worth their point.
They started the better, playing down the slope at the sadly soon to be vacated Underhill, and McLeod had a great early chance when he lobbed Scott Brown, but Alan Bennett got back to clear off the line.
Cheltenham went in front after 32 minutes when, from the first corner of the game, Mohamed benefitted from a good decoy run by Bennett to head home from six yards.
Barnet levelled nine minutes later, Sam Deering’s cross being turned in from close range by McLeod, who did well to find space in the box.
But controversially, Cheltenham were back in front three minutes later.
Luke Garbutt played a low free-kick into the box and referee Simon Holder blew and pointed to the spot.
There had been no appeals from Cheltenham players, and the Barnet players were incensed – but referee Holder indicated that he had seen some shirt-tugging, and Duffy stepped up to dispatch the spot-kick for his 11th of the season.
Cheltenham, who badly missed the energy of suspended midfielder Russ Penn, failed to get going in the second half, and Barnet looked likely to get back in the game.
It happened on the hour, when Sido Jombati misjudged a long ball, and McLeod got into the box.
Jombati impeded him, a clear penalty, and it seemed that Jombati would be red-carded – but referee Holder gave him a yellow, much to manager Lawrie Sanchez’s disgust, and he was sent to the stands.
McLeod put away the penalty, sending Brown the wrong way, and Barnet were level again.
Cheltenham had a golden chance to win the game, through substitute Junior Smikle, but he missed when one-on-one with Dean Brill, but a winner would have been harsh on Barnet and flattering for Cheltenham.
The result ends Cheltenham’s run of eight successive wins on the road, but they stay well and truly in the promotion mix.
As for Barnet, on this evidence they should have more than enough about them to stay clear of trouble, and I just hope they can find a solution to their ground problems.