by Rob McNichol
ARGYLE suffered their first defeat on the road since October as Barnet stung the promotion-chasing Pilgrims.
A solitary goal from Barnet captain Andy Yiadom was enough to give the hosts their tenth home victory of the season on a long, and ultimately frustrating, night in north-west London.
First-half injuries to Jordon Forster and Ryan Brunt cast a shadow over an on-pitch battle that Argyle threatened many times to win, but they could not breach Barnet, who scored against the run of play when their chief worker Bee Yiadom's shot was the only one all night to best either goalkeeper.
Perhaps with an eye on Barnet's reputation for direct football, Derek Adams made three changes that incrementally raised the average height of the team. Forster replacing Kelvin Mellor, who limped out of Saturday's win against Notts County, at right-back may have happened anyway, but the physical presence of Reuben Reid and Jake Jervis looked to be included for a purpose.
Barnet made alterations of their own, leaving out, among others, Sam Muggleton, noted for having a long-throw to make Rory Delap's look like a flick of a balled-up teamsheet into a corner waste-paper basket. Although, after witnessing right-back James Pearson sling one in, it did not appear that avenue of attack was closed off to the Bees.
Little of note occurred in the opening 14 minutes of the game, with both teams trying to impose themselves on the other and gain a foothold. It was at that point, though, that Forster chased a square ball and looked to hook it down the touchline. As he did, his momentum took him crashing in the advertisement hoardings. There followed a nine-minute stoppage as the stricken defender was tended to, with what was later initially thought to be a broken jaw.
After Forster was taken off on a stretcher, to a warm response from well-wishers on each side of the ground, Argyle reacted the better to the long hiatus, with Reid getting beyond the defence and clipping past goalkeeper Jamie Stephens only to find the ball sneak the wrong side of the post.
At the other end, Pearson launched throw that Argyle dealt with, but the same player then put in a very dangerous return ball that Mellor, who had replaced Forster, superbly cleared away.
Before any more actual football was able to take place, Argyle suffered another casualty.
Pressing forward, Ryan Brunt was eyeing up a volley after the ball bounced off his chest, and swung his left foot through. Unfortunately, a split-second before his foot got there, a Barnet defender flicked it away from him. Ryan swing hit naught but air before coming to earth and twisting.
It was apparent immediately that something was amiss, and Brunt left the field via the same hand-held transport that had assisted Forster's departure. Tanner came on for Brunt, and played just off of lone striker Reid.
The pair of Argyle injuries had given the game no chance of any momentum and threatened to cast a shadow on proceedings, but vital points were there to be played for, and the game looked like being a battle of attrition. Curtis Nelson and Peter Hartley looked to be getting some sort of perverse enjoyment over Barnet's direct approach, and, as the pair marshaled Argyle's defence, the attacking players began the look lively.
Reid's presence and hold-up play was frequently the source of space for the likes of Tanner, Carey and Jervis, and, from a piece of Reid persistence, Argyle won a corner on the left. The most significant contact came from Barnet defender Alie Sesay, and it took a goal-line clearance from his team-mate to keep Argyle out.
From another Argyle corner, Barnet attempted to spring a break and take the lead. The surge forward of the pacey Mathew Stevens seemed to causing problem, but Nelson, no slouch himself, drew level and prised the ball away from the danger man.
Fourteen minutes were added on at the end of the half because of Forster and Brunt's mishaps, and Argyle spent much of it attacking. Carey put a free-kick just wide and both Tanner and Threlkeld tried from distance as Argyle met the interval with momentum.
They began the second half with it, too, with Tanner, in particular, a pest for the Barnet defences. He had, by now, switched to play on the right flank, with Carey in the centre, and the on-loan Reading man brought two good, low saves out of Stephens.
Hartley struck a post from a corner - although a foul had already been called - and Reid hit a snapshot over as Argyle looked for the elusive opener, although McCormick had to be lively when Barnet captain Yiadom headed goalwards from a Bees corner.
Yiadom had shifted from left-back to a more central advanced role and, with a little over 20 minutes remaining, it was he who shocked Argyle. Akinde showed excellent feet to cut into the area, and when the ball was slid across the area, Yiadom controlled and turned quickly, firing a powerful right-footed shot beyond McCormick.
Appropriately, Argyle looked stung, and set about trying to bring parity to the game. Tanner again was pivotal, bending a shot inches wide with Stephens stranded.
Adams brought on Daniel Nardiello for the final 13 minutes, but it was almost as, if in their haste to equalise, the Pilgrims lost their cohesion. Reid's near-post effort was well saved, but Barnet, on the counter, could have doubled their lead via substitute James Roberts or Akinde, but for good saves by McCormick.
A sting, yes. But just a flesh wound.
Barnet (4-4-2): 21 Jamie Stephens; 37 James Pearson, 5 Bondz N'Gala, 36 Alie Sesay, 7 Andy Yiadom (capt); 8 Curtis Weston, 16 Tom Champion, 34 Mark Randall (38 James Roberts 63), 12 Luke Gambin (6 Michael Nelson 85); 22 Mathew Stevens (17 Sam Muggleton 55), 9 John Akinde. Substitutes (not used): 14 Sam Togwell, 20 Fumnaya Shomotun, 31 Kai McKenzie-Lyle (gk), 47 Nana Kyei.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 28 Jordon Forster (2 Kelvin Mellor 17), 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 6 Peter Hartley, 3 Gary Sawyer; 10 Graham Carey, 26 Oscar Threlkeld, 8 Josh Simpson, 14 Jake Jervis (7 Daniel Nardiello 77); 17 Ryan Brunt (27 Craig Tanner 33), 9 Reuben Reid. Substitutes (not used): 11 Gregg Wylde, 16 Ben Purrington, 21 James Bittner (gk), 24 Louis Rooney.
Referee: Michael Bull.
Attendance: 2,209 (1,002 away).