Cambridge United were forced to settle for a 1-1 share of the spoils in their Sky Bet League Two encounter with Barrow after late drama at the Abbey Stadium.
A neatly-executed second half finish from Joe Ironside looked to be enough to separate the sides in what was a battling test for United. That was until the U’s succumbed to late pressure at the death when Matthew Platt popped up with a header to rescue a point with the last kick of the match.
Mark Bonner made seven changes to the side that enjoyed midweek success over Peterborough United, with Harry Darling, Harrison Dunk, Idris El Mizouni and Hiram Boateng all retaining their place. United were boosted by the returns of Paul Digby, Joe Ironside and October’s Sky Bet League Two player of the month Paul Mullin, who were all given the nod to start.
Both sides enjoyed an even opening to proceedings on a rain-soaked Abbey turf, with Luke Hannant lashing wide the first shot of the game after clever play by Mullin on the 10th minute.
Harrison Biggins struck a superb free kick from 30 yards five minutes later, crashing an effort against Mitov’s right post which thankfully bounced out of danger.
United carved out a dangerous opportunity for themselves on 18, a floating cross from Hannant met the head of Ironside who couldn’t quite dive far enough to divert it towards goal.
The U’s had to withstand pressure from the Bluebirds for much of the remainder of the first, Kyle Knoyle excellently denying Dior Angus from pulling the trigger on 22 when the striker was in a one-on-one position.
Barrow were then inches away from taking the lead on the 40th minute. A menacing Josh Kay cross from the left was sliced by Harry Darling and somehow Mitov got fingertips on the ball to flick it onto the crossbar, where it bounced down and was hooked clear by the scrambled U’s defence.
Mullin teed up Hannant minutes before the break, who drilled a low shot towards Dixon but the Barrow keeper calmly palmed it down and pounced on the rebound to deny an onrushing Ironside.
A similar pattern of play continued after the break, until the U’s managed to nudge themselves in front. Heavy pressure from Mullin forced a mistake from Dixon, with his skewed clearance falling into the path of Ironside who slotted home his seventh of the season from outside of the box to send Bonner’s men ahead.
A marauding run from Luke James caused havoc for United’s backline just after the hour mark, finding an open Kay who curled a teasing attempt wide from a tight angle as David Dunn’s side looked to level proceedings.
Mullin further showcased his attacking instincts once more on the 66th minute, pouncing onto a lobbed ball and prodding at an onrushing Dixon who cleared his lines before the striker could chip it over him.
A speculative effort from Bradley Barry looked to be heading into the back of the net for the travellers, that was until Darling popped up with an exceptional headed clearance on the line to keep the clean sheet intact for the time being.
As the conditions began to worsen though, the pressure from the Bluebirds increased. A free kick from a dangerous position was dealt with bravely by Dunk, who yet again put his body on the line when it mattered. A resulting wind-swept cross was headed right towards Mitov’s goal, who was alert to gather it up on the 85th minute.
Substitute Scott Quigley powerfully planted a long-range attempt wide on 88 as the Bluebirds continued to attack in numbers and cause United’s rearguard severe problems.
Despite finding opportunities limited, Mullin was presented with the chance to kill the game off in stoppage time. He trickled around in Barrow’s penalty area and unleashed an attempt that was blocked well, as Barrow really narrowed down the striker’s angles.
And with seconds left of the encounter, Barrow managed to squeeze one more delivery into the U’s box, where Matt Platt was waiting to plant a header beyond Mitov and grab a point.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Taylor, Darling, Dunk, Hannant (Davies, 80), Boateng, Digby, El Mizouni (Iredale, 69), Ironside (Cundy, 88), Mullin
Bookings: Boateng, Taylor, Hannant
Barrow: Dixon, Hird, Platt, Brough (Ntlhe, 83), Barry, Jones, Taylor, Kay, Biggins (Reid, 88), Angus (Quigley, 65), James