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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Barrow AFC let victory slip from their grasp against Nuneaton

HOLKER Street should be renamed the Heartbreak Hotel after Barrow AFC caught the jitters to ensure their latest grateful guests checked out of South Cumbria with three valuable points.

The Bluebirds seemed a sure bet to record only their third Blue Square Bet Premier home win of the campaign against relegation rivals Nuneaton Town, after taking the lead through Adam Boyes’s clinical 48th-minute finish.

But Barrow’s lack of killer instinct ultimately proved costly as their panic-infested rearguard allowed striker Andy Brown and substitute James Dance to head home Town’s goals in the final two minutes of normal time.

Nuneaton’s late one-two was hard to stomach as Dave Bayliss’s men had previously defended in a resolute and disciplined manner in curtailing the visitors’ attacking threat for much of this tight and tense battle.

At the other end, they also carved out enough chances to put the game to bed long before their inexplicable late capitulation.

Goalkeeper Danny Hurst initially played his part by making a couple of fine first-half saves and he rarely put of foot wrong until his drop-the-ball blunder resulted in Brown’s leveller.

It could have been a different story had Boyes’s first-half strike flown into the net, and not rattled the Nuneaton bar.

This was certainly not what the doctor ordered on the back of Barrow’s on-the-road hammerings at Mansfield Town and Southport, while the defeat extends their losing run to four games in all competitions.

The fact that Barrow once again wasted the opportunity to jump out of the relegation places by losing to a club that registered only their third league away victory this term merely adds to the frustration.

But once the dust has settled Bayliss will take some positives from the loss, even if his side’s apparent mental frailty will offer him plenty of food for thought.

New loan signing, centre-back Efe Sodje, was handed a home debut and the veteran 40-year-old marshalled the back-four with authority in helping to inject a reassuringly simplistic and no-nonsense approach to their defensive strategy during a solid, if not spectacular, display.

Meanwhile, Bayliss’s midfield quartet, including busy and effective winger Danny Rowe, who was recalled to the starting line-up with central midfielder James Owen missing out through suspension, produced some impressive and neat passing play on occasions.

Barrow’s defensive cause wasn’t helped by Matt Flynn having to drop to the bench after failing to shrug off a persistent calf problem, with midfielder Garry Hunter filling his boots at right-back.

Barrow’s ranks were also depleted by the continued absence of flu-hit centre-back Sean Hessey.

The uninspiring opening exchanges resembled two boxers warily sizing each other up in the opening rounds of a bout, with both sides looking edgy in the possession stakes.

Town midfielder Adam Walker and Danny L Rowe traded early long-range efforts before Hurst produced a wonder save to tip-over a rasping 14-yard half-volley from on-loan attacker Louis Moult on 18 minutes.

Barrow were caught napping from the resulting corner as a short one found James Armson in space before the midfielder’s goal-bound low angled drive was turned around the post by Hurst.

With the territorial fight swinging in both directions, it was the hosts who posed the superior attacking threat. Danny Rowe’s burst on the left led to his namesake, Danny L Rowe unleashing a 25-yard shot which was blocked.

And on 26 minutes, Boyes executed outstanding hold-up play to lay the ball into the path of Danny L Rowe whose deliciously struck 14-yard snap-shot prompted on-loan Coventry City keeper Lee Burge to emulate Hurst’s earlier heroics by turning the ball over.

Just seconds later, the subsequent corner fell to Sodje but the defender’s close-range header was palmed away by Burge, who recovered from a hip injury to take part.

Simon Forsdick failed to trouble Hurst with a tame effort, before Danny Rowe was hauled down and Richie Barker, who returned from suspension, steered his 19-yard set-piece just over.

Barrow’s nemesis, along with the self-destruction button, was emerging in the form of Burge, and the young keeper proved his considerable worth again on 39 minutes.

On this occasion, Danny L Rowe transferred the ball to Boyes who lashed in a ferocious power-drive, which seemed destined for the roof of the net, until Burge demonstrated lightening reflexes to finger-tip the ball onto the bar.

While that danger was averted, Boyes was not to be denied the other side of the break as he broke the deadlock three minutes after the re-start after receiving a pass from Paul Rutherford.

The highly-rated striker converted his 16th goal of the campaign by showcasing excellent composure in the right channel as he expertly controlled the ball before steering it into the bottom left-hand corner.

Barrow pushed forward in search of a killer second goal as Burge stormed off his line to clear Danny L Rowe’s dangerous through ball, intended for Boyes.

Baker then drilled a shot just over before Aaron Phillips’s 63rd-minute free-kick, from deep on the right, was guided wide by Moult’s unconvincing glancing header.

To their credit, Nuneaton refused to give up the ghost, even if their high work-rate was not matched by sufficient cutting edge in the final third, as Moult misfired from 12 yards, on 64 minutes.

Barrow’s ‘two Danny Rowes’ spurned further half chances, which were becoming increasingly few and far between, before Town performed their smash and grab raid.

Their first goal, on 88 minutes, was a genuine horror show from Barrow’s perspective as Hurst came for, seemingly collected, flapped at and finally dropped Armson’s corner to lay the ball into the path of Brown, who gleefully bundled the ball over the line with a headed effort.

And in the 90th minute, little pressure was applied to the ball as it was swung into the heart of Barrow’s box and to Dance, who after waltzing into the box, had all the time and space he needed to rise and loop his header over the hapless Hurst and into the net.

Boyes tried to respond in stoppage time but his own header from distance lacked the required pace to trouble the inspired Burge.

And it wasn’t long before Burge and his team-mates were celebrating a victory which left the Bluebirds feeling as sick as parrots.

Bayliss was left scratching his head after witnessing Hurst’s blunder, although he was also not happy with his side’s sloppy defending in the build-up to Dance’s winning goal.

“Their second goal was poor from our point of view,” said Bayliss. “Their player has put the ball into the box with no pressure on him. But even leading up to that we made the wrong decisions on the ball because we could have put it into the space, got behind Nuneaton and played further up the pitch a number of times.

“But we gave it away too many times in vital areas. We also gave away needless corners, so you are putting yourself under pressure.”

Have your say

A reader,grumpy old man.AFC won't go down. That's my opinion,and I'll rally for as long as it takes.I don't attack except in self defense.You keep your council,and I'll keep mine.

Posted by captain bluebirdseye on 19 February 2013 at 12:41

Editor, Do we really have to put up with this Tripe ? I thought there was a moderator that got paid to at least keep an eye on this sort of rubbish? This mans condition is getting worse, its a clear case Terminal Bilge, please put us all out of this Repetitive Brain Injury? The jokes over now, so lets hope this torture of footballing farce is also, Sack the board!!

Posted by A Reader. on 19 February 2013 at 04:26

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