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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Gutsy Barrow AFC roll their sleeves up to see off Luton

BATTLING Barrow AFC defied the odds by overcoming their defensive frailties and securing a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Conference high-rollers Luton Town.

On the face of it, Dave Bayliss’s relegation-haunted side faced a mountainous task to topple the promotion-chasing Hatters, especially having suffered a humbling 6-1 drubbing at the home of the FA Cup giant-killers less than a month earlier.

But the Bluebirds showed no respect for the visitors’ superior status as they fought their way to a third successive victory – their best winning run this season – courtesy of Adam Boyes’s fifth-minute goal.

If Bayliss’s pre-match clarion call was for his players to hustle and cajole Luton out of their comfort zone for the entire 90 minutes then his charges executed the blueprint to stunning effect by producing a display full of passion – and most importantly defensive discipline.

Such a quality was often lacking in the Hatters’ make-up, as ironically it was a calamitous defensive error from them which led to Boyes hitting the winner. A sign Luton’s immense frustration, in the face of such admirable resistance, manifested itself at the death when defender Lathaniel Rowe-Turner appeared to kick out at Boyes and was subsequently issued with a straight red card.

The spotlight once again glared on Barrow’s defensive inadequacies just last week after they conceded more soft goals in their 3-2 FA Trophy win over Gateshead.

But they rarely put a foot wrong against Paul Buckle’s men as they mastered the basics and often went beyond the call of duty by throwing their bodies on the line to protect their slender lead.

Barrow were particularly strong down the spine with Mike Pearson delivering an intelligent display at centre-back, while central midfielders James Owen and Richie Barker were tireless and totally committed in their pursuit of possession. Even Boyes played his part in the defensive stakes by never giving Luton’s stressed-out rearguard a minute’s peace.

An intriguing sub-plot to Saturday’s clash could have been billed as the ‘Battle of the Big Units’ as the physically challenged duo – to put it kindly – of striker Lee McEvilly and centre-back Steve McNulty returned to Holker Street to the sounds of cheers and jeers respectively.

McEvilly, who wrote himself into Barrow folklore by netting the equaliser in their 2-1 FA Trophy final triumph over Stevenage in 2010, received a warm reception when he arrived as a late substitute.

In contrast, McNulty was barracked by a section of fans on his Luton debut having left the Bluebirds to join Fleetwood Town in 2009 in what was a far from an amicable departure.

And how the gleeful crowd revelled in McNulty’s trials and tribulations with the defender often looking hurried and shaky in the face of Boyes’s constant pressure.

Barrow set a frenetic pace from the first whistle and they were rewarded for their early industry when the home side’s leading marksman netted the game’s only goal with a neat finish.

Boyes bagged his 14th goal of the season by pouncing on Greg Taylor’s stray headed pass before calmly and skilfully lifting the ball over Hatters keeper Mark Tyler and into the net from around the penalty spot.

Half chances came and went as Barrow stopper Danny Hurst parried Ronnie Henry’s effort before right-back Matt Flynn headed the ball to safety.

Barrow sustained their high-octane approach, while Buckle’s men struggled to find their rhythm, with Pearson typically well placed to snuff out Dave Martin’s goal-bound header. In truth, the Bluebirds failed to create many clear-cut chances for much of the first half with Danny L Rowe failing to threaten the Luton goal with a tame cross-cum-shot free-kick before Taylor fired wide and Danny L Rowe blazed over.

Bayliss handed a full debut to centre-back Danny O’Donnell. However, the 26-year-old’s afternoon was cut short after he, and Hurst, bravely dived in at the feet of Andre Gray on 31 minutes. With the goal beckoning, the duo’s timely intervention ensured the distracted striker lobbed the ball over the bar and onto the roof of the Barrow net.

The close shave came at a cost though as O’Donnell dislocated his shoulder after colliding with Hurst and was replaced by fellow centre-back Sean Hessey shortly before the break. Thankfully Hurst carried on despite also being hurt in the collision.

Not long after O’Donnell’s exit, Gray directed his 43rd-minute shot straight at Hurst, while efforts from Danny Rowe and Boyes were kept out by Tyler.

Buckle unleashed midfielder Scott Neilson from his bench at the start of the second half, a move which added more impetus to his side’s play, as the substitute exchanged efforts that were blocked with Danny Rowe.

Luton came close to restoring parity on 50 minutes when Gray hit the outside of the near right-hand post with a stinging angled drive.

Barrow refused to go into their shell though, as Danny Rowe and Boyes failed to net with further efforts. But it was their fighting qualities that shone the brightest with excellent edge-of-the-box tackles by James Owen and Gavin Skelton denying shots on-target to Neilson and Alex Lawless respectively.

Owen shot wide, and in the second minute of injury time Luton’s misery was complete when Rowe-Turner was dismissed after being fouled by Boyes. The pair tangled and the defender appeared to stamp on Boyes to earn his marching orders. Boyes was booked for his role in the incident.

After the encounter, Bayliss lauded his entire team’s defensive efforts, commitment to the cause and rightfully claimed they could have won by a greater margin.

And the boss was particularly thrilled with the positive outcome after being irked by comments which allegedly came out of the Luton camp following his side’s recent heavy defeat at Kenilworth Road.

Following Barrow’s second home league win of the campaign, Bayliss said: “It’s a good win because Luton are a big club and I thought we owed them one because I never thought we did ourselves justice at Luton and I was a bit disappointed with comments from their camp after the game about how poor we were and how good they were.

“But we showed them that we can compete at this level and as I’ve said it’s not about ability, it’s about the heart and the will to win. You get further in life, in whatever job you do, if you have that and all our lads showed that more than Luton.”

Have your say

Start moaning don't have a football team what a joke 8-1 they are a disgrace.

Posted by K Stone on 10 February 2013 at 09:28

All these comments of fans not turning up are pathetic.
I managed to drag 2 mates along to the Luton game who had not been since wembley a couple of seasons back.
They loved it, they couldn't understand how a team that played aswel as afc did that night were at the bottom.
THEN, I got 4of us to go to Mansfield by car yesterday, that's when we all realised why were at the bottom. We have no defence at all.
It's safe to say us 4 will not be returning to holler street as long as the muppets running the show are still in charge. Total disgrace.

Posted by Angrybob on 10 February 2013 at 08:19

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