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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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New year’s resoluteness - Gateshead v AFC match report

THE dawning of a new year brought new hope for Barrow AFC, who kicked off 2013 with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Gateshead yesterday.

It was a first victory in nine Blue Square Bet Premier games for the relegation-battling Bluebirds, who have reached the season’s halfway stage with 23 point from the same number of matches.

Manager Dave Bayliss and assistant boss Ashley Hoskin, who both watched from the dugout as experienced left-back Gavin Skelton led the pre-match warm-up, made two changes to the side that lost 4-1 at Macclesfield in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Matt Flynn was dropped to the bench, with skipper Mike Pearson shifting to right-back and loan youngster Tom Anderson recalled at centre-half.

Striker Louis Almond, in the last game of his loan spell from Blackpool, was also demoted to sit among the substitutes, with midfielder Garry Hunter coming into a 4-5-1 formation.

Barrow took the lead after just 62 seconds when, on a pudding of a pitch, Gateshead centre-half James Curtis swung and missed at a ball stuck in the mud and the lurking Adam Boyes gleefully tapped in his 12th goal of the season from two yards out.

Anderson should also take great credit for getting up high and heading down a Sean Hessey free-kick before Curtis’s blunder.

The Bluebirds should have been awarded a penalty just a minute later when Tynesiders captain Ben Clark used both hands to shove Boyes in the back as the striker sought to attack a cross from the left. Referee Anthony Backhouse missed the incident.

Gateshead looked to respond and went close through a James Marwood shot that flashed wide and then an off-target Liam Henderson header.

It was the visitors, however, who remained in the ascendancy on an ultra-heavy pitch which had failed to be fit for Gateshead’s previous three home games.

With Bayliss and Hoskin taking a slightly more reserved than usual approach from the dugout, the Bluebirds battled hard and, when in possession, tried to play football.

Sean McConville then curled a 25-yard free-kick wide for Barrow on 20 minutes, before Gateshead grew into the match.

The home side ramped up the pressure and almost equalised on 25 minutes when, after superb work down the right by Ryan Donaldson, striker Henderson beat AFC keeper Danny Hurst. The ball, however, struggled for pace in the muddy goalmouth and Anderson was able to hack it off the line.

Just five minutes later Anderson was forced to save the day for a second time. His clearance on this occasion went straight to the hugely-influential Donaldson, whose shot from a tight angle was kept out of the bottom corner by Hurst.

Shortly afterwards, Marwood skewed an effort wide when unmarked six yards out.

The momentum swung back in Barrow’s favour and an excellent break led by Alex-Ray Harvey and Paul Rutherford resulted in Boyes’s shot being crucially blocked by Curtis.

With half-time approaching, McConville skinned left-back Chris Bush and forced an outstanding one-handed save from home keeper Adam Bartlett.

McConville, playing on the right wing rather than usual position on the left, sped clear again moments later and pulled the ball back to Harvey, who was off balance when he sent a 10-yard shot high over the bar.

The Heed started the second half on top and Carl Magnay headed wide at the back post following a free-kick by Josh Gillies.

McConville then missed two half-chances for the Bluebirds, for whom Rutherford was a growing influence, before an unmarked Chris Bush failed to convert a Marwood free-kick with the ball hitting his shoulder and going over the bar.

The Bluebirds continued to graft in defence and midfield, while trying to hit the hosts on the break. They still had to ride their luck at times, no more so than on 75 minutes when a Bush free-kick glanced off the head of Hunter and would have resulted in an own goal were it not for an outstanding save by Hurst.

Three minutes later the ball once again became stuck in the goalmouth being tended by Hurst. A brilliant scrambling rearguard action by the Bluebirds denied Jamie Chandler an equaliser.

The game then entered three minutes of stoppage-time during which Hurst pulled off a fine save to keep another Chandler shot.

Having failed to win any of their last seven league games against Gateshead, the victory was a sweet one for Barrow, who will be back at the International Stadium on January 12 in the FA Trophy second round.

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