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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Bayliss prioritises league safety, but still craves Trophy run for Barrow

GIVEN a choice, Barrow AFC boss Dave Bayliss admits he would take Conference survival over FA Trophy success – but he has no intention of sacrificing either.

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CUP TIED: Danny Rowe REF: 50043467B002

The Bluebirds chief sees his side play at Holker Street for the first time in nearly a month tonight when they host Gateshead in the third round of the Trophy (7.45pm).

The match – switched from the North East due to persistent problems with the pitch at the International Stadium, but still classed as the Heed’s home game – comes with the lucrative prize of an away tie against Blue Square Bet North side Gainsborough Trinity in the quarter-finals.

That would put Barrow within striking distance of a second Wembley appearance in three years, something Bayliss would relish.

So, while his priorities lie in league survival, the AFC manager is hopeful his side can advance on the Trophy front as well.

“I’ll probably get hammered for this, but if you gave me a choice between winning the Trophy and getting relegated, or getting knocked out in this round and staying in the league, then I would take staying in the league any day of the week,” he admitted.

“The league is our most important thing. We want to compete at the highest level we can, which is the Conference at the moment.

“Even though it’s a tough level to compete at, I’m not saying we should put all our eggs in one basket – we’ll take on Gateshead, give a good account of ourselves and work hard – but if I had the choice, which I don’t, it would be to stay in this league.

“That’s why we earmarked players who are already Trophy-tied (including new striker Danny Rowe, who scored on his Conference debut in the 2-0 win at Newport on Saturday).”

“We possibly could have got lads in from the Football League or non-contract players who weren’t cup-tied, but we need men who are going to play 21 Blue Square Bet Premier games and who know what the level is all about so they can win us games of football.”

He added: “The FA Trophy is a fantastic occasion – we have witnessed it and we have experienced it.

“Some of those lads are still with us now and they know how important it is to the club.

“We’ve got a really tough game. We want to win every game that we play in.

“We’re losing Danny Rowe, because he is cup-tied. If I had maybe got another striker in who wasn’t cup-tied, that might have weakened us in the league programme, so it was important to try and get the balance right.

“We’ve got enough to go into that game tomorrow and be competitive.”

Rowe apart, Barrow will have the same squad which upset title-contenders Newport on Saturday. That means Richie Baker and James Owen will be able to feature together in midfield, a partnership Bayliss views as important if they are to take advantage of the game being switched to Holker Street following two postponements in the North East.

He said: “Home advantage can count, but only if we perform on the night.

“We’ve got to go in with the same desire, the same determination – that’s how you win games at this level, it’s not through just ability alone, it’s through desire and application.

“We had all those things on Saturday and we probably beat one of the best teams in the league.

“We can do it. I know we can do it. But it’s dragging that performance from the players week in, week out that has been the problem.

“Having Richie Baker and James Owen back in there really helped and gave us a different aspect to our game.

“That’s no disrespect to the other guys, but we are quite a small side and having those two back in the middle really helped us.

“It will be good to get back to Barrow. We are all looking forward to it and hopefully we can do ourselves justice.

“Gateshead will be desperate for a game, because they haven’t played for a while, so it should be an entertaining game and hopefully we will come out with the right result.”

A pitch inspection was due to take place at Holker Street at 1pm today ahead of tonight’s tie, with the club hopeful it will go ahead. Check www.nwemail.co.uk for the results.

Barrow AFC (from): Danny Hurst, Matt Flynn, Gavin Skelton, Mike Pearson, Shaun Hessey, Paul Rutherford, James Owen, Richie Baker, Sean McConville, Adam Boyes, Shaun Pearson, Danny Rowe, Garry Hunter, Alex-Ray Harvey.

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