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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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TAKE YOUR PICK COLUMN: Benchmark has been set

AT full-time at Holker Street on Tuesday it almost felt like redemption for the Barrow players as they were clapped from the pitch.

The players, in turn, clapped back at the 1,600-strong crowd who were at their boisterous best during the FA Cup second round tie with Macclesfield Town.

The scoreline read 1-1, but most in attendance knew the 96 minutes of play represented a bit more than that for Barrow this season.

The last time the Bluebirds left the Furness Building Society Stadium field they had lost 2-0 to Hereford United with a dismally limp display. Not only did the Barrow crowd bear witness to it, but subscribers to Premier Sports were also given a particularly awful demonstration of what the Bluebirds have to offer.

One home win in 11 attempts is all Barrow have to show for their efforts in the Conference this season, leaving home supporters with desperately little to applaud.

In the home cup games they have faired better, claiming wins over Tamworth and Guiseley in the FA Cup and Hyde in the FA Trophy. So it was perhaps expected Barrow would put in an improved performance in the world’s oldest cup competition on Tuesday, especially with the carrot of a home third-round tie with Cardiff dangling in front of them.

But no matter the incentive, Barrow deserve great credit for a superb battling display. In particular, Richie Baker and Adam Boyes epitomised the fighting spirit that ran through the side.

Baker gambled on every ball forward, busting a gut to surge into the box from midfield and support lone frontman Boyes at practically every opportunity.

He continually made those real lung-bursting runs, which would be so easy to leave to someone else, and it was cruel that he should miss a golden chance to clinch the win from one yard out, after putting in such a relentless shift.

The number eight’s performance was genuinely tireless, as he chased back and raced to all corners of the field to contribute to set-pieces.

His stunning direct free-kick to level the score just before half-time spoke for itself.

As for Boyes, if there is a harder-working centre forward in the league this season, then I have yet to see him.

The number nine made a nuisance of himself all night, setting the tempo for the entire team by harrying the defenders and ruffling feathers at every opportunity.

The fact Dave Bayliss made only one substitution when he had Garry Hunter, Louis Almond and Joe Jackson at his disposal from the bench, spoke volumes about the contribution of his starting XI.

Not even the Popular Side’s persistent calls for Almond’s introduction changed that.

In spite of all this, Barrow of course now have to do it all again away at Macclesfield on December 29.

But now they’ve set a benchmark, they have to regularly repeat it. Not just to face Cardiff, but to avoid relegation.

DAVID PICKTHALL

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