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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Thornton's delight is agony for Barrow AFC

THE plucky Bluebirds looked on course to slay the mighty Wrexham dragons – before Kevin Thornton’s late strike condemned them to an agonising defeat which sent their latest mini-revival up in smoke.

Barrow hustled and harried the Conference Premier league leaders out of their stride for much of the first half, as the visitors were limited to only a few sniffs in front of goal.

And Dave Bayliss’s men grabbed the initiative after the break, which was too much for Wrexham midfielder Jay Harris to handle, as he was dismissed for a late tackle 20 minutes into the second half.

Barrow grew in stature as the half wore on, before suffering late agony as Wrexham substitute Thornton popped up with six minutes of normal time remaining to mug Barrow of at least a share of the spoils.

It was rough justice on the Bluebirds who deserved to extend their unbeaten run to three games.

Bayliss named an unchanged team following Saturday’s encouraging goalless draw at Lincoln City. Star striker Adam Boyes failed to recover from the calf injury that forced him to miss the trip to Sincil Bank. As a result, Bayliss also kept faith with a 4-5-1 formation, as Danny L Rowe was once again unleashed in a lone striker’s role.

Welsh-born midfielder James Owen started, to make his 100th appearance for the club, while Wrexham player-boss Andy Morrell deployed a 4-3-3 system.

The opening moments were devoid of notable incident, but the home side created the first opening from Gavin Skelton’s sixth-minute cross which found Owen.

The former Chester man let fly with a ferocious 16-yard volley, but he needed to re-adjust the radar after his effort flew well wide of the left-hand post.

The Bluebirds were holding their own in the midfield battle, while their defence stood firm in the early stages when Wrexham probed and pressed forward. Owen’s midfield team-mate Alex-Ray Harvey doubled Barrow’s shot count, but the outcome was much the same, as his speculative 35-yarder missed the target by some distance.

Wrexham suddenly came alive with Harris almost getting on the end of Johnny Hunt’s centre, before Barrow skipper Mike Pearson executed a headed clearance.

And moments later, on 14 minutes, the ball fell invitingly to Brett Ormerod but Barrow stopper Danny Hurst used his legs to good effect to get in the way of the veteran attacker’s low eight-yard drive.

Wrexham were slightly shading the contest as the game approached the 20-minute mark as their dynamic attack tried, without much success, to make inroads into Barrow’s resolute defence.

Wrexham’s 15-goal top scorer Danny Wright burst forward in the left channel, on 20 minutes, but he was stopped in his tracks by a well-timed Efe Sodje challenge.

Barrow were doing their job in disrupting Wrexham’s slick passing game, although they were hardly making any excursions into the visitors’ final third.

That was until the 24th minute, when Harvey surged forward before transferring the ball to Danny Rowe. The winger slipped in his namesake, Danny L Rowe, but frustratingly the big striker wasted a good chance by drifting into an offside position.

Two minutes later, Rowe almost made amends but his curling 20-yard effort was gathered by Dragons stopper Chris Maxwell.

Skelton caused more problems for Wrexham down the left when his excellent cross towards fellow full-back Garry Hunter caused panic in the Welsh side’s box, before Maxwell’s unconvincing punch eventually led to the danger being cleared.

The signs looked ominous for Barrow on 36 minutes when the ball fell into the path of Wright, but more good defending resulted in his stinging angled volley being blocked.

Wrexham’s half, from an attacking sense, was summed up on 40 minutes when Harris’s dire 25-yard grass-cutter deflected off one of his own team-mates and drifted out of play to hand Barrow a goal-kick.

Saying that, Barrow could hardly hand out lessons on finishing as Owen misfired from just outside Wrexham’s box.

Barrow deserved to maintain parity at the break before Wrexham made a strong start to the second period. An attacking move down Wrexham’s right led to Owen making a fine challenge in the box before Joe Clarke blazed over from 25 yards.

Wrexham’s penalty appeal, in claiming Hunter had handled the ball, was then turned down on 50 minutes.

Barrow applied some pressure of their own as Harvey’s 53rd-minute low driven cross was deflected out of play. Sodje rose in an attempt to meet Harvey’s resulting corner, and Maxwell looked decidedly uncomfortable as he barely made contact with the ball which went out of harm’s way.

The Bluebirds were growing in confidence in starting to fancy their chances of causing a shock as Skelton barely troubled the ruffled Maxwell with a weak volley.

A sign of Wrexham’s growing frustration arrived on the hour mark when full-back Stephen Wright earned the game’s first booking for a late challenge on Danny Rowe.

And seconds later, Danny L Rowe found space on the left-hand side of Wrexham’s box before his squared cross was beaten away by Maxwell.

Wrexham were down to 10 men on 65 minutes when Harris was issued with a straight red card after scything down Harvey in the centre circle with a late and needlessly reckless challenge.

Rutherford then fired a well-struck 20-yard shot straight at Maxwell as Barrow were suddenly favourites to find a winner as they continued to keep a good shape and to drive forward.

Danny Rowe almost latched onto a through ball on 75 minutes, before Martin Riley made a desperate, but crucial, last-gasp challenge that almost sent the ball beyond Maxwell. But the keeper got a hand to the ball to spare Riley’s blushes.

Maxwell was called into action again, on 78 minutes, when he tipped over Skelton’s 16-yard shot. Soon after, Harvey saw his low edge-of-the-box shot cleared off the goal-line by Stephen Wright.

On 80 minutes, Danny Wright looked to have raced clear on goal before he appeared to be hauled down, but he was surprisingly booked for simulation.

But the sucker punch arrived four minutes later when Thornton collected the ball in the left channel and rifled the ball beyond Hurst.

Barrow were unable to find the leveller during four minutes of stoppage time as they were forced to settle for an honourable defeat.

Have your say

Well said CUFFY,nice one.I think Barrow AFC will stay up,what a great performance.Believe in yourselves,and stay on the pitch,well done James Owen,we need you on there.Keep the faith,and go for it.Don't get cocky,there can be some nasty shocks in that area.Thanks men, and thanks NWEM for great reporting.DB AFC,I can't hear it,let the ground vibrate through it.

Posted by captain bluebirdseye on 28 February 2013 at 11:36

This defeat should not deflate the players too much - they lost to the league leaders. In fact the Bluebirds played well enough against Wrexham to show they can beat Tamworth at HS on Saturday.
Up the Bluebirds!
Mike Youles

Posted by Mike Youles on 27 February 2013 at 23:41

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