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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

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Yet more hurt for Bluebirds against Hereford - full report with pictures

FORTY years after controversially losing their Football League status to Hereford United, the Bluebirds suffered yet more pain at the hands of the Bulls last night.

A 2-0 home defeat in front of the live television cameras at Holker Street stretched Barrow’s winless run in Blue Square Bet Premier to seven and sent them tumbling to the bottom of the table.

With the season’s halfway stage just around the corner it is a deeply worrying position the Holker Street outfit find themselves in – perhaps the most precarious since their proud promotion four-and-a-half years ago.

An unmarked header by Josh O’Keefe in first half stoppage-time and a 78th minute Ryan Bowman strike proved the difference as Barrow, for all their possession and neat passing, were made to pay the penalty for a lack of invention in the final third of the pitch.

Bluebirds boss Dave Bayliss, switching to a 4-3-3 formation, made one change to the side that drew 1-1 at AFC Telford United on Tuesday, with 19-year-old Neill Byrne, on loan from Rochdale, making his debut at centre-half in place of fellow teenager Tom Anderson.

Striker Joe Jackson, the last-gasp goal hero at the New Bucks Head, again had to make do with a place on the bench.

The game’s first chance fell to Carlisle-born Bulls lone striker Bowman, a rumoured target for Barrow last summer, who skewed his 14-yard shot well wide. Moments later, Bluebirds left-back Sean Hessey made a crucial tackle as Brian Smikle prepared to pull the trigger.

Hereford continued to force the issue and midfielder Will Evans dragged a long-range effort off target.

Barrow played plenty of slick passing football in the opening 10 minutes but struggled for any kind of invention higher up the pitch – a theme that was to continue for much of the first half.

The in-form visitors, relegated from the Football League last season, had no such problems, as proved on 12 minutes, when Bowman skipped past Byrne and fired in a low shot which deflected off Mike Pearson and brought the best of Bluebirds keeper Danny Hurst.

Hereford’s Harry Pell was then booked for sliding tackle on Louis Almond, before Hurst, 16 yards out of his goal, dropped a hanging free-kick and Bowman crashed the resulting loose ball over the crossbar.

Number-one stopper Hurst immediately gestured to the bench that he had injured his hand when trying to collect the high ball and, following a quick assessment by physio Sean Riley, was replaced by substitute keeper Shaun Pearson.

The 22-year-old younger brother of Barrow captain Mike took his place between the sticks, making his first appearance of the season following a knee injury.

Frustrations among home supporters grew as the game reached the half-hour mark with their side, despite ample possession, having created nothing worthy of a cheer against Hereford’s well-drilled defensive unit.

Improvements followed in the remainder of the first half and when Richie Baker saw his 36th-minute shot blocked, the ball broke to Boyes, whose acrobatic 12-yard volley nestled into the bottom corner. Unfortunately for the hosts their central striker was offside when he connected with the ball and his effort was chalked off.

Almond then fired a long-range shot over the bar, before Boyes did likewise with a well-placed header following a corner-kick.

Moments later, energetic midfielder Alex-Ray Harvey became the third Barrow player in quick succession to put an effort over the top.

And Barrow were still in the ascendency when, three minutes into stoppage-time, following the breakdown of a corner-kick, Hereford captain Stefan Stam delivered to the back post and unmarked midfielder O’Keefe headed in his third goal in three games.

Bowman almost doubled the Bulls’ lead at the start of the second half but dragged his snap-shot narrowly wide of the far post.

Barrow responded with their best move of the match on 51 minutes when Harvey and Baker linked through the middle to set up Almond, who fired straight at visiting keeper James Bittner.

Play soon moved to the opposite end of the pitch and, despite the referee having already blown for offside, Hereford’s Simon Hackney rolled the ball into the net.

Undeterred, the Bluebirds continued in search of an equaliser, which almost arrived when Rutherford’s cross was flicked just off target by Boyes.

Moments later, after a neat passing move, Barrow midfielder Garry Hunter blasted a wayward 18-yard shot out of the ground.

Almond was much closer with a volley on 61 minutes but again the effort failed to test Bittner. Barrow’s on-loan left-sided striker from Blackpool, growing in influence, then tried his luck from 25 yards with a shot that deflected narrowly wide.

At the other end, Evans unleashed two long-range shots, one of which Pearson saved, with the other zipping past the post.

On 76 minutes, Bayliss threw on Jackson for Byrne and went to a 3-4-3 formation. It was a brave roll of the dice that, just 120 seconds later, backfired when Hereford broke and Bowman crashed the ball in off the inside of the post. Game over.

Barrow huffed and puffed in the closing stages but never really looked like pulling a goal back.

And their miserable night was completed in stoppage-time when Hunter picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, which means he will be suspended for Tuesday night’s FA Cup second round clash at home against Macclesfield Town.

Blue Square Bet Premier: Barrow AFC 0 Hereford United 2

Goals: Josh O'Keefe (45+3), Ryan Bowman (78)

Attendance: 867

Barrow AFC (4-3-3): Danny Hurst (Shaun Pearson 23); Matt Flynn, Sean Hessey, Mike Pearson (captain), Neill Byrne (Joe Jackson 76); Alex-Ray Harvey, Garry Hunter, Richie Baker; Paul Rutherford, Louis Almond (Sean McConville 83), Adam Boyes.
Subs not used: Gavin Skelton, Tom Anderson.

Hereford United (4-5-1): James Bittner; Andy Gallinagh, Simon Clist, Luke Graham, Stefan Stam (captain); Josh O'Keefe (Kyle Perry 81), Harry Pell, Will Evans, Simon Hackney (James McQuilkin 65), Brian Smikle (Phil Marsh 73); Ryan Bowman.
Subs not used: Dan Hanford, Joe Heath.

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