Barrow AFC must win to at Braintree to have any chance of play-offs
BARROW AFC head to Essex this weekend knowing their play-off hopes are out of their hands, and their destiny will be decided by results beyond their control.
Only victory against relegation-battling Braintree Town – whose fate could be all-but sealed if they were to lose tomorrow – would keep their dreams alive (3pm kick-off).
But even that would still not be enough for AFC to remain in the promotion hunt should Aldershot win at North Ferriby United.
Three points for the Shots would put them at least four points ahead of the Bluebirds, with only three to play for.
Barrow eyes will also be cast towards Dover, where the home side take on Torquay. Should they win, then they would need only a point from their midweek match with Macclesfield Town at the Crabble to deny AFC a top-five finish as well.
As it stands, Barrow seem set to at least to equal their best-ever Conference finish of eighth place – last achieved in 1981/82.
They sit seventh, with Gateshead five points behind, with two games remaining, and Macclesfield six back, with three games left.
Even if they miss out on the play-offs, it has been a season of strong progress for the side, and manager Paul Cox hopes the supporters appreciate that.
“I hope people are applauding the growth of this football club,” he said. “There will be a timescale on it, and I have said to people that this is not just after Christmas and before – I think we are year to 18 months ahead of ourselves and it’s important that we grow and we plan accordingly in the summer to take this club forward.
“It’s the human factor sometimes. We’ve had such a positive first five or six months of the season, and we fell away. We fell away for certain reasons, and in my head I know where we have come up short. That’s key now going forward – it’s all about progression.
“At Christmastime, I told people we were good enough to win the championship. From then onwards, we have probably come up a little bit short because of certain factors – that needs some adjusting in the close-season, to make sure that we can not only get off to a good start next year, but we can maintain and show that same kind of consistency coming round the bend after Christmas.”
He added: “Some of the players deserve an incredible amount of credit. I saw a statement in the press that one manager has called us a 'big club' this year. I didn't how I should react to that.
“I don't think we're a big club yet. I think we're a club in transition, I think we're a club that's evolving. But it just goes to show, because 18 months ago we were classed as whipping boys.
“I think everybody around the club needs to embrace where we are. There's an awful lot of work to be done before we can sit down and admire what we've done. Contradicting what I've said – the time for admiring what we have done is probably never, because you always have to keep pushing.
“The end of the season, there just seems to be a lack of energy. That doesn't phase me in any way. I've known since Christmas where our deficiencies lay and I've known how to solve them, but I think that is going to take a bit of extra time and a little extra planning to make sure we are consistent over 46 games, we can handle cup competitions and we can handle every scenario for next season.”