Woeful Barrow AFC fall to Southport defeat as play-off hopes dented

11 January 2017 12:54PM



HOW long before a blip becomes a slump?

That must be the question Paul Cox is asking himself as Barrow AFC fell to a third successive loss.

Southport were 1-0 victors at Holker Street last night against a home side putting in their poorest display of the campaign.

On the back of losses to Gateshead and Rochdale, there was no sign of a bounceback, no indication this was a team ready to battle for a National League promotion place once again.

Instead, there was a lack of commitment, of interest, of cohesion – worrying signs for a side whose season could so easily fall away now, with the FA Cup run done, the FA Trophy coming on Saturday and without a win since November 26 in the league.

A solution needs to be found soon to avoid that. New players have been asked for by Cox, owner Paul Casson must respond in the affirmative – even if it means spending money on transfers for the first time in a long time.

All the play in the first five minutes took place in the visitors’ half, but pressure and possession did not result in any real opening – a Jordan Williams curling effort over the bar from a short corner aside. Slowly Port came back into it and they struck on the counter-attack after a Shaun Beeley cross was miskicked by Moussa Diarra and Byron Harrison’s effort was blocked.

The Southport attack moved down field faster than the Barrow defence and Ben McKenna sprinted away on the right, into the area, close the byline and firing across goal, past Jon Flatt and into the far corner of the net for a hammer blow to the hosts.

The game resumed a pattern of AFC pressing and the Sandgrounders waiting to pounce on the break, with Richie Bennett heading softly at Magnus Norman from a Beeley cross before Moussa Diarra went for the spectacular.

The ball looped up behind him eight yards from goal, hitting an overhead kick more than six feet in the air that rattled the bar.

Akil Wright had a 25-yard shot struck with power and well stopped low to his left by Norman, then a mistake by Diarra let Andrai Jones in at the other end and he played in McKenna on the right, whose hard-hit strike was turned behind by Flatt. Williams wasted a 25-yard free-kick that went over the bar and Danny Livesey looped a header from an Alex-Ray Harvey free-kick back beyond the far post.

Norman gifted Williams another chance as he raced from his line and hit a clearance into Harrison’s back, the ball falling to the winger, who hit it first time with the keeper off his line but went back beyond the target.

Beeley, who was a standout on the right against former AFC man Neil Ashton, went down near to half-time after colliding with Rory McKeown, but he was back up and saw Delial Brewster break the offside trap and then take too many touches, allowing Flatt off his line to take the ball.

Bennett optimistically at best hit a 30-yard half-volley from the left nowhere near the target, before the best chance for the hosts came on the stroke of the break.

A low Wright cross from outside the area on the right came to the feet of Harrison, who turned it towards the far post. It was off-target, but Livesey was there, a foot from the line and with the goal at his mercy. But the ball became caught between his feet, he could not find a way to put it in, and Southport cleared.

Barrow had enjoyed most of the play and the chances, but lacked any cutting edge or impetus and needed to up their game in the second period to avoid another costly loss.

Instead, Southport had the first chance as McKenna created an opening and played a ball to the feet of Liam Nolan, in space 18 yards out. His shot was heading in the general direction of the top corner, with Flatt across well to tip it behind.

Some dubious refereeing decisions from Scott Oldham did not help, with Wright bundled down by Ashton but being penalised having gone round his man, before Nolan blatantly brought down Bennett as he was set to break away, only for Mr Oldham to wave it away. It did serve to rile the crowd if nothing else – all 956 of them, remarkably poor given there were 4,414 in on Saturday and perhaps a true indication of the real fan-base at present. Though some will point to a rush of home games and the financial commitment needed to go to all of them.

It did not help their attitude when the assistant referee gave a corner from a Williams shot, but was overruled by the man in the middle.

Southport did not care one jot and went close again as Jones rose to meet a cross at the far post and headed down low, forcing Flatt to save with his feet.

Livesey headed over a Williams corner, though felt his effort had taken a deflection off a defender, possibly an arm – Mr Oldham said no. A double substitution saw Andy Haworth and Ross Hannah on for Dan Rowe and Bennett, with Hannah soon into the thick of it as he dragged an effort wide from 20 yards.

Southport began to employ every time-wasting tactic in the book – with no sign of being punished even when Jake Wright blatantly kicked the ball away to stop the hosts quickly taking a free-kick. To blame such moments for the scoreline, however, was ignoring a poor AFC display where passes were being splayed left, right and centre and too many players were losing the ball all too often.

The closest an AFC player came to scoring was when Livesey directed a header perfectly at the top corner – of his own goal. Flatt, the only bright spot from the 90 minutes, was alert and reached across with his left hand to turn it behind for a corner.

Barrow had been well below-par, looked like they wanted to be anywhere else, and deserved just what they got – nothing.

Barrow AFC: Jon Flatt 8, Shaun Beeley 6, Nick Anderton 6, Danny Livesey 5, Moussa Diarra 5, Alex-Ray Harvey 6, Dan Rowe 5 (Andy Haworth 65, 5), Akil Wright 6, Richie Bennett 5 (Ross Hannah 65, 6), Byron Harrison 5, Jordan Williams 5 (Lindon Meikle 80).

Yellow Cards: Williams (45).

Southport: Magnus Norman, Ryan Higgins, Neil Ashton, Josh Thompson, Robbie Cundy, Liam Nolan, Liam Hynes, Ben McKenna, Rory McKeown, Delial Brewster (Jake Wright 80), Andrai Jones. Substitutes Not Used: Mason Springthorpe, Michael Onovwigun, Declan Weeks, Aaron Jones.

Referee: Scott Oldham (Blackpool).

Barrow starman: Jon Flatt - Could do nothing to stop the goal, made some great saves and stood out when the rest of the team went into hiding.

Attendance: 956.

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