AS starts to pre-season go, they do not come more painful – both literally and figuratively – as that endured by Barrow AFC at Rakesmoor Lane.

What was supposed to be a warm-up for bigger tasks to come – a match against the cream of the local amateur crop, a chance for the opposition to show what they can do, an opportunity for the new Bluebirds signings and trialists to impress manager Ian Evatt – turned into a disaster inside four minutes.

That was how long was on the clock when new striker Jacob Blyth, a week into life with his new club, and following a battle for possession with Kane Fitch, went tumbling through the hoarding at the end of the pitch, rolled across the terracing, and hit the exterior wall of the ground.

It immediately looked bad – goalkeeper Sam Stephens rushed over to check on the 25-year-old, the doctor followed at pace – and nothing that followed did anything to change that perception.

For 45 minutes – with the match going on for half-an-hour longer before finally being called off – Blyth was treated at the side of the pitch. Word spread he had broken his arm badly and took a blow to the head, and certainly from a distance there was no sign of him moving apart from lifting up his knees.

When the ambulance arrived, Evatt decided it was time to call it a day, and players who had been milling around on an extended water break started to trudge from the pitch.

Even if it was later revealed to be a dislocated shoulder, with no break to the arm, and the need for further tests on his wrist, it is still not good.

Your heart goes out to Blyth. Evatt spoke of giving him a deserved second chance in the game, following his exit from Motherwell 11 months ago after a national newspaper in Scotland published a story regarding his conduct on holiday.

This was his chance to start climbing the ladder again, to hopefully regain a place in the Football League, to show his true potential. Evatt sees him as a striker capable of netting 20 goals a season, and now it is unclear when he will play for the Bluebirds again.

He will have further scans on the wrist in the nest week and the shoulder was put back into place at FGH on the day of the game. It is to be hoped he heals well and can return to show his capabilities sooner rather than later.

There were strong words after the game was called off from members of both coaching staffs regarding the incident which led to Blyth’s injury.

From the halfway line on the opposite side of the pitch, it looked a fully-committed shoulder-to-shoulder challenge for the ball as it headed out of play. It was the kind of thing you would expect to see every weekend in the season proper, though not necessarily four minutes into the opening friendly.

That it took place in front of one of the irregularly placed boards hanging from the perimeter fence was hugely unfortunate, as that impact added to what followed with the small terracing and the wall.

For a time, the game did continue – the seriousness of the situation to spectators only becoming apparent over the ensuing 10 minutes, when Blyth still had not been moved and there was talk of an ambulance being called.

Evatt had taken the chance to start nine of the players on board for next season – including Connor Brown, who signed his contract on one of the tables outside the Rakesmoor Lane clubhouse less than an hour before kick-off.

Steve Arnold started in goal – there was no Joel Dixon, as he has undergone keyhole surgery on his knee and is set to be out for several more weeks – with Brown alongside Dan Jones, Josh Granite and one of three trailists to feature in a four-man defence.

Another trialist started in midfield with Jack Hindle, Josh Kay, John Rooney and Nathan Waterston, with Blyth up front – replaced early on by the third unnamed prospect.

Astley Mulholland, Jack Barthram and Grant Holt did not play – the other three men contracted for the upcoming season – with Holt not seen at all at the ground as speculation over his future gathers pace. Barthram was among those warming up after the abandonment, having been set to feature in the second half.

The Furness Select team featured the likes of Millom’s Chris O’Brien, captain Brad Carroll – who had featured for Workington Reds as a trialist the night before – and Jon-Paul Stanway, watched from the terraces by sister Georgia, the England Women’s Under-20s international.

Neither side looked totally at home – not surprising given AFC’s players have had little time to get to know each other, and the amateurs had restricted time together beforehand – but there were a few moments to catch the eye.

Rooney had a shot from distance saved low down by Stephens, Elliott Moore curled one wide for Furness, and Rooney scored from the spot following a handball by O’Brien in the area.

Granite was a vocal presence in the heart of defence, directing the players around in front of him, and looked solid, while Kay hit the outside of the goal-frame with a long-range effort.

It was hard to pick up much more, and the trialists who did not feature will have to hope they get another chance – the next opportunity comes tomorrow when Carlisle United travel to Holker Street – with the focus of the afternoon on the injury to Blyth rather than anything else.


Furness Select: Sam Stephens, Chris O’Brien, Chris Wraighte, Tyler Wood, Kane Fitch, Patrick Allington, Jon-Paul Stanway, Brad Carroll, Elliott Moore, Brad Hubbold, Nathan Reid.

Substitutes (not used): Lewis Waterston, Jordan Williams, Brandon Collins, Christian Sloane, Brad Stoker.

Barrow AFC: Steve Arnold, Connor Brown, Dan Jones, Trialist, Josh Granite, Trialist, Jack Hindle, Josh Kay, Jacob Blyth (Trialist 4), John Rooney, Nathan Waterston.