ALDERSHOT TOWN 1 (Rendell 90+3) BARROW AFC 1 (L James 72)

BARROW AFC’s National League life remains in the balance after a 1-1 draw at play-off-bound Aldershot Town.

Luke James had put the Bluebirds ahead in the second half, but after having a man sent-off, AFC were unable to hold on for victory.

Veteran striker Scott Rendell broke Barrow hearts with a 93rd-minute equaliser which left the visitors inches short of the finishing line in their quest for National League safety.

With Woking winning 2-1 at Guiseley, AFC are out of the relegation zone on goal-difference alone.

They have two matches remaining – at Bromley on Tuesday and at home to Chester on Saturday – and they vastly superior goal difference means three points from those two fixtures should see them safe.

For a quarter of an hour, James’ opportunist 72nd-minute shot had seemed set to lift them away from the bottom four once and for all.

But the picture changed dramatically in the closing stages in Hampshire and West Yorkshire, as Woking snatched an 85th-minute winner at Guiseley, before Rendell’s header denied the Bluebirds a vital victory at the EBB Stadium.

Shorn of the suspended Donovan Makoma plus hamstring-injury victims Jack Barthram and Nathan Waterson, Ady Pennock brought Tony Diagne back into the defence for just his second start of 2018, and the Frenchman more than played his part in an impressively solid display from the visitors.

Forest Green Rovers loan man James mustered the first-half’s only shot on target for either side, a long-range effort on 22 minutes, but Barrow’s more important attributes were strength and organisation as they set about implementing a gam-plan designed to contain their opponents.

Both sides had started on the front foot but The Shots largely held sway through a competitive opening period. Lewis Walters and Matt McClure had early shots charged down, and Jim Kellermann and Manny Oyeleke both fired wide for the hosts.

The main motif of the half, though, was patient Aldershot passing unable to penetrate the white wall of defenders.

Shamir Fenelon – perhaps Aldershot Town’s liveliest attacking threat – twice went close early in the second-half, bringing a strong save from Steve Arnold with a shot on the turn on 49 minutes, and then shooting over from 15 yards when deftly played in by James Rowe.

Seconds later, Grant Holt made his own superb, incisive pass to send Jordan White chasing through to roll a shot inches wide of the far-post.

Belatedly, the game had sparked into life, and the third good chance is as many minutes saw Arnold tip Kellermann’s rising drive over the crossbar. Harry Panayiotou then replaced Grant Holt and Barrow’s burgeoning ambition was rewarded on 72 minutes. Will Evans’ clumsy aerial challenge on White allowed Dan Jones to float in a free-kick from 35 yards.

Shots skipper Callum Reynolds rose highest to head clear to the edge of the box, only for James to hook a fine volley back into the net.

In response, Evans’ 25-yard drive flashed just past the post, and Arnold then turned Oyeleke’s shot around the post as the midfielder pounced on his own rebound.

Substitute Brad Bauress was sent-off on 86 minutes for a rash high tackle on Evans from which both players required treatment. But Barrow still appeared resilient enough to cling on to their narrow advantage going into five minutes of stoppage time.

A teasing cross from James Rowe had evaded three onrushing attackers two minutes earlier but in the 93rd minute the pressure finally told. The Bluebirds failed to keep possession from their own defensive throw-in and Aldershot Town worked the ball over to the right flank, from where Oyeleke measured a deep cross towards the far-post.

Rendell stole in between Callum MacDonald and Asa Hall to guide a header past Arnold, and the contrasting emotions between relieved home and crestfallen away fans was stark.

Ultimately, a draw was not enough for either side, yet Barrow could virtually confirm their own survival, and help The Shots into the bargain, by beating play-off chasers Bromley on Tuesday evening.


Aldershot Town: Lewis Ward; Cheye Alexander, Will Evans, Callum Reynolds, Lewis Kinsella; Manny Oyeleke, Jake Gallagher (James Rowe 56), Jim Kellermann (Adam McDonnell 68); Shamir Fenelon, Scott Rendell, Matt McClure (Josh McQuoid 27).

Substitutes not used: Jake Cole, Nicke Kabamba

Yellow Cards: Jim Kellermann (45), Lewis Ward (72).

Barrow AFC: Steve Arnold; Callum MacDonald, Asa Hall, Moussa Diarra, Tony Diagne (Bedsente Gomis 78); Dan Jones, Kingsley James; Luke James, Grant Holt (Harry Panayiotou 64), Lewis Walters (Bradley Bauress 67); Jordan White.

Substitutes Not Used: David Fitzpatrick, Ollie Cook.

Yellow Cards: Luke James (76), Bedsente Gomis (79).

Red Card: Bradley Bauress (86)

Referee: Sam Purkiss.

Attendance: 2947 (119 Barrow supporters).



An imposing and composed defensive leader as the Bluebirds so nearly earned a crucial victory