BARROW AFC 1 (Luke James 19) HARTLEPOOL UNITED 2 (Newton 45, Magnay 50)

THAT search for a home win goes on for Barrow AFC – it may take some time.

If the Bluebirds can claim to have been unlucky in recent draws against Tranmere, Sutton and – to some extent – Gateshead, there was none of the same sentiment on the Holker Street terraces last night.

Barrow led when Luke James fired in his fifth goal in as many games, but as so often – too often – this term, they failed to add a second despite a flurry of chances.

Another familiar tale unfolded as they were punished by a sucker punch at the end of the first half, only to fall behind early in the second.

This is a Barrow team who have not scored more than once in a game since January 1 – they have scored one goal in each of their last seven matches – and they looked deflated and accepting of their fate after finding themselves in arrears.

It is 10 home matches since these supporters last saw their side take three points, it is hard to see that changing any time soon if this display is anything to go by. They seemed to have a weight hanging around that necks – a monkey perhaps – that grew heavier the longer they went without scoring a second.

Ten games remain for Barrow to save their season, to avoid a drop that was unthinkable at the start of the campaign but which is a harsh reality as the end approaches. Five of those are at home – dare it be said the five away are the ones the Bluebirds must win if they are to survive.

Only goal difference keeps them above Solihull now, with Hartlepool having moved three points ahead once more. Games in hand are one thing, but they are only valuable if you take advantage.

Manager Ady Pennock made one change to the starting XI which featured against Maidenhead, and that one enforced as Bradley Bauress came in for the suspended Bedsente Gomis.

That meant a first Holker Street start for Nathan Waterston, in a front three alongside Luke James and Lewis Walters.

Those three had little to do but track back and defend in the opening spell, with Hartlepool in the ascendancy and constantly pressing into the Bluebirds half.

Crosses were cut out, tackles made and headers came in at key moments to stop them getting too close, but it could only last so long.

Pools finally had their chance as a ball over the top found Jake Cassidy running into the area with time and space to spare. The angle was not there for a shot, but he knew what was going on around him and cut back for the run of Rhys Oates, whose low effort was pushed away by a dive from Steve Arnold in the AFC goal.

All that pressure, but no goal, and Barrow got theirs with their first real attack.

Donovan Makoma, making back-to-back starts for the first time in the National League, threaded a ball through perfectly from just inside the Pools half, picking out the run of Luke James.

He ran onto it and held off the attentions of Conor Newton to stretch out his right boot and direct the ball into the far bottom corner past Scott Loach to continue his scoring run.

Now it was the Bluebirds who were the dominant force.

Luke James led a quick break and played the ball to his left for Bauress, who took a shot first time on his left foot that forced Loach to get down and save.

The visiting keeper then had to be alive to stop another chance as good interplay ended with Kingsley James hitting a bobbling shot goalward from 15 yards.

Kingsley James was the man with the chance again as Lewis Walters showed sharp turn of pace on the left touchline and delivered a cross the midfielder could only meet tamely with a poor header.

A Waterston break down the right, as he outstripped the defence with ease, eventually came to nothing as the crosses into the area were cleared and Asa Hall shot off-target from 20 yards.

Walters made another fantastic run, this time cutting through the middle of the park with defenders scattered every which way, but the ball became tangled in his feet and his eventual shot made for an easy save for Loach.

How many times this season have Barrow created so many chances then paid the price for not converting them? Chalk up another one.

Just as the AFC goal came against the run of play, so did Pools’. A ball through was heading into the area without pace, but no-one chose to deal with it quickly enough.

Arnold came from his line and slid along the ground to gather, as Makoma stood off, but he could not hold the ball and instead the visiting players swarmed and Newton applied the finishing touch from a narrow angle with bodies sprawled all around.

Matters took an even worse turn for the Bluebirds early in the second half, as Hartlepool took the lead five minutes in.

Carl Magnay had the ball 35 yards out and let rip with a looping, dipping effort. Arnold seemed unconcerned until it was too late, scrambling across his goal for the ball as it passed beyond his outstretched arm and went into the top corner.

Pools were the side all the play, all the chances, and Barrow were reeling.

Scott Harrison headed wide from a deep corner at the far post, but mostly they were having trouble finding the right final ball or the finishing touch as well.

Barrow looked to solve that problem for themselves with the introduction for Grant Holt for Waterston, but were still on the back-foot.

A mistake by Arnold as he kicked a back-pass into a crowd of Pools men 30 yards out saw the visitors push on, with Woods shooting from 20 yards and the keeper scrambling back then diving to his right to save.

Jordan White and Dan Jones – 24 hours after his 90-minute stint for England C – came on in the final 10 minutes as the search for an equaliser stepped up for AFC.

They had nothing to add to a side whose wind was taken from their sails by the equaliser and who now have the spectre of relegation firmly over their shoulder.


Barrow AFC: Steve Arnold 5, Donovan Makoma 6 (Dan Jones 80), Ollie Cook 6, Moussa Diarra 6, Calum Macdonald 7, Asa Hall 6, Bradley Bauress 6, Kingsley James 6, Nathan Waterston 6 (Grant Holt 68), Luke James 7, Lewis Walters 7 (Jordan White 80). Substitutes Not Used: Jack Barthram, Tony Diagne.

Yellow Cards: Waterston (49).

Hartlepool United: Scott Loach, Nicky Featherstone, Jake Cassidy (Jacob Owen 90), Michael Woods, Carl Magnay, Scott Harrison, Rhys Oates (Devante Rodney 79), Louis Laing, Conor Newton, Lewis Hawkins (Josh Hawkes 86), Blair Adams. Substitutes Not Used: Ryan Catterick, Jack Munns.

Referee: Matthew Donohue.

Attendance: 1,018 (58 from Hartlepool).


Luke James: He is a real threat and added another goal to his tally. If only others looked as dangerous.