BARROW AFC slipped to only their second defeat of the season as an early header from Shamir Mullings was enough to give Maidstone United a narrow victory and their first clean sheet of the season at the Gallagher Stadium.

The Bluebirds arrived in Kent in good form with Maidstone manager Jay Saunders saying he had been impressed with Barrow in the two matches that he had watched them play. But although the visitors were the stronger of the two sides in the first half after Maidstone had taken the lead, after the break, they petered out and the Stones might have won this match by a greater margin had it not been for keeper Andrew Firth.

With just six minutes gone, Stuart Lewis played a short pass out on the right to Michee Efete. Saunders admitted afterwards that his team had spent an hour working on delivery into the box in the week and this paid dividends as Efete put in a good cross for the towering Mullins and his downwards header beat Firth.

As the half wore on, John Rooney was becoming influential for the visitors and he may well have equalised for the Bluebirds on 19 minutes. Nathan Waterston played the ball to him in a central position just outside the area and Rooney let his frustration show after hitting the ball over the bar.

Waterston then made a run forwards down the right and cut inside. He slightly over-hit the ball allowing Stuart Lewis to get a touch but the ball ran to Rooney who arrived to strike a hard shot that looked destined for the left side of the net until the last minute when it suddenly swerved wide.

Having mostly been second best, Maidstone then had a good chance to increase their lead 10 minutes before the break. Some patient build-up play from the home side ended when Andre Coker slipped a great ball into Blair Turgott but Firth was smartly off his line and he managed to make the block.

Then the last decent opportunity of the half fell to the Barrow though. Efete got caught by a long ball forwards allowing Jack Hindle to nip in and race towards the edge of the box before he dragged his drive right of the far post.

The interval seemed to disrupt Barrow’s momentum and with the second half only minutes old, Jameson got caught in possession by Paxman not far from the box. Jameson appeared to impede Paxman as the Maidstone midfielder tried to get into the area and with Firth quickly out of his goal, the opportunity fizzed out.

The Bluebirds’ sole decent chance of the half came on 56 minutes. Rooney passed to Hindle on the left. Hindle pulled the ball back into a central area in the box where it was met by Luke Carroll-Burgess who hit a low shot which might have had its power reduced by a deflection and Lee Worgan almost let the ball squirm under him but he finally gathered the ball after a couple of attempts.

Paxman was then presented with another opportunity to beat Firth when he found himself with only the Barrow keeper to beat once more. But yet again, Firth was smartly out of his goal and he calmly knocked the ball away from Paxman’s stride.

With the game moving towards its later stages, Lewis threaded the ball forward for Blair Turgott. Turgott timed his run well to beat the well marshalled Barrow offside trap but as he went into the area, he opted for a near post shot and the ball screwed wide.

Maidstone United (4-3-3): 1. Lee Worgan; 2. Michee Efete, 4. Jordan Wynter, 5. Will De Havilland, 15. Seth Nana Twumasi; 21. Ollie Muldoon, 8. Stuart Lewis, 10. Jack Paxman (22. Michael Phillips 74); 11. Blair Turgott, 15. Shamir Mullings (9. Joe Quigley 83), 7. Andre Coker (14. Jamar Loza 76). Subs not used: 3. George McLennan, 12, Matt Funnell.

AFC Barrow (4-3-3 ): 13. Andrew Firth (8); 2. Connor Brown (6), 23. Kyle Jameson (5) (24. Lee Molynex 75 (6)), 5. Josh Granite (6), 3. Dan Jones (7); 8. John Rooney (7), 4. Jason Taylor (6), 14. Luke Carroll-Burgess (6) ((20. Raul Correia 79 (6)), 7. Jack Hindle (6); 19. Tyler Smith (6), 11. Nathan Carroll-Burgess (6) (10. Josh Kay 58 (6)). Subs not used: 30. James Pollard, 20. Raul Correia, 21. Jack Barthram.

Attendance: 2,003 (60 AFC Barrow supporters)

Bookings – Ollie Muldoon (Maidstone United) / Connor Brown, Kyle Jameson (AFC Barrow)

Referee: Paul Howard

Barrow star man: Andrew Firth. Showed great awareness to come smartly off his line on three occasions to deny Maidstone in one on one goal scoring situations.