Barrow AFC 1 FC Halifax Town 2

Not for the first time this season, Barrow AFC were left to wonder how they’ve managed to lose a game they were dominating, as they fell at the first hurdle in the FA Trophy against FC Halifax Town.

They had a giant stroke of luck when a bizarre own goal from Halifax captain Matty Brown brought them level with 12 minutes left, but that was about the only break they got in a match played in atrocious conditions at Holker Street.

In torrential rain and a howling wind, it’s to both sets of players’ credit that they produced a match of such a good standard, but that will be of little consolation to anyone at AFC, as they were knocked out by Ben Tomlinson's late winner.

Incredibly, they hit the woodwork four times during an afternoon where there really should have been only one winner given the Bluebirds’ second-half performance, only for another cup run to end prematurely this season.

Manager Ian Evatt used the match as a chance to give players who have struggled for minutes lately some much-needed game time, making seven changes in all.

One of the players who came in was centre-back Matt Elsdon, who was making his first appearance for over four months due to a knee injury, ironically enough against the team who he sustained it against.

Goalkeeper Andy Firth was playing his first game since October and he was called into action less than two minutes in when he had to produce a smart save at his near post to keep out Ryan Sellers’ effort.

Worryingly, there was already standing water on the pitch and with the rain unrelenting, the ball was starting to hold up on it when it was passed along the ground.

That was doing nothing for the playing style of the Bluebirds, who also had to battle against the gale force wind in the first half, which was not surprisingly becoming a bit of a slog.

Halifax started to have a good spell after the half-hour mark and Jordan Preston threatened to open the scoring when his shot on the turn when just wide of the near post.

Then came a moment that Firth won’t want to see again, as he tried to come to meet Preston’s corner, but got nowhere near it, allowing Matty Brown to head into an empty net.

It was the first goal Barrow had conceded in five games, but they very nearly hit straight back when Connor Brown’s cross found the unmarked Luke Burgess, whose header came off the outside of the post.

The visitors had the first chance of the second half, as Dayle Southwell did well to cut inside past Connor Brown before bending a low shot just wide, with Firth struggling.

John Rooney tried his luck from long range after 61 minutes and gave Halifax ‘keeper Sam Johnson his first real test of the afternoon, with him somewhat fortunate that his parry wasn’t followed up on. Oh, for Tyler Smith.

Firth then kept AFC in the contest with 20 minutes left when he came out bravely to smother the ball at the feet of Niall Maher, who had been played in by Tomlinson.

Lee Molyneux then came a whisker away from equalising for Barrow when his clever chip from the edge of the area bounced off the cross bar.

But the match was levelled in extraordinary fashion when Johnson beat away another good effort from Rooney, only for Matty Brown to inexplicably caress a header into his own net.

The Bluebirds then piled on the pressure, with Jacob Blyth’s looping header being clawed away by Johnson, before an improvised effort dropped against the post with the ‘keeper stranded.

Incredibly, the woodwork was struck yet again moments later, with Jack Barthram the man left cursing his luck this time.

‘Sucker punch’ really doesn’t do justice to Halifax’s winner, as they broke down the left with Jonathan Edwards cutting inside before his strike was deflected into the net by Tomlinson, who knew little about it, to send AFC crashing out.

Barrow AFC (3-4-1-2): Firth, Wilson, Elsdon, Jones, Brown (Barthram 58), Rooney, Kay, Molyneux, Burgess (Agustien 71), Blyth, Turner (Hindle 66)

Subs not used: Sloan, Jameson

FC Halifax Town (4-2-3-1): Johnson, Hanson (Duckworth 45), Clarke, Brown, Sellers, Ferry, Maher, Preston, Odelusi (Tomlinson 52), McLeod (Edwards 78), Southwell

Sub not used: Rowley

Referee: Andrew Miller

Attendance: 578