ONE defeat in 13 games, nine clean sheets in the same period and still in with a chance of making the Vanarama National League play-offs come the end of the season – these are good times to be a Barrow AFC supporter.

The struggles of this time last season are very much a distant memory, as everyone associated with the Bluebirds is now glancing up the table and very much aware what that form continuing at home to tomorrow afternoon’s opponents Ebbsfleet United would mean.

Given manager Ian Evatt’s renown as a central defender during his playing days with Blackpool and Chesterfield particularly, it is perhaps no surprise the side’s success in recent months has been built on a solid foundation.

That was emphasised at Sutton United last Saturday, where the home side’s set-piece threat was nullified and they were unable to break Barrow down before Josh Kay snatched a late winner, with Evatt pleased to see how his side overcame their disadvantage in physical stature.

“That’s nine clean sheets in 13 games, which by anyone’s standards is excellent,” said Evatt. “I thought we coped with their set pieces really well.

“That’s their main aim of attacking, they’re quite direct and difficult to play against, and we really stood up to that well.

“We’re not the biggest of teams, but we do use our bodies intelligently and make it difficult for them to win headers in the box.”

Barrow under Evatt are certainly not a defensive side though, deploying an attacking formation led by the front three of Kay, loan signing Dior Angus and Jack Hindle.

But they have just as much responsibility for defensive duties too, with Evatt challenging them to contribute to keeping opponents at bay when Barrow are out of possession.

“I set a challenge to the front three and spoke to them at length last week,” said Evatt. “My point is if we are going to play three up front and three forwards, they really have to be a handful in and out of possession.

“That means making defenders lives a misery, constantly working to make bad balls into good balls, constantly pressurising them and I thought they set the tone really well for that.

“I thought they were a constant threat on the counter-attack, but also the way they worked tirelessly out of possession to put pressure on their back four and stop any quality going into their front players.

“They set the tone for the win and it was a very good performance, but they need to back that up now on Saturday.”

As with every good manager though, Evatt is always searching for ways to improve and one area he identified is the need to be more clinical in front of goal after leaving it late against Sutton.

“We dominated against a team who are in the top six, had the better chances, probably should have won by three or four and the only disappointing point for me is we’re not putting teams to the sword,” said Evatt.

“We’re giving them a fighting chance, so hopefully we can work on that and end up being more clinical in front of goal and more clinical in our final-third decision-making.

“We’re very close to putting it all together and really taking all the chance we’re creating. When we do that, someone is going to be on the end of a nasty-looking result.”