Barrow AFC 0 Ebbsfleet United 0

Despite piling on the pressure late on, Barrow AFC couldn’t produce a dramatic finish this time, as they were cancelled out by Ebbsfleet United in what was a fractious encounter at Holker Street.

The fact that the two teams managed seven shots on target between them shows that neither were without their chances, but somehow this tally was matched by the number of yellow cards shown.

You’d hardly describe this game as dirty, but unfortunately referee David Richardson imprinted himself on the contest too much.

Not only was he too quick to take players’ names in his book, but he was also inconsistent in his decision-making, which is huge bugbear for anyone involved, whether they’re players, managers, supporters, or even us mugs in the press box.

However, whatever the Bluebirds felt about the officiating, the bottom line is that, once again they couldn’t find the killer touch to make the most of their solidity at the back.

There was just one enforced change for the Bluebirds from last week’s superb win at Sutton, as Kyle Jameson replaced the banned Sam Hird in defence, his first appearance since his own recent suspension.

The match got off to a lively start, with a lovely cushioned pass by Dior Angus putting John Rooney in behind the Ebbsfleet defence, but his lob over Nathan Ashmore just cleared the crossbar.

Another good chance for the Bluebirds soon came, as a well-measured through ball from Angus found its way to Josh Kay, who pressed on down the right before his low effort was kept out by Ashmore’s legs.

It was early encouragement that AFC were picking up where they left off from their excellent performance in south London, with them frequently stretching the visitors’ defence.

Angus continued to cause problems, with the Port Vale loanee being sent flying by Lawrie Wilson’s challenge just a couple of feet outside the Fleet penalty area.

Ebbsfleet grew into the contest, however, and had their first chance after Myles Weston’s corner in the 35th minute, which was flicked on by Chris Bush before Sam Magri was denied from close range by the alert Joel Dixon.

The AFC goalkeeper was being subjected to some unnecessary challenges in trying to claim crosses, with Ebbfleet’s Michael Cheek being booked following one such instance, which enraged Connor Brown in particular.

Despite temperatures rising on the pitch, the two sides went into half-time still deadlocked, with the opening 45 minutes having as many yellow cards (four) as it did shots.

Last week’s hero, Kay, was replaced by Jacob Blyth at half-time, as manager Ian Evatt introduced more of a physical presence to his front line.

Ebbsfleet’s direct approach was tricky to deal with at times, with a corner being kept alive by their captain, Andy Drury, before Dan Jones stood up strong to block Cheek’s effort from point-blank range.

A long ball was then superbly controlled by Corey Whitely, who had got in behind Jameson, but he undid his initial good work by dragging what was a good chance well wide.

The Bluebirds responded, with Angus’ low shot being fumbled by Ashmore, but unfortunately for Rooney, the offside flag had long gone up before he had slammed the rebound into the net.

Jack Hindle then shot tamely at Ashmore from the edge of the area after a loose ball had broken his way, as the Bluebirds looked to come up with another late show.

Ashmore almost provided one for them, as he got into a mess in keeping out Lewis Hardcastle’s long-range fizzer and appeared to bring down the onrushing Hindle, but the unpredictable Richardson waved away the appeals.

There was still time for one last chance for Barrow with Luke Burgess volleying Brown’s cross into the ground in the 90th minute, but the bounce took it over.

Barrow AFC (4-3-3): Dixon, Barthram, Jameson, Jones, Brown, Rooney, Taylor, Hardcastle, Kay (Blyth 45), Hindle, Angus (Burgess 66)

Subs not used: Sloan, Molyneux, Jennings

Ebbsfleet United (4-4-2): Ashmore, Wilson, Magri, King, Bush, Drury, Adams, Payne, Weston, Whitely (Kedwell 82), Cheek

Subs not used: Miles, Moncur, Omar

Referee: David Richardson

Attendance: 1,058