YOUNG midfielder Lewis Hardcastle is showing the sort of bravery on the ball Barrow AFC manager Ian Evatt asks of his players.

Hardcastle was a growing influence in the middle of the park as the Bluebirds’ match against Ebbsfleet United wore on last week, with his spilled long-range shot almost leading to Evatt’s side being awarded a penalty.

It was the 20-year-old’s third appearance for AFC since signing on a month’s loan from Blackburn Rovers and he has shown a willingness to get in possession as often as possible.

He will be needed even more in today’s match at Barnet, with Barrow being without the services of the experienced Jason Taylor, who is beginning a two-match suspension.

“He’s a very good player, we’re lucky to have him,” said Evatt of Hardcastle. “He’s exceptional at what he does.

“He’s got a great engine, a lot of pace and a lot quality with what he does with a football, so we’re very happy to have him and hopefully we can keep him for longer.

“I always talk about bravery in possession, as well as out of it – it’s not all about making hard tackles and putting your head where it hurts.

“It’s also about receiving the ball in tight areas and being brave and confident that way and Lewis certainly does that.”

While Hardcastle makes a good impression in the engine room, one area where Barrow do need to make a bigger impact is in the final third of the pitch.

They have only scored twice in seven matches since the turn of the year, with chances frustratingly going begging – the match at Sutton, for example, could have been won a lot earlier than Josh Kay’s 90th-minute strike had they been more clinical.

But Evatt is not too concerned, saying: “We are creating chances, it’s just about being more clinical in the final third and certainly our decision-making improving.

“We work very hard, both on video analysis and on the training pitch, so hopefully we’ll see the fruits of that in the last couple of weeks of the season.”

The match at Barnet is the second time Evatt has managed at The Hive after he took Chesterfield to north London while he was in caretaker charge of them on the final day of last season.

The Spireites had already been relegated from League Two and despite the Bees winning 3-0 on the day, they followed them into the National League due to results elsewhere going against them.

Evatt said: “It was a boiling hot day and I had a much-changed team because all the loan players had gone back, so it was a strange day. We ended up losing then, so hopefully that’s not the case again.”