Barrow AFC 3 Sheffield United U23s 1

Barrow AFC gave one of their more polished performances of the summer, as they finished off their pre-season campaign with a comfortable victory against Sheffield United under-23s.

Goals from Dior Angus, John Rooney and Sam Hird rewarded a display that saw the Bluebirds put several excellent moves together, while they also cut out some of the sloppiness shown in previous friendlies.

The starting XI picked by manager Ian Evatt was supposedly close to, if not exactly, the one he’ll name for AFC’s opening game of the National League season at Wrexham next Saturday.

They will have done plenty to have made his mind up that will be the case, as they combined to great effect against what was a plucky young Sheffield United side who also had their moments.

A strong line-up included striker Scott Quigley on his return from injury, while Patrick Brough and Angus were back after recovering from their respective illnesses.

New loan signing Olly Dyson was named on the bench, who between them had one final chance to convince Evatt that they should be in from the start next week.

The Bluebirds’ wide boys combined to perfection to open the scoring in the 12th minute as Josh Kay tricked his way infield before playing a superb through ball to Angus, who finished without fuss into the bottom corner.

Lewis Hardcastle almost doubled the lead quickly when his free kick was pushed away by Sheffield United goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst at his near post.

Provider then had a chance to turn scorer when Hardcastle put Kay through on goal, but the winger seemed to get the ball stuck under his feet before shooting well off target.

AFC were then awarded a penalty after Jason Taylor’s pass had put Quigley through and the striker was hauled down in the area by Jean Belahoun.

Up stepped Rooney to confidently chip his spot kick high into the middle of the goal to put the hosts 2-0 in front with 31 minutes gone.

The Blades then pulled a goal back three minutes before half-time as a scramble from a corner led to Taylor clearing off the line, only for Ashton Hall to loop an excellent header into the top corner.

An equaliser nearly followed just before the break when Jake Young had time to pick his place from the edge of the area and fortunately curled his shot just wide.

The game continued to be an open one in the early stages of the second half, as Joel Dixon preserved AFC’s lead when he pushed away a deflected strike from Zak Brunt.

Barrow continued to press for a third goal when Rooney’s lobbed a pass to Kay, whose half-volley was pushed over the bar by Dewhurst.

From the resulting corner, the Bluebirds’ two-goal was restored when Hird stretched to meet Oliver Greaves’ set-piece and did well to direct his effort in across Dewhurst.

The raft of substitutions that followed then adversely affected the flow of the game – those periods certainly won’t be missed when the real action gets under way at the Racecourse Ground next Saturday.

Sheffield United almost pulled one back again when George Broadbent sent a free kick towards the top corner, only to be denied by an excellent save from the flying Dixon.

Dewhurst was then called into action again when he pushed away a powerful strike from David Fox, as the match petered out in worsening conditions.

There was almost one more goal to finish off pre-season as Byron Harrison’s diving header from another Greaves corner went just wide. Now the hard work really begins.

Barrow AFC (4-3-3): Dixon, Barry, Hird, Granite, Brough (Brown 66), Rooney, Taylor (Fox 61), Hardcastle (Greaves 50), Kay (Dyson 61), Quigley (Harrison 61), Angus (Hindle 66).

Subs not used: Saltmer, Elsdon, Waddington, Penfold.

Sheffield United U23s (3-4-3): Dewhurst, Belahoun, Gordon, Hall (Harrison 82), Sheppeard (Ferguson 61), York, Broadbent, Boyes, Young (Trialist 61), Brunt, Mallon (Trialist 58).

Subs not used: Kelly, Ompreon.

Referee: Andrew Kitchen

Attendance: 487