Barrow AFC 3 Sheffield United U23 1

It's time for the real action to begin for Barrow after they ended the 'phoney war' of pre-season with this comfortable victory over Sheffield United under-23s.

We'll know a lot more this time next week about what shape the Bluebirds are really in for the season's early stages, as they'll have made the trip for what is always one of the tougher away fixtures in the National League: Wrexham.

The fact that Barrow have tended to do better against the 'bigger' names of English football's fifth tier under Ian Evatt indicates that those who are travelling down to North Wales in support can do so with a degree of confidence - particularly if there's a repeat of last season's performance at the Racecourse Ground.

The pattern of doing well against strong opposition and struggling in the so-called easier games has been repeated during pre-season.

The encouraging performances - and in one instance, result - against Football League clubs Blackburn, Morecambe and Blackpool, have been off-set by careless displays against Furness Select and Lancaster City.

At times, it's been hard to guess which Barrow would turn up for each half, let alone each game, but for the first hour at Holker Street on Saturday, the old habit was broken.

As promised, Evatt named a strong starting line-up, one that is expected to bear resemblance to the one he fields at Wrexham this weekend.

On the basis of what was witnessed, don't expect many, if any, changes to the XI that takes on the Dragons.

Two of the players you can class as certainties are wide men Dior Angus and and Josh Kay, who were both brought back into the fold after missing the match at Lancaster due to illness and injury.

Yet again, they were the star performers for AFC, with Angus, who was straight back into the groove, opening the scoring clinically after 12 minutes after being put through on goal by an outstanding pass from Kay.

Another of the players brought back in, striker Scott Quigley, then won the Bluebirds a penalty when he was hauled down by the Blades' Jean Belahoun. John Rooney dispatched his spot kick high into the middle of the goal.

Two more that appear inked in for Wrexham are centre-backs Josh Granite and Sam Hird.

While both have looked solid at the back, part of the reason for the certainty over them playing this week is the lack of alternatives. That could soon change, however, with Evatt making the signing of one, or possibly two centre-backs a priority.

Hird will remember this game as the one where he scored in a Barrow shirt for the first time, getting a good connection on the stretch from Oliver Greaves' corner to restore the hosts' two-goal lead after Ashton Hall's looping header had halved the deficit just before half-time.

The intensity from the Bluebirds really dropped after Evatt had decided he'd seen enough from his first-choice XI, and made changes, much to the manager's frustration. Those that came on may face a battle to get back in the team in the weeks ahead.

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