BARROW continue to struggle their way through towards the play-offs after they went down to a third straight defeat, this time at Gillingham.

The stuttering Bluebirds never recovered from losing George Ray to a deserved straight red card in the first half, and they will now be looking over their shoulders at the pack who are bidding to close in on a top seven spot.

Ahead of the game at the Priestfield Stadium, there were a few eyebrows raised when it was revealed that Bluebirds boss Pete Wild had made a raft of changes following last weekend’s 2-0 home reverse at the hands of Swindon.

That was a second loss on the spin after the Easter Monday defeat at Morecambe.

It was all change up top, with Cole Stockton and Dom Telford both dropped to the bench.

Emile Acquah and Sam Foley returned, as did Elliot Newby, Dean Campbell, and most notably, skipper Niall Canavan after over a month out of action.

David Worrall, Kian Spence and Tom White also dropped out.

Both sides were going for it in the early stages.

Paul Farman saved well when keeping out Josh Andrews’ firm header, before the Bluebirds hit back.

Acquah flicked the ball neatly into James Chester’s path, but his effort was frantically hacked off the line.

Campbell then saw a strike well saved by Gills’ ‘keeper Jake Turner, before back came the hosts in what was proving to be a ding-dong tussle.

Farman was called upon again to save smartly from Jonny Williams’ low effort.

The Bluebirds’ cause wasn’t helped by George Ray’s straight red card midway through the first half.

It was totally justified, with Ray having put in a horrendous-looking high challenge on Josh Walker, who was stretchered off the field following a lengthy treatment delay.

Understandably the tempo dropped a little following the red-card incident, and next to threaten were the hosts.

Conor Masterson fired in a shot from the edge of the box, but the ever-reliable Farman was equal to the task.

It looked like Barrow were set to keep the score level into the interval, but the Gills finally struck in the third of nine added minutes.

Remeao Hutton superbly found Andrews on the charge, and he rounded Farman smartly before tucking home to make it 1-0.

The Gills created the first opportunity of the second period.

Farman had to save again as Max Clark got a shot away from a tight angle.

The hosts were pressing hard for a potentially victory-sealing second goal, and again Farman was superb in tipping Andrews’ shot over the top.

Being a man down certainly wasn’t working for the bluebirds, so it was no major surprise when they fell further behind in the 55th minute.

Masterson crossed in from the flank, and Rory Feely turned the ball into his own net following what looked like a misunderstanding with Farman.

It was soon 3-0 when Connor Mahoney latched on to Timothee Dieng’s through-ball to further compound ten-man Barrow’s misery.

Sub Spence went closest to grabbing a late consolation for Barrow on a day when they had been well beaten.