A depressingly lack lustre game, saw County go down 1-0 to league leaders Barrow , last night at Edgeley Park. The score line was close, but that was misleading as Barrow pretty much held the whip hand throughout the second half of what was, as I say, not a great game.
There was not that much between the two teams in the first half, and just about no excitement in a thoroughly uninteresting spectacle. Against a side that scores an average of very nearly 2 a game on trips out, to come away just one goal adrift is a decent showing I suppose, but ...at home most County fans might have expected a better response after the nightmares at Bradford and Aggborough, and did Barrow really look a top of the table side ? The truth was however, that by the re-start Barrow had County sussed. Whilst we were trying to play football, there was no threat on the end of it all, and when passes started to go astray, as they did rather regularly, we were undone. Just one goal was enough to win the points for Barrow- a decent finish from substitute Lewis Guy with 17 minutes left, and thereafter the visitors were in cruise mode, and that was more than sufficient to see the job done.
The first five minutes saw Barrow push forward and probe the County defence, which held long enough for a counter to be sorted via Duxbury who sent Ryan clear with a decent ball. He was offside however and fared no better a couple of minutes later when another pass from Duxbury came his way- Andy Burns doing enough to see the threat off.
Things got a bit hectic next thanks to the stand side liner who looked on motionless as Lofthouse was mugged. The consequence was that Barrow had the ball through Andy Hawarth, and it took an excellent bit of work from Churchman to stop his run.
A run by Jason Walker, curtailed by the upraised liners flag, and 15 minutes had gone by, with neither keeper greatly troubled.
The game meandered soporifically on, until the 21st minute when Dan Pilkington darted through to the by-line. Hurst missed the cross that followed, but was relieved no doubt to see Todd in position to put the ball out of play, for a corner which Hurst did altogether better dealing with.
The 22nd minute actually saw County create a chance, and it was a decent one too, set up by a neat pass from Glover, but faced with keeper Aaron Taylor and a gaping goal, Ryan ballooned an awful effort high into the empty Railway End.
Mainly though it was the Cumbrians doing the attacking, and Lees did well at one point to prevent Cook from getting to a cross from Walker.
Glover did get a shot on target from a Ryan knock down, but it went straight to the keeper, ushering in another Barrow break that saw Todd earn applause with some excellent work preventing Haworth from making hay beyond the back post. Hurst joined Todd in garnering small ovations next grabbing a cross by Walker, who had again made it to the by line, before either Cook or Pilkington could get to it.
County did start to play a bit with the break almost on us.....a neat cross field ball by Glover setting Wilkinson up for a shot that took a deflection as he cut inside. Wilkinson followed this by tracking back, a minute or so later, to block Haworth who was on the charge, but by and large he was mostly peripheral to the action, which was greatly disappointing from a player with obvious skills.
A Todd cross ,from Bakers pass, caused a minor flurry of excitement, before Livesey ushered the ball back to the keeper, but the cosh kept coming down on County heads in the minutes leading up to the break as Cook, Walker and Grand got in a lather attempting to force a corner home. One or other of said threesome did a naughty midst this action, but dear old Mr Salisbury was oblivious to all this, although I must say my least favourite custodian of the stringed whistle was by no means as agonisingly awful as I have oft times remembered him....I`m obviously mellowing with extreme age!
Half time arrived not a moment too soon as 1 minutes added time was heralded by a free kick that Glover just managed to stop Cook from converting in the box. A corner followed and O`Halloran hooked it clear, and that was that for the first 45 minutes!
Barrow went straight for the County jugular upon the re-start, and Todd again earned his corn by denying Cook a shooting opportunity after Lacey had picked him out with a diagonal ball.
The leisurely tide of Barrow attacking continued, briefly abbreviated by a Wilkinson effort which he leaned back and sent way over the bar, and Lees did well to stop the rot and ensure that Cook did not prosper from a misplaced pass from Churchman.
A County break that saw Ryan beaten to the ball by Taylor, was the prelude to another sortie up the park, and near panic at the back for County as Hurst eventually managed to fall on the ball with all manner of mayhem threatening around him.
The passes were going astray wholesale now from the blues, and Hurst just managed to get a touch to a shot by Grand, keeping it out. Corner after corner followed this- Todd eventually on hand to hoof clear after Hurst had spilled the ball under pressure.
Twice after this Ryan was sent clear, once by O`Halloran and then Baker, but both times Grand had too much nous for him and the breaks were nullified, pretty much before they had materialised. In short....there was almost nothing interrupting the flow of Barrow possession- Lees outstretched leg keeping Cook from a through ball just beyond the hour mark. Todd followed suit saving the day with Haworth bearing down on goal, as the visitors started to build up a head of steam, by introducing 2 substitutions....ex Hatter Sam Sheridan for Ledsham, and Lewis Guy for Walker.
Chris Sharp for Glover, was A.L`s reply, and initially it seemed to offer a possible solution as Sharp`s energy, seemed to ruffle the odd Cumbrian feather a time or two in the minutes that followed. It did not last though and the 73rd minute saw Barrow break down the left where Pilkington`s cross was met by Guy and fired home first time! Barrow had the lead, and but for an intervention from Hurst might have doubled it within a couple of minutes, but the lively Cook was denied by the County keeper.
More pain followed for the blues as loose balls abounded offering tempting half chances to a Barrow side that thankfully did not look that able to take advantage of them. They liked to show boat though, and Lacey luxuriated in doing so heading for the County box, but was borderline apoplectic to see the liners flag up as Cook darted clear.
It was not great as Lees was forced to make a last gasper as passes continued to go anywhere but to a blue shirt.....Sharp got a good block in with Cook threatening menacingly.
Hurst had a save or two to make late on, but Barrow by this stage, with their fans noisily singing “ We are top of the league”, looked to be in cruise mode and more concerned with ending the game than getting a second.
A blast of Mr Salisbury`s whistle and they had their wish, and County supporters have to wait until Saturday`s trip to Brackley for the chance to see their team try to put things right.
There were too many passengers today.....we needed 90 minute players and those were not thick on the ground.....Todd.....Lees....O`Halloran for sure, but the rest flitted in and out of the game alarmingly- A.L. will be working to secure a decent top half finish now, and he needs his team to buck up and support him!
County line up:
Hurst, Todd, Lees, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Churchman, Baker,Wilkinson, Ryan, Glover ( Sharp 66), Lofthouse.
Subs not used:
Ormson, Russell, Moses, Hancock.
Barrow line up:
Taylor, Burns, Cowperthwaite, Lacey, Livesey, Grand, Pilkington( Ray-Harvey 78), Ledsham( Sheridan 65), Walker( Guy 65), Cook, Haworth.
Subs not used;