County 2 Barrow 2 ; Conference North
County drove their long suffering supporters to distraction last night when they shared the points at Edgeley Park against Barrow.
“ Hang on a bit” I can just imagine you saying in response “ are not Barrow on an 8 game unbeaten run away from Holker Street?”. And they are of course, but having frustrated us big time by sleep walking through the first 45 minutes of both their last 2 games whilst taking 1 point from a possible 6, County found another way of sending their supporters( over 2400 strong last night) heading off towards the Samaritans , as they surged into a 2 goal first half lead, this time, only to surrender the initiative , and 2 of the 3 points, via an inept display that saw them fortunate in the end to salvage even one. Both goals were travesties in their own way, and both were down unfortunately to errors by the returning Jordan Fagbola. Some may also point to the fact that Kyle Jacobs, who looked in supreme form, had to be substitute just before half time, having been injured by a reckless challenge from Robbie Williams, and it was definitely a contributory factor in my view to County`s demise, but mostly it was down to Barrow being first to just about everything, and brighter on the ball, which they had long periods in possession of.
|Awaiting the arrival of the teams........|
At 7.45 none of this was in the air as the teams took the field. Barrow were likely to be difficult opponents, but AL knew this only too well and had rung the changes after the dispiriting collapse at Leamington. In came Kyle Jacobs, Jordan Fagbola, Bobby Lofthouse and new man Jamie Milligan, in place of Cowen, Moses, Churchman and Howard( Saturday`s County goal scorer).With Jacobs thankfully back , this meant that Platt could revert to mid field where he has been increasingly influential of late, and it would be interesting to see how he shaped up alongside new man Jamie Milligan.
In truth I was expecting a massive improvement from the blank sheet our mid field showed us down south.
Barrow were first to show however, and Lees did well to head clear after Paul Edwards had got his cross in down the left. County responded quickly but a strike from Battersby missed the target narrowly with Tony McMillan beaten.
Both teams probed the other next, as Jevons was repulsed by weight of Cumbrian numbers in the last third, and Phil Marsh saw a snap shot fly wide on the break.
Already though Barrow looked a lively outfit.....busy on the ball and eager to get forward, and I was relieved to see Ormson make a confident catch to stop the rot as Edwards again whipped a fair old cross into the box.
|First half action.|
If the Blue Birds looked lively, then County seemed ,at this point anyway, to be ready and able to offer a response, with Jacobs looking increasingly restive to get forward and when he did ...with some purpose –usually in tandem with Platt who looked silky smooth upon his return to the mid field role he is best at. The moves started to build from the blues and Jevons was unlucky to see a shot come back out off a defender. The ball ran on to Oates who then hit the target with a neat shot only to see the redoubtable Tony McMillan do the biz and keep it out!
As I say......both teams were trying to play, and Lees did really well, several times in quick succession, to snuff out embryonic moves. He fed his mid field who then ushered it onward , and the 17th minute saw a shot from Oates not that far away from opening the scoring- it went wide , but not by a lot!
If I was disappointed with the last action....I was verging on the apoplectic a minute later as the slumbering liner to my left ( yes......yes.....need you ask....the MSL)allowed the dangerous Edwards to dart clear whilst at least a yard offside. It was an appalling bit of officiating, but nowhere near as bad as the next example of same, as from Edwards the ball sped on to Alex-Ray Harvey who was in on goal. He had Lees for company and the Stockport man`s outstretched leg sent the forward hurtling to the ground. It looked a clear penalty to me, but the referee`s extravagant mime told us he thought otherwise.
|Bit blurred, but idea clear...flag by side!|
Escsape?....................certainly, but could County capitalise on it? Well....for once....yes. It took them 5 minutes to do it but do it they did as a loose ball in midfield from Barrow allowed Platt to start a move rolling that gave his team the lead. Platt sought Oates out with a probing ball, but it by-passed the County number nine and instead went to Lofthouse who buried a firm finish beyond anything McMillan could offer as he rushed out at a rate of knots. The ball meanwhile was in the net and County had the lead.
A minute or so later things and for a moment it looked like County would add to their bounty,as Duxbury burst clear to win a corner down the left, but ...in a flash it looked decidedly the other way as straight from the set piece County were in a headlong mad scramble back up field as Harvey darted clear. It was slipshod work from the blues but Ormson saved their blushes with a firm claim that made Harvey, for now, redundant.
|Work to do at the back for County.|
A corner......and 2 Nick Rushton inspired interventions later and County responded as Battersby won a corner, but with Lofthouse lurking beyond the far post it was a disappointmet to see the ball not reach him and be cleared. It came back though, via Lofthouse and Duxbury, but ,with the Barrow cover shredded, Battersby stabbed his shot wide.
At last County looked to be getting to grips , and more disappointment followed as Oates saw his shot blocked and Platt shot wide.
Good work at the back from Ormson to deny Harvey( in tandem with Fagbola who at this juncture was doing OK)turned to the joy of a second County goal as another cool move from the blues ended with Jacobs slotting a real beaut of a ball into the box to Oates who blasted it home as the advancing McMillan thudded into him. No matter.....no damage, and it was 2-0 to County......nice!
Well............I reckoned it was so, but it took about 60 seconds for a reality check to bring us back down to earth! There seemed no great danger, albeit that Edwards was on the ball- wide on the left. But when he lifted it into the box it all changed rapidly- Fagbola took the blame for nor responding and stopping Phil Marsh from heading it on, but any number of others might have done so too, but they didn`t and the ball landed with Harvey who smashed the ball past an angry Ormson to make it 2-1.
That was not good and Ormson`s frustration was understandable, and he had to look lively again within minutes as, with County retreating in familiar style in front of him, Marsh had a go from distance. It was a decent effort , and although it took the County keeper two goes to keep it out- keep it out he duly did, and a punched clearance and quick covering gather not long after this earned Ormson applause as half time beckoned.
Good work by Lees came next and from him the ball was carried on the wings of a borderline glorious move to the edge of the box where the on song Jacobs had it. He was looking good , but then he was chewing grit as a wild tackle laid him low as Robbie Williams slammed into him from behind. It was just outside the box so no penalty, but what colour card? Williams was the last man....but Jacobs initial movements saw him drifting slightly away from goal, so it was really no great surprise that the colour was yellow.
Jevons blasted his kick over the bar to end the half on a distinct low, with O`Halloran on for Jacobs, slotting in at right back, not a spot he usually fills, but the re-start saw the Irishman do well under pressure as Edwards in concert with Marsh threatened.
Barrow were seeing a lot of the ball now....too much really, but thus far County were able to restrict them to long range shots- the latest from Paddy Lacky clearing the bar with some to spare.
County did try to keep it competitive though and Platt and Oates were unlucky to see McMillan in top form as they sniffed for snippets in front of goal. Yes.....it was possible to see a good scrap developing, but it was celebration time for Barrow and their supporters, on 55 minutes, as the ball nestled in the County net from an un-challenged free kick, but the liners flag was up and it did not count- offside!
Again County tried to reply, but Lofthouse`s lob carried the bar after good work by Platt. Add a Milligan free kick that caused Barrow no problems whatsoever and the frustration was beginning to mount with Barrow looking every bit a side on a run!
Marsh saw a shot deflected for a corner, which Fagbola did well to welly clear after Harvey had set a tasty move going, with Edwards joining in to good effect.
A Barrow goal began to look increasingly on the cards, but when it arrived, it arrived in depressingly familiar fashion- straight from a County attack! O`Halloran and Battersby had just probed the left side of the Barrow defence, and Andy Burns had just dived to head clear, when County`s concentration went for a bucket of chalk, or rather Fagbola`s did , and his inability to stop the ball getting away from him allowed Rushton a free run on goal, and after just a brief dalliance with missing it...he didn`t and it was 2-2.
With County second to just about every loose ball that last action was no great surprise-it was massively disappointing though as Platt gave way to Moses with County trying to get their lead back via Battersby who went down in the box under pressure from Edwards and Willis. It did not look a penalty however, and one wasn`t given.
|2nd Half action.|
I was less convinced of the referees credential moments later however as the same Battersby was body checked in the box by Willis. The referee was not impressed – stoking up the crowds ire by almost immediately giving Barrow a free kick in front of the Danny Bergara Stand.
Into the last 10 minutes we went, and by this time O`Halloran had been switched inside to central defender with the unhappy Fagbola pushed out wide to his right.
With Howard on for Lofthouse, the scene was set for a County cavalry charge in the final minutes, but twice Jevons was denied by an outstretched leg.
Meanwhile...Barrow were by no means done, indeed had substitute Tom Corner not missed his kick in front of goal with 4 minutes left, they may have made County`s night even more of an angst ridden affair. Then another substitute, Gareth Arnison followed suit, failing to force the ball home with Barrow pressing for that vital third goal hungrily.
Yes................County kept trying......Duxbury`s cross winning a corner via Jevons which caused something of a late melee in front of goal......Jevons lifting an effort over the top, and Battersby one into the keepers arms. However....so did Barrow, and Fagbola nightmare night continued as Edwards went past him. Fagbola was beaten and County were in disarray, but Ormson saw them to safety with a firm punched clearance!
There was a feeling around Row R that County were `settling for a point’. If so that was a dangerous road to travel along, and I was relieved to see O`Halloran head clear from a Ted Cribley cross deep into added time.
I guess though, that County wanted to win it, it was just that the legs just would not carry them safely to that goal, and the last action more or less saw McMillan just beat Oates to a despairing long ball.
Having now slept on it......I am tempted to be reconciled to the view that ,against a rampant away side like Barrow , this was a good point, but then again......
County line up;
Ormson, Jacobs ( O`Halloran 44), Fagbola, Lees, Duxbury, Platt( Moses 74), Milligan, Lofthouse( Howard 83), Jevons, Battersby, Oates.
Subs not used; Lewis, Charnock.
Barrow line up:
McMillan, Burns, Willis, Lacky, O`Donnell, Williams, Harvey, Sheridan, Rushton, Marsh, Edwards.