Monday, October 25, 2010

Red Rebels leave Barrow AFC without a cause

 Source: North West Evening Mail

 THE previous two seasons brought dream FA Cup runs which saw Barrow AFC play first Middlesbrough and then Sunderland in successive third round appearances.

There will be no fairytale for the Bluebirds to remember this term – only a nightmare exit at the first hurdle.

Barrow were outplayed by their fired-up lower-league opponents, who got the winning goal their performance deserved 12 minutes from time through Carlos Roca.

It was a banana-skin the Bluebirds royally slipped up on.

FC United – the club formed in 2005 by Manchester United fans angered by the takeover of the Glazers at Old Trafford – wanted it more, and richly deserved their reward of a first round trip to League One outfit Rochdale.

The Bluebirds have now failed to win any of their last eight games in league and cup, and, for probably the first time in their tenure, the pressure is on joint-managers Dave Bayliss and Darren Sheridan.

The two teams entered the pitch to a cauldron of noise, with banks of rival supporters singing their hearts out at the opposing ends of the ground.

It was every bit a classic FA Cup atmosphere in front of a crowd of more than 3,200 at Bury FC’s Gigg Lane.

Barrow started in a changed 3-5-2 formation, with Phil Bolland returning from suspension to partner skipper Paul Jones and Mike Pearson in the heart of the defence.

Simon Spender and Paul Edwards were deployed as wing-backs, with 42-year-old joint-boss Darren Sheridan, Mark Boyd and Ciaran Donnelly in midfield.

Nick Chadwick, making his first start of the season following months of knee injury hell, was paired up top with leading scorer Jason Walker.

The first half-chance of the game, following a cagey start in which FC United showed more promise, came on 10 minutes when Barrow’s number two keeper Shaun Pearson raced off his line to just beat Ben Deegan to the ball.

With the vociferous home support making themselves heard, the fired-up hosts continued to enjoy the better of the play.

Barrow weathered the inevitable opening 15-minute storm and then began to settle.

Donnelly forced home keeper Sam Ashton into the first save of the match with a low 20-yard shot, while at the other end, Mike Norton’s header was easily gathered by Shaun Pearson.

On 24 minutes, Jerome Wright broke clear down the left and his cross was almost turned in at the back post, first by Glynn Hurst – on as an early substitute for the injured Deegan – and then by AFC defender Mike Pearson before brother Shaun pounced on the ball.

Spender bombed forward on the half-hour mark and flashed a ball across the box.

The wing-back, who was being tugged from behind by Lee Neville, could – were he a less honest character – have gone down and justifiably appealed for a penalty.

Chadwick, showing signs of understandable rustiness, then miss-hit a 10-yard shot wide from a good position before, at the other end, Hurst headed over.

The best moment of the half came on 35 minutes, when the lively Wright tricked his way past Bolland on the left byline before bending a low right-foot shot just inches past the far upright.

Walker had a brilliant chance to opened the scoring five minutes later but he failed to connect sweetly with a 12-yard effort and Ashton easily saved.

Moments later, the AFC striker attempted an acrobatic scissor-kick, which Ashton again claimed.

A now very-much even contest was swinging from end to end, and on 41 minutes Jake Cottrell directed a header straight at Shaun Pearson.

The half ended with the Bluebirds having registered seven shots (five on target) and FC United five (two on target).

The home side started the second half brightly and, after great defensive work by Spender had resulted in a corner, Hurst flicked a near-post header across goal and just wide of the far post.

Another home corner moments later was half-cleared to Wright, whose viciously swerving low drive was palmed out by Shaun Pearson.

Fortunately for Barrow, the rebound fell kindly and a huge sigh of relief was breathed.

On 49 minutes the on-song Wright forced Shaun Pearson into yet another save, this time the Welsh stopper pushing wide a stinging 16-yard drive. Barrow were hanging on.

AFC introduced Forrest for Chadwick on 55 minutes, but the second half was now following a rather similar pattern as Wright, once again, had a shot which this time fizzed just wide.

Moments later, the Bluebirds made a double substitution, with Boyd and Mike Pearson replaced by wingers Goodfellow and Rutherford. It meant a return to a 4-4-2 formation.

Still the FC United pressure continued. Norton played a smart one-two with Hurst and saw his 16-yard shot beat Shaun Pearson but strike the foot of the far post. The AFC keeper then got to his feet and saved the rebound from Wright.

The Bluebirds gained some relief when a rare foray forward ended with a Goodfellow shot which Ashton gathered at the second attempt.

Substitute Forrest then suffered an ankle injury, but, with all three substitutions made, he limped on for the remainder of the game.

FC United got the goal their display deserved 12 minutes from time when Norton found space inside the box and his attempted shot was redirected by the lurking Roca, whose close-range prod sent the home supporters behind the goal into a state of delirium.

Barrow pushed men forward but were unable to create any real chances in the closing stages.

As the final whistle sounded jubilant FC United fans sang: “We’re going to Wem-ber-lee.”

Barrow, who last May were at Wembley lifting the FA Trophy, left the pitch to boos from their own fans.

First published at 13:05, Monday, 25 October 2010
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