Not-so-Good Friday, As County Are Undone By A Weal Barrow Worldie
Holy Week turned out to be a Wholly disappointing Week for the Hatters, following their Good Friday afternoon defeat - and their second of the season by a single goal - against Barrow.
The reverse at Holker Street - or the Furness Building Society Stadium, if you will - came just two days after the Conference ruling that County's abandoned match against Hyde the previous weekend should be replayed a week on Tuesday.
The Cumbrian drizzle, mist and light gusts that had greeted the Hatters on their arrival at one of English football's geographical outposts were together, at least, far less severe than the monsoon-like conditions which resulted in the late, late washout at Ewen Fields - and, gratifyingly, Barrow's pitch appeared in admirable shape to keep the elements at bay.
While the weather was up a few notches from six days earlier, however, County's starters and substitutes were completely unchanged - albeit in their yellow shirts, and with a revised 4-1-3-2 formation that saw Kyle Jacobs move into midfield and Tunji Moses operating just in front of the back four.
The starting line-up for Barrow included two players formerly of the SK3 parish: namely, Sam Sheridan and Danny Pilkington. The latter, it would appear, prefers nowadays to be known by Barrovians simply as 'Dan' - but, hey, old memories die hard... and we do still have some 'Dannys' of our own to fall back on!
Well, partially. One of them had to miss out on the Holker Street action - given that the Hyde game's annulment now required a one-match suspension effectively to be served again by Danny Glover. Another, in the form of ex-Bluebird, Danny Hurst, did play. And - with typically able assistance from Mark Lees and Stephen O'Halloran, in particular - County's Number One was to present Barrow with a tough defensive nut to crack.
The hosts, while looking to extend further their two-point lead at the top of the Conference North, had not enjoyed victory on their own turf since the last day of January. With both of these facts in mind, Barrow gave an early signal of their attacking intent with a looping cross from the right by Andy Burns that Hurst did well to claim ahead of the on-rushing Anthony Wilson.
Just seven minutes into the match, the Hatters were forced to make a first substitution as Greg Wilkinson turned agonisingly on his ankle, and - having been conducted a short distance to the touchline by means of a two-man carry - required a stretcher for completion of his journey away from the playing area.
The two former Hatters on show were to provide their old club with a good few glimpses of threat for much of the afternoon. To begin with, a Sheridan free kick from thirty yards out was brilliantly tipped over by Hurst. And County's 'keeper was called upon again shortly afterwards - diving well to smother a low drive from Pilkington, who had cut in from the right corner.
Charlie Russell, who had replaced Wilkinson, was dispossessed by Wilson just outside the County area - but, fortunately for the young substitute and for the Hatters, Wilson's subsequent shot from twenty-five yards was fired over.
In a move not dissimilar to that involving Hyde's Connor Hughes against County the previous weekend, Kristian Dennis set off on a mazy run towards the Barrow area that only ended when the striker was brought down inside the 'D'. The Menace dusted himself down to take the resulting free kick, but a heavily-populated wall of Bluebirds repelled it.
Pilkington came close to haunting the Hatters again on two more occasions ahead of the break. His cross from the left found Wilson at the far post, whose shot was blocked on the line by O'Halloran - and, moments later, the County old boy himself unleashed a curling shot from distance that flew just wide of the post.
HALF-TIME: Barrow 0, County 0.
Barrow continued to apply pressure following the resumption of play, and earned themselves several corners in the process. One of these was met by the head of the Bluebird that is content to be called Danny - although Livesey was thwarted on this occasion by the safe hands of his fore-namesake, Hurst.
Free kicks awarded to each side provided the contest's next opportunities. First, Sheridan, by means of another long-range set-piece for the hosts, caused some consternation within the County area, before Hurst took charge to claim the ball. Then, Dennis - having again been fouled himself just outside the area - managed to clear the Barrow wall with his delivery, only to see it also soar well over the bar.
With just under twenty minutes remaining, Jacobs went to ground, injured - but without any let-up in play - and Barrow went ahead, as an ensuing move found substitute, Andy Haworth, on the edge of County's box. The winger, on loan to the Bluebirds from Cheltenham Town, then teed himself up before striking a shot of great quality that curled past Hurst and into the top right-hand corner.
The Hatters, in a bid to get back on terms, immediately responded with an attacking substitution - as Ryan replaced Jacobs, and County adopted a 4-3-3 formation. Dennis then proceeded to go close, before being thwarted by a combination of home goalkeeping and defending - and a Russell free kick, taken from the left of Barrow's area, fizzed wide.
Haworth, despite only having participated in the latter part of proceedings, was named as Barrow's Man of the Match. He so nearly, in the game's closing stages, put the seal on a fine cameo appearance with a low drive from the left of County's six-yard box, but Hurst saved the attempt with his legs.
Not that this will have worried the Bluebirds, whose hard-fought victory has seen them fly five points clear of their nearest rivals for the League title. Let us hope, this time next year, that our own opponents may be casting similarly longing glances towards the horizon...
Watch free match highlights here.FULL-TIME: Barrow 1 (Haworth, 72), County 0
Team: Hurst, Todd, Duxbury, Jacobs (Ryan, 73), Lees, O'Halloran, Moses, Churchman (Lofthouse, 84), Dennis, Spencer, Wilkinson (Russell, 7).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Hampson.