Saturday, 17 September 2011

Barrow AFC 2 v Mansfield Town 3 - BSBP

Saturday 17th September 2011 at Holker Street
AKA the Furness Building Society Stadium
Blue Square Bet Premier
Barrow AFC (1) 2
(Almond 26, Boyes 56)
Mansfield Town (2) 3
(Green 4, Futcher 29, Meikle 81)
Admission £14. Programme £2.50. Attendance 1244
Barrow FC
1 Hurst, 17 Quinn, 19 Lomax, 20 Moyo, 3 Skelton, 7 Rutherford,
12 Owen,15 Smith, 11 Boyes, 6 Mackreth,18 Almond (Brooke 84)
Unused Subs
40 Jones, 6 Hulbert,8 Baker, 10 Ferrell
Mansfield Town
1 Marriott, 3 Kendrick, 16 O'Neill, 17 Sutton, 26 Futcher,
11 Murray, 21 Howell, 7 Briscoe (Worthington 84), 10 Green,
15 Dyer (Connor 77), 24 Meikle (Bolland 90)
Unused Subs
23 Redmond, 2 Naylor
Holy crap Batman!
When the weather forecasters said 'heavy rain in the north west of England' they knew what they were talking about.
It was an horrendous trip up at times, via a motorway network shrouded in visibility impairing spray, kicked up by kamikaze, random lane switching, lorry drivers ... and the flooded 'A' roads nearer our destination made things 'interesting' at times too.
But thankfully, our driver had the foresight to leave really early and despite the 'fun ride' capers en route to Barrow-in-Furness, we arrived in plenty of time to sample a few beers before kick off.
Big up n' nuff respect to you Mr Moult!
It didn't surprise me one bit to hear that a few games had been postponed across Lancashire due to waterlogged pitches, but up in Cumbria, they'd had a quick look when the referee arrived and it was game on ... the pitch was obviously used to dealing with the climate around these parts.
Almost as magically as that little shopkeeper in Mr Benn, the sun suddenly appeared ... and it remained fine for most of the afternoon ... perfect football playing conditions.
Blackburn Rovers obviously thought so, their 'unlikely' 4-3 victory over Arsenal on the big screens in the 'Cross Bar' kept us entertained before the big game of the day, between two BSBP league form teams.
Hmm, come to think of it, though any Blackburn victory seems unlikely at the moment, Arsenal's solid defensive traditions have been abandoned by Arsene Wenger for the time being, as he experiments with a character building tactical ploy, to ascertain just how his young squad react to shipping in loads of goals every week ... it must be toughening them up by now ... and you thought he had lost the plot and didn't know what he was doing any more!
Barrow had won their last two games, Mansfield Town have recorded four victories on the trot, so it was hardly likely to be a dull 0-0 draw this afternoon, with both defences shutting up shop and holding out for a point.
Those in the 1244 crowd who'd arrived with high expectations for their respective sides, weren't about to be disappointed.
Matt Green ... 1-0 to Mansfield
The away support was officially recorded as being 137, but that figure was the headcount in the designated visiting supporters sections of the ground.
A good few of us had decided that the covered terrace on one side of the ground, was a much better option than being exposed to the elements in a pokey corner ... and it gave us the opportunity to change ends at half time too ... pretty much the same as the Barrow fans who did the same in the opposite direction.
If the stewards and solitary local police constable who was in there, didn't know they had been 'infiltrated', a good percentage of the Barrow fans did, but they didn't mind our presence one bit.
Both parties poured scorn on the idea of segregation at non league football, a no man's land amnesty ensued and good natured banter was order of the afternoon.
Of course the acid test of just how hard forged our new found 'friendships' were going to be would be when a goal was scored ... it didn't take long to put the chummy camaraderie to the test, because Matt  Green scored for the Stags inside four minutes, latching on to a neatly weighted through ball from Louis Briscoe.
"He looks like a class act" chipped in the Barrow fan stood to my right.
He sure is ... and hopefully he's going to be a full time Mansfield player any time soon instead of a loan signing.
We live in hope.
Green's opening strike had caught Barrow off guard, but it certainly woke them up ... and for the next twenty minutes or so, before Louis Almond curled a low, long range shot home for the equaliser, Alan Marriott in the Stags goal (resplendent in pink) had been the busiest man on the pitch by a long way.
Barrow were well up for it this afternoon and in my humble opinion gave Mansfield the toughest test they have faced so far this season.
One could argue that Gateshead must've been the best opposition side to date, because they beat the Stags 3-0 last month ... but although the Tynesiders (currently at the top of the table) , did dismantle Mansfield that night, the Stags were ... not to put too fine a point on it ... shite at the International Stadium and simply never got going.
Ben Futcher celebrates scoring the Stags second goal
Since that result, the personnel's been switched about, the level of application's gone up ten fold and Paul Cox has stamped his way of doing things all over the team.
Mansfield are fast becoming a very good side who are difficult to break down.
They've developed a resilient streak too ... and to that end, the Barrow fans were still celebrating their goal and wringing their hands in anticipation of more to come, when Ben Futcher rose to nod home a Joe Kendrick free kick to put the Stags back in front ... ever so slightly against the run of play.
Not being clinical in front of goal has cost the Stags points at home to Bath and away to Braintree, but this afternoon they were capitalising on the chances they had whilst managing to hold Barrow at bay despite being under the cosh for lengthy spells of the game.
Futcher goes close
Futcher has extended his loan spell at Field Mill this week until November 5th, that's great news for Mansfield Town.
Lincoln City must wish they could have their former pairing of Marriott and Futcher back as they find themselves starting to get pulled into a fight against relegation... But hey! It's a long season with plenty of points still up for grabs, to be won (and lost) yet.
Futcher nearly made it 3-1 when he headed a Kendrick corner narrowly wide, but the majority of play in the first half had belonged to the home side, and it beggared belief that when the teams went in at the break that the score was still 1-2 ... not that you'll hear me complaining!
The Mansfield Town board look on, while Paul Nyland does
 a passable impression of a Soviet spy/henchman to the rear
The Stags created a couple of chances early in the second half, but Barrow pulled level on 56 minutes, when Marriott parried a shot from Almond into the path of Adam Boyes, who gratefully accepted the opportunity to level things up.
Some people blamed Alan Marriott and said the equaliser was down to a goalkeeper error. Maybe after such a great performance so far, Marriott was entitled to ask why he had been exposed as the last line of defence twice in a matter of seconds.
Either way, Paul Cox's Mansfield side are about collective responsibility and they just rolled their sleeves up, dusted themselves down and got on with the job in hand.
Both sides had opportunities to get on top of the game, but with ten minutes to go Lindon Meikle seized the moment, when he got the ball near the half way line and surged through the Barrow players, sprinting into the area ... the keeper Danny Hurst ran from his line, but Meikle drilled the ball past him to net the winning goal.
Ironically, it was a flash of individual brilliance, that decided a game that was memorable for the team work and hard graft put in by both sides throughout.
Lindon Meikle ... 3-2 to Mansfield
Barrow could have and probably should have, snatched a draw right at the death, but the Stags held firm for the last nine minutes and claimed an hard earned three points and a fifth win in a row.
Both teams are playing again on Tuesday night ... Mansfield Town entertain AFC Telford at 'fortress' Field Mill, while Barrow are playing just 10 miles up the road in Alfreton.
It's a shame the games are on the same nigh,t because I would happily watch either of these sides play again any time soon.
Polite handshakes and a few cheery goodbyes later ... the Barrow faithful were very gracious in defeat ... and we were soon heading for home.
The weather had improved no end, save for a couple of showers ... and the journey home seemed like no distance at all compared to the trek up.
COX IN! Despite those daft shorts.