Some things never change do they!
The atmosphere on the Flyer is consistently welcoming….Lou`s jokes retain their legendary status along with a somewhat doubtful origin…… the hospitality in the Barrow social club attached to the ground will be warm and friendly…..the mini bureaucracy that flourishes year on year nurtured by turnstile staff and stewards at the Cumbrian Club will be in place to test the patience of a saint….oh….and County will of course lose on their travels!
All the above were of course in place last night at Holker Street except….er…..the last element as County emphatically put that legend to bed with another high octane performance.
Yes…..County`s impressive return to form continued last night when, despite a second half fight back by their hosts, that saw a seemingly unassailable 4 -0 lead reduced by 2,they did enough to send their supporters home happy yet again.
It was another tip top team performance from County who, with Turner in irresistible form particularly in the first half, took full control looking every inch worthy of the 3 goal lead they took in with them at half time, thanks to two beauts from Turner and another from the equally excellent Jevons.
After the break things changed, largely due to the introduction, by Barrow, of Dale Johnson and Jamie Allen who completely re-shaped the Bluebird`s approach. County got a fourth when the imperious Turner was upended by keeper Tony McMillan, but with ex Hatter Keith Briggs able to impose himself in midfield, to some extent, the Cumbrians were able to pull two goals back with a spirited performance.
For County the last half an hour or so was a backs to the wall job for the most part, but although the immaculate passing and neat interchanging of positions suffered a touch, their overall determination to hold on and win never wavered and 3 more valuable points never really looked in doubt, and so it turned out!
There were no changes in the County line up as the teams took the field circa 19.45.
The early minutes were largely inconclusive, but County were already looking fairly composed none the less, and Jevons was unlucky, 4 minutes in, to see his finely weighted through ball reach Gosset, for the on loan Latic to hesitate just long enough to allow former County player Danny O`Donnell to ensure that no shot troubled Tony McMillan, the home keeper.
Minutes later Gosset was involved again, this time as provider. Turner just failed to convert what was a decent ball, but already there were signs that County had not forgotten the good practises of Saturday last.
Andy Burns then replied for Barrow, sending Sam Sheridan( yes that Sam Sheridan) clear down the right. Despite the close attentions of Duxbury, he was able to get a cross over, but Aaron Bowen had his back to goal, and County`s well drilled, completely unruffled, back line were able to see the danger off.
Jacobs set about setting County on the front foot next, and his determined work saw Gosset in position to end a decent move with an equally fine cross -it eluded the predatory Jevons unfortunately, but only just, and I was as encouraged as I was disappointed!
A rare moment of angst came next in a generally even tempered game, as Bowen thundered into Duxbury like an enraged bull.
He was about half a day late with the assault as well, but the referee contented himself with a chat and the moment passed with a County free kick the sole consequence, and when Paddy Lacey ensured that the kick got no further than the edge of the box, it was game…set……if not match to the miscreant!
Ten minutes had gone when Duxbury set the wheels of another move in motion.
Inevitably it was channeled through Jevons, who fashioned a glorious ball in response that saw Howard in behind the home back line. It was a chance, but the ex Chester ace sent his shot wide and it stayed 0-0.
Not for long though…….as 2 minutes later the majestic Jevons turned a promising move into a fully effective one with another superb through ball that had Turner`s name written all over it!
The HtH backed forward was on it in a flash, beating the offside trap and then the keeper with a cool strike!
Barrow did their best to respond to this setback, but they found cool heads facing them as Tunnicliffe, Charnock and Jacobs, in particular, imposed themselves when push came to pull.
A Duxbury throw…………a Howard run that won a corner and it was not long before the Bluebird`s were thanking their lucky stars for McMillan who somehow kept a strike from Gosset out on the line.
There was much pressure on Barrow for a time, but Ormson did have work to do, 19 minutes in, when Bowen managed to dart clear, and he did it well, claiming the ball confidently as the forward honed in on goal.
That was good from County`s young keeper- what followed 3 minutes later was anything but, as he came for and didn`t get a cloud scraping free kick by Williams.
It was an awful moment, and when the ball fell at Sheridan`s feet, the equaliser seemed to be upon us, except it wasn`t as he buried his shot into the side netting much to County`s relief.
The moment had passed, and, within a minute, fresh reasons to be cheerful surfaced as a fine move saw Turner through the last vestiges of the home defences again. Barrow were just not coping with the young striker, and they hadn`t this time clearly, but the far side liner had what I can only assume was a `hallucinatory moment` as his flag shot up stopping what looked a lethal raid in its tracks!
Then…… the referee ruled that Charnock had `climbed` on Nick Rushden, when making a clearance. As decisions go, it looked an iffy one, and I was momentarily tempted to lapse into rant mode, but I didn`t ,which was as well, because whilst the referee was not great he was `not great` even handedly throughout the game, and I`ll take that!
Meanwhile Turner was in dazzling form still -ripping great chunks out of the Barrow cover down the right winning a corner in the process.
This had McMillan scrambling hurriedly at the foot of his left hand post, and the danger seemed to have been averted when the ball came out and vanished out of the box.
It vanished only to Jevons however, and he promptly drilled an immaculate finish into the net from the edge of the box. A fine goal……….another fine goal, as I smiled in concert with quite a few others in our corner of the stand!
Yes…this was excellent stuff, and more seemed just around the corner as Turner wriggled free of the persistent attentions of a clutch of defenders to head off towards McMillan and co. It really did look good, but the referee stopped play to give County a free kick- which was ridiculous.
Turner was running them ragged as a central striker with a remit to roam, they had simply no answer to him, and the ploy of playing Jevons behind him as provider and snaffler of scraps was simply inspirational, but the free kick came to nought, and despite a further flurry of attacks from County and numerous shots on goal, we reached the 30 minute mark with the score still 2-0.
Free kicks came and went for both sides but both sides dealt with the task of defending these capably- in County`s case they looked very much a team midst a run of clean sheets.
A brilliant move followed from County after Jacobs had won a free kick, and more seemed in the offing as the usually reliable McMillan spilled the ball as the kick reached him in the box.
Charnock was the closest to it as the pill fell to ground but his outstretched leg could only send the ball up and over the bar with the keeper all at sea!
Barrow then gave their support some encouragement as Rushden went close with a snap shot, and Bowen closer still with a glancing header, but I fancied that Ormson had both covered in reality.
We were not that far away from the break now ,and there was no sign of County letting Barrow off the hook, indeed Turner, in particular, looked on song as a neat through ball from Howard sent him clear once more. It looked a nailed on third goal did this, until Danny O`Donnell timed his intervening tackle to perfection and robbed the County man at the very last gasp!
Within a minute however, that last disappointment was forgotten as another fine through ball from Jevons allowed Turner to latch onto it and drift slightly left.
His speed took him past an abortive challenge and drew the keeper, but the angle was such that it was very missable, but such thoughts were instantly banished as a thoroughly murderous finish made McMillan`s involvement irrelevant and the score 3-0 to County.
There was time for Duxbury to show his undoubted potential in disposing of a late run from Sheridan, and for Turner and Jevons to offer up more evidence of a flourishing partnership, before the whistle went to end the first half.
Johnson and Allen were on for the Bluebirds when play resumed.
This personnel change was to have a significant effect on the home sides playing pattern , but for the moment, after a brief early flurry from our hosts, County resumed their assault on the home defences, and Williams did well to stop Turner as he latch onto Duxbury`s long ball with immaculate ease.
Then….5 minutes into the half, County added another gem to their goal collection.
It had Jevons name firmly imprinted onto it as a glorious through ball from him again sent Turner on the charge through the middle.
Soon enough he was clear with only McMillan to beat, but when the pair came together and he appeared to be impeded upon trying to regain the vertical, the referee pointed to the spot and County had a chance to put the game to bed!
The small County contingent were buzzing as Jevons stepped up to take it, and buzz quickly morphed into ecstatic roars of delight, as Jevons sent the keeper the wrong way before leathering the ball home to make it 4-0.
There was a long way to go for sure, but surely the game was safe for County now?
Ask the Barrow team though at this stage and you would have probably got a different reply, and within a minute of the goal Tunnicliffe was in action keeping a strike from Sheridan out on the line.
With Briggs now beginning to get something of a grip in midfield for Barrow, their prospects looked to be marginally improving particularly when Johnson conned the referee into giving them a soft free kick on the edge of the box. Sheridan wasted this by lifting it over the top, but it was not long before further encouragement surfaced from the officials as Barrow broke from deep forcing County into defensive mode again.
They seemed to be coping OK as far as I could make out albeit that the ball was taking a bit of a time to be cleared up field, but then they were undone as the referee pointed to the spot.
For what I am totally unable to say…….Tunnicliffe was the closest to the man on the ball ,but I saw no infringement- none the less it was a penalty ,and new life was breathed into the home side as Rushden thumped an emphatic kick way beyond Ormson`s dive to make it 4-1.
That was disappointing, and more seemed likely to dim the lights of my enthusiasm, as a free kick by Sheridan was headed on by Rushden to Johnson who was smack in front about half a yard out. It looked something of a shoo in, but Ormson somehow managed to do the biz and keep Rushden`s strike out!
Barrow were definitely rallying now, and AL responded by replacing Lofthouse with Platt just past the hour.
The plan would be for Platt to re-establish mid field dominance, but for now County were under pressure as yet another soft free kick brought Ormson into play again stopping Lacey from profiting from same.
This continued as Duxbury conceded a free kick – again County saw the danger off, thanks to excellent work from the very much focused Tunnicliffe, who did well to ignore O`Donnell`s intent to cause mayhem, but we needed some `foot on the ball stuff` again from someone!
Instead the County lead was reduced, this time by a very good goal indeed, started by Rushden and ended by Allen who sent a fierce drive thundering into the back of Ormson`s net to make it a slightly unrealistic 4-2 score line.
Despite the fact that Barrow had definite intent to ruin County`s night, I felt that ,they were coping pretty well, really – the forwards were quieter ,largely due to the Briggs,Johnson, Allen influence, but there was no sign that the defence was anything but on song.
It did not help that Barrow were getting a stream of free kicks though, not all 100% valid, and another put us under the cosh again when Tunnicliffe was adjudged to have laid a hand on Rushden.
The result was another chance as this had happened just outside the box and fairly central. Lacey and Johnson mimed to take this in traditional fashion, but Johnson did, and Ormson was relieved to see the ball thud into the angle of bar and post before joining the sprinkling of County fans on the open terrace.
On it went with Johnson and Allen in concert and intent on spoiling our evening. Thankfully the duo`s latest work ended with Lacey`s header missing by a distance, but again we needed someone to steady things and put some pressure back on Barrow.
O`Halloran came on for Duxbury for the last 10 minutes, but County continued to defend the increasingly frequent attacks from the home side.
With 5 minutes left Jacobs and Turner combined to good effect, and Turner did well to win a free kick with 3 men assigned to mark him, but this was lumped into the crowd by Howard and any chance was gone.
It still remained mainly Barrow on the front foot with Johnson and Lacey seeing shots charged down by the still functioning County back line.
Williams and substitute Gareth Arnison joined in but both were undone by over enthusiasm when a cool head was called for, thus County reached 4 minutes added time with their 2 goal lead still intact.
County continued to defend well in the time that remained – Charnock doing just enough to deny Johnson after he had linked up with Lacey neatly, and Tunnicliffe along with Ormson doing well to stop Burns and Arnison from getting a late consolation.
Eventually the whistle went to end the game and a very happy homeward journey could commence.
The Flyer made it back in excellent time with everyone simply chuffed to bits with what they had seen.
Great stuff County….keep it up!
County line up;
Ormson, Jacobs, Tunnicliffe, Charnock , Duxbury ( O`Halloran 80), Lofthouse ( Platt 64), Moses, Gosset ( Windsor 69), Jevons, Turner.
Subs not used; Jones, Fagbola.
Barrow line up;
McMillan, Burns, Radcliffe, Williams, O`Donnell, Briggs, Lacey, Sheridan, Bowen, Rushden, Reynolds.
Barrow 2 County 4
Some things never change do they!