Barrow were beaten on home soil as Port Vale continued their impressive end to the season with a 2-0 victory at The Progression Solicitors Stadium on Tuesday night.
Tom Conlon scored in both halves for the visitors – his first a spectacular long-range volley – as Darrell Clarke’s in-form outfit went home with all three points.
Rob Kelly sprung a surprise on his team sheet by including Matt Platt, who returned from a knee injury to make his first appearance since the end of January, while Tom Beadling and Kgose Ntlhe were also restored to the starting eleven.
The game had an intense feel to it from the first whistle as both sides showed a keen competitive spirit with tackles flying in from The Bluebirds and their visitors.
Neal Eardley’s flighted corner from the right caused an early moment of panic in the Vale box but Kgose Ntlhe’s header was cleared, and the referee waved away appeals for a penalty as Jason Taylor fired a shot wide from the rebound.
Wing-back Eardley then whipped in a free-kick which found Bobby Thomas in the area but the defender couldn’t apply the finish and the ball flew over the bar.
The physical nature of the opening saw yellow cards shown to Brad Barry and Vale’s Shaun Brisley after an altercation following a foul, while Kurtis Guthrie followed them into the book moments later for a late challenge on Joel Dixon.
The Barrow keeper then had to produce a good save to deny Cristian Montano after the visiting forward got through the home defence on the left, but Dixon stood tall and made an excellent block.
A moment of real class saw The Valiants go in front on the half hour. The ball sat up nicely for Tom Conlon in the centre circle just inside the Barrow half and he struck a sweet left foot volley which looked a goal from the moment it left his boot as it dipped over the helpless Dixon and into the net.
Barrow felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty right at the end of the first half when Tom Beadling went down under a robust challenge, but referee Andy Haines – well placed to judge – was unmoved by the protests and instead blew his whistle for half time.
There was a similarly high tempo to the start of the second half but not much in the way of clear cut chances – Patrick Brough had the first effort on goal with a volley from the edge of the box which crashed into the roof of the stand.
Rob Kelly gambled midway through the second half, bringing on Ollie Banks and Calvin Andrew in an aggressive change as he looked to find a way back into the game.
However, Vale defended with determination and broke clinically through Will Swan who was tackled brilliantly by Ntlhe just as he lined up to shoot – only for the ball to break kindly for Conlon to drive home his second goal to double the visitors’ lead.
Brough could have pulled one back for The Bluebirds almost immediately when he let fly with a powerful drive from twenty yards but keeper Scott Brown did well to claw it away from the top corner and Vale cleared.
Swan then tried his luck from long range with a low shot on goal but Dixon saw it all the way and got down quickly to his right to gather the ball comfortably.
Barrow attempted to apply some pressure as time ticked away but Vale held them at arms’ length and avenged their 2-0 Boxing Day defeat to The Bluebirds by securing the points.
Full Time: Barrow 0 Port Vale 2
Barrow: Dixon, Eardley (Andrew 66), Ntlhe, Platt, Thomas, Brough, Barry, Beadling (Devitt 79), J Taylor (Banks 66), Quigley, James.
Subs: Moloney, Brown, C Taylor.
Booked: Barry, Beadling, Ntlhe.
Port Vale: Brown, Joyce, Legge, Smith, Worrall, Conlon, Montano, Cullen (Pope 46), Guthrie (Swan 63), Brisley, Burgess (Whitehead 63).
Subs: Scott, Gibbons, Amoo, McKirdy.
Booked: Brisley, Montano, Guthrie.
Referee: Andy Haines
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors