Offrande Zanzala’s early goal wasn’t enough to prevent Barrow from slipping to defeat at The EnviroVent Stadium as Harrogate Town came from behind to claim three points.
Things looked good for The Bluebirds when Zanzala prodded home his second goal of the season from six yards on 17 minutes but two goals from Alex Pattison – and a touch of good fortune – helped the home side celebrate their return to action following a COVID-19 outbreak with victory.
There was a disrupted opening to the game as home defender Lewis Page picked up a nasty facial injury in an accidental clash just seconds after kick-off and he was forced from the field after initially trying to play on.
The hosts took a while to get into their stride as a result but Danilo Orsi did test Paul Farman with a curling shot from the left corner of the box, but it was never likely to trouble the Bluebirds’ keeper.
Instead, it was Barrow who went on to take the lead on 17 minutes. Josh Gordon worked hard to win the ball back in a dangerous area and spread it wide to Patrick Brough and the wing-back slung an inviting cross into the far post where Zanzala stretched to prod home the opener.
Town responded well but Mark Cooper’s men continued to be a nuisance on the break and Gordon almost embarrassed home keeper Mark Oxley after a short back-pass from Rory McArdle but the front man’s challenge sent the ball spiralling away from goal, to the home side’s relief.
Farman then pulled off an outstanding save at the other end to deny Town’s summer signing Luke Armstrong his second goal in Harrogate colours, diving full length to tip his drive wide as it looked destined for the top corner.
Barrow were a constant menace when going forward and almost found their second goal from a left-wing corner which caused chaos in the Harrogate box and almost fell kindly for Gordon before the hosts smuggled it clear.
The Bluebirds were being made to work hard to protect their lead as Harrogate worked the ball down both flanks but could have stolen a second goal on the counterattack when the nicked possession and raided down the left but Ollie Banks sent a shot too high.
Farman and Zanzala both picked up yellow cards as they attempted to eat up a little time before the break. However, Harrogate could have levelled inside the eight minutes of stoppage time when the ball fell to Connor Hall from a corner, but his first effort was well blocked by Farman and his follow-up flew wide.
There was a greater intensity to Harrogate at the start of the second period but it was Barrow who had the first meaningful effort on goal as Brough saw his shot from the edge of the box deflected just over the bar.
Lovely football from Gordon set Barrow away on another attack as Josh Kay cleverly skipped clear of a defender and bore down on goal only to send his effort wide of the target and let Town off the hook.
Town pulled level on the hour and there was more than a touch of fortune about it. Armstrong broke away down the left and tried to cross but his low ball was blocked and fell to Alex Pattison and his first-time drive took a wicked deflection and looped high into the sky before deceiving Farman and dropping beyond him into the net.
Barrow tried to get back on the front foot immediately and Remeao Hutton whipped a dangerous cross into the box from the right but could Kay just couldn’t stretch enough to apply a decisive touch.
George Williams came off the bench and almost made an instant impact as he struck an instinctive volley on goal as the ball dropped over his shoulder and it drew a fine save from Oxley.
Luke James then came off the bench to threaten the Town defence, getting on the end of Williams’ low cross from the right and sending a crisp volley on goal which was well parried by Oxley.
On 81 minutes the home side went in front for the first time. Joe Grayson found himself surrounded in midfield and Town won possession to storm forward towards the edge of the box where Pattison rifled a powerful finish beyond Farman and make it 2-1.
Barrow gambled in the closing stages, even throwing on Festus Arthur up front, but not could not breach a stubborn Harrogate rear-guard and the home side could have grabbed a third on the counter had it not been some alert keeping from Farman to smother at Aaron Martin’s feet.
Full Time: Harrogate Town 2 Barrow 1
Harrogate Town: Oxley, Page (Fallowfield 11), Falkingham, Burrell, Thomson, Orsi (Kerry 58), Pattison, Muldoon, Hall, McArdle, Armstrong (Martin 87).
Subs not used: Smith, Cracknell, Sheron.
Barrow: Farman, Hutton, Brown, Ellis, Grayson (Arthur 90), Brough, White (Williams 68), Banks, Gordon, Kay (James 76), Zanzala (Ntlhe 58).
Subs not used: Moloney, J Jones, Taylor.
Booked: Farman, Zanzala, Banks.
Referee: Trevor Kettle