Our reflections over the past campaign reach March and a month which saw change at the top for The Bluebirds as the Club battled for their League Two lives.
March began in the same kind of vein as had been seen in February with The Bluebirds stubborn enough in defence but not having enough guile in front of goal to turn draws into victories.
The opening game of the month saw Barrow produce a really determined display at Bristol Rovers in a game in which they were reduced to ten men on just 32 minutes following Niall Canavan’s controversial red card. The hosts took until nine minutes from time to break the deadlock with a stunning long-range strike from Anthony Evans – perhaps the only way that the outstanding Paul Farman could have been beaten on the night.
Somewhat frustratingly given the defeat, Canavan’s red card was overturned upon appeal. That meant he was free to face Walsall at The Dunes Hotel Stadium that weekend. John Rooney struck to put Barrow 1-0 up, but The Saddlers hit back after the break and the game finished 1-1.
During the week ahead of the Walsall game, the Club had linked-up with Anti-Racist Cumbria to host a unique workshop at the stadium to which local schoolchildren came along to learn about discrimination. These pupils were also invited to the Saddlers fixture and were introduced to the crowd at half time as the Club once again underlined its strong stance against racism.
The following weekend The Bluebirds were on the road again and their encounter at Rochdale could have gone either way but neither side could find the golden touch in the final third and it finished goalless.
A midweek trip to doomed Scunthorpe United looked a big one for Barrow as they looked to put some distance between themselves and the bottom two. Thankfully, Rooney came up with the goods once again with a lovely finish on the stroke of half time. Mark Cooper’s men should have wrapped the game up in the second half but spurned a number of good chances and were left hanging on a little at the end as they clinched three important points.
The victory was an ideal way to build confidence ahead of a huge derby meeting with Carlisle United four days later – but things rarely looked like going Barrow’s way. Jordan Gibson put the visitors 1-0 up just after the half hour and Kristian Dennis doubled the lead on 75. Ollie Banks gave hope to The Bluebirds by pulling one back three minutes later and there was some late pressure, but it was the Brunton Park outfit who went away with three points.
The loss proved pivotal and the following day it was announced that Mark Cooper had left his position as First Team Manager. Early the next week, experience boss Phil Brown was named as his successor on a deal until the end of the season which also saw Neil McDonald return to the club as his assistant.
His first game looked a tough one away at Leyton Orient who had put together a run which had lifted them clear of relegation trouble. Brown’s men registered an encouraging performance, but it was The O’s who ran out winners, overcoming The Bluebirds 2-0 at The Breyer Group Stadium. The result left Barrow still with a six-point cushion on the danger zone going into April.
Moment of the Month
John Rooney’s composed finish just before the break at Scunthorpe United was crucial for The Bluebirds as they looked to maintain their advantage over the sides inside the bottom two.
It was lovely football in the build-up to provide the opportunity for Rooney and he didn’t ever look like missing as he rolled a low shot across the keeper and into the bottom corner of the net.