Barrow 2-0 Bromley - Stick with us! Our goal this year was to get into the play-offs and that's still our goal, says disappointed Bromley boss Neil Smith
Barrow 2 – 0 Bromley
|Location||Holker Street, Wilkie Road, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria LA14 5UW|
BARROW 2-0 BROMLEY
Vanarama National League
Saturday 18 January 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Holker Street
BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he has conceded the league title to champions-elect Barrow but admits his side gave it their everything but rued missing a couple of glorious chances to change the outcome.
A crowd of 3,155 flocked through the Holker Street turnstiles to watch these two surprise packages battle it out for the Vanarama National League title.
The game was screened live on BT Sport with Bromley bringing 50 supporters up to Cumbria and neither they nor their team could get back home after the game by train as the game kicked off at 17:20 and the last train back to London, via Lancaster left Barrow-in-Furness at 18:04.
BT Sport must understand that supporters want to watch their teams at this level of the game at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon – especially when the team you’re playing are 327 miles away!
Ian Evatt’s side extended their impressive unbeaten record to 15 games in all competitions and are now eight points clear of fourth-placed Bromley, with two games in hand.
Barrow striker Dior Angus celebrated his 26th birthday by scoring a tap-in from a yard out to score his eleventh goal of the season, after Bromley were hit on a devastating counter-attack in the 34th minute.
John Rooney, Wayne’s younger brother, notched his 17th goal of the season to seal the victory, curling in a Frankie Raymondesque corner.
“Disappointed with the result, they’re a good side Barrow, so we knew it was going to be difficult but I just think the goals that they scored, we could’ve prevented,” admitted Smith, after his side suffered their ninth league defeat of the season and their first here at Holker Street in five visits.
“They were weak goals on our part and then the chances we had, Corey Whitely with two and Luke Coulson, where it was cleared off the line, if one of those goes in, it’s a totally different game so I’m disappointed in that respect.
“I couldn’t have asked any more from the boys, I thought they were outstanding! I thought Dave Winfield that came in and Michael Chambers did really well along with the other players.”
Smith changed his formation from his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 to a three centre-half pairing of Michael Chambers (left), Dave Winfield (centre) and Jack Holland (right) with left-wing-back Sam Wood and right-wing-back Joe Kizzi being a well-organised outfit for the majority of the game, leaving Barrow’s 17-goal striker Scott Quigley often dropping deep and suffering from frustration as Chambers had him in his pocket for most of this tussle.
“Listen, they’re the top goalscorers (59 goals) in respect of they’ve got Quigley, one of the top goalscorers and they’ve got Rooney in there and we’ve kept them quiet but I’m just disappointed with the goals that we did concede.
“We knew they were going to be good anyway, it was about stopping them, which I think we did for the majority of it but when you do get those chances, you’ve got to take them.”
Barrow’s last three games, which have all been at home, have seen them thrash Ebbsfleet United 7-0 in the National League on 4 January, Atherton Colliers 2-0 in a FA Trophy First Round Replay, before thrashing FC United of Manchester 7-0 in the Second Round of The FA Trophy seven days ago.
“I was pleased with the boys,” said Smith.
“It was a new formation, it was a new system. We lost Billy Bingham on Friday, he’s just got an injured foot at the moment, so it was one of them where I thought we were playing a team, top goalscorers, let’s go with three at the back, just to welcome Michael Chambers in as well. I thought it worked. I thought the boys did extremely well considering it’s a formation that we just literally looked at.”
Barrow, who played out from the back, created their first opening after only 177 seconds into the game.
Tom White, who had his loan spell from Blackburn Rovers extended until the end of the season, having signed from Gateshead in the summer, fed the ball into Angus, whose right-footed angled drive from 20-yards was dragged across Ryan Huddart and flashed past the far post.
The opening exchanges were a cagey affair as Barrow found Bromley’s backline hard to break down, as Wood kept Barrow’s right-wing-back threat, Brad Barry quiet during the first half.
Bromley’s first opening came in the tenth minute when midfielder Josh Rees split open the Barrow defence and his intended target was attacker Ben Williamson. Barrow keeper Joel Dixon suffered from a rush of blood and rushed outside his box and was thankful to left-centre-half Patrick Brough for making a block as Williamson tried to sweep his shot into the bottom near corner from just inside the corner of the penalty area.
“Ben just hit it blind hopefully that no-one was on the line but again they covered it well, they just had bodies in there when we didn’t,” added Smith.
Bromley keeper Huddart launched a big kick straight down the middle of the pitch and striker Michael Cheek knocked the ball down but Luke Coulson’s weak shot from a central position from 25-yards out rolled into the hands of Dixon, who quickly rolled the ball out for his defence to play out.
Huddart was called into action in the 20th minute when Rees gave away a free-kick in a central position after Quigley was forced to drop deep once more.
Rooney stroked his right-footed 30-yard free-kick into the wall, the ball bounced off a head and Huddart used his right-hand to push the ball over the crossbar and was relieved when the ball flashed across his goal and past the far post from the resulting corner.
Smith said: “I thought my wall did well, I had a big wall. Rooney likes to score those free-kicks so all of my defenders were in the wall and they did their job, they got the deflection and then Ryan tipped it over.”
Rooney’s delivery was excellent, whipping in their first of 11 corners and Williamson, who was at the near post, flicked his header across his own goalkeeper and the ball flashed past a crowded goal-mouth and just past the far post.
White played the second corner into Jason Taylor and White played the ball back into the box for centre-half Sam Hird, who controlled the ball before hooking his volley over the crossbar from a couple of yards from inside the Bromley penalty area on the right-hand side.
Rooney had a second free-kick from 30-yards, this time a lot wider than his first, which flashed past the foot of the near post on the half-hour mark.
Smith was concerned with the manner that Barrow deservedly opened the scoring with 33 minutes and 25 seconds on the clock.
Bromley had a throw in within the final third and Wood threw the ball to Coulson, who played the ball back to Wood, who lofted the ball into the Barrow box and was plucked out of the air by Barrow keeper Dixon.
Dixon launched the ball upfield and the ball was headed away by Holland was Kay picked up the loose ball some 35-yards from goal.
Kay dissected the Bromley defenders with a sublime diagonal pass and Rooney whipped the ball in trying to find the bottom far corner. Huddart stretched to his right and couldn’t flick the ball away and Angus ghosted in at the far post to tap the ball over the line from a yard out.
Smith said: “Two of my centre-halves were caught under the ball. Jack wins it, they win the second ball, go out wide and Rooney just puts it in and Angus is on the goal-line at the far post just to tap it in so it’s disappointing in respect of it was in our possession and within three seconds, they’ve scored.
“It’s something that we have to cut out, teams are now getting us on the break and it’s something that’s sort of happening that we’ve got to stop!”
Bromley were not their usual threat from set-pieces today but they were on the counter-attack and they had a chance to equalise with 36 minutes and 15 seconds on the clock.
Coulson pinged a great diagonal pass which split open Barrow’s central-centre-half Hird to put Cheek through on goal and facing two defenders and keeper Dixon, Cheek’s right-footed drive from 19-yards was comfortably saved by the 27-year-old goalkeeper.
“As I say, when you are playing at these top teams, who are top of the league, you’ve got to take your chances. You’re not going to get many and I think our chances were probably easier than theirs and we just didn’t take them,” admitted Smith, who was then asked what he said to his troops during the interval.
“Same again, same again. We’ll get chances. Basically what we said you stay in it, you’ll get a chance and when you get it, take it!”
Bromley started the second half on the front foot for the first 10 minutes and they should have been level just 178 seconds into it.
Raymond’s first time pass from inside the Barrow half fed Coulson, who delicate right-footed chip dropped over Dixon and was destined to float into the open goal, only for Hird to show great desire to get back and hook the ball off the line and watch the ball land into Dixon’s gloves.
“Right at the start of the second half we get a chance and you think just a little bit more but fair play to their player, he chased it back and cleared it off the line and then went straight into the keepers hands,” agonised Smith.
“It’s just like that’s our luck at the moment. I think he’s scored like that last season at Eastleigh and he put enough on it and it just seemed more height but fair play to their defender they didn’t give it up and cleared it off the line and even the second ball went straight into the goalkeepers arms and you’re just like right get another chance and we must take it!”
Chambers had a great game to keep Quigley quiet, making a challenge inside the Bromley box to put off the Barrow talisman and ensure his shot on the turn was comfortably dealt with by Huddart.
Barrow midfielder Jason Taylor drove forward before playing Kay in behind Kizzi and Huddart comfortably plucked the rasping drive out of the air at his near post as Barrow were back on the front foot.
Smith felt referee James Bell was correct to ignore strong penalty appeals from Barrow after Taylor was sent crashing to the ground as Coulson challenged for the ball insid a crowded Bromley box in the 20th minute before Chambers was the only player to be booked for a strong challenge on Angus on the half-way line shortly afterwards.
Smith said: “No, I think it was a fair tackle. I haven’t seen it on the TV. I haven’t seen the replay or anything like that but I think it’s a clean tackle but when you are in these games it takes a brave referee not to give the decision when you’ve got the supporters and everything else calling for it but I don’t think it was a penalty.”
Bromley ventured forward at the halfway mark with Rees having a driven shot blocked on the edge of the penalty area before the ball came out to Raymond, who sliced his shot horribly wide from 20-yards.
The time was showing 21:48 when Smith gave striker Corey Whitely his Bromley debut, having signed him on loan until the end of the season from League Two side Newport County.
However, the 28-year-old could have become an instant hero with his first touch – only to be guilty of miss-of-the-season with 23:21 on the clock.
Bromley hit Barrow on the counter-attack as Huddart threw the ball long to Coulson, who released Wood charging down the left and he put it on a plate by rolling the ball across the face of goal towards an unmarked Whitely at the far post.
Whitely side-footed his shot past the foot of the near post from 12-yards and Bromley’s chances of going on and completing the impossible dream (winning the Vanarama National League title) died.
Smith said: “It was everything that we worked on. We worked on hitting them on the break, hitting them quick, getting the ball across.
“Corey is a great signing and Corey will score me goals. Just disappointed that it didn’t happen for him then. It would’ve been a dream start but he’ll get goals for us as long as he’s in there to miss, I’ll keep demanding it.
“It was (a key moment in the game). All off a sudden (if he scores) it’s a different game and then you’re just ‘right I believe that we’re going to get another chance,’ I generally did! I just didn’t see them scoring. I thought our defence were well-marshalled. I thought Sam Wood was outstanding. I thought we did enough to see it out.”
Bromley were throwing their bodies on the line in defence and an example of this was when Barry drove forward down the right and reached the by-line and cut the ball back for Quigley, whose shot at the near post took a deflection and trickled across the keeper and past the far post.
However, Barrow celebrated a massive win by doubling their lead with 27 minutes and 17 seconds on the clock, following their ninth corner kick but it was a poor goal to concede.
Rooney whipped the ball in from the left and Whitely was at fault as he allowed the ball to curl past him at the near post and Huddart scrambled across his goal but couldn’t prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom near corner.
“Then, to score straight from a corner, that’s what I’m led to believe, again I haven’t seen it, it’s disappointing,” said Smith.
“I haven’t seen it, I’m waiting to see it now but it’s disappointing. It’s not like they’ve worked anything, wizardry or got across us or won the header, it’s just straight from a corner. We’re better than that!”
Angus cut into the Bromley box before cutting the ball back to Barry, but once again Bromley had many bodies inside their penalty area to ensure a goal wasn’t scored from 10-yards out.
Barrow almost added insult to injury inside the final 12 minutes.
Taylor and Kay linked up down the left and Kizzi held Kay up on the by-line and the ball was cut back to Quigley, who had to cut the ball onto his right-foot several times as Bromley shut the door in his face again.
However, Quigley attempted to curl his shot into the top far corner from 12-yards, only for the ball to crash down off the underside of the crossbar. The ball fell kindly for substitute Ollie Dyson, who took too many touches to control the ball just eight-yards out and his rasping drive brought an outstanding save out of Huddart, using a strong right-hand to tip the ball over the bar.
“His reaction save was outstanding. He’s waiting, he’s gone for the first one and it’s bounced down but he’s ready for the second one,” said Smith.
“I feel sorry for Ryan because everyone will criticise but he’s pulled off saves.”
Barrow built up down the right through Dyson and Kay before Barry drilled his shot over the Bromley crossbar just 38 seconds into time added on.
Bromley created the last chance with 49:19 on the clock and Whiteley missed again!
Chambers pumped a long ball out of defence, which was flicked on by substitute striker Adrian Clifton down the middle and Whitely latched onto the ball and drove his shot past the foot of the near post from 15-yards, lacking the clinical composure to slot the ball into the bottom far corner.
Smith said: “Corey had another chance, yes, so you think he’s learnt from the first one, don’t go to the near post, go to the far. He opened it up and he’s just pulled it. He’s apologised to the players’ in there. As a signing for us it’s a great signing and it still will be but he’s disappointed.”
Smith had this message for the travelling fans and calls for 3,000 fans at Hayes Lane next Saturday (15:00) for the visit of fourteenth-place side Barnet.
“I’m just hoping they saw we gave it our everything,” said Smith.
“You’re playing a team that are top of the league and rightly so on that performance and we do appreciate the time they’ve taken. We travelled up this morning, it took us seven and a half hours so we knew what they’ve had to do. There was a delay on the train and preparation.
“Stick with us! Stick with us! Our goal this year was to get into the play-offs and that’s still our goal.”
Smith admitted winning the league title is beyond his side but they have 15 games of the season remaining to secure a play-off place – but losing this massive game hurts massively!
“If they lose that then they’ve given it away. It’s theirs now and it’s now whose going to fight to get in those play-off places,” added Smith.
“Before the start of the season it was to be in and around the play-offs and to be in and around it now, it’s all to play for but we’ve got to make sure if we get those chances, we’ve got to take them.”
Looking ahead to the Barnet game, Smith added: “Get them home, get the crowd behind us, we’re going to need them big time. All these games now are so important and the supporters’ play a massive part. I know people might say I just say it, they are so important so the more we can get down there, the crowd today at Barrow was fantastic and if we can get something like that down there, it will make it a good game and it’s like an extra player.”
Barrow remain at the summit with 58 points from their 29 games while the six play-off places are currently occupied by Harrogate Town (55 points from 31 games); Yeovil Town (53 points from 31); Bromley (50 points from 31); Boreham Wood (48 points from 30); Notts County (47 points from 30) and FC Halifax Town (46 points from 30).
“We’d love to get into the second or third (place) because then you’re only in the Semi-Finals but you’re asking a hell of a lot,” said Smith.
“Our goal was to get into the play-offs so if we can get in there, anywhere in the play-offs, it doesn’t matter, we’ll be in there.”
Barrow: Joel Dixon, Brad Barry, Josh Kay, Matt Platt, Patrick Brough, Sam Hird, John Rooney (Lewis Hardcastle 83), Jason Taylor, Scott Quigley (Byron Harrison 88), Tom White, Dior Angus (Ollie Dyson 77).
Subs: Connor Brown, Jack Hindle
Goals: Dior Angus 34, John Rooney 73
Bromley: Ryan Huddart, Joe Kizzi, Sam Wood, Dave Winfield, Michael Chambers, Jack Holland, Luke Coulson, Frankie Raymond (Jordan Higgs 89), Michael Cheek (Adrian Clifton 83), Ben Williamson, Josh Rees (Corey Whitely 68).
Subs: Andre Coker, Tarek Najia
Booked: Michael Chambers 65
Attendance: 3,155 (50 away)
Referee: Mr James Bell
Assistants: Mr Kenwyn Hughes & Mr Bradley Hall
Fourth Official: Mr Richard Holmes