Fleet extended their unbeaten run to 10 games with a hard-fought victory at Barrow on an excellent day results-wise for Daryl McMahon’s side. It was only Fleet’s second ever win at Holker Street but it could be the most important given that all the teams within touching distance above us lost their matches this afternoon.
Dean Rance marked his return from illness with the winning goal, replacing Jack Powell in the starting lineup, while Lawrie Wilson was in at right back ahead of Marvin McCoy.
Having managed their first home win since October in midweek, as well as chalking up more than one goal for the first time since New Year’s Day, Barrow’s tails were up as they targeted a win to overhaul Woking and pull themselves out of the relegation zone.
Barrow’s early plan was to clearly get the ball forward quickly and force throw-ins to make use of Dan Jones’ long catapult. He got an early one away that Nathan Ashmore struggled to deal with and the home side won a messy corner out of it.
But Fleet were swift to counterattack and after Luke Coulson had warmed Steve Arnold’s hands with a routine shot, he went one better, speeding on to Danny Kedwell’s lay-off from an Ashmore kick upfield and striking the foot of the post as he beat Arnold with a firm effort.
Barrow found the target on 11 minutes when Lewis Taylor’s shot was well stopped by Ashmore by his top corner but skipper Asa Hall might have been disappointed to succeed in only smashing the rebound over the bar.
The home side began to carve out a couple of free-kicks and they hit a real purple patch from the 25-minute mark. Luke James found room down the right to attack and his shot on goal was very well saved by Ashmore and Kingsley James’ follow-up was hacked clear off the line by Wilson.
Fleet saw off two more corners as home fans sensed a goal but when it came, it wasn’t quite how they imagined. On 33 minutes, Sean Shields’ running found a gap to aim at and his shot from 18 yards bounced back off the bar where Rance was first to react with a cool, neat finish for 1-0.
Barrow responded almost immediately when another Jones throw-in was connected with by Hall, via Walters, but it veered narrowly wide. Whitely had time to send a shot across goal at the other end and Fleet then saw a free-kick headed against the Barrow post again in time added on in the first half.
Ady Pennock’s side came out with purpose in the second half but Fleet’s defence did its job. A free-kick hit the Fleet wall early on before Ashmore saved from Walters.
Whitely sent a shot just over before he drew a foul from Ollie Cook that saw the Barrow defender cautioned. Arnold then had to hold on to a Kedwell effort before there was a lengthy stoppage when Chris Bush’s missed a clearance and connected with the assistant referee instead and he had to be replaced by the fourth official.
Not to content to sit on a 1-0 lead, McMahon brought on Myles Weston and Norman Wabo to keep Barrow occupied at the back and that helped stave off a siege on the Fleet goal. Shields had a shot dip over before Barrow began to enjoy more possession. Two more corners almost forced the ball over the Fleet line but Kingsley James couldn’t make the final connected as Ashmore cleared in the six-yard box.
Ashmore had to come for several crosses and high balls, punching away one free-kick and making an excellent save 12 minutes from the end when Walters’ cross was met with a firm header by Luke James that seemed goalbound until the Fleet keeper tipped it over.
Barrow left it late to make any changes but they threw on three substitutes in the final six minutes of normal time and then had seven more to force an equaliser. Fleet defended very well, especially with two late corners that saw goalkeeper Arnold stride forward to add to the confusion, but it didn’t harm the visitors’ concentration and they held out for three more valuable points.
EUFC: Ashmore, Wilson, Bush (Connors 90), Clark, Winfield, Rance, Drury, Shields, Coulson (Weston 55), Kedwell, Whitely (Wabo 68). Subs not used: Miles, Powell
BFC: Arnold, Makoma, Cook, Diarra, Macdonald, Jones, K James, Hall (Gomis 86), L James, Waterston (White 84), Walters (Holt 90). Subs not used: Diagne, Bauress
Attendance: 1,189 (76 EUFC)