Match Preview: Barrow v Shots

Barrow AFC v Aldershot Town match preview – Saturday 9th March 2019

Last Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Gateshead left Aldershot Town seven points adrift of safety in the National League. Despite a promising first half performance, The Shots were unable to respond once ‘Heed got their noses in front. This weekend, Town will make their longest trip of the season, the 612 miles round-trip to Barrow-in-Furness. BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall previews the action:

Shots Squad:
Manager Gary Waddock will be without Skipper Scott Rendell, who serves the second of his two-match suspension following his red card at Braintree. George Fowler, Lewis Kinsella and James Rowe are all out injured long term. Shamir Fenelon returned from injury to make his 100th Aldershot Town appearance last weekend and should be available, although Shots boss Gary Waddock has intimated that with (finally) more than sixteen players to choose from, some members of the playing squad will not be making the trip.

Name: Barrow AFC
Founded: 1901
Nickname: The Bluebirds
Manager: Ian Evatt
Stadium: Holker Street
Final position last season: 20th
Current National League position: 13th

Potted History:
Barrow AFC, also known as The Bluebirds, were formed in 1901. They play their home games at Holker Street. The club spent over fifty years in the football league between 1921 and 1972, achieving promotion to Division 3 by finishing 3rd in the Fourth Division in the 1966–67 season. The highest league period in the club’s history was to be short-lived and a return to Division 4 came after relegation in 1969–70 season. At the end of the 1971–72 season, after an unsuccessful bid for re-election, Barrow were voted out of the Football League, to be replaced by Hereford United. Barrow have since spent their time in the top two levels of non-league football, having been promoted five times to the Conference, most recently as Conference North champions in 2014-15. They have twice won non-league football’s most prestigious cup competition, the FA Trophy – in 1990 and 2010, becoming the only club to have won the Trophy at both old and new Wembley Stadium.

The Gaffer:
37-year-old Ian Evatt took the reins at Barrow in the close season, following the departure of Adrian Pennock. Evatt, a central defender in his playing days, made more than 500 career appearances, 204 of them for Blackpool. He first managerial appointment was as Caretaker-Manager of Chesterfield in April 2018. He was unable to prevent their inevitable relegation from the Football League.

Last season:
Barrow finished 20th in the National League last season, just one place and one point away from relegation.

This season:
Despite a reduced budget, The Bluebirds have enjoyed their best season for a few years this term, spending the majority of it in mid table and occasionally climbing as high as 10th. Prior to consecutive 3-goal defeats to Barnet and Leyton Orient over the last week, they had lost just once in 14 National League games.

Bluebirds Squad:
With both management and budget changes in the close season, there has been a lot of player movement at Holker Street. Key losses from last season included Asa Hall (Torquay), Moussa Diarra (Dover), Donovan Makhoma (Stevenage), Raul Corriera (Blackpool), Andrew Firth (Rangers) and Player/Coach Grant Holt also departed along with Pennock. Incoming players that have made a big impact this season include young strikers Jack Hindle (Colwyn Bay) and Tyler Smith (season loan from Sheffield United). They have notched 20 goals between them, Smith leading the way on 11. John Rooney has also been a key signing, joining from Guiseley.

Saturday sees just the eighth meeting between Aldershot Town and Barrow AFC with Saturday’s hosts enjoying by far the best record of the two. Back in November, goals from Tyler smith and Jack Hindle secured all three points for The Bluebirds.

In April 2018, a 90th minute Scott Rendell leveller ensured the points were shared at The EBB Stadium, following Luke James’ opener. In October 2017, Adi Yussuf (now smashing the goals in for Solihull Moors) scored a hat-trick as the Bluebirds romped to a 3-1 home victory, with Adam McDonnell scoring Town’s solitary goal in reply.

On the opening day of the 2016-17 season, Barrow also won (1-0), with Liam Hughes scoring the only goal. When the two sides met again at The EBB Stadium in February 2017, Ross Hannah’s brilliant 95th minute free-kick snatched a point for nine-man Barrow as they came from two goals down late on. A superb opening 45 minutes from The Shots put them in control, Matt McClure firing the opener after just 49 seconds and Will Evans heading home on 26 minutes – only for the Bluebirds to rescue a draw late on.

The 2015-16 meetings saw the away side coming out on top on both occasions. At Holker Street, the Shots produced one of their best performances of the season and what remains their only victory over Barrow AFC to date. A Charlie Walker brace and a Cheye Alexander cracker secured a 3-1 victory in Cumbria, whilst in April 2016 Andy Cook scored the only goal at the EBB Stadium.

The Bluebirds did face Aldershot FC on 23 occasions. The first, a 2nd Round FA Cup tie in December 1934, resulted in a 2-0 win for the visitors at Holker Street, but the other 22 all took place in the Football League’s Fourth Division. Those games saw ten wins for the Shots, five for Barrow with seven draws.

Saturday’s referee is Gareth Rhodes, who has taken charge of 12 National League matches so far this season, showing 40 yellow cards and 0 red cards to date. He has not taken the middle in a Shots game this season to date.

There will be live BBC Surrey Sport match commentary with Rob Worrall and Shots legend Ian McDonald of this match, available online and via the BBC Sport App from 2:50pm. To interact with the commentary team, tweet @RobShot66.