Barrow taught lesson by top of the class Cambridge.
Barrow AFC 0-2 Cambridge United
Barrow’s survival hopes suffered a set-back as they were beaten by Cambridge United in convincing fashion, with the league leaders demonstrating why they sat atop League Two.
Bluebirds boss Michael Jolley made three changes to his starting line-up, with Jamie Devitt and Dion Donohue making their first full Bluebirds debut, while Chris Taylor slotted into the right-hand side of a narrow midfield. The hosts did, however, have to make do without the services of Matt Platt, who failed a late fitness test.
A heavy surface, thanks to the previous week’s persistent rainfall, hampered any fluency from either side in the opening stages, with Devitt’s smart turn and shot flashing past the post the only attack of note from either side, besides an earlier weak effort from Josh Kay.
Cambridge eventually settled into the game and managed to carve their way through Barrow’s well-organised ranks halfway through the first period. The impressive and influential Wes Hoolahan freed Harrison Dunk, whose low close-range effort was smartly stopped by Joel Dixon.
For all their organisation and a couple of neat passages of play, Barrow failed to create any clear-cut chances and duly found themselves a goal down shortly before the break, when the visitors patience payed off, seizing on a lapse of concentration in the Bluebirds defence. Hoolahan found it too easy to glide into the right of the Barrow penalty area, finding dangerman Paul Mullen with a square ball, who was allowed two bites of the cherry to stab past Dixon.
Rocked by the goal, Barrow then lost Taylor to injury and Cambridge found themselves firmly on top, with Adam May and Mullen again going close just before the interval.
Barrow, forced by injury and circumstance into a double substitution at the break, switched to a more balanced system, with Dan Bramall replacing the injured Devitt and taking up position on the left wing, whilst Lewis Hardcastle replaced fellow substitute Tom Beadling, shifting to the No.10 role, with Josh Kay wide right.
The change in shape immediately saw an improvement in Barrow’s attacking play, and started to test the Cambridge defence for the first real time, with Callum Burton having to stop a rare Scott Quigley shot on goal.
The U’s replied in kind, when Joe Ironside just failed to apply the finishing touch to Kyle Knoyle’s dangerous low ball from the byline, before May and Greg Taylor had shots blocked by the plethora of Barrow bodies in quick succession.
The Bluebirds forced themselves back onto the front food, though, and a good move ended with Hardcastle working himself a shooting opportunity from just outside the area that skipped just wide of the upright before lax defending by Patrick Brough presented the visitors with another chance at the other end, only for Mullin to fire high.
Bramall may have pulled the teams level had his shot from 20 yards hit the target, but the next goal was to be the clincher for Cambridge, as Joe Ironside headed in Knoyle’s whipped cross to put the result beyond doubt in the closing stages.
Barrow AFC (4-4-1-1): Dixon; Eardley, Thomas, Davies, Brough; C.Taylor (Beadling 40 (Hardcastle 46)), Banks (James 71), Donohue, Kay; Devitt (Bramall 46); Quigley (J.Jones 90). Subs not used: Lillis.
Cambridge United (4-4-2): Burton; Knoyle, Okedina, Taylor, Dunk; Hoolahan (Iredale 90), May (O’Neil 90), Drysdale, Hannant (Tracey 80); Mullin (Knibbs 86), Ironside. Subs not used: McKenzie-Lyle, Davies, Alese.