Last night at Holker Street was disappointing, but perhaps not entirely unsurprising. The games are mounting up at the minute, and if anything we huffed and puffed against a side who knew exactly what to do to stop us playing.
I was critical on social media of Barrow’s approach to the game, and I’ll reiterate that again. They play like a John Beck side, direct and bruising but with very little finesse to their approach. I have seen their style compare to that of Keith Alexander and Graham Taylor, those comparisons are wrong. Their approach is more regimented, they don’t really try to get it down in the final third and play like our heroes of 1976, or the play-off sides of 2003-2005.
That said they were the better team on the night, and as much as an inefficient referee helped their cause, he wasn’t the reason for their win. Was it a penalty at the end? No. Should Bennett have still been on the pitch after elbowing Raggett? No. Would we have scored in a month of Sundays? No. Even without the weak and inept official we would still have lost last night’s game.
I’ve been accused of being bitter, but my bitterness is not in the fact we got beat. Last night was a top of the table clash, the sort of fixture that should have fans coming out in their droves. We had 6,500 against Dover, but I suspect if we were in Barrow’s position just outside the play-offs (or just inside now) we’d still attract 4,000 for such a game. By my reckoning last night, the home attendance barely touched 1,000. That is where my bitterness arises. Tinpot clubs trying to punch above their weight by virtue of a financial backer and nothing more.
I’m not thinking we’re better than we are here, we’re in the National League because we were crap for a couple of years post 2008, and we were crap for a couple of years post 2011. I’m not one of the ‘we are ex-league, we deserve to go back up’, you get what you deserve in this world and we deserve to be fighting our way out of the non-league pit.
I have a real issue with these smaller clubs trying to buy success when the fan base doesn’t warrant it. I know fans don’t win you matches, goals do and respect to Barrow for having a game plan that nullified the league leaders (and still the league leaders). However, no victory will be sweeter than those against ‘buy me a title’ teams like FGR and Dover. I have respect for sides such as Tranmere, York and even Eastleigh who either have a fan base, or there is evidence of one growing. At Eastleigh they’re being bankrolled, but it’s being done as crowds grow, and there is an argument that they could host league football with 3,000+ crowds if they went up. Would Barrow attract that? Not on last night’s showing.
I’m not surprised crowds are poor at Holker Street. If that is the standard of football served up every week, win or no win I wouldn’t go along and watch. We didn’t deal with them, we looked lethargic at times but the fact remains they deal in an effective but awful style to try and get results. Crowds fell under Gary Simpson here, he doesn’t have a reputation for garnering support from fans of teams he’s involved with and with Paul Co involved as well there’s no surprise they’re such an ugly side to watch.
We lost to a side better prepared for the match, we’ll go again on Tuesday at Solihull and hope that we find our form once again. We’re still top, we’re still clear of the chasing pack but we do need to ensure these cup heroics don’t divert much needed attention from the real task in hand: ensuring we don’t have to visit these god-awful teams and play in front of less than a thousand disinterested home fans.