Barrow Triumph in FA Trophy Final

05/09/2010

On Saturday Wembley was cente-stage as the FA Trophy Final took place between Barrow and Stevenage. The FA Trophy is the equivalent to the FA Cup but is the premier competition in non-league football. I managed to get a ticket and I was able to witness one of the most incident packed games I had ever seen. It had passionate fans singing their hearts out for their respective teams. It had 2 straight red cards, a nasty injury to Charlie Griffin that saw him carried off on a stretcher, extra-time and not forgetting 3 superb goals. Although Wembley was just about a quarter full, the atmosphere was amazing and credit must be given to the supporters, especially to the Barrow fans who made the long journey down to London and no doubt the long journey was worth it to see their team lift the trophy. Even before the game, the fans were going to make the most of the day as they marched to support their team. I was sitting amongst the Stevenage fans and they didn’t stop singing throughout. The result will damper their spirits somewhat, but from the chants, they are really excited about next season and playing in the Football League. 

Barrow’s route to the final

1st Round: Kettering 0-1 Barrow
2nd Round: Maidenhead 0-1 Barrow
3rd Round: Barrow 1-1 Gateshead
3rd Round Replay: Gateshead 2-3 Barrow
4th Round: Barrow 2-1 York City
Semi- Final 1st Leg: Salisbury 0-1 Barrow
Semi Final 2nd Leg: Barrow 2-1 Salisbury 

Stevenage’s Route to the Final

1st Round: Stevenage 2-0 Ebbsfleet Utd
2nd Round: Stevenage 6-0 Vauxhall Motors
3rd Round: Stevenage 4-1 Dover Athletic
4th Round: Stevenage 2-1 Workington
Semi Final 1st Leg: Kidderminster 1-5 Stevenage
Semi Final 2nd Leg: Stevenage 0-0 Kidderminster 

Barrow 2-1 Stevenage Borough (AET)

Attendance: 21,223

 Barrow defied the odds as they beat Stevenage in the FA Carlsberg Trophy at Wembley. In an incident packed game it was Jason Walker who scored a brilliant winner in extra time as Barrow lifted the trophy for the first time in 20 years. 

Barrow (Yellow) in action against Stevenage (white)

 

 Barrow started the game brightly with Jason Walker having a shot blocked within the first couple of minutes. However against the run of play, Stevenage were in front on 10 minutes. A long kick by keeper Chris Day found its way to Andy Drury on the right. He cut onside onto his left foot and bent the ball into the top left of the net, giving Stuart Tomlinson no chance in the Barrow goal. 

 Barrow responded well and their chances of snatching a goal were increased on 28 minutes as Stevenage were reduced to 10 men. David Bridges’ two-footed lunge on Barrow’s Andy Bond gave referee Lee Probert no other choice but to send the player off. 

 Despite the one man advantage, Barrow still couldn’t find the breakthrough and it was Stevenage who could have gone in front. Yemi Odubade flew past Barrow captain Paul Jones but his cross come shot flew just wide of Tomlinson’s right post. However just before half-time Stevenage had another glorious chance to pull further ahead. Adam Drury’s cross was only cleared by the Barrow defence to the feet of Chris Beardsley who shot just over and Stevenage went into the break only 1-0 up. 

Simon Spender on the ball for Barrow

 

 In the second half, Barrow began to assert themselves on the game and woke up the travelling fans. However they continued to waste chances. Firstly Jason Walker played a neat one-two with Gregg Blundell but fluffed his shot. Then Andy Bond saw his right foot shot sail harmlessly wide. Stevenage responded and a ball from Michael Bostwick found Obudabe but again he shot well wide. 

 A few minutes later and the speedy Odubade was again the centre of attention. He looked have been fouled in the penalty area after being played in by Adam Drury, but Lee Probert waved away the protests. The game started to liven up after that as Bond went close for Barrow and Jon Ashton saw his header hit the side netting for Stevenage. 

 However that miss was to prove crucial as moments later, Barrow were back level. A Cross by Paul Rutherford was met by the head of substitute Lee McEvilly and he made no mistake as the ball sailed past Chris Day in the Stevenage goal. 

 Barrow continued to push forward but were again unable to make the most of their chances as captain Paul Jones headed wide. With the game heading towards extra-time, Barrow could have snatched a winner but Carlos Logan’s left foot shot was saved by sub keeper Ashley Bayes. There was enough time for Barrow’s Robin Holbert to be shown a straight red for an elbow on Charlie Griffin who had to be carried off on a stretcher but the 90 minutes ended with both teams level at 1-1. 

Barrow Players feeling the pain of extra time

 

 Extra time began with Barrow having 10 players and Stevenage having 9 players on the pitch, and the extra space allowed both teams to create chances. Stevenage had the first opportunity to score but Yemi Obudabe’s right foot shot hit the side netting. Barrow responded when a neat flick from a free-kick by Jason Walker was deflected wide. 

 But Jason Walker was to be the hero as he scored the winner for Barrow in the second half of extra time. Man of the match Paul Rutherford’s pass found Walker and he let the ball roll across his body before unleashing an unstoppable right foot shot past Bayes, sending the travelling Barrow fans into raptures. Stevenage tried to respond but Barrow held on to clinch a famous win against the League Champions by a 2-1 score line. 

 

 Teams 

Barrow: Tomlinson, Spender, Edwards, Jones, Bolland, Wiles (Logan 64), Hulbert, Bond, Walker, Blundell (McEvilly 74), Rutherford (Boyd 110).
Subs not used: Deasy, Pearson. 

 Stevenage: Day (Bayes 90), Laird, Ashton, Odubade, Byrom (Wilson 59), Roberts, Bridges, Beardsley (Griffin 66), Drury, Bostwick, Henry.
Subs not used: Long, Vincenti. 

 Man of the Match: Paul Rutherford (Barrow)
Paul Rutherford ran his heart out for Barrow today. He must have covered every blade of the Wembley turf and was instrumental in both Barrow goals that clinched them the FA Trophy. 

 Match Verdict
Barrow fans will be enthusiastic with this result today. They went into the game as the underdogs and came away as the FA Trophy winners which in truth they just about deserved. Stevenage will be disappointed they weren’t able to achieve the double, but will no doubt be looking forward to playing league football next season. 

 

 


Around the Blue Square

05/03/2010

Last weekend saw the curtain come down on another thrilling season in the Blue Square Premier. And after visiting 9 grounds, watching 9 games and talking to various different people, my travels around the Blue Square came to an end.

 What a ride it has been. I have come from not knowing about the Blue Square Premier, to an avid fan. I have seen some fantastic games being played, most notably Luton’s 6-1 demolition of Ebbsfleet United. I have also met the most passionate fans like Dave and Ann, who follow Histon home and away and follow their team no matter what. It just shows you, you don’t have to support a big team to absolutely love watching the beautiful game.

 My Journey began at Priory Lane, the home of Eastbourne Borough. Here I met some fantastic people, working as volunteers, helping to prepare the ground for match day. I even saw at one point, the chairman Len Smith, drill in hand, helping with the last minute repairs. I have no higher praise than for these volunteers, who give up their time in order to help run the football club. I would like to thank Colin Hutchinson and Lee Peskett for showing me around such a fantastic club and I am glad they can look forward to another season in the top division.

 My next stop was Histon and the Glassworld stadium. Histon are only a village side and their rise up from the bottom leagues to the Blue Square Premier has been remarkable. Although I witnessed probably the dullest game of all my travels, I was able to speak to Histon captain, Matthew Langston, who has probably scored the most special goal in Histon’s history as they beat Leeds United in the FA Cup. This was also a great experience and I have to mention Graham Eales,  who works tirelessly and is well respected around the club for giving the chance to show my around the club.

At Crawley Town

 Crawley was my next destination as they played host to Cambridge United. Although Crawley boss Steve Evans has put together a strong team and were unlucky not to be challenging for promotion, I felt that the crowd did not do enough to get behind the team. I was standing in the away end and the Cambridge fans were making more noise and their team were losing!

 The next stage of my journey, took me to Chester. I was meant to go and watch the derby game between Chester City and Wrexham, but as a result of the police not being paid, the game was postponed. Consequently, this event along with the Chester City players refusing to get on the team coach on their way to play Forest Green Rovers, saw them expelled from the Blue Square Premier. To see yet another team erased from the game is sad and this has to be echoed by all football fans. But I honestly do hope Chester can rise again and make their way back to the top pyramid of non-league football and maybe even further.

 Luton Town provided me with the best atmosphere I have experienced at a Blue Square Premier game. Luton actually lost the game 2-1 against AFC Wimbledon, but the 7,000 plus crowd made the game entertaining. I was definitely impressed with such a huge crowd which would probably beat most attendances in the two bottom tiers of league football and even though they were tipped to win the Blue Square Premier this season, they finished 2nd, and I am strongly tipping them for an instant return to the league as they compete in the play-offs.

Ebbsfleet vs Barrow

 Onto Stonebridge Road, the home of Ebbsfleet United, where unfortunately for the home side, I saw them on the receiving end of two heavy defeats. The first one being a 4-1 defeat by Barrow, meanwhile the second game a 6-1 defeat by Luton Town, was the best game I have witnessed not only in the Blue Square Premier, but throughout my time following football. Luton were 1-0 down at half time and not playing very well. The funny thing was at half time, the Luton Town fans were all disappointed but I heard one of them say ‘wouldn’t it be funny if we battered them second half.’ The team must of heard him as they not only scored 6 goals, they completely outclassed the opposition.

 I then made the trip to AFC Wimbledon and even had the privilege of taking my girlfriend for her first experience of non- league football. She absolutely loved it and I think I have passed the bug onto her. Although I don’t think she was impressed with the language of the home fans, but that’s all part of football.

Action from Newport County vs Maidenhead United

 The Blue Square South was my next destination and a trip to champions Newport County. This was to be my first experience of watching Newport and after they played Maidenhead United off the park with some neat football, they thoroughly deserve to be in the Blue Square Premier next season and I wish them the best of luck.

 My last trip of the season was a Thursday night trip to Hayes & Yeading, which in truth left much to be desired. I did however for the first time, witness a female referee, officiating a game. However after dreadful performance, it will be a long time until female officials start refereeing league games.

Final Thoughts

 The Blue Square Premier has taught me that football is not only about money and winning, it’s about enjoying the game. I have seen the passion and commitment shown by not only the players, but by the fans and everyone involved with every club and it has really impressed me. The standard of football is not as good as some I have seen in the league, but you can’t beat the atmosphere at some of the grounds and being amongst proper football fans.