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Harriers learn the hard way as Bluebirds swoop
11:41am Thursday 15th March 2012 in Reports
HARRIERS are learning the hard way possession isn’t nine-tenths of the law when it comes to the play-offs as they suffered a damaging setback to their Blue Square Bet Premier promotion hopes on Saturday.
There was a sense of deja vu as they slippedup in a game where they dominated for long periods and created numerous chances.
It was Barrow who emerged triumphant with all three points, catapulting themselves into the pack chasing the top-five and leaving Steve Burr’s side with all the work to do in their final 11 games.
Harriers seem to be going through one of those frustrating periods when their efforts on the pitch are not being translated into points.
The main reason for that is they keep allowing the opposition to take the lead and give themselves a mountain to climb.
Against York, Wrexham, Stockport and Lincoln, the Aggborough outfit have gone behind when looking comfortably in charge and dropped points and Saturday was no different.
The hosts had looked in control and almost took the lead when Anthony Malbon’s close range header, from an inviting Marvin Johnson cross, crashed off the bar.
However, two goals in five minutes exposed their propensity for defensive generosity.
There were mitigating circumstances as Harriers were still settling down from a dose of defensive bad luck, when the in-form Michael Briscoe went off with a back injury in the 18th minute and was replaced by Callum Gittings.
The midfield schemer moved to left-back and Mike Williams slotted into central defence alongside Luke Jones.
Two minutes later, Harriers found themselves trailing. Lee Hendrie’s attempted clearance was horribly sliced, caught by the wind and blew into the path of Jack Mackreth, who bulleted a header goalwards.
Despite Tony Breeden flinging himself acrobatically to get a hand to the ball, the assistant linesman signalled it had crossed the line, although that decision seemed debateable even after watching video evidence.
In the 25th minute, Mackreth was felled in the box after a raid down the right by Gittings’s clumsy challenge and Richie Baker slotted the penalty into the bottom left corner.
Bad luck or not, Harriers found themselves in a familiar position with it all to do but they did not shirk from their task.
Malbon provided the best reply in the 31st-minute with a contender for goal of the season.
The gifted young man seems to have acclimatised to the step up to the non-league top-flight and when Lee Vaughan dissected Barrow’s defence with a searching pass, the teenage terror slammed an unstoppable rightfooted volley which dipped under the bar at the last moment and beyond helpless keeper Shaun Pearson.
Barrow’s shot-stopper was certainly the busier keeper and he did well to block Malbon’s shot from the 15-yards out, after he has been slipped in by strike partner Ryan Rowe.
Pearson performed heroics, denying Kyle Storer, Hendrie and Rowe as the away side were content to sit back and soak up the pressure.
While Harriers probed they simply could not find a way through Barrow’s resilient rearguard effort.
Afterwards, Burr could not fault his side’s effort.
He said: “We’re out there to try and win games and if you’re losing you’ve got to try and push for goals.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more, I couldn’t say where we didn’t do very well on a surface that is not good for playing football on.”
In the end, the hosts were the better side but Harriers could learn a lot from the Bluebird’s opportunism in front of goal and their fortitude under pressure.
If they do, then the play-offs, no matter how far away they seem, are still an achievable dream.
Harriers: Breeden 7, Vaughan 7, Williams 6, Jones 6, Rowe 7 (Wright 79), Byrne 6, Briscoe 5 (Gittings 15), Storer 6, Malbon 7, Johnson 7, HENDRIE 7 (Guinan 84). Subs not used: Lyness; Bradley.
Barrow: Pearson, Smith, Skelton, Bolland, Hone, Mackreth (Nicholas 93), Baker, Owen, Harvey (Boyes 61), Cook, Turner (Rutherford 58). Subs not used: Dixon; Jackson.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland).