United put in a second half performance at the other end of the spectrum from that Bromley game, and blitz Barrow with three quick goals to finally give the loyal Yellow Army something to crow about, in this season of despair.
On a bliming cold afternoon, with the wind biting and the pitch bumpy, one goal looks unlikely as both teams toil in a scrappy first half. Nerves are there for all to see, but with Josh back in defence there is no sloppy giveaway goal – even though Holt misses an excellent chance (see key moment).
The second sees some welcome verve and aggression at last. For once we take advantage of our ascendancy. The goalie thwarts us a couple of times, but then McGinty, Dowling and Young rip the back of the net and I do a Paul Bastard-esque mini-jig along the Bristow’s seats. A soft pen and some panicky defending does not ruin the afternoon and mutters of a great escape become marginally more vocal.
Balatoni 6 Gowling 7 McGinty 7
Efete 7 Dowling 8 Barnes 7.5 Young 7.5 Davis 7
Williams 7 Romain 8.5
Subs: Reid 5 Evans 6
Man of the Match:
Elliott is non-stop motion today and leads by example. Never giving up on anything and showing poise on the ball to help build up attacks. His combination with Brett does not quite come to fruition, but with time to gel it could be a winner.
George Dowling comes closest to Romain. A sweet hit for the second and real appreciation of his team-mates. The swagger that we briefly saw in September is back and the Popside lap up his celebratory Klinsmann dive after the goal!
In midfield Luke Young and Aaron Barnes buzz around, minimising Barrow’s time on the ball and showing that appetite for the battle we desperately require.
Brett Williams looks leaner and meaner than last year. His fitness lasts the 90 and he just looks like scoring – which makes such a difference! No goal today but the application and effort is there – let’s hope it remains.
1st – Gowling flicks on a set piece and McGinty cannot miss from 2 yards out.
2nd – A clever flick from BW gives George a chance and he bangs it in the corner with aplomb.
3rd – The pick of the bunch and probably all season! A counter attack allows Romain to find Dowling in support, who in turn finds Efete dashing along the wing. Big Michee picks out Young to lash home from close range. Sweet!
Grant Holt looks frustrated and angry today, doing his best to whack any United player in range! He does have a great chance to score the game’s opener, Balatoni loses him in the box – but his header drifts just wide. This first goal could have been crucial and we are lucky to not concede.
Our 3-5-2 matches up well against Barrow’s standard 4-4-2. Davis and Efete aren’t always best at providing width, but they try and Dowling finds space behind the strikers to influence the action.
The manager has taken a lot of stick, but the recruitment of Williams/Romain is smart business. Barnes also looks like a find, if we can keep him long enough. The players appear hungry and motivated, just got to hope that level of commitment continues.
Barrow are a poor NL outfit and have little quality in their play to bother us, with their keeper the far busier. They do rally late in the second half and will wonder why they didn’t put more pressure on earlier.
Overall a team who will struggle to beat the drop on that form, especially if they are counting on the overweight veteran Holt to get them goals! Mind you I would swap places in the table…
The ref is typical National League. Some good, some bad – the pen was debatable for me, but it was an unnecessary challenge by Josh. He gives Holt a lot of leeway as robust challenges go in from the striker!
The much-maligned Sean has his moments today. Barrow look to get behind him early and almost get rewards. However with Gowling back alongside him, the centre back gathers himself and makes a number of clearances and challenges to repel the away team. The goal clearly means a lot to Gints. His confidence is always vulnerable, but like last season he could yet be a key man to survival.
I thought we would win today. The spine of Gowling, Young and Williams made me believe in our team for a change. Those three did the job and others rose to the occasion. The third was the icing on the cake, a magnificent flowing move that gave us a moment of jubilation in a terrible season.
The fat lady can stop warming up for the time being. More must-win games to come of course and little room for error – a great escape still looks a long-shot but stranger things have happened!
Maidenhead Away 10th Feb