Beaumont Parks Luxury accommodation greeted players and supporters as Barrow U18’s hosted Rangers U18’s.
The large 4G surface provided for a fiercely competitive game and some fine technical football.
The referees whistle triggered 90 minutes of pure white-knuckle thrills as both teams launched from the blocks.
On 2 minutes tenacious Rangers 9 Lucas Burnett chased a back pass giving Barrows keeper no time to think. Burnett nipped in to steal the ball which spun free to Max Dixon closing on the right. Dixon’s subsequent shot flew wide, the scene was set. Barrow pressed high and tight moving the ball with vigour, a tenth minute Barrow corner found an untracked runner and Barrow headed in to make it 1-0.
The action raged as Rangers fought valiantly to stifle Barrows pace and movement. Rangers midfield pair Josh Moody and Sam Jarvis worked tirelessly. With 16 minutes gone Barrow were awarded a contentious free kick after the referee judged Rangers centre half centurion Connor Taylor had pulled the Barrow players shirt. The free kick was whipped in forcing a fine save from keeper Craig Pain, who scooped the resulting corner from the air.
Rangers right back Adam Taylor and left back Tim Khayat were kept very busy matching Barrow’s tricky wide men for pace and power.
On 25 minutes a clever through ball from Connor Taylor found Max Dixon in space. Dixon ran at the Barrow goal but was caught by a fine last gasp tackle by the defender to clear the danger. A few minutes later Rangers no: 7 Christian Blanchette was caught with a high tackle as he broke through central midfield. The resulting free kick was cleared by the Barrow defence. The frantic action continued with Barrows no: 7 firing wide after picking up a loose ball. A few minutes later Barrows impressive no: 7 broke through with only keeper Craig Pain to beat 7’s shot was saved brilliantly by Pain to ease the pressure.
Another Barrow break saw Rangers central enforcer James Black slide in with a brilliantly timed challenge. The referee consulted the linesman who confirmed no foul. With half time fast approaching a slick piece of interplay between 8 Sam Jarvis and 3 Tim Khayat saw Jarvis thread an inch perfect ball to Christian Blanchette advancing at pace on the left wing. Despite close attention from Barrows no: 10 Blanchette’s focus held strong as he cut into the Barrow penalty area and slotted coolly past the giant Barrow keeper to pull the scores level at 1-1. “You are always most vulnerable just after you score” A minute later Barrow’s talented No; 7 picked up the ball and ran at the Rangers goal. Powerful Tim Khayat raced to catch him tracking the No; 7 on the edge of the Rangers penalty area. No: 7 tripped right and left unleashing a shot which took a cruel deflection off a Rangers defender leaving keeper Pain stranded. 2-1 Barrow.
Half time 2-1
A welcome break at half time saw Rangers return stronger. Rangers pushed hard closing the Barrow players with much more urgency. Owen Turner entered the action proving a very capable replacement at centre back, with James Black taking a well-earned break.
Another dubious refereeing decision handed a free kick to Barrow against a bemused Adam Taylor with the resultant free kick being struck over the bar.
On 58 minutes flying full back Tim Khayat powered down the left floating a shot over the Barrow keeper which dropped a foot wide of the post. A minute later Sam Jarvis launched a powerful shot goalward which was brilliantly saved by the Barrow keeper. Just over the hour mark Barrow broke going one on one with Replacement keeper Charlie Baker who raced out to narrow the angle forcing the Barrow shot wide. Khayat now suffering from cramp was replaced by Alex Smith who took up position on the right side of midfield with the classy Connor Baikie slotting in to left back.
Rangers pressed for the equaliser, Barrow were rocking, the immaculate first half discipline starting to crack. Rangers pushed forward with wave after wave of attacks but still Barrow held firm. With 10 minutes to go Barrow’s No:11 stamped on the rear of Rangers Adam Taylor leg following a verbal exchange, earning the Barrow player a straight red card.
Again, Rangers pushed forward with Christian Blanchette firing over. 90 + 5 saw Rangers Josh Stack wriggle through the Barrow back line and race at the Barrow keeper, stack passed right to the advancing Alex Smith whose fierce shot was saved by Barrow’s keeper.
The final whistle saw an elated Barrow side throw their arms aloft. A more competitive game of football would be difficult to find, in the end a deflected goal separated the teams.
Final score Barrow 2-1 Stafford Rangers.