Barrow 1 Bristol Rovers 1
Football League Division Two
28th August 2021
I’d forgotten how good a day out doing a 92 ground could be! I completed the 92 a few years ago but, what with one thing and another (Covid mainly!) I’d let mine slip to 88. The four grounds I needed to add were the new Spurs Stadium, the new Brentford Stadium, Wimbledon’s new Plough Lane and, the one I was tackling today, Barrow.
I was on the train for this one and it didn’t get off to a great start! I was dropped off at Crewe Station and the first thing I saw on the board was “Glasgow 10:51 cancelled”. Terrific! Fortunately, the nice lady in the ticket office assured me I could catch the Edinburgh train instead just twenty minutes later and that too stopped at Lancaster where I needed to change for the little Carlisle train that went through Barrow. I have to admit I'd also forgotten about the sights and sounds of travelling by train on a Saturday. There were the usual vast number of hen parties with girls dressed in, well, hardly anything at all really, and most heading for Liverpool. There was the usual collection of nutters and misfits and there were groups of lads travelling to the football all over the North West, all armed with the obligatory box of beers; Swansea lads were heading to Preston where they'd need the beer later as they lost 3 - 1; Sheffield Wednesday fans were heading to Morcambe and they'd need some post match anaesthetic too as they lost 1 - 0; and the Pompey lads were going up to Wigan where they'd get beat 1 - 0 too. It wasn't a good day for the travelling armies. There were a few Bristol Rovers fans too joining me en route to Holker Street.
That little two carriage train from Lancaster was a hoot! I was able to look over a lad's shoulder and watch the Man City demolition of the Arsenal on his mobile phone while loads of folk were sipping from cans or even glasses. There were loads of dogs too, the four legged variety, all eager to get to the beach.
It took forever as it stopped every few miles at loads of places many of which I’d never heard of. Places like Arnside, Grange over Sands, Kent’s Bank, Kark in Cartmel and Roose. I did initially think the young lads struggling along with boxes of beers were heading for the football but, as they all piled off at Grange over Sands, I realised it was the scantily clad girls who also piled off in their dozens heading for the beach that was the pull for them today. One group of ladies struggled off still carrying their full flutes of Prosecco!
There was a lovely looking walkway all around the bay and I made a mental note to come back and explore the area again sometime although I guess it looked better in the sunshine than it will in the dead of winter!
Exiting from the little Barrow railway station it was a right turn onto and down Holker Street, the name most folk still know the Barrow ground as and not its current sponsor name; The Dunes Hotel Stadium. A twenty-minute walk down between the brick terraced houses of Holker Street, from where you can catch glimpses of the derricks on the waterfront, and soon I could see the little stadium on the left; it looked very old school indeed.
I was on the Ray Wilkie Terracing along one touchline, opposite the main stand, The Brian Arrowsmith Stand. It seemed to me that I was amongst the older fans while the majority of the youngsters were away to my right on the Holker Street Terracing behind the one goal. Between the main stand opposite and the Holker Street End were the away fans and there were plenty of them today.
The pitch was in fantastic shape of course this early in the season and on such a fine sunny day but I did wonder what it was like in the depths of winter up here with a gale blowing across the pitch and the wind and probably snow.
The game was a real helter-skelter affair, a feisty battle between two very physical sides and for half an hour it seemed in the balance. Both sides had one good header apiece well saved by the respective keepers while Rovers probably edged the other half chances. Then, on the half-hour all hell broke loose as Barrow skipper Mark Ellis was sent off for an off the ball incident while a full-scale brawl involving all twenty outfield players took place in the Barrow area. Referee Ross Joyce didn’t seem strong enough to me to control them but eventually, it all calmed down and inevitably Rovers took control.
Rovers took the lead in the 44th minute with a stonking shot from Sam Nicholson that was just too hot to handle for Barrow keeper Paul Farman and it just looped off him over the line. I thought Rovers would then run away with it but incredibly, against the run of play and slightly luckily, Barrow levelled. Substitute George Williams fired goalwards and midfielder Ollie Banks helped the ball past James Belshaw much to the surprise of everyone including himself.
Even more surprisingly Barrow were the more positive side in the second half and were unlucky not to win it but it remained 1 – 1 to the end.
It was an entertaining game though played in a feisty manner between two teams looking to improve on a poor start to their League Two seasons. Bristol are managed these days by Joey Barton while son of former Leeds legend Terry Cooper, Mark, is the boss of Barrow. I'd guess that neither of these teams needs to make plans for League One any time soon on this display.
All in all this was a great football trip in a lovely part of the country. It was an old school game in an old school stadium and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
89 down, just three to go and they should all get completed this season other things being equal. I should be able to knock Brentford and Spurs off with Leeds while I ought to find a free weekend for a trip to Plough Lane. Here’s to some more like today!