Town draw a Blank at Barwell
By Mark Bickley
Town pick up a point in a dour affair at Barwell
Match Report by Kevin Hand, Photographs by Granty
* Let us make an honourable retreat
There was a sense that this was a ‘must win’ fixture for Town if they were to remain in play-off contention. In the event a draw and results elsewhere meant they retain 5th position still with everything to play for.
There was a strong sense of anticipation about the return of “The Beast’ only matched by the disappointment on the realisation that he was starting on the ‘bench.’ Mikey Taylor scored in the 2-1 victory at the Arden Garages’ Stadium back in December, as did Jamie McAteer who was also surprisingly ‘benched.’ Shariff was also rested as Kian Williams came in on the right. Skendi and Lewis Wilson were at the centre of defence with Jordan Williams in a familiar 5-4-1 formation.
Town had the advantage of a slight slope and the wind behind in the first half on a bumpy pitch. Over a dull 90 minutes neither side ever mastered these conditions and as the game progressed it became increasingly tetchy. The officials did not distinguish themselves and both sets of fans had reason to ‘gripe’ at some baffling and inconsistent decisions.
Possession was evenly shared in the first half with defences dominating and the two mid-field lacking the guile to give the front players anything other than scraps to battle for. On 13 minutes an Oulton free kick was headed goal-ward by Creaney resulting in an easy save for keeper, Liam Castle. Stratford’s best chance came on 19 minutes. Town’s best player, Kynan Isaac, strode forward on the left and his fierce drive struck the upright before rebounding to safety.
For Barwell Danny Dirkin brought out a good save from Laurence Bilboe on 29 minutes. And just as the half was ending the impressive Henry Eze was nearly on the end of a free kick that flashed across the Town area.
It seemed nothing was learned from the first 45 minutes as both sides ‘pummelled’ the ball forward, often from keeper to keeper. Substitutions were made, 7 yellow cards issued (Barwell 3, Town 4) but there few, if any, moments of quality. Barwell thought they had scored on 67 minutes directly from distant free kick on the right. It was promptly ruled out with none on the terraces sure why? Was there an ‘offside’ or perhaps ‘a push?’ It was that kind of game!
Sometimes you have to remind yourself that with cup games many of the players are approaching 40 games for the season. Fatigue, both mental and physical, is now apparent with a noticeable lack of on-field cohesion and togetherness. AFC Rushden and Diamonds will provide a stern test next week and a goal wouldn’t come amiss. Come on Town!
* Let us make an honourable retreat. As You Like It Act 3 Scene 2
Saturday 09 March AFC Rushden and Diamonds (H) 3.00pm EvoStik PDC