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Let’s Have Some Positivity - Notes for Barrow
Friday, 3rd Dec 2021 15:00 by TomTheWriter

TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp as Town turn their attention to their second cup tie in four days as Barrow visit in the FA Cup.

After their disappointing exit from the Papa John’s Trophy on Wednesday night, Town host a League Two outfit in their quest for the FA Cup third round.

Their opponents Barrow defeated Banbury United in the first round a few weeks back and will have causing an upset at Portman Road in their sights.

So far this season, the Bluebirds have picked up four wins, seven draws and eight defeats from their first 19 league games.

Last year, Scott Quigley led the line impressively, Josh Kay offered width and pace from the wing with defender Patrick Brough battling on the left.

Mark Cooper

“He has targets but, as he says, it is a case of persuading people to come”, “Luckily with Mark Cooper, we have a man who knows what kind of players he needs to make the team successful”, “Cooper may be trying to get a better balance to the team.”

Barrow manager Cooper joined the club in May this year after spending five years with Forest Green Rovers. He oversaw a promotion into the football league with the Green Army.

“Cooper has also mentioned the difficulty of attracting players to sign for Barrow”, “Cooper, and the board presumably, are pinning our hopes of survival in League Two on finding a current, young, hungry reserve team striker who can bag us 15 goals… good luck!”, “I actually think Cooper has highlighted (with the training) just how far away we are from other clubs he has managed.”

Cooper signed a three-year deal and is tasked with keeping them up in their second season in League Two, but they have been struggling near the foot of the table for the majority of the season.

FA Cup Run

“I am going for a 2-2 draw, we find the back of the onion bag at last, get them back to Holker Street and hopefully it will kick-start our season again”, “Anything can happen in the cup games, I just hope the team show the same commitment as the fans that are paying a small fortune following them all over the country. If they play like we know they can then we could see them in the hat for the next round; 1-2 come on you Bluebirds”, “In this competition we have to be wary of the FA Cup's strange ways.”

Since being promoted from the National League in 2019, Barrow have entered the first round of the competition on two occasions. They were defeated by AFC Wimbledon last year in the first round with this campaign being their first time in the second round since the 2016/17 season.

“Let’s have some positivity! What have we got to lose - it’s the cup! Go for it Barrow - this game could kick-start a run of better results”, “Ipswich, Portsmouth, Sheff Wed or Plymouth would be a good draw. All would bring massive support too”, “Barrow fans are already forking out a lot to get down to Suffolk for this one. Getting a reduction on what they would pay for the ticket is something to be appreciated.”

The Squad

When Cooper came in this summer, he set about building a squad to survive in League Two.

Star striker Quigley departed for National League side Stockport County, with Courtney Baker-Richardson switching Barrow for Newport County. Attacking full-back Bradley Barry left for League Two side Stevenage.

Northern Irish left-back Bobby Burns went back to his home country with Glentoran, with three players released from the end of their deals. Four players departed at the end of their loan spells.

Compared to the squad that ended the 2020/21 season, five of the starting XI remain from their 1-1 draw away to Exeter City with five of the bench still at the club.

Strength-wise, there are a very few things that Barrow fans have been positive about. “Unity is strength and always will be”, “Our main strength is arguably the midfield trio of [Ollie] Banks, [Robbie] Gotts and [Jordan] Stevens”, “Our strength is ball possession.”

On the other hand, there are a lot of weaknesses identified. “We need forwards with strength and power”, “As for corners and set pieces, it doesn't matter who is in there, they have got to show strength and determination to win that aerial battle”, “Taking the mick now, weakness in midfield and backline totally exploited.”

Sutton United 1-0 Barrow

“They were not very good but still gave them a goal and we still failed to score. Worrying times”, “All that possession, all those corners, all the build-up and half chances and still no one could find the back of the net”, “Can't fault the effort. How we didn't get anything out of this game I don't know. It won't go in the net. Really disappointed.”

“Really fed up didn’t expect us to be in a relegation battle again and so early in season. Don’t think we have recruited as well as we thought. It is really galling seeing Stockport doing so well with Quigley and [Adam] Rooney when we are now struggling again”, “Sick of listening to Cooper and his excuses now, his job is to train what he's got”, “We need to wake up and smell the coffee quickly.”

Cooper lined his Barrow side up in the 3-4-2-1 formation that he has been using quite a fair bit this season.

Forest Green Rovers 2-0 Barrow

“Do think we were better in the first half tonight but second half absolutely woeful. We are in for a fight this season, no option going forward, play sideways and backwards all the time”, “We came out whilst still trying to be solid at the back, trying to be that little be more open but tonight it was against a much better side and it showed. We can't shut teams out no matter what we do”, “He will get it right but at the minute we're carrying too many players not up to the level.”

“Big improvement from Saturday but then it had to be. First half I thought was fairly even”, “Barrow looked solid and played some decent passing football, pressed well and put a couple of great crosses in which should have brought more. Very encouraging and restricted Forest Green to a few long-range shots”, “Second half they stepped it up though and we never really came out, a couple of dangerous moments before we conceded a soft goal from a corner which then put them in control. Huffed and puffed but they were more likely to make it two and did after some good play between their two forwards [Jamille] Matt and [Matt] Stevens.”

Another game with the 3-4-2-1 formation, Cooper faced his former side at the New Lawn. This time they lost 2-0 and are currently on a run of zero goals in four games.


“Paul Farman is good at shot-stopping but in other areas weak! But, it could be down to playing behind a poor defence”, “Both games Farman sat down with a fake injury while Cooper sorted out the mess and changed the formation”, “Good smother save by Paul Farman.”

Number one goalkeeper Farman joined Barrow this summer from Carlisle United immediately taking the shirt from the departing Josh Dixon, who left for Bolton Wanderers.

player stats

“Josh Lillis had a watching brief from between the sticks first half”, “I’d still go with Lillis as number two”, “Lillis was at full stretch to divert a Leicester strike past the post.”

Experienced goalkeeper Lillis has been with the Bluebirds since 2020, joining them from Rochdale as a player-coach when they got promoted from the National League.


“Defensively, give me [Connor] Brown in there any day”, “Thought Brown did well first half”, “Hope Brown doesn’t lose his head with some stupid tackles.”

Picked up in 2018 from York City, Brown was a key member of the Barrow side in the fifth tier. However, he has featured sparingly since their promotion to the EFL. Could be brought back in for the cup game, however.

“Maybe [Matthew] Platt isn’t as good as some people think”, “Platt looks back to his best in defence very composed and classy”, “Good to see Platt back, an ideal opportunity for him to feel his way back into competitive football after a long, enforced injury break.”

Central defender Platt spent the 2019/20 season with Barrow on loan, before signing permanently last year. Featured heavily last season, but was on the sidelines for the first few months of this campaign due to injury.

“James Jones looks shaky to me and not great in possession he gave it away a few times tonight and this has been a few games now”, “I think I heard Jones call so Banks ducked out of heading it.”

Welsh defender Jones arrived at Holker Street in 2020 after spending three years with Altrincham. Was a rotation player last season, but has been heavily involved this year.

“At what point does Festus Arthur come on up front?”, “Seem to remember reading Festus Arthur played up front way back, stick him up there and let him knock a few centre-backs around a bit”, “Festus Arthur looks like an accident waiting to happen.”

On loan from Hull City, Arthur has found game time hard to come by this season. Featured a lot at the beginning of the campaign, but has seen his time on the pitch limited to substitute appearances.

“Kgosi Ntlhe is still sidelined with a knee injury”, “How near is Ntlhe to fitness? Never hear anything about him. I would have him in defence above some of the others”, “Ntlhe got clattered earlier and went down holding his knee or shin.”

South African international Ntlhe joined the Bluebirds last season from Scunthorpe United, but has missed a lot of game time due to injuries. Currently out with a knee problem.


“Neither [Mark] Ellis nor [Joe] Grayson could catch a cold. They are both slow and back off continually because they know if they man-mark and get turned they are lost”, “Grayson is half asleep then dives in to make a tackle. Our defenders lack a leader, there's hardly any communication or awareness of where players are”, “Stick Joe Grayson up with [Offrande] Zanzala, it may not be as daft as it sounds.”

Summer signing Grayson was snapped up from Blackburn Rovers this summer after spending last season with Oxford United on loan. The young defender, who can cover in midfield, has missed only two league games so far.

player stats

“James Jones is never a League Two player, nor is Grayson in my eyes”, “[Tom] White can help cover the fact that Jones and Grayson aren’t good enough at centre-back”, “Ellis and Grayson both look indecisive and when they decide who's doing what it's too late.”

Usually found as the left centre-half in the three-at-the-back formation that Cooper likes to use, Grayson will be looking to feature against Town on Saturday.

“Ellis is a top centre-half, early season when we reached dizzy heights and were winning matches, he was a colossus at the back”, “Ellis was to blame for both goals against Rochdale and at fault for other goals. He’s OK at heading but distribution and lack of pace are now finding him out”, “Ellis should have been dropped by now, his performances come nowhere near what is expected of a captain.”

Another defender picked up this summer, Ellis departed Tranmere Rovers after three years to join Barrow in their second League Two campaign.

player stats

“Mark Ellis as a target man if we are lumping long balls”, “That’s not a criticism of Mark Ellis who does have a key role to play, but just a recognition of Platt’s wider skill set that includes his ability to feed midfield from defensive positions”, “I think we may be seeing ‘his legs are gone’ soon.”

Started the season as a first-choice defender, but has recently been left on the subs’ bench with Platt’s return to the side. Likely he will be looked at on Saturday.


“[Remeao] Hutton would be a decent alternative as a right wing-back”, “As others have said Hutton is good going forward but not so good defending”, “Something’s going on with Hutton, technically one of our best players and offers loads going forward.”

Picked up this summer from fellow League Two side Stevenage, Hutton has made the right midfield spot his own this season, missing only two games. Came off the bench on Saturday, so could be brought back into the side this weekend.

“Connor Brown and Jason Taylor great lads but not up to League Two”, “Need a massive game from Taylor and White in midfield”, “Taylor struggling, but we all know Jason Taylor walks where he wants.

Experienced midfielder Taylor arrived at Holker Street in 2018 and has spent the last three years with the club. Another who has been used sparingly this season in the midfield but his know-how is always key to a side.

“Is it [Jamie] Devitt whose contract expires at the end of December? If not, are there any contracts expiring at the end of this year?”, “As for Jamie Devitt what has happened to him. If these players are not going to come back soon surely we should look at bringing in replacements in the transfer window”, “Jamie Devitt is a 'crock' - a player who never returns to full fitness after an injury - sad but true.”

Republic of Ireland youth international Devitt was picked up in January by previous manager Michael Jolley. Featured in the first two games of the season, but hasn’t been seen since due to injury.

“White should have played instead of Michael Jones , the latter being well off and he seemed to upset the balance”, “Really poor playing M Jones”, “M Jones gets the ball and [Ollie] Banks leaves him dead behind the ball. Totally preventable.”

Another experienced man in the midfield for Barrow this season, Jones was snapped up from Carlisle United last season. Played only 14 times last year and has just come back into the squad after a long injury absence.

“I know White made a difference today and they would also have been playing for their places at Ipswich next week”, “The one positive I will take from today is Cooper has got to start with White now”, “Best Barrow performance for ages. Midfield so much better with White playing.”

Twice capped by the England C team, White has been with the club since the summer after leaving Blackburn Rovers at the end of his contract. Looks to be a player highly thought of by the Barrow fans and is likely to feature on Saturday.

“Would love to see [Robbie] Gotts go forward with the ball and have a shot or try a killer ball instead of playing safe”, “Gotts has been poor last two games and needs a rest”, “In two months we’ve managed to ruin a real player in Gotts; he’s none existent now playing this way and looks lost.”

Young midfielder Gotts arrived at Holker Street this summer from Leeds United and has been one of their best-performing players all season. Has started the last 13 league games, scoring twice.

“Definitely missing [Jordan] Stevens”, “We need to get back to what we were doing; be brave and find a way to get Gotts and Stevens on the ball in high advanced positions”, “Gotts and Stevens have done really well, but they still don’t have the experience I think we are starting to lack.”

Another young midfielder signed from Leeds United, Stevens is reunited with Gotts at Barrow. Spent last season on loan with Bradford City and Swindon Town, but has found a permanent home with the Bluebirds. Currently has three goals for the season.


“When Hutton and [Patrick] Brough do get their crosses in we don't seem to have anyone to cause problems in the box physically”, “If Brough plays there, we need a left-back”, “Think we’ll get more out of Brough from left-back - he’s one of our better players and needs to be used more in games.”

Naturally a left-back, Brough has been used consistently as a left midfielder in the 3-4-2-1 formation. Has only missed one league game all season and that was due to suspension against Sutton United.

player stats

“I like Hutton and Brough but do they do their defensive duties well enough?”, “Stop playing Brough as a wing-back”, “Brough had plenty of the ball but kept hitting the back of the first defender with his crosses.”

Due to him naturally being a left-back, his attacking stats are not as impressive as some of the other wing-backs in League Two, but his defensive play has been strong all season.

Centre Midfielder

“White and Banks work nicely together”, “Banks has good spells in games but does tend to disappear at times also”, “I reckon Ollie Banks is our best option given the direct way we seem to be playing.”

The club’s top goalscorer this season, Banks has seven goals to his name currently from the centre of midfield. Picked up this season from Tranmere Rovers, Banks is usually found in a pair or a three in the middle of the park.

player stats

“Banks also should get his finger out done nothing for several games”, “We played out from the back, utilised Gotts and Banks in most of forward play and pressed from the front - it worked well first half”, “Banks not nearly as effective under this system.”

Seems to play better with the ball at his feet, rather than seeing it going over his head to the forwards. Has been a consistent League Two player for a few years now, scoring a memorable goal for Tranmere Rovers in the play-off semi-final three seasons ago with James Norwood up front on the day.


“Zanzala can’t hit the barn door with the proverbial”, “Zanzala’s a waste of space. National League North level at best”, “Zanzala tracked all the way back and won the ball back midway through the half and that is what we want to see.”

Another player to have switched Carlisle United for Barrow, Zanzala scored six goals for the Brunton Park outfit last year. Currently has five goals to his name this season already and will be looking to surpass his record from last term.

“[Josh] Kay playing well in attack but two pathetic attempts early on to tackle their right winger, the second ending up with him scoring their goal”, “That’s Kay out for Ipswich”, “He was putting Kay up top as a lone roving forward.”

Lively forward player Kay was originally released by Barrow in the summer, before signing a new two-year deal. Has been used mainly as a wide forward, but can also cover as a wide midfielder if need be.

“Kay and [George] Williams were all over the place, we have to learn to keep our shape and discipline or we know where we'll end up, which is unthinkable”, “Williams who won’t score”, “George Williams’s goal was a peach.”

Welsh international Williams departed Grimsby Town this summer to jump back into League Two with Barrow. Was once tipped for greatness with MK Dons, making a big move to Fulham when he was younger, but his career took a downward turn.

“[Josh] Gordon and [Luke] James are grafters but not the goalscorers we need”, “Luke James isn't a Football League player that's obvious to the proverbial every man and his dog”, “You would think after barely playing Luke James would be bang up to make an impression, but nah, not today.”

Like White, James featured for the England C team earlier in his career and joined Barrow last season from then-National League side Hartlepool United. Has struggled for game-time this season with only two starts to his name.

“Where’s [Dimitri] Sea? Is he injured, is he back training? Not spoken about”, “Sea seemed a good player and scored a goal who surely should be back by now”, “A young lad who clearly wants an arm around his shoulder, yet whenever he is asked about him he answers like he is a pimple on his bum that won't go away.”

French native Sea was on the books of Aston Villa for a few years before turning up at Holker Street last season. Didn’t make a single start in the league in 2020/21, but does have two goals to his name this year.


“What is clear is that he is not much good as a target man and Josh Gordon was a big miss. He can at least hold the ball up”, “I can’t blame Gordon for his effort”, “Gordon is decent and full of energy.”

Gordon, who moved from Stafford Rangers to Leicester City the year after they won the Premier League, was snapped up from Walsall this summer after a good goalscoring spell last year.

player stats

“Still think with the right type of forward alongside Zanzala he could come good, but saying that he wouldn’t get a look in as Gordon’s work-rate for me all day long”, “I do feel a Quigley-Zanzala-Gordon combination would have been a good strike force”, “Gordon well off the pace today.”

Has missed only two games this season, but has struggled for goals as he has been used across multiple positions. At his strongest playing off the shoulder of another striker, Gordon is likely to feature on Saturday.

Barrow Fans on ITFC

“Agree they should be in many ways superior to us but fitness-wise there should be little to no difference. The FA Cup turns up some amazing shocks now and again, we just have to hope they think the job is done before a ball has been kicked and we play out of our skins”, “I don't know how many FA Cup games Ipswich have played at home since 2009, but they haven't won any. Let's go out there and give our best shot and see what happens. You've got to keep the faith even in bad times”, “Ipswich striker James Norwood, 31, has reportedly been transfer-listed as his contract is up in summer 2022, January window would be perfect to make a move.”


The main forum for a Barrow fan is the forum, a comprehensive and extensive area for all Barrow fans.

Photo: Action Images

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slade1 added 08:51 - Dec 4
Absolutely quality again from Tom

therein61 added 18:01 - Dec 4
Credit to you Barrow you came with a plan and could have nicked it.

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