Result: Barrow 0-1 Solihull Moors (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)
Venue: Holker Street (Saturday 19th October 2019, 3pm)
It was a late call on venue for this, the final round of FA Cup qualifying of the 2019-’20 edition of the old competition, though it wasn’t without a bit of unintentional swapping and changing. You see, having agreed at some point during the week to visit Tamworth’s Lamb Ground with blog-regular Dan, I’d later worked out a plan with another regular accomplice, Paul, to head a little more northwards – to the Furness Peninsula no less! As such, after a quick bit of working out during Friday, things were all set for the following morning; the three of us were off to Holker Street!
I was due to meet Dan on the train at Manchester, but ticket machine issues for him meant I began the journey alone, meeting Paul en route at Wigan. The remainder of the trip up to Barrow went without little incident, outside of passing the now familiar line-side grounds of Galgate and Lancaster City, before a strange excitement arose with a brief sighting of Dalton United’s home nearer to our destination, which we reached after bypassing Furness Abbey; of which I’d wanted to grab a swift picture of but ended up on the wrong side of the carriage to do so, being left with only a brief view of “a little bit of the abbey”. I told you I’d get that line in, Paul!
Arriving into Barrow at a tick before midday, and via a quick visit to the Emlyn Hughes statue just across the way, we headed off towards the far side of town where the Harbour Inn is located, with the intention of working our way back ground-wards, whilst Dan would meet us a little later on….but not before a tour of the town! Anyway, as it was, we decided on a brief stop-off in the Robin Hood en route, just to ensure we actually were on the right track. We were and with this stay here yielding a Coors (£3.60) each in a traditional boozer-type, we continued on to our original destination. The Harbour was a decent little place too – as I’d earmarked it during planning – and it even came complete with zombie-butler-fied Roy Hodgson; and another Coors (£3.20). With this lack of choice, I wasn’t sure which was the scarier!
With Dan’s arrival nearing, Paul and I returned back centre-wards and popped into the first of two neighbouring pubs across a roundabout from each other. The Globe was first up and was solid enough and the second consecutive place to already be decked out in Hallowe’en décor, though Coors (£2.80) continued to be a mainstay – though things could have been oh, so different, had we actually took the time to recognise that Staropramen was hidden behind a price sticker. For the same price as Jean-Claude’s favourite too. Bloody hell.
Barrow-in-Furness in a town and borough on the tip of the Furness peninsula in Cumbria. Historically part of Lancashire, Barrow was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1867 and merged with Dalton-in-Furness Urban District in 1974 to form the municipal borough of Barrow-in-Furness. The area has been settled, on-and-off, for several millennia, with evidence of Neolithic settlements having been found on Walney Island, though despite wide-ranging Roman activity within Cumbria, no evidence has, to date, been discovered to suggest they ventured to the peninsula themselves. However, the Furness Hoard discovery of coins and various other artefacts in 2011 gave evidence of a 9th-century Norse settlement; indeed “Barrow” and “Furness” have their roots in Old Norse language. The Domesday Book recorded the local areas of Hawcoat, Roose and Walney.
In the Middle Ages, Cistercian Monks founded the Abbey of St. Mary of Furness – more commonly known as Furness Abbey – that now stands ruined in the old Vale of Nightshade area on the outskirts of present-day Barrow. The abbey was constructed on the orders of King Stephen during the 12th century and the discovery there of iron ore laid the foundations for many centuries of economic growth for the Furness area. The mining of this, along with the fishing and agriculture there, saw the abbey become the second richest Cistercian abbey in the country, with only Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire trumping it. A wooden tower was built by the monks on Piel Island, though this was raided twice by the Scots during the 1300’s, before a motte-and-bailey castle was approved by King Edward III in 1327 to replace it. Growing from a hamlet in Dalton-in-Furness, Barrow benefitted from the founding of the Furness railway by iron trader Henry Schneider and the first section opened to aid in the transportation of ore.
The railway later purchased the link across Morecambe Bay between Carnforth and Ulverston to allow for further expansion, from the Ulverston and Lancaster railway and docks grew up between the mid-to-late 1800’s, with Devonshire Docks being the first to open in 1867, with PM William Gladstone stating his belief that Barrow “…would become another Liverpool”. The Dukes of Devonshire and Buccleuch aided in keeping the iron ore business running smoothly and the improved links to the Cumberland mines meant steel industry became prominent for the town to become a main area of shipbuilding and rails, as the Industrial Revloution took hold. Indeed, at one point, the steelworks of Barrow Hematite was the largest in the world during the 19th century. Barrow became a planned town to accommodate the influx of workers into the area, with settlements planned out and added around the existing sites during the later part of the 1800’s, making Barrow one of the oldest in this respect.
The shipyards continued to grow in importance and construction increased, meaning it was later bought by the Vickers company before the turn of the century and they constructed Vickerstown on Walney Island – based upon Cadbury’s Bourneville. The shipyard became an important stage for the Royal Navy, the first submarine built in 1901, whilst Barrow/Walney Island airport was also added; but, whisper it, the ill-fated airship debacle also took place here, with the first one being wrecked by winds. Vessels such as the Russio-Japanese war flagship Mikasa and HMS Invincible were constructed here, as well as the later nuclear-powered subs beginning with HMS Dreadnought, though this led to Barrow being targeted during WWII by the Luftwaffe, with heavy damage and losses suffered, a Vickers ammunition factory giving out many armaments for the army and navy during both world wars. With the subs etc., BAE systems remains a focal point of Barrow. Alumni include Dave Myers, of Hairy Bikers fame, Glenn Cornick, of Jethro Tull, ex-England and Liverpool football skipper Emlyn Hughes, the Gardners of Rugby League, cricketers Mike Burns (ex-Somerset captain), Len Wilkinson (three Tests for England) and Liam Livingstone (Lancashire & England) and William Forshaw VC.
As we were finishing up, Dan eventually appeared from the complete wrong direction than he should have, later informing us that, for some reason only beknownst to him, he’d followed a bus app to aid him in his walk – thus adding a good twenty minutes to his trip. Just to rub it in, I showed him that all he had to do was to pop up the road from the station and he’d have been there in around five minutes tops….because I’m nice like that sometimes. Anyhow, Paul and myself could finally break the hold that Coors had on us, as I opted for an Amstel (£2.60), which made a more than pleasant change!
From there we continued ground-wards, though dropped Dan en route as he preferred to grab a bus there and arrive in safe time. As such, it ended up being just the pair of us once more that came up to the final pre-match stop, that being the rather different appearing (and named) The Kill One. Just one? Damn….oh, er, ignore that! Inside what seemed to be something akin to a small office-like building the bit of it that was now a pub appeared to be more like a social club, though we were soon back on familiar ground with a pint of Coors (£3) in hand. Absolute scenes aplenty. Catching the final throes of the early kick-off between Everton and West Ham here, including Sigurðsson’s late beauty, it was eventually time to truly make our way to Holker Street.
Heading on around a nearby park and past a large, strangely-placed coat of arms, we arrived at the turnstiles where Paul, who’d sorted out our tickets online for £13 apiece, arranged our entry, after he’d been spurned at the clubhouse bar pre-match. Despite the set-back, we still had positive thoughts for the tie going ahead. I headed to the food….lodge(?) at the top of the bit of open terracing in the corner of the ground, before being directed to a programme seller hidden away behind the stand on that side where I bagged one for each of us, not knowing Dan had already sorted his out. We eventually met him near the Main Stand opposite, where he’d made it to despite having somehow managed to enter in the away end, an away end that we were lucky had segregation to keep the wild 26 Moors fans in check!
As I’ve alluded to there, Holker Street is a true throwback ground and it is bloody brilliant because of it. From the clubhouse end where we entered, there is a small-ish amount of open terracing that runs off around the right-hand corner of the pitch and around to where a cover meets it to make a covered terrace running the majority of the side, before further uncovered standing runs right around from here and behind the far end goal. The opposite side houses the all-seater Main Stand, with flat standing flanking either side, whilst the tunnel, changing rooms and clubhouse are all squeezed into a small area alongside the aforementioned entrance we had made use of. That’s Holker Street in short and this is the story of Barrow’s former league club….
Barrow Association Football Club was founded in 1901 and spent their first eight years of existence playing at the Strawberry, Ainslie Street and Little Park grounds. During these times, Barrow had begun life by being accepted into the Lancashire Combination’s Division 2 in 1903 and would win promotion to Division One five years later, prior to moving into Holker Street, a year later, in 1909. They would remain in the Lancs Combination through to the outbreak of World War I and returned upon the end of hostilities and resumption of the sport, whereupon they would win the league title there in 1921. This title win came just at the right time for the club too, as it made their placing in the newly-formed Football League Third Division North all the more likely for the following year.
This duly came about and Barrow would begin their half-century-long stay in the League system as a founding member of said division, however they would become somewhat (and I’m sure unwanted) notable for achieving very little in the way of overall success throughout their first tenure through to the starting of World War II; their best result being a 5th-placed finish in 1933. As a result, post-war, Barrow remained in the Third Division through to re-organisation winning only the Lancashire Senior Cup of 1955 in the meantime, whereupon they placed in another newly formed bottom tier, this time the nationalised Fourth Division, in 1958. That season saw one of Barrow’s most notable ever results, however, this coming in the FA Cup, as the Cumbrians defeated Football League champions Wolves 4-2 at Holker Street.
1967 finally saw another Barrow promotion come around, as the club made the move up into the Third Division, after finishing up in 3rd position in the Fourth Division table. The following year saw the club achieve their highest league position to date, 8th place in the third-tier, and also topped the division for a day during the campaign, this being the highest position ever held by Barrow. Sadly for them, the success wouldn’t be sustained and they were relegated, after just one more season there, in 1970. By now, Barrow were beginning to struggle financially and these issues saw them require re-election in both 1971 and 1972, and despite being given a stay of execution first time around, they weren’t so lucky in ’72, and they were replaced by Hereford United after 51 years as a League club. Reasons such as strong United showings, geographical locations and ground issues (Barrow had installed an ill-advised and short-lived speedway track which had gone by 1974) were noted as likely influences.
The club returned to the non-league ranks and took a spot in the Northern Premier League for 1972-’73, on the basis that the track be removed, which it duly was in the year mentioned above. They would struggle initially as financial woes continued, but these eventually abated enough to allow Barrow to join the new Alliance League in 1979, the first nationwide non-league divisional competition. 1981 would see Barrow lift another Lancashire FA competition, this time the Junior Cup, but league disappointment would follow in short order, with relegation from the Alliance League suffered in 1983; and despite returning at the first attempt as Northern Premier League title-winners (and winning the league’s league vs cup winners Peter Swales Shield), the drop would be suffered once more in 1986.
After a couple of near-misses and losing out after two replays in the semi-finals of the 1988 FA Trophy to Enfield, Barrow were promoted back to the newly-titled Football Conference in 1989 and under boss Ray Wilkie and record scorer and appearance-maker Colin Cowperthwaite, went on to enter a strong era. They would achieve their first major non-league silverware in the form of the 1990 running of the FA Trophy, defeating Leek Town in the shadow of Wembley’s twin towers, and they were rewarded for the 3-1 success with an automatic placing in the FA Cup first-round for the following season’s competition. Here, they would take advantage to reach the Third Round, where they bowed out to Bolton Wanderers. 1991-’92 saw Wilkie forced to step-down due to health problems, before he passed away later that year aged just 56. He is remembered and celebrated with the road outside the ground now named in his honour.
Following involvements with some much-maligned owner(s), the club entered administration and liquidation proceedings commenced in early 1999 and despite remaining solvent, the club was expelled from the Conference at the end of the season, though to their credit, did avoid on-field relegation. Eventually allowed to return to the Northern Premier League after much wrangling, Barrow welcomed Winsford United on the 30th December 1999, a game which is recognised as the last ever game, pro or semi-pro, in the UK during that millennium. Continuing to maintain their place in the league despite their continuing off-field issues, fortunes slowly began to turn with promotion narrowly missed out on in both 2004 & 2005, and Barrow celebrated their upturn with a pair of NPL President’s Cup wins, their second in 2004 (following their initial 2002 success) coming over local rivals Workington, following an enthralling 6-6 aggregate draw, over two-legs – Barrow lifting the cup on away goals.
Missing out on the 2005 promotion the Conference National meant a place in the new Conference North was taken by Barrow instead. 2008 saw the club promoted, a change of management seeing a rise up the table ending in a fifth-placed finish and a place in the play-offs; during which wins over Telford United and Stalybridge Celtic in the semis and final respectively saw them promoted back to the Conference after nine years away. The next season saw them achieve their first win over League opposition since their own exit from it, a win over Brentford in the FA Cup’s 2nd round seeing this fact recorded. They bowed out in the 3rd Round to Middlesbrough at the Riverside, and did so again the next season away at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. However, the FA Trophy would prove a fruitful path and 2010 saw the Bluebirds lift the trophy for the second time, overcoming Stevenage Borough to become the first and only, to date, club to win it at both Wembley stadia.
Things would suffer on field fairly swiftly afterwards though and after staving off the drop in 2011, 2013 saw Barrow relegated to the Conference North but a change in ownership saw things take a turn for the better once more and Barrow were back in the, now titled, National League as North Division champions of 2015. A few swift changes in management have followed in recent times, but under current boss Ian Evatt, things seem to have settled down somewhat, the boss having signed a new contract just before this tie. Last season, Evatt guided Barrow to a more-than-solid 10th place in the National League.
The game got underway fairly slowly, with the first ten minutes or so only seeing an early chance for the visitors created, this being when Lee Vaughan’s curling attempt was comfortably kept out by Barrow stopper Joel Dixon. Down the other end, Lewis Hardcastle fired wastefully over from the edge of the area and John Rooney saw a free-kick tipped over the crossbar by Moors ‘keeper Ryan Boot, as the hosts well and truly began to assert themselves as the dominant side in the game. Although, having said that, it wasn’t as if they were peppering Boot’s goal non-stop and the game wasn’t all that exciting for us neutrals.
However, the Bluebirds really should have been ahead before the interval, when, from the resulting corner following Rooney’s free-kick, Sam Hird was denied by a quick, reaction stop by Boot after the loose ball had fell kindly at his feet. It began to feel as if it might be one of those days, and the remaining minutes passed by with little in the way of true action, before, on the stroke of half-time, Hardcastle came the closest of anyone. The forward rushed through the Moors defence and fired low, beyond Boot, only to see his effort rebound off the upright and the ball was eventually cleared by the Solihull defence.
The half came to a close and I headed out back through the turnstiles and to the bar to meet Dan and Paul, who’d exited early to beat the thirsty rush. The second half was soon upon us, heralded by the sight of players through the glass overlooking the field and we quickly returned pitch-side to see what it had in store and who would be still in the hat come Monday evening’s First Round Draw. Our first signs of an answer came along just over five minutes into the second period, when the visitors won a corner and the resulting ball was delivered into a scrum of bodies, where it was met by the head of Liam Daly, and he planted the ball home from close-range. 1-0 to the Moors, last season’s National League runners-up.
They almost went two-up immediately afterwards, when the ball escaped the grasp of Dixon and fell at the feet of Danny Wright, whose shot was brilliantly blocked on the goal-line by a defender, before Barrow, their fans, and ourselves, thought they may have got a leveller, when a cross from the left-flank drifted into the hands of a stretching Boot, whereupon he was forced over the line by a challenging Dion Angus, the ‘keeper’s body – complete with ball – ending up over the line. Cheers went up, confusion reigned for a few seconds, before it became clear the decision was NO GOAL!! Usually, these things only go one way – the keeper’s, but this did seem a real 50/50, though the ref was probably right to play it safe.
Barrow came on strong as Solihull looked to sit back on their lead in the final 20 minutes or so, Hardcastle firing over into the clubhouse exterior wall, Rooney seeing another set-piece kept out low down by the impressive Boot, who must have pleased boss Tim Flowers with his performance, and late on, they almost forced the equaliser from close range when Josh Kay was denied by the ‘keeper, the rebound falling to Hird, but he could only shovel the ball over the cross bar. Moors would hold on to secure their spot in the First Round to the delight of their twenty six-strong away following!
Post-match, Paul bid us goodbye to make a swift return to Liverpool for some boxing later in the evening, whilst I dragged Dan back to a few drinking holes close to the station. Well, that was the plan anyway, though Dan ended up being side-tracked just after leaving the Furness Railway Wetherspoons – where I’d opted for a draught Strawberry and Lime Kopparberg (£2.49), to be able to squeeze in the remaining planned stops. The first of these was the Derby, where I got lost on entry, finding the bar populated only be stools lying sideways in some kind of reflection of how some peeps must end up leaving! As it was, the girl smoking at the door pointed me in the direction of the other pair of doors, whilst looking at me like I was a bit of an idiot which, to be fair, I was if you’re used to the layout! The closed, fairly solid doors soon gave way to a rather colourful bar area, and I opted for a Dark Fruits which broke the cheap record of the day – a prediction that Paul had made and was proud of keeping up; his departure leaving it, pretty much, intact.
Polishing off the Dark Fruits (£3.70) in quick time, I made my way a few doors down to the station neighbouring Duke of Edinburgh, though I’d rather overestimated the time I had remaining and had Dan awaiting me outside, with phone calls leaving him a bit hamstrung and deciding to play it safe and cut his losses. A smart move in hindsight, as I only really had time for half-to-three quarters of the Amstel (£4.25) I’d got in before I had to cave in to the pressure of time and grab the train to Lancaster, where we’d change onwards back to Manchester. A fairly well-trodden path.
This all went without any problem and we were back where we’d set out in good time for my connection on home for a couple more ‘nightcaps’. The trip on the whole had been solid, if unspectacular. Barrow itself is ok, though the Coors-centric (don’t even mention Carling, Daniel) choice didn’t help their causes in myself and Paul’s eyes. However, Barrow’s ground is brilliant and has to be on anyone’s must-visit list – it really is a throwback to times gone by and, as a bonus, still maintains one of its old floodlight pylons, which seems to now be used for a signal mast. Sadly, the game was pretty terrible but that’s the case sometimes, and you can’t really fault Solihull for going up and doing a job to near perfection. Their success meant a place in the First Round “proper, where their reward is another tie they’ll likely see as winnable – away at Oxford City.
DISCLAIMER!!!! MINI RANT INCOMING!!!! It was probably a good job that they didn’t get the bye and so avoided the vitriol Chichester received for celebrating their “luck”, as to most unschooled “fans”, they haven’t earned it. Have a look at their fixtures – they have. These so-called fans well and truly piss me off; do a little research and get some actual knowledge on the competition. It begins in August, not November. I’ll leave it there before I go off on a proper rant; it’s not about being high and mighty and saying “ooh, look at these places I go, you’re not a REAL fan”. It’s more a case of do yourself a favour, before having a go at a hard-working club who’ve earned a break. All the best to them, and the others, in their remaining adventure….
Value For Money: 5