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Barrow 1 Leigh RMI 2

By Matt Lawton
August 14 2007

Leigh RMIís terrific second half rearguard ensured that they weathered a Barrow storm after two lightning first half goals gave them a platform from which to build upon to clinch their first three points of the season in horrendous conditions at Holker Street.

Despite an almost biblical amount of rainfall throughout the evening, the Holker Street pitch was in pristine condition for Barrow’s first home game of the season, although the relentless downpours that made the ground particularly slippery were enough to tempt players in to somewhat risky sliding challenges, with RMI winger Andy Heald finding himself in the referee’s notebook after barely five minutes with such a rash challenge.

Referee Mr. Oldham wasn’t exactly endearing himself to the locals with his decision-making in the early stages, and after failing to bow to the demands of a red card for Heald, he further incensed the home support by awarding a controversial free kick outside of the Barrow penalty area that was to lead to the game’s opening goal after just ten minutes of play.

With the set piece in prime shooting position, the home defence was caught off-guard when it cleverly was played out wide instead of in to the penalty area, with the ball being played back to left back Owen Roberts, who had his heels clipped just inside the Barrow penalty area.

Mr. Oldham was again the centre of the attention, but RMI striker Kevin Rapley shrugged off the stalling tactics of Barrow goalkeeper Tim Deasy, making his home debut for the Bluebirds, to coolly convert the penalty and leave Deasy’s first action in a Barrow shirt to be picking the ball out of the back of his net.

If a lead after just ten minutes was almost too good to be true for RMI, things got a whole lot better when, after Roberts had swerved another free kick over the crossbar, winger Steve Settle sent over a fantastic cross from the right wing that picked out the head of Dan Owen to put the visitors in to a two goal lead after just fifteen minutes, with Owen’s strike already being his second headed goal of the season.

RMI were dealt a blow later in the half when Owen Roberts seemed to twist his knee in the midst of making an admittedly risky challenge that saw him earn a booking and leave the field through injury, leaving Steve Brockley to come on at left back for his first appearance of the season.

Falling two goals behind had eventually worked as somewhat of a wake-up call for the shell-shocked hosts and, after a couple of strikes from long distance had flown over the crossbar, Barrow halved the deficit on the stroke of half-time when powerful centre half Steve McNulty headed a right wing corner past stranded Leigh goalkeeper John Lamb at the near post.

The half-time period saw the torrential rain become heavier by the second, with the pitch having a considerable amount of water on it’s surface by the start of the second half, a fact that was sure to prove awkward for the goalkeeper’s and was indeed proven within minutes of the restart when a long-distance Barrow free kick skidded off the turf but was well saved on the ground by the alert Lamb.

As the rain got heavier and time ticked away, RMI were finding themselves pushed deeper and deeper whilst being put under more and more pressure, having a miraculous escape when a Barrow man failed to hit the target from a cross to the back post that had left the RMI goal virtually unguarded.

Such incidents suggested that luck might, for once, be on RMI’s side but the amount of pressure being inflicted on their goal meant that Leigh were largely restricted to efforts on the counter attack or from set pieces, with Scott Willis having a free kick from some distance being deflected narrowly over the crossbar, while Andy Heald flashed a free kick wide of the post from the right hand side.

It looked as though RMI would be holding out for their first ever Conference North victory over Barrow until the game was virtually in to stoppage time when the Leigh defence was finally breached for a second time, only for the joy of the home fans to be cut short by the offside flag of a referee’s assistant, finally confirming that the match officials were firmly stricken from the Holker Street Christmas card list.

Kevin Rapley had a chance to put the icing on the cake when on the break in injury time and, although his rather weak chip was comfortably saved, he didn’t have long to wait to celebrate a terrific victory for his side, and one that will be particularly sweet for Leigh boss Stuart Humphreys, a Barrow favourite in his playing days.

Although league tables don’t tend to mean much at this start of the season, the victory leaves Leigh one place outside of the play-off positions and just two points shy of the leaders, with Saturday bringing a trip to a Redditch United side that enjoyed a terrific 3-1 home victory over relegated Tamworth this evening.


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