Friday 9th May 2008

Barrow 1 Stalybridge Celtic 0
Blue Square North Promotion Play-off Final
At: Pirelli Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 2530
Weather: -
Duration: first half ; second half:

Henney 58

Barrow regained their place in the Blue Square Premier after a nine-season absence thanks to Matt Henney’s second-half winner at the Pirelli Stadium.

The victory completed a remarkable rise up the table from the relegation zone since the appointment back in December of joint player-managers Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss.

But the Cumbrians needed a big slice of luck when referee James Adcock failed to award Stalybridge a late penalty for a clear handball inside the area by goal hero Henney.

“You can hear the fans out there and how much it means to them,” said a delighted Sheridan.

“It was a bit scrappy in the first half.

“We had a few scares at our end and it was a bit of a scrappy goal. Things like that win games and we kept the 1-0 lead, defending superbly.

“Everyone was stunned when the four minutes went up (at the end) but I knew we would hold out.”

Bayliss agreed it was a tight affair. He said: “It was a final so it wasn’t going to be 3-0 or 4-0.

“We didn’t play particularly outstandingly but, as we have on a lot of occasions this season, we were gritty and determined.

“At the end, there were lads with cut eyes and missing teeth and that will do for me.

“The lads were proud to wear the shirt and clubs like Barrow deserve to be in a higher league.”

Stalybridge manager Steve Burr was, as expected, bitterly disappointed by the defeat.

“The prize at stake was massive for these lads.

“It is hurting. We have worked very hard this year and I feel for them.

“We have played better this season. Both sides were very tense and showed it.

“It was a good exciting final and very close. For the goal, the ball has dropped for them at the right time. That was the rub of the green (for Barrow) you ask for in a final.

Burr felt his side should have been awarded a penalty.

“Sometimes you get these decisions. Our lads felt it was a clear handball.”

Looking ahead to next season, Burr relishes the challenge of having another go for promotion.

“We need to dust ourselves down and get over this. Football carries on.”

The first half wasn’t pretty with neither keeper called into serious action. Alex Meechan sent an early header over and Mark Boyd almost caught Martin Pearson off guard with a long-range free-kick.

In contrast, the second half didn’t disappoint.

Tim Deasy produced a good diving save to deny Chris Hall before the massed ranks of Barrow fans got a perfect view of what proved to be the winner in the 58th minute.

Following a clumsy foul on the Barrow right by Simon Garner, the resulting free-kick, delivered into a populated area, was headed goalwards by Steve McNulty. Henney was perfectly placed made sure the ball crossed the line from barely a yard out to score arguably the most vital of his 18 goals this season.

Andy Bond had a chance to quickly double his side’s advantage but put his shot took close to Pearson who got down well to block.

Pearson again came to his side’s rescue to block Paul Brown’s low effort from Nick Rogan’s clever back heel. Jason Walker was also denied by the Celtic keeper who kept out a close-range chance also created by Rogan.

Stalybridge threw bodies forward and felt aggrieved not to be awarded a 78th minute penalty when Henney appeared to handle Terry Barwick’s header.

With time running out, Ashley Winn slipped a pass to substitute Matty Barlow who saw his shot first hit Deasy and then the right-hand post before rebounding to safety.

Barrow (4-4-2): Deasy 7, Woodyatt 7, McNulty 8, Jones 8, Elderton 7, Henney 7, Bond 6, Boyd 6, Brown 6, Walker 7 (Tait 75), Rogan 7. Unused subs: Nelson, Thompson, Sheridan, Bayliss.

Stalybridge Celtic (4-4-2): Pearson 7, Wooliscroft 6 (Keeling 90), Payne 6, Sykes 7, Garner 6, Meechan 6 (Barlow 66 6), Barwick 6, Winn 6, Torpey 6, Hall 7 (Dean 66 7). Unused subs: Burke, Wilkinson.

Star Man: Paul Jones (Barrow)
Entertainment: 3 out of 5
Attendance: 2530
Ref Rating: James Adcock 6/10

Shots on: Barrow 4 Stalybridge 4
Shots off: Barrow 7 Stalybridge 10
Corners: Barrow 5 Stalybridge 2
Offside: Barrow 3 Stalybridge 1
Fouls: Barrow 12 Stalybridge 9
Yellow cards: Barrow 2 Stalybridge 2
Red cards: None