Boro lose out in Final drama

Stevenage Boro’s hopes of making it a double were dashed as they lost 2-1 to Barrow in the FA Trophy Final at Wembley.

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STEVENAGE Boro’s hopes of a historic double were ended in a highly controversial fashion as they lost to Barrow in extra-time at Wembley in the FA Trophy Final.

Jason Walker scored the winner 17 minutes into extra-time but only after Boro were reduced to nine-men following the dismissal of David Bridges and a shocking injury to Charlie Griffin.

Having already used all their substitutes Griffin was elbowed in the face by Robin Hulbert, resulting in the Barrow man getting his marching orders but with Griffin drifting in and out of consciousness and with blood streaming from his face there was no way he could continue.

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On the day everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong for Boro. It had started well for Graham Westley’s side after Andy Drury had put them ahead on 10 minutes but when Bridges was shown a straight red card with more than an hour remaining it was always going to be a big challenge for Boro on the huge Wembley surface.

Boro looked set to hold on until 12 minutes from time when Ronnie Henry missed Paul Rutherford’s cross allowing Lee McEvilly to head home. They then lost Chris Day to injury with Ashley Bayes, Boro’s final substitute, coming on in his place but there was nothing Boro’s replacement goalkeeper could do about Walker’s winner.

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Westley opted to play Drury in behind the strikers as he had done so effectively in last season’s final with Joel Byrom, Michael Bostwick and Bridges the three men across the middle and Chris Beardsley and Yemi Odubade leading the line.

Barrow started well but failed to test Day in the Boro goal and then against the run of play Boro opened the scoring. A long Day kick forward was cleared by Paul Edwards but only as far as Drury who breezed past Hulbert’s challenge before showing all the class that has attracted the attention of several Football League clubs with a beautifully placed left-foot shot into the top corner from the edge of the area.

A Drury corner was allowed to reach Jon Ashton at the far post but it hit the big defender on the thigh and Andy Bond was first to the loose ball to clear for Barrow.

Then in the 28th minute came the first major talking point of the tie when Bridges was sent off for a challenge on Bond. A heavy touch by Bridges saw him loose control and as the Boro man slid in on the ground to retrieve the ball he clattered into Bond with referee Lee Probert very quick to show the red card.

Despite being a man down Boro still looked dangerous with Odubade doing brilliantly to carve an opening for himself after leaving Paul Jones in a heap on halfway. Drury’s pass was well controlled by Odubade who scooped the ball over Jones and raced towards the box but his shot from 20 yards flashed wide of the goal.

Boro had a good chance to double their lead five minutes before the break but Beardsley shot over the bar. Odubade found Drury in acres of space on the right and from there the Boro goalscorer delivered a cross into the box that Stuart Tomlinson missed but Beardsley was unable to get over the high bounce of the ball and hooked it over the bar.

Bostwick then went close to grabbing a second for Boro after beating Edwards in the air to Byrom’s cross but his header was wide of the target.

Barrow started the second half well and should have drawn level three minutes in. Walker and Blundell exchanged passes in the box with Walker six yards out in front of goal. Barrow’s top scorer dallied though and Roberts slid in to clear.

A good pass from Bostwick found Odubade one-on-one with Paul Jones but the Boro striker fired into the side netting.

The second major talking point also went against Boro when an excellent shout for a penalty was turned down by Probert. Odubade’s pace again caused Barrow all sorts of problems and when he raced into the box and was bought down by Edwards a penalty looked certain to be given only for referee Probert to ignore Boro’s appeals much to the fury of Westley and Dino Maamria.

Barrow introduced a speedster of their own in Carlos Logan and he gave Boro some real problems.

A great cross from Logan on the left was inches away from finding Walker in between Ashton and Roberts but the Barrow forward couldn’t quite reach it.

Boro still had chances to put the game to bed with a Drury free kick causing chaos in the Barrow box with Ashton’s flick coming off Jones and landing on the roof of the net and from the resulting Drury corner Ashton headed into the side netting.

Day’s first save of the afternoon came in the 78th minute when the Boro stopper easily saved Logan’s long range effort but less than 60 seconds later the goalkeeper was fishing the ball out of his net.

Paul Rutherford was given space to roam between the Boro defence and midfield and when Ronnie Henry missed his cross substitute McEvilly was on hand to head inside Day’s far post.

Day didn’t last much longer with a thigh injury curtailing his afternoon giving Bayes his Wembley chance.

The replacement stopper got straight into the action getting down low to push out Logan’s effort before referee Probert dished out his second red card of the game for Hulbert’s horrific foul on Griffin.

With the ball bouncing in the air the Boro striker went up to head the ball only for Hulbert to launch himself, elbow first, at the attacker and send him crashing to the ground. Probert immediately produced the red card and the game was stopped for six minutes for Griffin to get treatment before he was stretchered off and taken to hospital.

Boro had a glorious chance to go ahead early in extra time when a great ball from Bostwick got Odubade clear in the right hand channel but Boro’s top goalscorer fired into the side netting from an angle with just Tomlinson to beat.

At the other end Barrow came close to a second goal when Walker’s flick in the box found Edwards but his effort was deflected wide off Henry.

As it was the Bluebirds hit the winning goal in the 17th minute of injury time. Again Rutherford was given space just outside the Boro box, he squared the ball to Walker on the edge of the area and Barrow’s leading marksman fired home from 20 yards giving Bayes no chance.

Boro were nearly gifted an equaliser when Wilson flicked Drury’s cross onto the prone Jones but Boro stopper Tomlinson got down well to stop the ball on the line.

Barrow had two great chances to add a third but both McEvilly and Andy Bond fired wide.

It wasn’t to matter though as the Bluebirds held on for the win

Barrow: Tomlinson; Spender, Jones, Bolland �, Edwards; Wiles (Logan 64), Hulbert, Bond, Rutherford (Boyd 110), Blundell (McEvilly 74), Walker.

Subs: Deasy, Pearson.

Boro: Day (Bayes 90); Henry, Ashton, Roberts �, Laird; Drury, Bostwick, Bridges, Byrom (Wilson 59); Beardsley (Griffin 66), Odubade.

Subs: Long, Vincenti.

Referee: Lee Probert.

Att: 21,223

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