Stevenage scramble to late victory to dent Barrow's survival hopes

Scott Cuthbert of Stevenage

Scott Cuthbert returned to the Stevenage starting line-up against Barrow. - Credit: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO

It should be fairly safe to say that Stevenage are safe from relegation following a tough victory over Barrow.

In truth that could have been said a few weeks ago but a 10th game without defeat should make it official. Only twice in the last 15 seasons has a team been relegated from League Two with more than 50 points.

Boro are just one point off that mark thanks to goals from Elliott List, his 10th of the season, and a penalty from Luke Norris gave them a 2-1 win but this was a hard-fought three points and there would have been a few cheeks puffed out in relief at the end.  

They started brilliantly but a late equaliser from Calvin Andrew appeared to have handed Barrow, still scrapping to preserve their football league status, a valuable point.

A sign of a good team though is one that still manages to win in difficult circumstances. Boro are doing that and a top-half finish is now tantalisingly close.

Alex Revell was forced into the one change, Terence Vancooten, missing due to his involvement in World Cup qualifiers with Guyana, his place being taken by Scott Cuthbert.

And for the majority of the half the defence was untroubled.

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Stevenage had plenty of possession and did create chances, certainly in the opening  30 minutes.

Arthur Read, who scored his first goal for the club last week, should have doubled his tally on six minutes but he never fully connected with the shot from 12 yards and Joel Dixon and Barrow were able to shovel the ball away.

Moments later Elliott List got onto a good through ball by Elliot Osborne and his first touch momentarily seemed to take him around the visiting keeper.

His shot was sliced though and hit the pole behind the goal holding the net up.

Luke Norris had another effort saved by Dixon, Osborne again the provide, and at this point the home bench were purring in admiration with cries of "brilliant" and well done" coming from Revell and Dean Wilkins.

By the end of the 45 though there was a few more frustrated grimaces and anguished cries as Boro began to lose their foothold.

Barrow hadn't really pressured them much but there was a sense of nervousness and a tightness in the home side's passing that suggested the longer this went on, the more a blank return in front of goal was likely.

The support and encouragement seemed to have run out completely early in the half as Wilkins thumped the top of the dugout in anger. He wanted the ball played into Norris quicker and was annoyed when Stevenage went sideways instead of forward.

There was therefore probably a huge amount of relief when the hosts took the lead on 53 minutes.

It was an excellent cross from Luther James-Wildin and List ghosted across the defender at the near post. There was definitely a deflection of some sort but the ball crept in at Dixon's near post and nestled happily in the back of the net.

It led to a more chances for Boro as the freedom a goal brings began to filter through the team.

Luke Prosser nodded a corner wide then Norris was just stretching too much to get to a deep cross and knocked it behind.

They couldn't totally relax though and Prosser needed to snake out an excellent foot to poke the ball away from Scott Quigley while James Jones should have done better with a header from a corner.

Barrow made a triple substitution on 67 minutes and their fourth change with 14 minutes to go brought Calvin Andrew in the fray.

Two minutes later the barrel-chested forward glanced a cross from the right into the corner with Cumming left motionless.

It wasn't that much of a surprise as Barrow had looked more ominous going forward but after dominating the opening 30 minutes, this was a tough pill to swallow for Stevenage.

The cheer that greeted the equaliser told you a story of the fight Barrow are in to save their league status.

It also explained the frustration at the penalty winner.

Jack Aitchison was part of Stevenage's own triple sub and a flick behind his back after driving into the area drew a tackle and a trip.

And despite complaints and shenanigans, Norris kept his cool and sent Dixon the wrong way.

Barrow will continue to battle until the end but Stevenage have their eyes firmly set on continuing the run.

Stevenage: Cumming, James-Wildin, Coker, Cuthbert, Prosser, Osborne (Smith 84), List (Stevens 84), Read (Smith 84), Pett, Norris (Martin 90+2), Lines (Vincelot 90+2).

Subs (not used): Johnson, Hutton.

Goals: List 53, Norris (pen) 87

Barrow: Dixon, Brough, J.Taylor (James 67), Quigley (Andrew 76), Kay, Jones, Beadling (Devitt 67), Ntlhe (Banks 67), Barry, C.Taylor, Thomas.

Subs (not used): Moloney, Eardley.

Goal: Andrew 78

Booked: Banks 68, Barry 86, C.Taylor 86

HT: Stevenage 0 Barrow 0

Referee: James Adcock (Nottingham)