My Matchday - 238 Holker Street

Barrow 3v3 Gateshead
Blue Sq. Premier
Saturday 26th December 2009
Barrow-in-Furness is a large industrial town and seaport in Cumbria, found at the tip of the Furness peninsula on the north western edge of Morecambe Bay and bordering the Irish Sea.
This small 19th Century hamlet became one of the largest iron and steel centres in the world and a major shipbuilding town. The railway was introduced to carry iron-ore, slate and lime-stone to the new port. The town’s wealth grew with the development of the steel and shipbuilding industries.
Barrow AFC were formed in 1901 and began playing competitive football in the Lancashire League. The club played at a variety of grounds in their early days, beginning at The Strawberry for three years, before moving on to Ainslie Street and Little Park until settling into their current home on Holker Street in 1909 which had been the former home of Hindpool Athletic.
In 1903 the club joined the Lancashire Combination, becoming league champions for the first and only time in 1920-21 which gained election to the Football League in the newly formed Division Three North.
The reformation of the Football League in 1958 saw Barrow placed in League Division Four, however the decade saw the club host two epic battles in the FA Cup. In 1954 a record Holker Street crowd of 16,874 witnessed a respectable 2-2 with Swansea Town, then five years later another 16,000 plus crowd saw a tremendous performance against the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers, eventually losing the tie 4-2.
In 1966-67 the club won promotion to Division Three, which was followed by their highest league placing of 8th the following season. But within three years their 51 year stay in the Football League was over, relegation and then two bottom three finishes meant having to apply for re-election. Barrow were up against Hereford United in their fight to retain League status. The first ballot was tied with 26 votes each, then the second rounds of voting saw the Southern League side gain nine extra votes.
They returned to Non-League football in 1972 in the Northern Premier League, then joining the Alliance Premier League in 1979. Over the years the club has plied their trade within these two leagues with five sets of relegation and promotions.
The clubs most successful time came in the late ‘80’s under the leadership of former Gateshead manager Ray Wilkie. He steered the club back into the Conference by winning the Northern Premier League title in 1988-89, then lifting the FA Trophy the following season with a 3-0 win over Leek at Wembley.
The Bluebirds were placed in the Conference North when it was formed in 2004-05, then returning to the Conference by winning the league play off final in 2008 with a 1-0 win over Stalybridge Celtic.
Barrow reach the 3rd round of the FA Cup last season after seeing off Brentford in the previous round, taking on Premier League side Middlesbrough with the backing of 7,000 supporters on Teesside, their team put up a credible performance before losing 2-1.
The Bluebirds fans can again look forward to another 3rd Round cup tie in the North-east, with another large following heading over to Sunderland next week (best of luck!)
This year Holker Street has been celebrating it’s 100th birthday and now has an overall capacity of 4,256. The ground is spruced up with the stands, clubhouse and the back walls of the terraces decorating in the club colours of blue and white.
The Main Stand was opened in 1996, replacing the old wooding stand which had stood since 1912. The stand is decked out in blue with the club’s name boldly picked out in white amongst the 1,000 seats, with old fashioned brick pitch level dugouts.
Ray Wilkie Popular Side is a standing terrace with cover added towards the centre which has supporting pillars and also accommodates the PA box at the back.
There’s open terracing behind each goal, the Holker Street End is a larger terrace which curves in each corner meeting each stand, while the Crossbar End is much smaller, situated in front of a building block incorporates the club offices, changing rooms and social club, which overlooks out onto the pitch.
When entering the town the ground is visible with its set of traditional floodlights, which were erected in 1963 and purchased from Arsenal when Highbury’s lights were replaced, although one of those pylons is fairly new and doubles as a mobile phone mast.

Barrow and Gateshead shared six goals, serving up a traditional Christmas cracker with the visitors failing to maintain the lead on three occasions.
The match got off to an explosive start with two goals in the opening four minutes. Neale McDermott put Gateshead ahead with a goal his ‘fatha’ would have been proud of, after swapping passes with Daryl Clare his delicate chip from the edge of the box found the top corner and was reminiscent of Terry Mac himself.
Minutes later it was all square when a wicked 25 yard shot from Goodfellow took a slight deflection giving Farman no chance, then just before the break a cross from McDermott set up Clare for a simple finish.
Barrow drew level in the 51st minute, when a through ball found Bond on the edge of the box, who took the ball in his stride before striking a sweeping right foot shot into the far corner of the net .
An error from Barrow goalkeeper Tomlinson restored The Tynesiders lead, dropping a cross which was gratefully accepted by Clare for his second goal of the game, but once again the lead lasted only minutes as Blundell made it 3-3 on the hour mark.
Gateshead had good chances to win it, Craig Baxter was unlucky to see right foot efforts twice come back off the post while Jon Shaw also hit the woodwork from close range. Darren Williams almost clinched it late on but agonisingly saw his header cleared off the line, although if he’d scored Barrow would have probably equaliser in the final five minutes.
An excellent game with both sides serving up a Xmas treat with the 1700 plus crowd certainly getting value for money.

After living in Arctic conditions for the last week or so, I wasn’t expecting to see any traditional Boxing Day football action this year. However after checking the Barrow website, I was surprised to read that apart from a sprinkling on Christmas Eve, there had been no snow in Barrow-In-Furness.
So after we travelled across the country, through atrocious weather conditions on the A66, it was hard to believe that we were going to see a game especially with matches at Carlisle and Preston being postponed.
As we got closer to Barrow the amount of snow diminished and once we arrived in the town it was as if we had went through some kind of time warp. Green grass, bright sunshine and warmth as if we had jumped back from the middle of winter into early autumn.
Myself accompanied by Ian Tommo headed into the town in search of a decent pint. We stopped off at the Ambrose Hotel then on to the Furness Railway (Ws) where he asked the barmaid why there isn’t any snow, her explanation was that it was because we’ve got too much salt in the air! So a special thanks to the ‘power of the salt’ for making it possible by defeating the snow, thus allowing us an enjoyable day out in Barrow-in-Furness.


BAFC 3(Goodfellow 4, Bond 50 Blundell 59)
GFC 3(McDermott 2 Clare 41,56)
Admission £13

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