Express & Star

Barrow 2 Walsall 0: Evening to forget in Cumbria for Mat Sadler's men

Walsall extended their winless run in League Two to six games as they fell to a 2-0 defeat against Barrow at Holker Street.


Ben Whitfield opened the scoring after 11 minutes when he collected Niall Canavan's long ball unmarked inside the box and found the bottom corner with a fizzing low finish.

Freddie Draper had a goal ruled out for offside, before Owen Evans limped off injured after the half-hour mark.

Canavan prodded the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box to condemn Walsall to a third defeat in four league games.

Walsall slip to 19th in League Two, as the pressure continues to grow on head coach Mat Sadler.

Barrow collected a seventh straight win in all competitions, and extended their club record unbeaten run to 10 league matches.

Walsall welcomed back Priestley Farquharson from injury for his first appearance since September, and only his fifth of his debut campaign with the Saddlers.

Barrow v Walsall (Owen Russell)

He replaced the suspended Oisin McEntee, while Danny Johnson made his first league start since the defeat at Mansfield in October, as Ronan Maher dropped to the bench.

The Saddlers struggled to provide Johnson or Draper with any service, and David Okagbue's shaky performance during the opening exchanges prompted Sadler to switch from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2.

Okagbue was floored by Elliot Newby, who caused havoc for the Stoke loanee down the left. Newby fed a low ball into the feet of Whitfield whose first time finish was repelled by the outstretched leg of Evans.

But Whitfield would make no mistake in front of goal with his second chance as Walsall fell behind with 11 minutes on the clock.

It was a very cheap goal for Walsall to give away. Canavan lofted a long ball into the box, and Whitfield simply drifted away from Gordon to cushion a tidy first touch down inside the box, and send a low fizzing finish into the far bottom corner.

Barrow v Walsall (Owen Russell)

Knowles dropped in at right wing-back to support Okagbue, which reduced Walsall's attacking presence down the right.

Barrow were disciplined and organised off the ball, and looked dangerous in possession. Walsall looked disjointed, and struggled to build any rhythm, or attacking momentum.

Walsall did have the ball in the net on the half-hour mark only for the offside flag to cut their celebrations short. Isaac Hutchinson forced Paul Farman into action from 25 yards, and Draper tapped in the rebound but was marginally offside.

The Saddlers' first half went from bad to worse when Evans hobbled off with a suspected injury to his left ankle. Gordon did generate a promising attack with a darting run down the left, which saw him skip past two Barrow men, before his low driven cross was scrambled clear by the hosts on the stroke of half-time.

Ray climbed above his marker to cushion down Newby's corner, which Chester could only hook across the six-yard box from a tight angle early in the second half.

Sadler swapped his centre-forwards with the introduction of Jamille Matt and Douglas James-Taylor, but Walsall still lacked creativity with Hutchinson struggling to impose himself on the game.

That often forced Walsall to play the ball long, and whilst Matt offered a physical presence, Walsall lacked ideas, and variety in the final third.

It all became rather predictable, and Barrow soon extended their advantage when Canavan scored his first goal since the opening day of the campaign.

Substitute Sam Foley clipped a cross into the box, which Canavan flicked towards the back post. Ray knocked the ball towards goal and Canavan popped up inside the six-yard box to help the ball over the line.

Barrow v Walsall (Owen Russell)

Matt had two chances during the closing stages but it proved too little, too late. Knowles made a number of forward runs down the right late on, and delivered low for Matt, who was denied by Farman at his near post.

The Barrow goalkeeper then produced a stunning double save as Matt's search for his first goal of the season continued.

Knowles flashed another low cross into the penalty area, and Farman reduced the angle of fire to make a smart save. The rebound fell back to Matt but Farman showed superb reactions to keep the Walsall forward out with his second bite of the cherry.

Walsall (4-4-2): Evans (Smith 33); Okagbue, Farquharson (Williams 72), Daniels, Gordon; Knowles, Comley, Stirk, Hutchinson; Johnson (James-Taylor 56), Draper (Matt 56).

Subs not used: Foulkes, Maher, Williams, Allen.

Barrow (3-5-2) Farman; Chester, Ray, Canavan; Worrall (Stephenson 75), Spence (Foley 61), Campbell, White, Newby (Feeley 84); Whitfield, Acquah (Proctor 61).

Subs not used: Lillis.

Referee: Lewis Smith

Attendance: 3,072 (105)