As Hornets look to be coming out of an injury crisis, Paul Crarey is juggling bodies at Craven Park as his Barrow side continues to struggle with a lengthy queue at the treatment room and a dent in their bank account.
Whilst the week off between Barrow’s shock defeat at Blackpool and Sunday gives him some respite and recovery opportunities, Crarey staunchly refuses to seek a DR agreement and sees the situation as an opportunity to blood some emerging talent.
Speaking to the North West Evening Mail this week, he said: ““We'll go with what we've got until the well runs dry. I haven't asked for anybody and the board have said 'if any money comes available, you can have someone', and that's fine. If not, we're not going to bankrupt the club and we'll stick with what we've got and see if that's good enough to get us until the end of the year.”
Of late, Crarey has been leaning heavily on the experience of his captain Martin Aspinwall, who turned out at prop in the Raiders’ last-ditch 22-all draw at Swinton a couple of weeks back. He concedes that the Raiders are less effective when Aspinwall is off the field - but he can’t give him a long-shift either: “He's solid through the middle and when he's off there, the talk goes and we sit down a bit in the middle. We can't leave him on massively because it's unfair on him and we'll probably lose his quality.”
At the opposite end of the reliability scale, 12 weeks ago Barrow signed former Warrington three-quarter Gene Ormsby until the end of the season. Ormsby was on trial at Salford and also on Swinton’s radar. Crarey saw him then as a good signing: “He's a good signing.” He said at the time. “He's a winger, but he can play centre in the Championship and he's played there before. He's an outside back and that's somewhere we've needed to strengthen…”
But in a late twist, this week Ormsby has asked to be released from his contract due to difficulties in travelling to Barrow. It’s highly unlikely he’ll feature on Sunday, with Tom Loxam in the frame to play at centre
Rethinking his opinion of Ormsby, Crarey said in the North West Evening Mail on Thursday: “Gene Ormsby is struggling with the travelling and he wants a release now because he can't do that, so it's put us in a predicament going into this week with the injuries we've had. I’ve put in the hands of the board and with Gene for them to sort out, so it's left us in a bad position.”
Crarey, is also without utility back Andy Litherland due to a recurring back injury.
Talking of ‘bad positions’, the Raiders have this week pleaded for the Barrow public to back the club in bigger numbers, as crowds are currently falling below the board’s budgeted forecast - compelling Crarey to tighten the purse strings.
Despite a four-figure average, crowds have fallen below the 1,200 budgeted for - and Crarey has made it perfectly clear this week that: “… if we get over that 1,200 then we'll be able to strengthen the team.”
“That's the only way we are going to be able to bring players in… we won't put the club in financial trouble and that's why we'll go with what we've got.”
Hornets go onto Sunday on the back of a gutsy win at Swinton, built on the foundation of a well-executed first 40 minutes in which the high tempo and willingness to move the ball had Swinton in all sorts of trouble.
With Gas Middlehurst and Luke/Toby Adamson back in the side - and Ben Moore calling the shots from acting half - Hornets looked better balanced, but it was the half-back axis of Danny Yates and Tyler Whittaker that made the whole machine tick - and they’ll have to be on-song on Sunday to nullify the threat of Barrow’s short-fused playmaker Jamie Dallimore.
Whilst we don’t want to delve into complex mathematics so early in the season, a win at Barrow - and a win for Swinton at Sheffield - could hoist Hornets out of the bottom two. Defeat then for Dewsbury (at home to Featherstone), would leave them only one point above Hornets. Interestingly Barrow have only one win more than Hornets - but three draws have given them a three point cushion in the dogfight at the bottom of the Championship.
But all of that is moot without the win - and the more fans voices we get up there, the greater the contribution to supporting the lads. So make a day of it: pack your lunch, fill your car and let’s make a bit of noise. See you there.