Thursday, 23 May 2019

Sunday's Coming: Barrow

BARROW: a graveyard, earlier today.
Welcome to the first game of the second half of the season - and we head for Barrow: the graveyard of so many hopes over the years.

If you're seeking any consolation from last Saturday's emotional trauma (and believe us, the pickings are transparently thin), Hornets did manage an exceptional 40 minutes: while - on Sunday - Barrow were roundly pounded by an effective, if unexciting, Sheffield Eagles.

Barrow lost 30-18, but the outcome was given the veneer of a contest by two Barrow tries in the last five minutes, long after the Eagles had clocked-off for the day. Interestingly, The Raiders were ahead 8-6 at the break - Sheffield piling in four tries in the third quarter (three of them in six minutes) to take the game away from Paul Crarey's side. Speaking in the NW Evening Mail Crarey said: “We probably played for 55-60 minutes, but that 20 minute block is letting us down." And he felt that the scoreline wasn't reflective of the effort his side put in: "There was a lot of effort put into today’s game and the scoreline didn’t really reflect that," he said. Wise words, mate.

Looking ahead to this week's encounter Crarey said: “Rochdale showed a big improvement at the Bash and they have improved. I think they put the cue in the rack at half time and, in this division, you can’t afford to do that. We know how important (Sunday's) game is and Matt Calland is a good coach and will have them well prepared.”

Certainly, both ours and Barrow's performances at the Summer Bash leave both sides in search of redemption this week - and both sides will see this as a potential springboard for the back-half of the season.

Indeed, the challenge remains the same - be better than Swinton: a challenge now rendered more difficult than it ever was. The mathematics, though are simple: Hornets now need to gain five more points than Swinton in the 14 games remaining to reel them in. Three more wins than them, effectively. A task complicated by the fact that Swinton host Dewsbury on Sunday - sitting one place and one point above them.

Yes, we know that Widnes sit amidst the back-runners in this pack on 4 points, but with 8 wins already this term, you have to assume that, having already shrugged off their -12-point punishment, they'll creep back up the table as we head for September.

Barrow sit next to bottom on three points - and haven't taken a single point since February. Their only win of the season came in Round 1: a 22-18 win at Batley. Their only other point came in Round 4 with a 20-all home draw with Dewsbury. Their first game of March was a 20-8 defeat - at Spotland. It's been downhill for both clubs since - especially Barrow was they'e gone even longer than us without a win.

Barrow's form has been a bit of a mystery to us, as they have a side containing some redoubtable talent: Lewis Charnock, Tee Ritson, Jarrod Stack, Jamie Dallimore, Deon Cross and Jono Smith. And don't forget Papua New Guinean trio Stargroth Amean, Wartovo Puara Jr and Willie Minoga - all signed from Queensland Cup side SP Hunters. There's something clearly failing to click at Craven Park. Let's hope it continues for another week at least...

Paul Crarey does have Martin Aspinwall and Dan Toal back in his side after lengthy lay-offs - and he has identified areas for improvement: “If we could just control the game for longer periods, instead of pressing the self-destruct button by giving the ball away 30 metres from our line or trying to score with every set, or not playing the ball correctly and giving penalties away. It’s about being patient and getting to the back end of kicks and then getting some repeat sets.”

We read that as an opportunity to pressurise them into making poor decisions. Indeed, it was a high level of defensive pressure that harried Swinton into errors in the first half last weekend - and in tight games you need all the scraps you can feed on.

Beyond the half-time brew at Blackpool, it's all a bit of a lamentable blur - but it underpins the scale of the task in hand for Matt Calland and his coaching team. Certainly losing is a bad habit to break, and Hornets haven't really been in the position of locking down a game this season.

But we travel in hope that the second half of the season will be an improvement on the first. So let's shed that particular skin and go again. See you at Craven Park.