City’s season looks to be getting back on track after a hard-fought win over resurgent Bradford on Saturday, but with five of the next six matches away from home the rest of February will be a real test of strength and resilience for Matt Taylor’s side, beginning with probably the longest journey in the calendar on Tuesday night. The unfortunate Lewis Page was withdrawn early with yet another tweak to his hamstring and will therefore be unlikely to make the trip meaning Jack Sparkes will continue at left back. Rory McArdle sat out Saturday’s win following his wince-inducing injury at Stevenage, meaning Taylor will presumably stick to a back four rather than the 3-5-2 that may mean better use of Sparkes in an attacking capacity. Robbie Willmott earned rave reviews on his full debut, while Joel Randall made a welcome return off the bench.
Barrow were the main beneficiaries of the early curtailment last season as, following an amazing run of form from September to January, the last month or so of the season saw their form start to tail off, and it was felt they may have ended up being reeled in by the chasing pack had the season continued. However, they were promoted to the joy of all the romantics in the game, having lost their league status nearly 50 years previously. The Bluebirds then found themselves without a manager as Ian Evatt left for Bolton, while top scorer John Rooney (brother of Wayne) also departed, opting to remain in the National League with Stockport. David Dunn was installed as manager, but having been expected to struggle, Dunn was unable to mould a winning formula and he was sacked, with ex-Grimsby boss Michael Jolley replacing him. Barrow continue to struggle, with a win and a draw in five matches in 2021 so far. Jolley has been busy during the window, signing five players (including Jamie Devitt and Neal Eardley) on loan and two permanent signings, including Ollie Banks from Tranmere. Scott Quigley is the main goal threat, but with six goals to his name it’s easy to see why Barrow have struggled.
The last time the sides met was in Barrow’s ill-fated 1971/72 season, which culminated in their failure to gain re-election at the expense of Hereford, and one of their final league matches saw them thrashed 7-1 at the Park. Just over a month previously, in March 1972, was the last time City made the long trip to Holker Street, and it was a rather more sedate affair, finishing 0-0. The sides met 18 times overall when Barrow were previously in the league, each winning five with eight matches finishing level.
The match officials for the game will be:-
Referee: Ross Joyce
Assistant Referees: Graeme Fyvie and Conor Brown
Fourth Official : Matthew Parry
This will Ross Joyce’s fourth time taking charge of an Exeter game, details at https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=joyce