Preview: Exeter City vs Barrow

If you’d seen City’s most recent results, you certainly wouldn’t have predicted the ridiculous events of Tuesday night, which saw Matt Taylor’s men come back from 3-1 down to beat Harrogate 4-3 thanks to a stunning Jack Sparkes winner with virtually the last kick of the game. The win may come at a price, however, with Sam Stubbs picking up a shoulder injury that is likely to rule him out for a while, and makes the decision to loan out George Ray look even more of a gamble. Jonathan Grounds is likely to start in his place having scored off the bench against Harrogate, with Colin Daniel likely to return to the bench. Elsewhere Kieran Phillips missed Tuesday’s match with a swollen knee but will hopefully be fit to return on Saturday, as Sam Nombe managed to complete 90 minutes only as a result of Taylor having had to make an enforced change with Stubbs’ injury. Josh Key was rested on Tuesday but will hope to return.

Barrow, in their second season back in the league after a near 50 year absence, have once again struggled, and Mark Cooper’s side are looking over their shoulder as sides like Oldham look to build some momentum into the final months of the season. The Cumbrians have registered one win in their last seven, although that was against high-flying Northampton – while other wins have come against sides like Swindon, Mansfield and Newport to suggest Cooper’s side is dangerous against the stronger sides in the division. This also manifested itself in the FA Cup where Barrow defeated Ipswich before coming up just short in a 5-4 rollercoaster against Championship strugglers Barnsley in the third round. Cooper was able to re-sign John Rooney from Stockport in the January window, Wayne’s younger brother having played a starring role in Barrow’s promotion in 2020, and Rooney Jr has scored once since returning. Ollie Banks is top scorer with 11 in all competitions, while Josh Gordon has failed to hit the heights hoped of him when signing from Walsall, he has five league goals to his name.

It’s fair to say the return fixture at Holker Street failed to live long in the memory, the sides grinding out a 0-0 draw back in August. City knew they had to win and hope for results elsewhere to go their way to make the playoffs on the final day of last season, but whereas the previous time Barrow visited at the end of the season the game finished 7-1, on this occasion it was 1-1, Jay’s first half goal cancelled out by Beadling to ensure City’s stuttering late season form continued to the final day. Barrow hold a slight league head to head lead with six wins to City’s five, but Pools players may put their X in the box for this one as ten matches have finished level.

The match officials for the game will be:-

Referee: Christopher Pollard
Assistant Referees: Andrew Laver and Louis Marks
Fourth Official : Michael Begley

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