Barrow v FC Halifax Town: Opposition focus

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This Saturday sees FC Halifax Town face a Barrow side making good progress under manager Ian Evatt, according to Matt Wright, who covers the club for the North West Mail.

Barrow are 12th in the National League having won 11, drawn six and lost 12 of their league games this season.

Evatt is in his first permanent managerial post, having been appointed in the summer, and Wright says the former Chesterfield and Blackpool defender has done a good job so far.

“This time last year, Barrow were embroiled in a relegation dogfight so being able to look up the table and know a play-off push isn’t yet out of the question represents a real improvement,” he said.

“However, manager Ian Evatt has repeatedly said that he isn’t happy with his side being mid-table.

“Until their surprise defeat at Havant & Waterlooville two weeks ago, they’d been playing really well, going toe-to-toe with some of the best teams the National League has to offer.

“They picked up eight points from 12 during their festive fixtures and it would have been all 12 had it not been for a couple of brilliant late saves from Fylde goalkeeper Jay Lynch.

“They’ve become a lot more solid since switching to three at the back in November.

“It sacrificed their possession-based gameplan that we saw earlier in the season to an extent, but that style is something they are working back towards. However, with Jacob Blyth up front, they are prepared to be more direct as he does a good job of holding the ball up.

“There was a lot of dead wood to clear out when Evatt took charge last summer and he’s had to get an almost completely new squad to gel this season.

“There were a few hiccups in the early months and a worrying run of defeats in the autumn, but an attractive style of play has started to bring results since November. Overall, it’s been a really promising start to Evatt’s managerial career. “

Wright says Barrow have adapted well to the loss of Sheffield United striker Tyler Smith, who scored 10 goals in 23 games before his loan came to an end last month.

“Since Smith was recalled by Sheffield United, it’s hard to pick out anybody that I’d say the Bluebirds really couldn’t do without.

“Fellow Blade Rhys Norrington-Davies is thriving at left wing-back. They’d really miss his dynamism if he was forced out of a few games.”

On new loan signing Dior Angus, from Neil Aspin’s Port Vale, Wright said: “It all depends on him making the step up, after impressing in National League North with Nuneaton.

“But the fact he scored 13 goals in 25 games for a struggling team is very encouraging and Evatt feels he can plug the gap that was left by Smith’s departure.”

Wright says Barrow’s defensive options are a little limited, with Brian Wilson out with a calf injury and Kyle Jameson suspended for three games after getting sent off for an apparent stamp at Havant & Waterlooville.

Wright also says losing former Swansea midfielder Kemy Agustien, after his short-term contract expired, is also a blow.

Likely line-up/formation: (3-4-1-2): Dixon, Hird, Granite, Jones, Barthram, Jennings, Taylor, Norrington-Davies, Rooney, Blyth, Angus.