REPORT: Barrow 2 Dagenham 1 (Sat 18 Mar)

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Dagenham failed to build on their impressive victory last weekend as they slumped to a second consecutive away reverse with promotion rivals Barrow completing the double to win 2-1 at Holker Street. In their longest away trip of the season, the Daggers started the better and took the lead when Corey Whitely’s corner sailed all the way in, but Barrow responded before the break when Hughes converted a dubious penalty and, after taking control in the second half, won the match through Diarras’s measured far-post finish.

The Daggers were unchanged from the team that has so impressively overcome Forest Green last weekend and they began this one looking to gain another victory over a promotion rival.

After two minutes they won a free-kick on the edge of the box, which was taken by Maguire-Drew but ended up drifting over the bar. Barrow gave a first indication of their set-piece prowess when Bennett nodded narrowly wide of the right-hand post following a corner.

However, it was Dagenham who then took the lead after ten minutes when Whitely bizarrely scored from an improbable angle as his corner from the left spiralled all the way into the top-right corner. It came from nothing, but Dagenham had a valuable lead which they could protect.

Not disheartened by the setback, Barrow continued to test the visiting defence in what has still an evenly-matched half. An excellent move put Turnbull through directly infront of goal but a combination of Scott Doe on the line and keeper Justham deflected the effort wide.

At the other end, Whitely tried to replicate his fantastic opener with a curling strike from a similar position which bent just wide a few minutes later, before the Bluebirds resumed their pressure and Anderton played in Bennett, whose resulting effort from distance failed to hit the target. But after 39 minutes, the hosts broke and the ball was worked to Bennett, who while shielding the ball tamely fell under the challenge of Robson.

The referee pointed to the spot to award a questionable penalty and Barrow graciously accepted the gift with Hughes squeezing his effort home to score his first goal since opening the scoring with another disputable goal at Dagenham in November.

The teams went in at half-time level but the Bluebirds, perhaps buoyed on by the penalty decision, mainly dominated the second half. Diarra headed just wide again then, in the 57th minute, Hughes’ deflected strike was blocked for Livesey, who crossed for Diarra to find the opposite corner with a looping shot from a tight angle to give his side the lead.

Not content with just a 2-1 advantage, they continued to control the match and Hughes saw his powerful drive kept out by Justham, who then kept out Meikle from a corner. The east Londoners then made their first substitution as Romain came on for his debut, replacing Maguire-Drew.

It was a thrilling last ten minutes at Holker Street with both sides attacking; at the Barrow end, Hughes’ testing header was held before Bennett’s shot was blocked and Harvey went close with a shot from distance.

In between this, Dagenham were trying in vain to salvage a point. In the 91st minute, they thought they had got it when Romain’s header could’ve crossed the line in a packed box but despite all his side’s appeals, the referee didn’t agree.

Instead, Barrow continued to frustrate the Daggers by making their substitutions with just seconds remaining. Effiong replaced Bennett, Tuton made way for Wright and Thomas came on for Hughes as the visitors struggled for fluency, with the best they could muster being a Romain header which went agonisingly over the bar.

The match then entered it’s seventh minute of injury time and Robson conceded a needless foul before the whistle blew. Tensions then boiled over and scuffles ensued with a Barrow player allegedly gesturing to the away fans and this continued in the tunnel.

John Still’s side will be looking to atone for this reverse instantly as they head to fellow promotion contenders Aldershot Town on Tuesday in what will be a stern test. They will come up against former players Matt McClure and Shamir Fenelon, searching for three points which are crucial at this point in the campaign.

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