BATLEY BULLDOGS slumped to defeat at bottom-side Barrow Raiders, losing 18-14 in a end-to-end battle, writes Paddy McAteer.
Barrow boss Bobbie Goulding had a smile as wide as the River Mersey as he lead his team off the Craven Park pitch following his first win as coach.
After last weeks agonising late 30-28 defeat at Doncaster, Goulding set a target of four successive home wins – and he was delighted with his first triumph.
“I am happy with the win but not the completion rate.” Goulding said. “At 12-0, we could have had the game sewn up only to concede two quick penalties and 12 points.
“It was a hard earned win and I’m delighted for everybody – the players, officials and supporters. We dug in and got the result but there is still a lot of hard work to do.”
This was a real ding-dong battle and in a grandstand finish, play went from one end of the field to the other as both teams strived for victory.
Holding onto a slender four point lead, Barrow came under constant pressure in the closing stages and all credit goes to the home side for weathering that late storm.
Batley, with Ben Black and Scott Leatherbarrow prompting and probing, bashed the home line while several counter-attacks in those closing minutes saw the Bulldogs under the cosh. Like the Raiders, they kept their line intact.
The visitors applied the early pressure, going close as Leatherbarrow sent Miles Greenwood into the clear turning the home cover inside out only to be held up over the line.
Inspirational prop Alex Rowe then went close but lost the ball in the tackle only a few feet from the line.
Barrow’s first raid came to a halt when skipper Liam Harrsion lost the ball a yard out.
Batley gained possession and a great 40-20 from Black set up an attack which came to a close when Max Wiper’s crunching tackle on Joe Chandler prevented the forward crossing the line.
Barrow took play upfield through a fine Andrew Dawson run as the visitors’ line came under siege, through the conceding of successive penalties.
Mick Govin was held up before a Speakman kick forced Greenwood to put the ball dead.
The pressure continued as a Campbell kick forced Brown to boot the ball dead.
However, the scoreline changed on the board on 23 minutes as Campbell, Harrison and Wiper made good ground. It was Wiper who got himself out of a tackle to roll over in the corner against a swirling wind, with Ryan Shaw tagging on the goal.
Five minutes later, 6-0 turned into 12-0. Dalton Grant burst through the cover, tearing upfield before being halted. However, a quick play the ball saw Speakman pass to Dan Toal who pulled out of the tackle to race in from 30 yards out, Shaw adding the goal.
Two successive penalties saw the Bulldogs draw level with 12 points inside three minutes.
First Leatherbarrow and John Davies linked and it was a neat inside ball from Davies that created space for Greenwood to go in by the posts for Lee Paterson to convert 12-6.
Then it was an easy try for the visitors as, from the second tap penalty, Davies fed Adam Gledhill and a huge gap opened up for him to stroll through un-opposed. Paterson goaled.
This spurred on the Bulldogs as Barrow seemed to wilt, but they managed to hold out till the break.
Minutes into the second half, Jamie Butler was penalised for infringing in the tackle allowing Paterson to put the visitors ahead for the first time at 12-14.
However, Barrow were soon to respond, regaining the lead on 47 minutes as Speakman and Campbell paved the way for Toal to come onto the ball at speed and romp over by the posts, with Shaw converting.
Joe Bullock, off the bench for Barrow, was a constant threat both in attack and defence and always took a four man tackle as he drove his team forward.
The Bulldogs became lively as the game reached the later stages, with Alex Brown always a threat along with Rowe.
It was Brown who looked destined to score out wide, while Anthony Nicholson was held short as the Bulldogs ran out of tackles against a defence that wasn’t going to crumble.
A counter-attack saw Govin send Campbell racing to the line, but a try saving tackle from Chandler stopped him short.
At the other end, Harrison saved his line when he dropped onto a kick from Leatherbarrow.
And as the seconds ticked down one last raid would have ended in a Bulldogs try, but Josh Johnson knocked on as the overlap was created.
Barrow survived and a deep Govin kick from a penalty eased matters as the hooter sounded.