As his side prepare for a crucial month Paul Cox believes that Barrow need to regain focus as they look to secure a play-off spot in the Vanarama National League.
The Bluebirds have had an impressive season so far, setting a club record with an unbeaten run lasting twenty six games between August and December.
Cox’s side also made it through to the Third Round of the FA Cup, with SkyBet League One side Rochdale ending their run with a 2-0 win at Holker Street.
Just weeks ago they were seen by many as one of the favourites for a play-off spot but defeats against Forest Green Rovers and Guiseley, as well as a home draw against Torquay United, has seen Barrow slip to eighth in the National League table. For free football betting tips for today & the weekend you’ll not find better odds anyway else.
Despite an inconstant run of form they still remain within striking distance of the play-offs and have been boosted by the return to fitness of key duo Byron Harrison and Shaun Beeley.
They will be in contention for a starting place against Sutton United on Saturday, as the Bluebirds begin a run of four home games in their next five matches.
And ahead of the game against Paul Doswell’s side, Cox believes they still have the play-offs firmly within their grasp.
“We were excellent at Guiseley and I don’t think we deserved to lose the game” admitted the former Mansfield Town manager.
“But the simple fact is that we did lose and we now have to reassess where we are in terms of the play-offs.
“They are still in our sights and that is a big positive for us.
“We have big players coming back, people like Byron Harrison and Shaun Beeley, big players for us.
“The squad is stronger but we need to get a bit of focus and consistency back if we are going to make a good season a very special one”
The foundations of that good season have been made in their impressive home form.
Only Forest Green Rovers and Southport have left Holker Street with maximum points, with both of those defeats coming in a hectic January.
Barrow recovered their home form well, condemning league leaders Lincoln City to a 3-0 defeat in front of the BT Sport cameras.
With just under two months of the season left Barrow have seven home games remaining.
A maximum return from those fixtures would take them towards the points total Cox believes they need to secure a play-off spot.
And now he wants to continue the good home form as they prepare for fixtures against fellow promotion challengers Tranmere Rovers and Dagenham and Redbridge.
He said “For any club to be successful in this league you need your home form to be as good as it can be.
“I have been in and around this division long enough to know that is key.
“I think realistically we would need around seventy two to eighty points if we are going to reach them, so we aren’t that far away to be honest.
“Holker Street has been a fortress for us and we need to maintain that in the coming months.
“The fans are behind us, we know that, they have been all season.
“Maybe we need to take more risks, take more chances at home because we need to make sure we take maximum points from those games in front of our own supporters”
At first side Barrow’s fixture list looks relatively kind.
They face a number of mid-table sides and relegation battlers between now and the end of the campaign.
Only four of their remaining twelve games are against clubs currently sat in the top half of the National League table.
Cox isn’t reading too much into the league positions, as he believes that each club’s situation provides a different type of challenge.
“These games against the sides above and around us are huge. We know they are because not only can you take points from them but you can cause a bit of doubt in them if you do so.
“But you can’t look past anyone in this league.
“The mid-table sides that aren’t going to be relegated and aren’t in the play-off push, they are playing without real pressure so they can cause problems for you.
“They don’t have that pressure and that makes it really tough to play against.
“But we have looked at the run-in, and we have looked at the fixtures the teams around us have ahead of them.
“The top sides in the league have to face clubs that are fighting to stay in this league and the ones they are competing with for the play-offs and we need to take advantage of any slips by getting our own game right.
“There will be twists and turns and we aren’t ruling anything out as yet”
Despite Tuesday night’s defeat at Guiseley, Cox is adamant that his players have the desire for the challenge ahead, with their reaction in the dressing room after the game showing him the “real desire” he wanted to see.
“I think you are probably looking at the top ten being involved in the promotion chase, whether that’s as title contenders or for the play-offs.
“What I would say is that if the Guiseley defeat has given me anything positive, it is the fact that I can see a real desire in the players to finish in a play-off spot.
“They were hurt by the result and there is a determination to put things right.
“We are in a good frame of mind going into the last two months and we know they are tough ones.
“But we are relishing the challenge that lies ahead of us”
That is a challenge Cox and his Bluebirds are focusing on with intent.
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Barrow AFC / Reuters Media