“You can’t paint over cracks and make excuses,” said Garry Hill following Fleet’s capitulation at home to a Barrow side whose goals at the beginning of each half set them on the way to a convincing victory.
Ebbsfleet’s away performances have been improving but, as against Aldershot, this return to home soil saw all confidence seep away in what was lamentable viewing for the fans.
Fleet were forced into changes with John Goddard injured and Aswad Thomas still a casualty and that meant a return for Jamie Grimes in defence. Gozie Ugwu also regained the starting shirt at the expense of Josh Umerah while Zach Dainkeh was named on the bench in the absence of another midfield casualty in Alex Lawless.
Barrow started the quicker and stronger and although Ugwu got behind their defence on the break, it didn’t take the visitors very long to figure out they had plenty of freedom in midfield.
With John Rooney clearly the danger man in that area, he was allowed time and space to craft the first goal. Fleet only half-cleared their lines from a Josh Kay run and the ball came out to an unhurried Rooney. The former Guiseley man hit an excellent effort that struck the base of Jordan Holmes’ post, then rolled along the line and went in off the goalkeeper.
Dior Angus had a couple of chances from close range slip past the post from corners and Matthew Platt planted a header just over as Barrow continued to dominate.
Alex Reid won a couple of free-kicks at the other end and the corner count equalled Barrow’s but that was as near as the home side came to parity as an increasingly nervy and disjointed Fleet misplaced passes and lacked ideas to wrestle the initiative from the visitors.
Holmes didn’t have an awful lot to do in the Fleet goal as Barrow seemed content to keep possession. On the odd occasions Fleet did get sight of goal, Ayo Obileye shot into Joel Dixon’s arms after he did well to get a pass under control and then the same player advanced into space only to fire high into the Swanscombe End.
Having shown character to come back against Woking, Fleet fans hoped for similar after the break but the second half was only seconds old when Barrow hammered another nail into the hosts’ coffin. Straight from kick-off, a pass down the right was gathered by Scott Quigley and he turned inside a Fleet defence that seemed mentally to still be inside the changing room to fire across Holmes for 2-0.
Alfie Egan was introduced on 58 minutes in a bid to inject some life into midfield and moments later James Ball had a good case for a penalty when he was pushed as he attacked a corner to the far post but with that waved away went Fleet’s last real hope to get back into the game.
Barrow continued to stroke the ball around with confidence, Kay and Rooney calm and collected in front of the halfway line and the visitors’ defence unruffled and untested.
And 20 minutes from time, Barrow got a third goal in almost as casual a manner as their second. It came down the left flank this time, a routine build-up played quickly down the line for Kay. His first-time delivery landed perfectly for an unmarked Quigley lurking on the penalty spot and he lobbed Holmes to rub salt in Fleet wounds.
Umerah showed a little urgency in the final third as the clock ticked down towards the inevitable defeat and Fleet carved out a couple of half chances. Tyler Cordner fired a free-kick just wide, Ugwu lofted an effort over the bar from eight yards and Frankie Sutherland hit the post in the final minute from another set piece.
Umerah and Jason Taylor squared up to earn a booking each in time added on but that was as much fight as was mustered in the previous 90 minutes.
EUFC: Holmes, Cordner, King, Grimes, Wilson (Umerah 74), Obileye (Egan 58), Weston, Sutherland, Ball, Reid (Biabi 83), Ugwu. Subs not used: Palmer, Dainkeh
BFC: Dixon, Brough, Platt, Hird, Barr, Kay, Rooney, Taylor, Dyson (Hardcastle 65), Angus 7 (Hindle 69), Quigley (Harrison 80). Subs not used: Granite, Greaves