It was Championship against League One as two more sides began their road to Wembley with Barrow Raiders taking on an Oldham side who finished the 2023 season in fourth place in League One but who have undergone a massive transformation under coach Sean Long.
Barrow were slight favourites with the bookmakers and were handicapped by two points on the coupon as they looked to secure an away game in Round Four against the victors in tomorrow afternoon’s game between Swinton Lions and West Hull.
The forecast was for a chilly but dry afternoon as the two sides took to the field at Craven Park for what promised to be an evenly matched encounter with a potential cup shock on the cards.
Barrow took advantage of back-to-back early penalties when Ryan Shaw slotted the ball between the uprights after Oldham were caught offside.
A scintilating break from Jordan Turner saw Oldham advance seventy metres downfield, but a great defensive effort from Barrow denied the visitors the score, both sides showing their intent early on.
A Ryan Johnston chip towards the uprights was fumbled by the Oldham defence and into the hands of James Greenwood to ground by the left upright. Shaw was on target again and stretched the lead to 8-0.
A great grubber kick from Jamie Ellis wrongfooted the Barrow defence and the bouncing ball was collected by Ben O’Keefe to dot down. Ellis was unable to add the extra two points from close to the touchline.
Another Barrow penalty from Shaw on thirty-six extended the lead back to a six-point margin as half time approached. Jordan Turner was denied a try on the last play of the half as he was tackled just short of the line as Oldham were in a promising position.
Ellis was held up on the line on forty-seven as Oldham went close, and when Barrow failed to play the ball correctly on their own twenty of fifty-one Matty Wildie went over from acting half back to score under the sticks and give Ellis a simple conversion to level the scores at 10-10, the visitors having the better of the play in the second half.
On sixty-three, Oldham hit the front for the first time with Adam Lawton charging over the line through a tired defensive Barrow line. Ellis was on target again for a six-point lead to Oldham.
The Raiders knew that they had to throw caution to the wind as they went on the attack. On seventy minutes Shaw was pushed into touch on the line, but Barrow had found their second wind.
A loose pass from Barrow was intercepted by O’Keefe who raced away for his second try of the afternoon to seal the victory for Sean Long’s side and ensure a mini Giant-killing. Ellis added the goal for a twelve-point win with six minutes remaining.
Luke Broadbent was red-carded after the final hooter for fighting with O'Keefe in a nonesense move from the Barrow winger.
Oldham took their time and absorbed the early onslaught from Barrow who comfortably win the first forty. But as the Cumbrians tired in the second half, Oldham put their foot down and accelerated past their opponents and onwards to the win. It is Oldham who look forward to a fourth round trip to Swinton or Hull, Barrow now focussing on the build up to the 2024 season and maintaining their Championship status.
Barrow Raiders: Cresswell, Shaw (3G), Costello, Carter, Broadbent (SO on 80), Jackson, Johnston, Burke, Wood, Silva, Greenwood (T), Emslie, Wilkinson. Subs: Smith, Makin, McMillan, Ogunwole. 18th Man: Bedward.
Oldham: Astley, Agoro, O’Keefe (2T), Turner, Johnson, Craven, Ellis (4G), Kopczak, Wildie (T), Chapelhow J, Lawton (T), Wardle, Taylor. Subs: Aldridge, Moran, Chapelhow T, Farnworth. 18th Man: Paga.
Score Progression: 2-0, 6-0, 8-0, 8-4, 10-4 : HT: 10-8, 10-10, 10-14, 10-16, 10-20, 10-22, (SO) :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Barrow – Square - Oldham.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.