Harrison pen 74′
A BRILLIANT second-half blitz earned United a massive three points in the fight for survival and it was all down to three goals in the space of 14 minutes.
After a tight first period, the Gulls overwhelmed Barrow, who are also in the relegation scrap. Sean McGinty forced in the first and then a fine goal from George Dowling had the Gulls staring at their first win of 2018.
Luke Young tapped in a crucial third goal on 66 minutes and, despite Byron Harrison notching a consolation penalty for the visitors, a top display from United resulted in a crucial victory.
United showed two changes from the side that started the 1-1 draw at leaders Macclesfield last weekend. Manager Gary Owers gave striker Brett Williams a starting berth ahead of Jamie Reid and goalkeeper Vincent Dorel came in for the injured Ryan Clarke.
Barrow arrived at Plainmoor looking for their first win in five outings and boss Adrian Pennock called upon the vast experience of former Premier League forward Grant Holt to inspire his troops after the marathon journey down to TQ1.
United were given a taste of the challenge ahead inside two minutes, as the visitors won a throw-in on the left and an incredible launch from Dan Jones caught the wind to fly over the bar, but definitely an attacking weapon for Barrow.
The first glimpse of danger at the other end stemmed from a Luke Young corner glanced over the bar by skipper McGinty. The wind was definitely a factor and Barrow took advantage with a cross drifted into the box, which had Vincent Dorel rooted with relief as the header from Holt bounced wide.
After a brief lull in tempo, a routine ball over the top from Conrad Balatoni gave Michee Efete something to chase and he muscled past Jones before a low cross that only just eluded the run of Williams.
The Gulls gradually began turning the screw, although low efforts from Liam Davis and Williams were comfortable for Barrow goalkeeper Steve Arnold. Williams was then denied after an acrobatic effort caused the visiting custodian a little more trouble.
A real source of danger for United was the constant tireless running of Elliott Romain and it was great to see his work-rate rewarded with the Barrow defence clearly flustered. A competitive first period that lacked genuine opportunities with both sides still having all to play for.
United emerged from the interval with the wind in their backs and a tremendous intensity in their approach. Young first whipped a free-kick narrowly wide and then a cross from Efete found McGinty, who forced Arnold into a super save.
It merely delayed the joy for the Gulls, as another Young cross picked out the head of Josh Gowling and his effort was forced over the line from close-range by an elated McGinty. The Bluebirds were rattled and United went for the jugular with Davis firing narrowly wide.
The second arrived courtesy of some magical skill by Dowling, flicking the ball over the head of a bamboozled Ollie Cook and then steering a scuttling half-volley inside the far post, sending the Yellow Army into well-earned delirium
Barrow responded with a shot from distance deflected wide and United were forced into defending a succession of set-pieces before a decisive third goal.
Huge plaudits to Efete, who chased down a ball down the right channel and then squared the ball perfectly for Young to slot an easy finish past the beleaguered Arnold. Brilliant stuff from the Gulls and great to watch.
Barrow understandably turned to the bench for salvation, removing Harry Panayiotou, Chris Humphrey and Holt for the new option of Harrison, Jordan White and Bradley Bauress.
The Bluebirds were then handed a lifeline, as Gowling was penalised for bringing down Luke James in the box. Harrison grabbed the ball and calmly slotted a tidy penalty into the bottom corner, sending Dorel the wrong way.
Owers withdrew Dowling to give Connor Evans his United debut but no masking the growing tension inside Plainmoor, as Barrow moved forward with fresh belief after reducing the arrears to a catchable 3-1.
Despite the inevitable plea for calm from the staff, United’s defensive work had become increasingly frantic but the impressive engine of Efete briefly lifted the apprehension as he chased down another lost cause to eat away some valuable seconds.
Reid replaced the excellent Romain for the closing minutes, but it was a dazzling run from Williams that had the crowd purring in appreciation, and then yelping in annoyance at Cook for a crude challenge that got the booking it deserved.
Barrow kept plugging away until the end, but this was United’s day, and hope remains.
United (3-5-2): 30 Vincent Dorel; 26 Conrad Balatoni, 6 Josh Gowling, 5 Sean McGinty (capt); 2 Michee Efete, 8 Luke Young, 24 George Dowling (29 Connor Evans 76), 21 Aaron Barnes, 3 Liam Davis; 22 Elliott Romain (19 Jamie Reid 87), 39 Brett Williams. Substitutes (not used): 10 Ruairi Keating, 11 Jake Gosling, 20 Neal Osborn (GK).
Barrow (4-3-3): 1 Steve Arnold; 21 Jack Barthram, 25 Ollie Cook, 6 Moussa Diarra, 3 Dan Jones; 14 Asa Hall, 23 Bedsente Gomis, 24 Luke James; 15 Harry Panayiotou (11 Bradley Bauress 71), 16 Grant Holt (20 Byron Harrison 71), 18 Chris Hunmphrey (9 Jordan White 71). Substitutes (not used) 12 Joel Dixon (GK), 19 Tony Diagne.
Booked: Hall 12, Cook 88
Referee: Carl Brook
Attendance: 1, 553 (53 away)