VERDICT – Clock is already ticking for the struggling Steelmen

Stefan Moore in action during Corby Town's 2-0 defeat to Barwell at Steel Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley

Stefan Moore in action during Corby Town's 2-0 defeat to Barwell at Steel Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley

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It may only be the end of November but the clock is already ticking for Corby Town as they head towards a second relegation in the space of 12 months.

A dramatic summarisation, perhaps. But the simple facts don’t lie.

Louis Connor makes one of a number of fine saves during the first half of the Steelmen's defeat

Louis Connor makes one of a number of fine saves during the first half of the Steelmen's defeat

This was a poor display, Barwell were comfortable 2-0 winners after controlling the vast majority of the game at Steel Park.

And it has left the Steelmen in big, big trouble in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division.

Corby are rock-bottom, they are nine points adrift of safety and they’ve won just two games in 20 league outings this season while scoring a measly 14 goals along the way.

Even though we are yet to reach the halfway point of the campaign, Corby are leaving themselves a lot to do if they are to find a way out of trouble.

Izale McLeod made his debut for Corby Town in the loss to Barwell at Steel Park

Izale McLeod made his debut for Corby Town in the loss to Barwell at Steel Park

This defeat was a bitter disappointment, given what had happened during the week.

A battling 3-3 draw with Ashton United last weekend offered hope and Gary Mills’ sweeping changes to the squad continued with the additions of Jordan Smith and, more notably, Izale McLeod in the build-up to this game.

But Mills isn’t a wizard. You can’t throw a new group together and expect it work straight away. It takes time. Unfortunately, that’s not something the Steelmen have a great deal of.

Despite strengthening the attacking options, the likes of McLeod, Stefan Moore and Smith never really got a chance to show what they could do as Barwell controlled things in the middle of the pitch and attacked with pace.

Defensively, there are still plenty of questions for the Steelmen to answer. Indeed, had it not been for a string of fine saves from Louis Connor in the first half, the scoreline would have a lot worse.

Barwell included former Corby man Callum Ball in their side and there was more than a hint of irony about it when he fired them into the lead.

In fact, Ball was highly impressive for the visitors and that will only leave the Steelmen fans scratching their head even more after his time at Steel Park was fairly forgettable.

Corby actually started brightly and Moore brought a fine early save out of Liam Castle after a lovely inside pass from McLeod.

Had that gone in, maybe things would have been different.

As it was, it proved to be the spark for Barwell to take charge of proceedings.

Connor tipped Joseph Ballinger’s effort from a corner over the crossbar but the visitors did take the lead on 16 minutes.

The Corby stopper was at fault as he came from his goal to the left side of the area and fouled a Barwell forward on the edge of the box after struggling to clear his lines.

And Ball rubbed that salt into the wounds by curling home a decent left-footed free-kick inside the near post.

The visitors went for the kill and, after a swift counter-attack, Connor parried Ball’s shot before Luke Barlone nodded the rebound into the net - only to be denied by an offside flag.

Smith headed straight at Castle from a McLeod cross at the other end but it was Connor who remained the busier of the two goalkeepers.

He beat away a decent strike from Nigel Julien after he cut in from the right and the Corby stopper twice denied Ball before half-time with the second of those, from a rasping volley, being the best of a worryingly large collection.

Barwell needn’t have worried though as the killer second goal arrived five minutes into the second half. And it was a defensive horror show as Alex Tomkinson whipped in a corner, it was flicked on and Brady Hickey headed home while the Steelmen stood still.

Ball blasted over from Owen Story’s cross after some neat build-up play but the visitors didn’t need anything more than they had.

Moore went close with an excellent 30-yard drive, which was just off target, while McLeod fluffed his lines after being given his first and only clear sight of goal.

Aside from that, there was little else to write home about as Barwell ensured the game petered out without incident.

Corby boss Mills knew what he was coming into when he was appointed.

He’s made changes and will need the time to bring things together.

The Steelmen squad, on paper at least, looks a lot stronger for those changes but the clock is already ticking.

Corby must improve and they must start winning quickly otherwise, at the current rate, there will only be one outcome…

Steelmen: Connor; Kennedy, Tank, Gascoigne, Marshall; Smith, Trainer, Bell (sub Draper, 59 mins), Leslie (sub Crawford, 68 mins); Moore, McLeod. Subs not used: Jepson, Grant, Anton.

Barwell: Castle; Story, Towers, Ballinger, Nisevic; Julien (sub Baldwin, 89 mins), Hickey, Stanley, Tomkinson (sub Martin, 78 mins); Ball, Barlone (sub Grouse, 83 mins). Subs not used: Smith-Varnam, Edgington.

Referee: Neil Pratt.

Goals: Ball (16 mins, 0-1), Hickey (50 mins, 0-2).

Bookings: Connor, Story (both fouls), McLeod (dissent), Kennedy (time-wasting).

Attendance: 437.