Fleetwood Town 4, Barrow 1. Fleetwood Town quickly regained full focus on their promotion bid following their FA Cup exploits – returning to top spot in the Conference at least until Saturday.
It was fitting revenge, after Barrow had netted four against Town back in August, as Micky Mellon’s men served up a treat for an excellent midweek attendance of 2091.
Two more goals by Jamie Vardy took his tally for the season to 20, while Peter Till and Danny Rose, on his full debut, both scored their first goal in Town colours.
Mellon made two changes after Saturday’s FA Cup defeat, with England C skipper Danny Rose replacing Jamie Milligan in midfield and Alan Goodall returning at left-back in place of Junior Brown.
Lee Fowler, signed 24 hours earlier from Wrexham, came off the bench for the final half hour against a Barrow side featuring two former Town players – goalkeeper Danny Hurst and Burnley midfielder Alex-Rae Harvey, who has again been loaned out following his Highbury stint last season.
Town made the perfect start, taking the lead after just four minutes. And inevitably, man of the moment Vardy, was involved.
Jamie McGuire played a telling pass for the striker to run on to down the left. Hurst failed to collect the low cross and Till followed up to score.
Barrow retaliated briefly and former Bluebird Steve McNulty had to be calm under pressure when chesting a cross from Jack Mackreth back to goalkeeper Scott Davies.
Till was a lively presence in the final third of the pitch as Town dominated possession. The former York player brought the best out of Hurst after quarter of an hour, the big keeper diving to his left as Till met a Rose pass sweetly on his right foot.
Hurst was on hand again on the half-hour to block a left-foot strike from Rose.
Two minutes later, Vardy found space down the left and cut inside before hitting a crisp shot which Hurst saved well at the near post.
Rose, cajoling constantly, then released Andy Mangan, who moved forward at pace before attempting a long-range shot which just cleared Hurst’s crossbar.
Barrow central defender Phil Bolland was somewhat fortunate to see only yellow just before the break after a heavy lunge at Rose.
It was the final act of a one-sided 45 minutes, in which Town will have been disappointed not to have converted more than one chance.
However, they took firm control in the ten minutes after half-time, scoring twice.
Vardy did well to stay onside before slamming a left-foot shot past Hurst in the 47th minute.
Six minutes later, Shaun Beeley made a typical incisive run before turning the ball back perfectly for Rose to hit the target with a right-foot shoot.
Rose immediately left the field to generous applause and was replaced by another home debutant in Fowler.
Disappointingly, the impressive Till was forced off after pulling up soon afterwards and Gareth Seddon took his place.
Goodall was booked for bringing Mackreth down after 64 minutes and Barrow immediately seized a lifeline.
After a foul by Beeley, Ritchie Baker’s high free-kick from the left caught Davies out at the far post and Barrow substitute Joe Jackson tapped home from close range on his Barrow debut.
Peter Cavanagh received his third booking of the season after Harvey went down as Barrow worked hard to cut the deficit further.
Vardy almost settled things after 73 minutes, firing over Hurst’s bar, then three minutes later, the much-vaunted striker bore down on goal before slicing wide.
Substitute Magno Vieir should have made Town comfortable after 82 minutes, beating offside only to chip over when one-on-one with Hurst.
However, Vardy was soon to strike again. Fed by Goodall, Town’s top scorer celebrated his 25th birthday today by hitting the target from a narrow angle on the left as Hurst came out.
Town were coming forward at will by this stage, although Barrow came close to scoring a late second when they hit the post in a crowded goalmouth.
Town take an enforced break this weekend, having been knocked out of the FA Trophy, while Wrexham travel to Tamworth in a rearranged league fixture and will return to the top if they avoid defeat.
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, McNulty, Goodall, Cavanagh, Pond, Till (Seddon 61), McGuire (Vieira 70), Rose (Fowler 59), Mangan, Vardy; not used: Stevenson, Charnock
Barrow: Hurst, Bolland, Hone, Skelton, Rutherford, Baker, Smith, Mackreth, Harvey, Cook (Jackson 57), Boyes; not used: Pearson, Lomax, Moyo, Ferrell.
Referee: S Bratt,