THE LOWDOWN: Boston United v Barrow

Conor Marshall in action at Barrow last season.
Conor Marshall in action at Barrow last season.
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It’s perhaps fair to argue that few football fans outside of Cumbria have heard of Paul Casson. Maybe that will change very soon.

The Barrow-born, Dallas-based millionnaire caused a ripple - in the Vanarama North, at least - when he took control of Barrow earlier this year.

After making his money with the telcommunications service provider Casson-Mark Corporation, he bought the community-owned club’s assets for £600,000 and has promised to invest a further £1.8m within 24 months.

“The first goal within two years is to be challenging at the top end of the Conference Premier,” Casson told The BBC in a statement which certainly suggests anything other than promotion this year is unacceptable.

With Casson’s arrival, Barrow have reinvigorated their squad and go into today’s league opener at Boston United as firm favourites for the title.

Casson’s arrival at Holker Street has also had a knock-on effect at the Jakemans Stadium.

After showing initial interest in the Bluebirds’ Skegness-based commuter Duran Reynolds, it seemed the Pilgrims’ hopes of signing the defender were dashed when Barrow demanded a fee.

But after bolstering their squad they offered to release Reynolds from his obligations, allowing him to line-up against his former club this afternoon (KO 3pm).

Reynolds, in fact, scored for Barrow when these opponents last met at the end of last season.

However, his headed goal was overshadowed by a last-gasp fightback from United which saw Ricky Miller net twice as the death as Boston went from 4-2 down to snatching a remarkable stoppage-time point.

The last meeting between these two teams in Boston also came during Conference North action last season.

In a game which saw the previously-untested central defensive partnership of Stefan Galinski and Conor Marshall hold on to keep a clean sheet, Miller’s goal proved the difference in a 1-0 victory.

Although Boston and Barrow are historical rivals, meetings between the two sides have been few and far between in recent seasons.

Before the previous campaign’s contests the two sides last did battle in the 2007-08 Conference North season, with Boston winning 2-1 at home and losing 1-0 on the road.

From the past five meetings at York Street (for which you need to go as far back as the 1995-96 UniBond Premier campaign) Boston have won three and lost two of their matches on home soil.

Of the past 10 meetings, both home and away, Barrow have the advatage.

They have won five times to United’s four victories, that 4-4 draw last season being the only stalemate.

Today, United go into the contest without the injured Jay Dowie and Marc Newsham, plus the suspended Kaine Felix. But do they have fate on their side?

In the past seven seasons - since David Newton and Neil Kempster took over the club - Boston have won their opening league match on every single occasion, recording victories at the expense of Workington, Ossett Town, FC United, Stafford Rangers, Workington (again), Droylsden and Stockport County.

Perhaps, as a word of warning that the bookies don’t always get it right, last season Stockport began the campaign as second favourites for the title before the Pilgrims left Edgeley Park with a comprehensive 4-1 victory.

But today Barrow may well offer a much sterner test for Dennis Greene’s side.