ON Saturday, a strong Haverfordwest County became only the second visiting team to win at Jenner Park all season, with the Bluebirds netting twice in the first half to see off a committed Barry Town effort.
In spite of his “sacking” the previous weekend, spectators on both sides were delighted to see manager Gavin Chesterfield back in the dugout, along with his full quota of available players.
The Barry Town Supporters' Committee, primary users of Jenner Park and responsible for all Barry Town football matters, had already outlined their intent to continue on with Chesterfield at the helm, and a statement in the match day programme reaffirmed this stance.
The fan-funded Dragons had won their previous three on the bounce, a run of form that had seen them progress into the last 16 of the Welsh Cup and climb to fourth in the MacWhirter Welsh League.
However, the latest shenanigans on Barry Road blighted the build-up to Saturday’s fixture and appeared to have taken their toll on the home side who found themselves with a mountain to climb by the break.
Opponents Haverfordwest came to Barry fresh off a 4-0 beating of Caerleon and a tenacious 3-2 win at Llandudno Junction in the Welsh Cup.
The Bluebirds finished third last season, a placing they are hoping to better this year in pursuit of a return to the Welsh Premier.
Despite a handful of early Town chances, it was the formidable visitors from Pembrokeshire who took the lead, and in fine fashion. A floated free-kick down the touchline was expertly trapped, crossed in first time and headed high into the net by County’s top goalscorer and one-time Cardiff City target Jack Christopher.
By this time, Barry were already on the back foot - suffering the crushing blow of their own top marksman, TJ Nagi, pulling up with hamstring trouble and needing to be replaced.
A massive part of the Town’s success on the pitch this season, supporters will hope that Nagi’s stint on the sidelines is as brief as possible.
With an unexpected opportunity falling into his lap, substitute Ryan Jenkins showed hunger and enthusiasm and hit the net within minutes, only for his right-footed effort from 10 yards to be ruled out for offside.
With the blows coming thick and fast, County then roared up field and found themselves with a golden opportunity to make it 2-0. Steffan Williams cut inside from the right wing, made good inroads into the box and was toppled for the penalty which former Swansea City youngster Chris O’Sullivan tucked in the bottom corner O’ Sullivan, a former Welsh ABA lightweight boxing champion, will be more than familiar with the concept of the knockout punch, and the Jenner Park faithful sensed this may well have been it.
Barry’s perseverance was as endearing as ever, with the team spurred on by the inspirational Chesterfield, who had suffered a family bereavement days earlier.
A grandstand chorus of 'Chesterfield's Yellow Blue Army,' continuing unbroken for some 15 minutes, illustrated the high regard in which the coach is held, both personally and professionally.
Chesterfield’s job became ever more difficult when towering centre back Ryan Evans became the Dragons’ second casualty – and the third against Haverfordwest this season after Atif Bashir’s campaign was ended early at Bridge Meadow in September.
This gave Jenner Park debutant Bobby Briers the chance to step into Evans’ boots, and the Barry side bore quite the unfamiliar, patched-up look as a result of the enforced changes.
The game was far from over as a contest, with full-back Lee Baldock finding opportunity in an advanced midfield role and midfielder Michael Hartley carving out openings from the flanks.
Hartley and Christian Doidge both found themselves with clear chances to reduce the deficit, but it was far from Barry’s day, with the experienced County goalkeeper Peter Blain denying the pick of their efforts, more often than not with his feet.
Town turned up the heat as the Jenner Park floodlights flickered on, but the visitors would not let Barry settle on the ball, disrupting their typical passing play and reducing opportunities as the clock ran down.
Attempting to strike on the break, County forced two top saves from Barry’s Dan Bradley, only to then lose captain and former Football League man Chris Holloway to a second yellow card. Holloway’s clumsy challenge would have led to an early shower, had they been working.
Ultimately, the second half proved a period of scrappy stalemate – Haverfordwest doing enough to maintain their 2-0 lead and securing what they heralded as a crucial three points.
It was only the fourth time in some 44 matches that Barry had failed to make the scoresheet though it was certainly not for lack of effort on an afternoon where their game plan needed constant adaptation.
As a result of the defeat, Barry stay in fourth, with a trip to mid-table Bryntirion Athletic on the cards for this Saturday (2pm kick-off).
With the winter weather seeing off all the other Welsh League fixtures last weekend, supporters are recommended to check www.twitter.com/BarryTownSC on Saturday morning for any postponement updates.