Beaten cup side turn their attentions to promotion bid
3:02pm Tuesday 10th December 2013 in Sport
CHANGING ROOMS: The Barry Town United kit ahead of their Welsh Cup fixture against Cefn Druids (2932396)
CEFN DRUIDS 5
BARRY TOWN UNITED 2
BARRY Town United were beaten by a succession of late goals in a pulsating Welsh Cup tie at Cefn Druids on Saturday.
Despite a stirring comeback and long periods of attacking play, the visitors were beaten by some clinical finishing and a handful of costly mistakes though those in attendance will fondly remember a tremendous Barry performance which, ultimately, deserved a lot more.
Barry ran out at The Rock without top scorers TJ Nagi (injury) and Jordan Cotterill (suspension) as well as influential midfield anchor Ryan Dorrian.
Nevertheless, manager Gavin Chesterfield was able to field a full starting XI of players who had featured in his side's run to the semi-finals last season.
After a pre-match silence for the great Nelson Mandela was spotlessly observed, the exciting duel between the 2013 semi-finalists and 2012 runners-up began.
Evoking memories of their trips to Flint and Newtown last season, the travelling Barry supporters had the grandstand rocking from the moment the players ran out and their side had the first big chance of note in the early minutes, albeit cleared off the line.
However, the scale of their task was illustrated in the 18th minute, when Druids took the lead from just their second chance of the match. A well-worked team move saw the ball criss-cross the playing surface, with a cross being headed home by Steve Blenkinsop.
A moment of class had broken the deadlock, and given the hosts an early cushion, yet this setback did not deter the Barry players, with striker Ryan Jenkins going close to equalising almost straight from kick-off.
As the half progressed, it was clear that the Town's percentages of possession and territory were defying the whitewash predicted by some pundits.
However, Barry were stunned in the 35th minute, when a low, long-range effort from Druids' Robbie James was spilt by goalkeeper Dan Bradley, with the rare howler gifting the hosts a 2-0 advantage against the run of play.
With their status in the Welsh Cup hanging by a thread, Barry continued to attack the Druids goal, and wingers Dale Howarth and Michael Hartley caused considerable problems for the unbeaten Cymru Alliance leaders. Hartley, with ten goals to his name this season, hit one effort just wide before troubling home goalkeeper Andrew Lee Ruscoe with another attempt a minute later.
Howarth then found himself with a golden opportunity in the six-yard box, only for Ruscoe to make a terrific one-handed save. With the Druids defence in disarray, full-back Lee Baldock forced a corner moments later, only for Ruscoe to frustrate Howarth once more.
Howarth then turned creator, capping some fine work by pressing forward to set up Jenkins, whose tremendous shot prompted an outstanding save from the seemingly unbeatable Ruscoe.
Nevertheless, Barry's pressure was finally rewarded a minute before half-time when defender Ryan Evans rose high to smash a header past Ruscoe from another corner.
A huge psychological step accomplished at the perfect point of the match and, as the players left the field for half-time, one sensed the momentum of the tie swinging in Barry's favour.
Indeed, the Town began the second half much how they ended the first, with waves of attacking play building their case in pursuit of an all-important equaliser. First, Hartley tested Ruscoe with an effort with the outside of his foot, making the most of captain James Saddler's pass. Then midfielder Troy Greening almost broke through for a clear run on goal, with Barry demonstrating lots of ideas, albeit still waiting for that one big chance.
It came in the 51st minute, when Hartley was pushed over in the area to win a penalty kick.Defying the palpable tension, Hartley stepped up himself to take the spot kick and coolly level the match at 2-2.
Barry songs now echoed around The Rock, literally reverberating off the ground's neighbouring cliff face and spurring the players on.
However, while the Barry team showed exceptional appetite to push forward and win the match, the Druids looked ever-dangerous on the break, with Barry's second triggering an exhilarating period of full-out attacking football both ways.
As Barry's corner count continued to climb, defender Bobby Briers headed close from the one-set piece before Greening had a low shot saved comfortably by the resilient Ruscoe. Jenkins showed fine skill and strength to control the ball before sailing an audacious effort from long-range inches high.
The quick forward then looked to break away for a charge on goal, only to be hauled down, resulting in a booking.
At this point, the Town's passing philosophy appeared to be winning the battle against the Druids' long-ball tactics and spectators geared up for an exciting finale to what had been a quite compelling cup tie.
However, the travelling faithful had their hopes dashed when Druids' Adam Hesp popped up to score from a corner in the 73rd minute.
While Barry went straight up the other end and were close to equalising, this was as good as it got for Gavin Chesterfield's men, whose valiant efforts proved ultimately in vain. In the 78th minute, Blenkinsop scored the goal of the game, with a sublime shot past Bradley from outside the box.
Barry enjoyed a few more half-chances, with Baldock almost snatching one back with an unorthodox heel flick effort which ran narrowly wide. Meanwhile, Hartley's cross flew across the goalmouth, agonisingly beyond the reach of Barry substitute and former Welsh Cup winner Lee Jarman.
With two minutes left, Druids capitalised on another breakaway attack to finish the Town off, with Blenkinsop seizing on a mistake and completing his hat-trick.
Nonetheless, the hosts were full of praise for a Barry side who took them to the limit for the majority of the game and, at one stage, looked poised to go on and win it.
Barry will be disappointed that their lengthy spells of attacking play did not reap the reward of victory, yet should be equally proud of their efforts against a team unbeaten all season. Indeed, no other visiting side has scored twice at The Rock this season.
Meanwhile, the Druids will be delighted to have weathered the storm and buried their chances, with their lethal finishing proving the crucial factor in securing their spot in the fourth round.
Despite the result, the Barry side did the town proud and Gavin Chesterfield's team will now look to press on with their promotion hopes back in South Wales, having won friends and admirers up North.
Barry Town United would like to thank all at Cefn Druids for their exceptional hospitality, and wish them the very best for the remainder of the competition.
Barry: Bradley, Frowen, Briers, Evans, Baldock, N. Jones, Saddler, Greening, Howarth, Hartley and Jenkins. Subs: Morgan, S Jones, Jarman, Cosslett and Searle.