BARRY Town United clinched the Welsh League Division Three championship on Thursday with a jubilant final day win at Newport Civil Service.
Only a single point separated leaders Llanwern and second-placed Barry heading into the climactic decider, re-scheduled from one week earlier.
With Llanwern having completed their season, a draw on Thursday would have been enough for Gavin Chesterfield's side to claim the title due to their superior goal difference.
However, the tireless Town, driven on by rock-solid performances from Lewis Cosslett, Ryan Dorrian and others, did enough to secure all three points and end an historic season on the highest of highs.
Backed by a large and loud contingent of travelling supporters, Gavin Chesterfield’s side arrived in Newport expecting a tough night’s work, and so it proved, with the hosts battling hard for every ball.
The natural tension was somewhat lifted, however, when Jordan Cotterill’s cross from the left sailed over the goalkeeper and into the net to give Barry an 11th minute lead and much-welcome breathing space.
It was top marksman Cotterill’s 30th goal of the season and, perhaps, his most important, though even the man himself would admit it was one of his more fortunate.
Strike partner James Dixon had an eventful evening, making a nuisance of himself and forging forward into the box on numerous occasions, only to be denied a handful of penalties.
Civil, meanwhile, were not shy to test the Barry defence, but were continually denied by an inspired Damon Searle, who dominated the aerial battles and helped keep the home side at bay.
Remarkably, Searle’s tour de force came 20 years to the day from his appearance in a Welsh Cup final for Cardiff City against Barry!
The second half proved a tense affair, with the Town edging ever closer to glory, while weary of the momentum swing an equaliser might bring with it.
In a tactical change from the previous match, Nickie Jones was brought into the starting line-up, and the former Torquay United man worked hard to win his midfield battles.
Dependable full-backs Geraint Frowen and Paul Morgan, meanwhile, ensured Civil’s opportunities down the flanks were severely limited.
Barry’s endeavour right across the field typified their season, from goalkeeper Dan Bradley, en course for a 20th clean sheet of the campaign, to playmaker Troy Greening, whose contributions since the loss of TJ Nagi and Michael Hartley to injury have been invaluable to the title challenge.
Ultimately, though, the hero of the hour proved to be a substitute, winger Dale Howarth firing home a perfect shot that rocketed in off the right-hand goalpost for a decisive 2-0 advantage.
With a three-goal swing required in the dying minutes to put Llanwern back on top of the table, Barry had all but won the league, though few if any of the colourful crowd dared acknowledge it until the final whistle.
When it came, the stand erupted, as fans celebrated their club’s first title in over a decade and their first in the Welsh League since 1994.
Supporters then joined the victorious players on the pitch for songs and champagne celebrations.
After the match, Barry manager Gavin Chesterfield commented: “I am pleased for our players tonight. They could have walked away when things got tough, but like all at the club, they fought and are now champions.”
Full-back Lee Baldock, meanwhile, who appeared as a substitute in Newport, said the championship win had resulted in “memories we will all remember forever.”
The final word on a sensational season, however, must go to forward James Dixon, who remarked: “Winning the league for your hometown club… it doesn’t get much better!”
Barry ended their campaign with a haul of 90 points, earning 29 wins and three draws from 36 league outings, scoring 116 times and conceding 29.
The club will now look forward to celebrating the championship at its awards dinner on Friday, June 6.
Barry: Dan Bradley, Geraint Frowen, Damon Searle, Lewis Cosslett, Paul Morgan, Troy Greening, Nickie Jones, Ryan Dorrian, Ryan Jenkins, Jordan Cotterill and James Dixon. Subs used: Dale Howarth, Scott Jones and Lee Baldock. Subs unused: James Saddler and Lee Jarman.