By Ashley Cox

BARRY Town United suffered a rare defeat at Jenner Park on Saturday evening, with Gavin Chesterfield's Europe-bound team falling 4-0 to The New Saints, whose win sealed a record-extending thirteenth all-time JD Welsh Premier League title.

Champions TNS are the only side Barry have not beaten this season and the Saints arrived at Jenner Park with a fearsome record of 14 wins from their previous 15 outings; a run only tainted by a 2-2 draw with Barry at Park Hall in February.

By the time they left, the former European opponents of both Manchester City and Liverpool had secured an eighth consecutive championship, though the scoreline would be somewhat harsh on Barry, who only fell away in the closing 20 minutes.

Winning a corner in the opening stages, Ryan Brobbel quickly forced a sharp reaction save out of Barry goalkeeper Mike Lewis, before full-back Chris Hugh made a crucial goal line clearance to snuff out and scupper a second set piece.

Nevertheless, TNS started in the same irresistible form that has characterised recent weeks, with the league's leading goalscorer Greg Draper notching his 25th of the season with a smart, side-footer from Aeron Edwards' knock-down header.

Former Middlesbrough man Brobbel had been the scourge of Barry supporters in the JD Welsh Cup semi-final a fortnight earlier and the winger looked set to double his team's advantage with a fine free-kick, only for the crossbar to intervene.

Rebounding off the goal frame, the ball even struck a beaten Lewis on the head, before bouncing free and to safety, in what would be a highlight of the half.

A goal down at the interval, Barry would approach the second half knowing any defeat would all-but end their aspirations of second place and a spot in next season's Scottish IRN-BRU Cup, as one of Wales' two representative clubs.

As a result, Gavin Chesterfield's team had little choice but to push forward as the night progressed, leaving them vulnerable to the dreaded TNS counter attack.

While possession came at a premium and opportunities remained frustratingly limited, it seemed Barry had sailed through the storm and were working their way towards a game-changing equaliser, only for Saints to soon do what they do best.

On 71 minutes, Jamie Mullan weaved his way into the penalty area and uncorked a low shot that crept into the Barry net, defying the contact of goalkeeper Lewis.

Now 2-0 ahead with under 20 minutes left, Saints had one hand on the distinctive league trophy and soon erased any lingering doubt in the 77th minute with their third; Edwards meeting Mullan's scooped cross at the back post and heading home.

Utilising their professional fitness to full and destructive effect, TNS had at last managed to stretch an unyielding Town team out of their shape and by the time that midfielder Jon Routledge rattled in their fourth with a minute or so to play, Barry were resigned to their largest home defeat in several seasons.

Nevertheless, it was game effort from the home side for much of Saturday night's encounter, their best endeavours neutralised by another outstanding TNS showing.

Barry supporters still have to look as far back as October 2001 for a JD Welsh Premier League win at Jenner Park against their green-and-white hooped rivals.

Nevertheless, the gap between the two teams has closed across the course of the campaign, with Barry establishing themselves as one of two credible threats to the Saints' crown, only to be edged out in the season's decisive second phrase.

As TNS celebrated retaining their championship and Jenner Park began to empty out, there may have been some thought of what might have been, had Barry been able to somehow cling on to the top spot they occupied over the festive period.

However, one look at the Saints' scintillating second phase more than validates their claim to WPL honours; a credit to manager Scott Ruscoe and his players, who had stumbled through November in particular, before embarking on a 19-game unbeaten run across all competitions, scoring a whopping 75 goals along the way.

This Saturday, Barry wrap up their away days with a last visit of the season to Connah's Quay Nomads, with their match at the Deeside Stadium a 2.30pm kick-off.

Victory for Town against the 2019 JD Welsh Cup finalists would mathematically keep their hopes of second place alive, but with a swing of more than 40 goals required across the teams' remaining fixtures, it is all but confirmed that the Nomads will finish as runners-up, with Barry hot on their heels in third place.

The final match of the 2018-19 season takes place at Jenner Park on Friday 26th April, when play-off hopefuls Newtown are Barry's visitors in a 7.45pm kick-off.