By Ashley Cox

BARRY Town United will open the gates of Jenner Park for all this Friday night, in a special token of thanks to fans across the region and a celebration of the club’s UEFA Europa League qualification.

Having secured their place in June’s preliminary round draw, Gavin Chesterfield’s squad will put a bow on a milestone JD Welsh Premier League campaign with a special ‘pay what you want’ match against Newtown, with all supporters invited to set their own entry price for the 7.45pm kick-off.

With 56 points from their 31 fixtures, third-placed Barry are guaranteed to finish at least ten points clear of the Robins, who will soon contest a four-way play-off with Caernarfon Town, Bala Town and Cardiff Metropolitan for Wales’ final European spot.

However, their record against the mid-Walians has been patchy this season, with Chris Hughes’ team producing a pair of victories over their Barry counterparts at Latham Park in October and March.

With his passport in his pocket, manager Chesterfield will be looking for more of the gusto that fuelled December’s 4-1 win over the Robins at Jenner Park, a meeting that saw second-half goals from Macauley Southam-Hales, Drew Fahiya, Luke Cooper and Jordan Cotterill seal the three points.

Moreover, Chesterfield will now have more than an eye on the challenge that awaits his squad this summer, as he prepares to launch Barry’s first European campaign since the dizzy days of 2003-04.

For supporters, Friday will offer a final chance to see the Town in competitive action before their Europa League adventure begins, with the first leg set for Thursday 27th June and the second on 4th July, with dates and locations to be determined at the Nyon, Switzerland draw on Tuesday 11th June.

While Barry’s next away day adventure could take them as far afield as the Faroe Islands, their weekend visit to Connah’s Quay Nomads represented more familiar territory, with a familiar result to boot, as the sides contested their third successive draw of the season in the Deeside sunshine.

Looking to lock down second-place, Nomads seized the lead in the 27th minute, when the prolific Michael Wilde leapt high above the Barry defence to head past goalkeeper Mike Lewis.

It was the veteran striker’s 178th goal in the Welsh top flight and one that saw him climb above the former Town forward Chris Summers to fourth in the league’s all-time goalscoring list.

Though Connah’s Quay’s customary high-ball tactics would cause their visitors some problems, Andy Morrison’s men were unable to build upon their goal advantage on this warmest of Easter Saturdays.

Ultimately, the hosts would end up ruing this, as Barry struck back with twenty minutes remaining.

A well-worked build-up and the deftest of flicks proved the key to unlocking Nomads’ defence, with Jonathan Hood running through to score, despite goalkeeper John Danby getting a touch on the ball.

There was a late scare for the travelling supporters when Wilde broke through on goal.

However, Lewis kept his focus and made a sharp save at the near post to keep the scoreline level.

Connah’s Quay will now look forward to a second consecutive JD Welsh Cup final in May, but Barry should be hugely encouraged by their unbeaten record against them this season; their three draws accompanied by a standout 2-0 victory at Jenner Park in September, a result that helped set the stage for this excellent season.

Whatever the score on Friday night against Newtown, Barry have performed above and beyond expectation in 2018-19 and for that, the players, coaches and supporting staff deserve a stirring send-off before their brief summer break.

With spectators able to contribute as much or as little as they like at the turnstiles, Friday’s match could be a good introduction to the club for new supporters; and what better time to get on board than in the run-up to a European campaign?

For Barry, the size of their challenge this summer will be great; yet the bigger they are, the harder they fall and the club has already revelled in its underdog status to reclaim a place near the top of the Welsh football pyramid.

It’s been a tough journey back since the depths of expulsion, a mere six seasons ago. Now, with nothing to lose this Friday, it’s time for all at Jenner to celebrate a season well done.