By Ashley Cox

BARRY Town United's season came to a disappointing end on Friday, yet the 3-1 defeat to Newtown at Jenner Park did not dampen spirits entirely, as the club now looks forward to its long-awaited return to European football this summer.

A healthy crowd turned out for the finale of the 2018-19 campaign, a special 'pay what you want' affair, but the fixture would not be one to remember, a stark contrast with a JD Welsh Premier League season filled with many highs.

Trailing from the early stages, Barry will be disappointed to have signed off with a drab performance, albeit one against a credible Newtown outfit, who came away with a deserved third head-to-head victory from four attempts this season.

Nevertheless, the champagne corks were popping for the home side come the full-time whistle, as players, staff and supporters alike celebrated their milestone accomplishment of a UEFA Europa League preliminary round berth, one more time.

At one stage, Barry's stand-out season saw them threaten The New Saints' championship stranglehold and had a traditional league structure been in place, it would have been Town lifting the trophy, as they led the pack after playing everyone twice.

Instead, a gruelling second phase of fixtures saw Town fade from title contention, yet the achievement of getting over the line and into Europe with games spare should not be understated, particularly given the calibre of some of the other contenders.

Across the spring, it appeared that Newtown would be Barry's biggest threat to a top three finish and the Robins showed more of their credentials at Jenner Park on Friday, as they prepare to enter the play-offs for the final European spot.

While home supporters had showed up hoping for a party, Newtown had form for crashing such proceedings, with a win at Jenner Park in the closing fixture of the 2000-01 campaign, the day Barry lifted their fifth Welsh Premier trophy.

There was then something of a sense of deja vu as the visitors went about their business in the April showers, capitalising on a sub-par display to take home another three points.

With a mere 12 minutes played, the visitors led, as Joe Kenton's ball into the Barry box struck the knee of Curtis Watkins and ended up in the back of the net.

Deputising goalkeeper Oliver Davies was then called into action, with the former Swansea City and Kilmarnock shot-stopper making an excellent save from Alex Fletcher's long-range strike, in what was the highlight of his Barry debut.

Unfortunately for Davies, there was little he could do to prevent Newtown's second, a rocket of a hit from George Hughes that flew into the top corner.

Barry's bad night at the office then continued, when Steve Leslie found himself unmarked in the penalty area and side-footed past Davies from all of six yards.

On a n evening that saw Chris Hugh make his 100th appearance and Mo Touray perhaps his last before returning to Newport County AFC, neither could reverse the Town's Friday fortunes, as the rain began to ease at Jenner Park.

The home supporters would though have something to cheer in the 96th minute, as striker Kayne McLaggon, apparently pulled back on his way towards the area, lost his footing at the edge of the box and was subsequently awarded a last-gasp penalty kick.

Stepping up with a chance to score the final goal of the season, McLaggon sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, dispatching a textbook finish into the bottom corner.

While far too late for Barry to salvage anything, this goal would have notable ramifications on the final league table, sending Newtown down to fifth on goal difference and handing Caernarfon Town a fourth-placed finish at their expense, as well as home advantage for the duration of the upcoming European play-offs.

The Canaries now host Cardiff Metropolitan in the semi-finals on Saturday, the night after Newtown square off with Bala Town to determine the other finalist.

For the eventual victors, the season will continue until the second half of May, while champions TNS and runners-up Connah's Quay Nomads have the matter of a JD Welsh Cup final to contest, as the Nomads look to retain their knock-out crown.

Meanwhile, for Barry, a well-deserved rest is on the cards, a chance for all to reflect on the successes of the season and the key issues requiring addressing.

With 32 JD Welsh Premier League matches complete and a run to the JD Welsh Cup semi-finals left in the rear view mirror and exciting new destination awaits.

Next stop? Europe.