By Ashley Cox

HIGH-FLYING Barry Town United’s tour of the JD Cymru Premier makes a brief landing in Broughton this Saturday, with the Jenner Park club to radar in on a first-ever meeting with Airbus UK (2.30pm).

Fully-refuelled after a 0-0 stalemate with Caernarfon Town last weekend, Barry take off for Airbus without an engine, with midfielder Robbie Patten a continuing absence, due to his hamstring injury.

Parachuting in for the Canaries match last Saturday, loan signing Sion Spence replaced his former Cardiff City teammate in the starting XI, while Evan Press assumed controls in the centre; steering Barry through a turbulent encounter, yet one that never reached the altitude of previous meetings.

After Spence had threatened to break the deadlock, Barry teammate Kayne McLaggon would test goalkeeper Alex Ramsay, only for Caernarfon marksman Jamie Breese to come closest to opening the scoring, forcing a returning Mike Lewis to rush out and save, with Press coming in to clean up.

In for the absent George Ratcliffe, who had kept a clean sheet for Wales U21s in their 1-0 win over Belgium the previous evening, Lewis will be pleased with a well-organised shift between the sticks.

Giving his teammates a solid base to build on, Barry would look to nick a second-half winner , yet Clayton Green’s ball across the box whizzed past McLaggon, before the impressive Chris Hugh saw his cross-come-shot bounce away off the crossbar, after the wing-back had dispossessed his man.

Then, in a turbo-charged period of five minutes’ stoppage time, McLaggon surged forward to set up the returning Mo Touray, yet the second-half substitute sent his final effort airborne.

In a last-gasp breakaway, Caernarfon looked to snatch the three points, only to hit the side netting.

As Barry and Caernarfon were cancelling each other out at Jenner Park, newcomers Airbus saw their season lift off at Aberystwyth Town, with Kristian Platt and Andy Owens’ goals enough to give them a 2-1 win and their first points back in the JD Cymru Premier since securing their return in the spring.

With 13 campaigns to their name, Wingmakers are no strangers to the league, yet have curiously never crossed flight paths with Barry, as the two clubs changed places in 2004 and again in 2017.

Formed in the aftermath of World War II, Airbus adopted various identities across their history, with today’s moniker reflective of the aerospace factory that sits alongside their unusual home ground.

Amusingly, visitors to the Hollingsworth Group Stadium, known colloquially as The Airfield, can sometimes be distracted by the awesome sight of a huge Beluga aircraft setting off behind the stands, giving the ground near the Chester border an atmosphere unique in the Cymru Premier.

While looking forward to a new destination this Saturday, Town supporters might remember that Airbus’ original climb to the highest league in Welsh football coincided with Barry’s tailspin out of it.

In 2004, Airbus earned promotion to the Cymru Premier, taking fallen Barry’s place in the division, yet the move caused controversy at the time in the corridors of Jenner Park, with Airbus’ promotion initially hinging on them being able play out of Conwy, some 40 miles from their Broughton base.

Despite Barry’s protests, which included an appeal to the league itself, Airbus soon had their ascendency rubber-stamped, with the Town, Welsh champions 12 months prior, making way.

As Barry then embarked on an arduous, yet defining, 13-year stint in Wales’ feeder divisions, Airbus successfully battled relegation before affirming themselves as an established force in the top flight.

In 2013, as Barry stared oblivion in the face, the Wingmakers secured European football for the first time in their history, retaining a spot in the Cymru Premier’s top three for three successive seasons.

Unbeaten in their first three European outings, Airbus would narrowly lose to Latvian Cup winners Ventspils via away goals in the 2013-14 UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds, before falling 2-1 to Norwegians and tournament debutants Haugesund in the same competition, the following summer.

A further draw in 2015-16 with Croatian outfit Lokomotiva preceded an appearance in the 2016 Welsh Cup Final, where the Broughton boys were beaten 2-0 by holders TNS at The Racecourse.

Denied a fourth consecutive overseas adventure, Airbus then lost the Cymru Premier’s European play-off to Connah’s Quay and the Wingmakers have yet to ascend to such dizzying heights since.

Plummeting in the 2016-17 campaign following the departure of manager Andy Preece, Airbus would be relegated that year, finishing bottom with only 21 points from their 32 league outings.

Their subsequent return campaign in the second tier Huws Gray Alliance included an eventful 3-3 draw with Caernarfon Town at the Airfield, but it was the Canaries who flew back to the Cymru Premier with the Alliance championship in tow, leaving the Flintshire flyers cast adrift in third.

Nevertheless, 2018-19 saw the Airbus rise again, beating Holyhead Hotspur 5-1 to claim league cup silverware and winning the Alliance by an 18-point margin to recapture their Cymru Premier berth.

Manning the cockpit for the Airbus side this season is former Barry player Steve O’ Shaughnessy, a well-travelled individual who made more than 100 Football League appearances with Rochdale and others, before featuring in Wales’ top flight for no fewer than nine different Cymru Premier clubs.

O’ Shaughnessy’s brief spell at Jenner Park came in the club’s championship campaign of 1995-96, where he made seven appearances, including scoring on his debut; a 4-0 win against Briton Ferry.

Finally, the club has been saddened to learn of the unexpected passing of former Barry Town Supporters’ Club chairman John Lowrie, at the age of 82.

A mainstay at the club for countless years, John remained a well-remembered and respected figure at Jenner Park and across the Barry footballing community, which he furthermore served as a coach.

John’s important contributions at Jenner Park, the Buttrills and beyond will live long in the memory of those who knew him and the club has extended its condolences to friends and the Lowrie family.