By Ashley Cox

WITH their Cymru League concerns on the back-burner, Barry Town welcome Newtown back to Jenner Park this Saturday, as the two teams meet in the celebrated Welsh Cup for the first time ever.

Despite competing concurrently for the better part of 100 seasons, the Town and the Robins had never been paired together in the knock-out tournament prior to November’s Third Round draw.

This Saturday at Jenner Park, the clubs will finally cross paths, though there may be a sense of déjà vu at the Barry stadium, after Newtown were visitors in the Cymru Premier only days ago.

With November’s final Saturday one to forget for a frustrated home side, Barry supporters will hope December’s debut delivers a match to remember, with the all-or-nothing stakes of the Welsh Cup competition adding a certain spice and historical resonance to the proceedings ahead.

As well as hoping for a measure of revenge for Saturday’s 1-0 reverse, Barry should be keen to represent themselves well at the weekend, with the club’s 2019-20 campaign marking the 65th anniversary of Barry’s first-ever Welsh Cup silverware; a milestone achievement for all.

After toppling Merthyr Tydfil, Lovell’s Athletic, Pwllheli and Wrexham on the road to May 1955’s Welsh Cup final, Barry’s initial date with destiny came against Football League outfit Chester, with Barry-born Idris Niblett scoring the Linnets’ crucial equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Wrexham’s Racecourse.

When the teams reconvened for the replay at Ninian Park three days later, Niblett’s brace, plus goals from Jack Goodfellow and Charlie Dyke, secured a headline-grabbing 4-3 Barry victory.

It would be almost a further 40 years before the famous old trophy returned to Jenner Park, a stark reminder of the difficulty in winning Wales’ flagship football tournament during this particular era.

For Newtown, Welsh Cup prominence would be commonplace in the competition’s formative seasons, with the mid Walians contesting no fewer than six Welsh Cup finals in the late-1800s and hosting the first final of the 20th century; though the century itself would be notably barren for Newtown on the Welsh Cup front.

Ironically, it would be in Barry’s banner year of 1955 that the Robins re-emerged as a cup-winning club, beating Chirk to capture their first and only Welsh Amateur Cup (now known as the FAW Trophy).

While Newtown’s Latham Park has hosted four Welsh Cup finals since the turn of the 21st century, the Robins themselves would fail to get past the semi-final stage until 2015, in spite of a spate of near-misses.

That spring, they would lose the final 2-0 on home soil to all-conquering TNS.

Eventual six-time Welsh Cup winners Barry meanwhile have reached the semi-finals on two occasions since the financial collapse of 2003, falling 2-0 to TNS last term and 2-1 to Prestatyn Town in 2012-13.

As fate would have it, current Newtown manager Chris Hughes was a part of Prestatyn’s coaching staff as the Seasiders beat Barry at Latham Park in April 2013, before lifting the cup the next month.

It was a contrast of fortunes to current counterpart Gavin Chesterfield, who would spend the subsequent close-season battling hard for Barry’s league return, instead of basking in any cup glory.

Now back on common ground, Chesterfield and Hughes are frequent managerial foes, with the Newtown manager holding a slight edge over his fellow UEFA Pro Licence holder, racking up five wins and a draw from the teams’ ten encounters since Barry returned to Welsh top flight football in 2017.

As such, a marked improvement might be needed for Barry to advance in the cup this Saturday, with the home side nullified by Newtown in their dress rehearsal Cymru Premier clash last weekend.

A dour affair for those spectators who braved the winter cold, chances were extremely limited before Newtown’s Ian Sheridan seized on a loose ball to break the deadlock in the 79th minute.

Barry’s best efforts came when Eli Phipps ran onto an under-cooked back pass, only to fire wide, before second-half substitute Mo Touray’s attempt was saved by Robins goalkeeper Dave Jones.

It was Barry’s fourth defeat in five league outings, a run that has somewhat cooled off their title challenge, with the Jenner Park side sitting four points behind leaders Connah’s Quay Nomads.

With no guarantees that third will be enough to secure UEFA Europa League football, Barry’s route to Europe could well be through the Welsh Cup, but there is no margin for error this weekend, with Saturday’s Third Round tie to be settled on the day; via extra-time and penalties, should they be required.

Kick-off between Barry Town and Newtown in the JD Welsh Cup Third Round is at 2.30pm, with admission to Jenner Park payable at the turnstiles and via the clubhouse.