By Ashley Cox

BARRY Town kick off 2020 at Connah’s Quay this Saturday (2.30pm), safe in the knowledge their place in the JD Cymru Premier’s Championship Conference has been secured for a second straight season.

After taking points from six against Cardiff Met in back-to-back fixtures over the festive period, Gavin Chesterfield’s team will now have an eye on challenging for Europe again, with a place in the end-of-season play-offs as a minimum already sealed by the team’s Championship Conference qualification.

While honours were even on Boxing Day in a 1-1 at Jenner Park, Barry’s 1-0 success in Cyncoed four days later enabled the Town to take its place alongside The New Saints, Connah’s Quay and Bala,w with two of Caernarfon Town, Cefn Druids and Newtown most likely to complete the elite Top Six.

Making two changes from the pre-Christmas victory at Aberystwyth Town, Barry manager Gavin Chesterfield recalled both Mo Touray and Callum Sainty for the December 26th match with Met, taking the places of suspended Jonathan Hood and unwell Keyon Reffell, respectively.

However, it was club captain Jordan Cotterill who would orchestrate the breakthrough with a fine individual goal, cutting through the Cardiff Met defence to give the Town an 8th minute advantage.

Battling to win the ball from visiting skipper Bradley Woolridge, Cotterill threaded the ball through the legs of Charlie Corsby, carrying it into the area and placing his final effort into the bottom corner.

However, Barry’s 1-0 lead would be relatively short-lived, as Jordan Lam equalised for Met in the 20th minute; the 25-year old initially getting the better of Evan Press and cutting inside Chris Hugh, before delivering a sweet, left-footed effort to level the contest at one apiece.

The visitors then looked likely to seize the lead from a chaos-causing set piece, only for Barry Town goalkeeper Mike Lewis to dynamically deny Joseph Evans’ snatched-at effort from point-blank range.

A revitalised Lewis would also deny Dylan Rees with another spectacular save, this time tipping over the crossbar, before Chris Baker’s low attempt brushed his far post towards the end of the first half.

In the second period, Lewis was at it again, frustrating Wales C forward Elliot Evans after teammate Lam had dispossessed Curtis Watkins, before Barry had an effort of their own cleared off the goal line, with Emlyn Lewis denying Luke Cooper what might well have gone on to be the match winner.

However, perhaps the biggest story of the game was the hat-trick of injuries that dogged Barry’s efforts and left Gavin Chesterfield with quite the patched-up side by Dean John’s full-time whistle.

First, Cotterill went down in the area with what proved to be a dislocated shoulder, prompting the Town captain, in the midst of a strong performance, to be replaced by Watkins in the 38th minute.

Then, midfielder Sion Spence succumbed to a knee injury, with the 19-year old on loan from Cardiff City duly making way for former Bluebirds youngster Rhys Abbruzzese at the game’s halfway point.

To make matters worse for Barry, Watkins’ festive foray would prove frustratingly fleeting; an ankle injury forcing him off after 71 minutes, with final substitute Drew Fahiya coming on to plug the gap.

Barry’s injury woes left them facing a daunting task in the return the following Monday night (30th December), a fixture that has proven anything but kind to the Town over the past several seasons.

With three heavy defeats to the Met in Cyncoed preceding a 4-0 Nathaniel MG Cup Final loss to The New Saints in 2017 and last-minute Welsh League heartbreak on the same ground in 2015, Barry’s trip to the capital was already viewed with trepidation, even before their injury-ravaged Boxing Day.

Nevertheless, a good number of Town supporters made the short trip to leafy Cyncoed and were rewarded with a fine upset, as Barry wrapped up the decade with their sixth 1-0 win of the season.

With a trio of crocked absentees and Fahiya and Callum Sainty struck down by illness, manager Chesterfield gave recalls to both Hood and Reffell, while for the second successive outing, there were places on the Barry bench for academy products Jack Pascoe and Latham Garrett.

Hood however would hardly feature in Cyncoed, as a groin injury saw him off in the 8th minute.

As fate would have it, Barry’s increasingly-absurd succession of injuries gave the opportunity for Hood’s replacement Paul Morgan to remind supporters what he could do; the tenured and trophy-winning defender impressing on what was a rare appearance for the Town in the 2019-20 campaign.

In similar fashion, it was a successful night for teammate Abbruzzese, the second-generation Barry player making the most of his extended stay in the side and earning the Man of the Match plaudits.

With Lewis shutting out Lam, the unorthodox Barry XI avoided their nightmarish starts of 2017 and 18 to be level-pegging at the break, before creating the key moment at the start of the second half.

Battling to take control on the right after Luke Cummings’ drifting free-kick, Clayton Green would incisively feed Mo Touray at the edge of the area, allowing Touray to fend off and skip by his man, before floating the ball to the back post, eluding goalkeeper Will Fuller to put the Town in front.

It was Touray’s first goal since returning to the club on a second loan spell from Newport County.

Injected with confidence on breaking his duck, Touray would cause Fuller added concern with a long-range attempt that flew by his crossbar later in the half, while both Kayne McLaggon and Abbruzzese would have shouts for a penalty, the latter after thrillingly riding a series of Cardiff Met challenges.

With the Town working hard to close out the match, Met briefly threatened to nab a late equaliser, when hotshot Evans fired toward a crowd of players on the line, after Lewis’ punch failed to clear.

However, the Barry goalkeeper and his determined defence, which included an exceptional Hugh performance in the unfamiliar role of centre-back, did more than enough to hold onto their lead.

The result was a first league win at the Met in over 12 years and a real monkey off the back of the Jenner Park side, who will now look to kick on in Phase Two, in spite of their rash of injury worries.

After Saturday’s visit to Connah’s Quay’s Deeside Stadium, Barry conclude Phase One of their JD Cymru Premier campaign against Carmarthen at Jenner Park on Saturday 18th January (5.15pm).

The Phase Two Championship Conference will then commence in February, with ten final fixtures against the cream of the JD Cymru Premier to determine Barry Town’s footballing fate for 2019-20.