By Ashley Cox

WALES international David Cotterill made his Barry Town debut at the weekend, yet the JD Cymru Premier clash with Connah’s Quay Nomads was overshadowed by a controversial straight red card, leaving ten-men Town condemned to a bitter 1-0 defeat.

News of Cotterill’s arrival at Jenner Park had created quite the buzz in the build-up to Saturday’s game, yet Michael Wilde would move to quickly spoil the party, redirecting Michael Bakare’s shot beyond mutual namesake Mike Lewis to give the second-placed visitors a second-minute lead.

Bakare’s ability would shine later on when the talented journeyman’s ball to the back post was headed against the crossbar by Wilde; their potent partnership combining to threaten the goal once more.

However, Nomads’ attacking prowess was far from the calibre endured against title rivals The New Saints in December, leaving Barry with more than a glimmer of hope of playing their way on terms.

Enter the game’s biggest talking point, as Barry’s Kayne McLaggon, in attempting to regain control of the football, caught Declan Poole with a late and somewhat clumsy, yet largely innocuous, challenge.

Anticipating a routine free-kick, supporters and players were instead left stunned as referee Iwan Griffith showed McLaggon an immediate red card, the third the Conwy official has handed a Town player this season, after Jonathan Hood and Jordan Cotterill were given their marching orders at Penybont.

A UEFA Category 2 official, Griffith’s credentials include refereeing August’s marquee meeting between Manchester United and AC Milan in Cardiff, yet few, if any, spectators could see justification in McLaggon’s dismissal, an incident that made Barry’s task all the more taxing.

Despite their man disadvantage, Barry worked hard to maintain possession on Saturday and spread the ball around, hoping to navigate a hulking Nomads defence near-impenetrable by the aerial ball.

As it was, Barry’s deficiency of firepower up front was underlined by the loss of primary marksman McLaggon, with their passages of play on the deck snuffed out, or failing to reach a crescendo.

In the 62nd minute, the squad’s longest-serving player, Paul Morgan, made way for its newest recruit, the former Football League mainstay and JD Cymru Premier debutant Cotterill.

Making an immediate impact, the 24-cap Wales international almost scored with his first touch, skimming past the post from a direct set-piece, while a curling free-kick from the left flank came close to creeping right into the bottom corner.

Cotterill’s presence gave Barry an injection of confidence and Town almost equalised when full-back Chris Hugh nipped his way through two Nomads defenders, forcing goalkeeper Lewis Brass into a low save.

Unfortunately for Gavin Chesterfield’s team, there would be no dramatic late leveller, with Nomads instead able to grind out the win that drives them a full nine points ahead of Barry in Phase Two.

More notably for the victorious visitors, Saturday’s result takes Connah’s Quay within a point of league leaders The New Saints, who suffered a surprise 2-1 loss to Newtown at Park Hall on Friday.

With third-placed Bala Town coming from behind to win 2-1 themselves at Caernarfon Town, fourth-placed Barry Town now trail the Lakesiders by a four-point margin, as Colin Caton’s cabal continue their charge to reclaim the European spot surrendered to Barry in 2018-19.

This Saturday, Barry travel to Newtown’s Latham Park, hoping to extend their five-point advantage over the fifth-placed Robins, while trimming the deficit between themselves and their rivals above.

Barry’s next visitors to Jenner Park are Caernarfon Town on Saturday 22nd February (2.30pm), with new Canaries manager Huw Griffiths set to make his first appearance in the dugout since his shock switch from Cefn Druids, a move that has subsequently seen Stuart Gelling take charge at The Rock.