Barry Town 1 Caernarfon Town 1

By Ashley Cox

THERE are few trips longer in all of Welsh football, but nothing could separate Barry from Caernarfon on Saturday, as the teams exchanged two goals in two minutes at Jenner Park.

While the seemingly weekly winds threaten to make a mockery of the Cymru Premier’s honours race, Barry boss Gavin Chesterfield would field a compelling line-up for the second game of Phase Two, with Wales’ David Cotterill given a first start and Kayne McLaggon resuming his role up front.

Free of the shackles of a rightly-rescinded suspension, McLaggon played havoc with the Caernarfon defence, holding off a crowd of Canaries and coming close to scoring with his right-footed effort.

Then, after Kyle Patten and Cotterill exerted close control on the deck, Luke Cummings pitched the ball high into the afternoon’s prevailing wind, allowing invading Rhys Abbruzzese to collect at pace.

Exchanging a well-worked one-two with McLaggon, Abbruzzese surged into space, only for goalkeeper Alex Ramsay to deny the Wales U21 international’s attempt on goal with his legs.

Retaining possession in front of the New Stand, Evan Press would later find fellow Newport County product Mo Touray, the Gambia-born fan favourite ably holding off his marker at the edge of the area, before turning inside for a teasing shot that skimmed the paint off Ramsay’s left-hand post.

Despite making inroads at the Gladstone Road end, Barry were unable to break the first-half deadlock and were almost punished when ex-Bangor City man Sion Bradley cut a hole in their retreating defence, forcing purple-clad Mike Lewis to make a key save from his powerful drive.

Nimble Abbruzzese though would remain an attacking weapon for Chesterfield’s team, seeing off his man with an audacious piece of skill and carrying the ball into the Caernarfon box, before his final hit bounced off the top of the Canaries crossbar, rebounding back off one of the net’s support poles.

Former Wrexham midfielder Leo Smith meanwhile made his mark by nipping past Press and deftly deceiving the approaching duo of Theo Wharton and Luke Cummings with an incisive through ball.

Bradley, Smith’s target, had drifted clear from his marker and found himself played onside, but a recovering Barry backline did just enough to narrow his options, with the final shot veering wide.

Ultimately, Saturday’s game was defined by a two-minute spell in the second-half, as Barry’s persistence was both rewarded and negated in a manner reflective of their seesaw season.

With Cotterill closing in on Caernarfon’s Ryan Williams, the 21-year old undercooked an ill-fated backpass, allowing Touray to interject, round Ramsay and slot home the opener after 63 minutes.

However, Barry’s celebrations would be painfully short-lived, as Caernarfon forced the equaliser immediately from the restart; Darren Thomas snuffing out a game of head tennis to find Bradley, whose attempt at chipping a tipping Lewis was tapped over the line by talisman Thomas himself.

While supporters would take solace from the second-half return of Robbie Patten, whose injury on August’s opening night at Penybont ruled him out for the better part of six months, Bala’s 2-1 win at Newtown means the gap between Barry and the third-placed Lakesiders has now been stretched to seven points, though the Jenner Park side hold a game in hand on their rivals for European football.

With no fixture this weekend due to the JD Welsh Cup quarter-finals, Chesterfield’s eyes will be on Saturday’s New Saints vs Newtown tie; should the Robins prevail, Barry’s rescheduled trip to Latham Park will be a midweek affair, while chances of a Europa League spot for finishing third diminish.

Last season, Barry’s third-placed finish was enough to clinch a European berth in April, due to champions TNS and runners-up Connah’s Quay Nomads contesting May’s JD Welsh Cup final.

By beating the Saints 1-0 at Deeside Stadium, Nomads are the division’s new leaders, with TNS looking to reassert their title claim against Barry at Park Hall on Friday 6th March (8pm kick-off).