By Ashley Cox

TWO fortuitous goals helped Barry salvage an precious point at TNS on Friday night, keeping the Jenner Park outfit in contention for European football, ahead of Saturday’s crunch match at home to Bala Town (4.30pm).

On two of their past four visits to Park Hall, Barry had beaten their professional rivals by a single strike, but Friday’s match invited closer comparisons with their memorable meeting of February 2019, as a Kayne McLaggon spot-kick and Jonathan Hood free-kick rescued a share of the spoils.

That day, it took mere seconds for forward Kurtis Byrne to open the scoring in the home side’s favour, leaving Barry to chase the game for over 90 minutes, before it reached its classic finale.

On Friday, Gavin Chesterfield’s team would find themselves in a similar position, trailing TNS from the third minute, after Dean Ebbe headed in at the near post; though it might well have been even earlier, had Ryan Brobbel’s speculative curler not hit the top of Mike Lewis’ crossbar.

Irishman Ebbe doubled his tally in the 11th minute, capitalising on some frail Barry defending at the same post to nod home, after the initial header from a TNS corner kick came back off the woodwork.

Much like the scenes of last February, the threat of a mauling loomed large, yet Barry somehow survived the storm, containing the record-setting 13 time Cymru Premier champions to the break.

While Saints were certainly comfortable, Town found a foothold in increasing their time on the ball, finding fresh hope after 56 minutes, when Luke Cummings’ looping cross from the right flank eluded everyone in the TNS area and ended up in the back of Paul Harrison’s net.

Nevertheless, the hosts remained a force to be reckoned with and almost crushed Barry’s comeback in an instant when Ebbe, chasing his hat-trick, uncorked a powerful drive that cannoned off the post.

The former Inverness Caledonian Thistle marksman later went close with a flick and a header, but neither allowed the 25-year old to lay claim to the match ball, as Barry continued to ride their luck.

After a bold triple substitution in the 79th minute saw Evan Press, Keyon Reffell and Jack Compton replace Robbie Patten, Drew Fahiya and captain Jordan Cotterill, Barry hoped history would repeat itself when they won a set-piece in stoppage-time, with Compton taking on the role of corner-taker.

Few however could believe their eyes as lightning struck once again, with Compton’s well-judged delivery finding teammate Luke Cooper in an advanced attacking role, allowing Cooper’s hopeful connection to hit Aaron Edwards on the hip, putting it past Harrison for the game-saving own goal.

It was a dramatic yet comedic conclusion; one with a number of implications for the Cymru Premier table, as Barry remain in the hunt for third and a potential return to the UEFA Europa League stage, while TNS stay second, four points behind Connah’s Quay Nomads with only six fixtures remaining.

This Saturday, Barry face that apparent make-or-break showdown with Bala at Jenner Park, an old-fashioned six-pointer that could see the space between the two sides trimmed to four points or stretched to ten; the latter scenario surely the death knell for Barry’s aspirations of finishing third.

European entrants for four successive seasons, Bala’s spot in the Europa League qualifying rounds was taken by Barry last season, following a 5-2 comeback win against the Lakesiders at Maes Tegid.

In the most recent meetings of the sides, Barry earned a credible 1-1 draw at Bala in October, after Fahiya and McLaggon netted in a lively 2-2 affair at Jenner Park on August’s Bank Holiday Monday.

Kick-off at Jenner Park is at the later time of 4.30pm to avoid clashing with the Wales vs Scotland rugby international, with admission payable on the gate at £8 (adults), with concessions available.