By Ashley Cox

THE players, staff and supporters of Barry Town spoke with a united voice this week, as the JD Cymru Premier outfit made a simple, three-word plea to the Welsh Government; let fans in!

In an emotive and widely-shared video on the club's social media channels, manager Gavin Chesterfield and midfielder David Cotterill were among those outlining the importance of supporters, as calls grow for First Minister Mark Drakeford to facilitate their return.

"We're lucky to be playing football", admitted long-serving Barry boss, Chesterfield.

"There's thousands of players across the country who would swap positions with us".

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Evan Press was fouled in stoppage time at Newtown giving Barry their late penalty

"But playing football comes with costs and without supporters being let into stadiums, it's simply not sustainable".

"As a football club, we're relatively stable... but, unfortunately, others aren't".

"I think the important thing for the Cymru Premier is that we are able to bring fans back into our grounds in a safe and secure manner", explained matchday programme editor and Vale of Glamorgan councillor, Ian Johnson.

"The pandemic has been very difficult for a lot of people. They haven't been able to see people they normally speak to and they haven't been able to engage in the community".

"Jenner Park is a ground with about 2,500 seats. Even at 15 or 20% (capacity), that's 400 to 500 fans".

Notably, Barry's average attendance for the 2019-20 season was 423, with an average of 477 supporters coming through the turnstiles since Town returned to Wales' top league.

However, the current campaign has seen supporters banned from entering Jenner Park and other grounds across Wales, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic; with Barry's last home game in front of a traditional crowd being their 1-1 draw against Caernarfon Town on 22 February.

While fans have been locked out of all Welsh stadia since football resumed in the summer, this ruling has been met with particular frustration in the Cymru Premier, as spectators have attended games at comparable venues across England's non-league system for weeks.

On Saturday, 298 of them saw Barry favourite Mo Touray score for Marine in their 2-0 Northern Premier League win over Tadcaster Albion, while the likes of Redditch United, Hitchin Town, Banbury United and Salisbury City were among those welcoming over 500.

To maintain distancing on matchdays, a number of England's non-league clubs have been making their fixtures all-ticket affairs and it is thought Barry would follow a similar route, should Wales' blanket ban be lifted.

Nevertheless, having missed out on the revenue of a third of their Phase One fixtures, officials at Jenner Park will be eager to open the turnstiles, even at a reduced capacity.

"I proud to say I feel safe when I come to football", asserted Chesterfield.

"The club has worked extremely hard to ensure we provide a safe environment".

"Even as little as 15 to 20% of the capacity would make a significant difference to the club".

"We've got a very, very special club here", added steward and travel organiser Leon Ford.

"But if we're not allowed into games... I'm not sure what's going to happen, if I'm honest".

On the field, Barry extended their unbeaten run to six games at the weekend, but it took a 94th minute equaliser from Kayne McLaggon to nab a point against bogey side, Newtown.

Trailing behind-closed-doors at Latham Park, following James Davies' 66th-minute lob, Luke Cooper's disallowed leveller and a let-off for goalkeeper Mike Lewis were quickly forgotten when the Robins were penalised for a pull on Evan Press, deep into stoppage time.

Stepping up to the spot, McLaggon's penalty was dramatically saved, but the forward followed in quickly to score from the rebound, claiming his 50th goal in Barry colours.

Saturday's late, late show helped Barry swerve a repeat of two 1-0 defeats to the Robins in 2019 and kept their points tally ticking on, ahead of a big match on home turf this weekend.

Connah's Quay Nomads come to Jenner Park on Saturday as the JD Cymru Premier's newly-anointed champions and Andy Morrison's men have started well in defence of their crown; bagging six wins and a draw, before Tuesday evening's visit to bitter rivals, The New Saints.

Should the midweek melee at Park Hall descend into a war of attrition, then Barry might be poised to pick up the scraps in S4C's Saturday night TV game, which kicks off at 5.15pm.

However, Town will tackle the Cymru Premier kingpins having climbed a mountain of their own, following the 300-mile round trip to Europa League victors Bala Town on Wednesday.

Win or lose, Barry are set to debut a brand-new home shirt on Saturday, with their updated yellow and blue jersey carrying the names of scores of their supporters.

A symbol of togetherness in these days of separation, Barry's fans might be out of sight, but will be far from out of mind as the quest for their return goes on.