Barry Town United went second in Welsh League Division One on the weekend, though the Nathaniel MG Cup finalists will be frustrated at not taking all three points against a stubborn Cwmbran Celtic side, after playing out a scoreless draw at Jenner Park.
Saturday afternoon’s showdown at Jenner Park attracted a bigger crowd than any of the day’s six Welsh Premier League encounters, yet would fail to live up to its billing from a quality standpoint; the visitors shrugging off an early setback to keep the home side in check, in what proved to be a repeat of their 2015 stalemate.
Celtic have been a thorn in Barry’s side for a number of seasons, taking 14 points from the last 21 contested, and heading into Saturday’s fixture, the Town had to look as far as August 2012 for their last win over their Gwent-based adversaries; a hard-fought 3-2 home victory.
That afternoon saw Barry emerge victorious in spite of a first-half dismissal - and there were echoes of this scenario again on Saturday afternoon, as Cwmbran captain Owen Cook was handed his third red card of the season for a dangerous challenge early on.
Nevertheless, the visitors would pull out all stops to remain on level footing, working hard to stifle their opponents and restrict their opportunities, as the Barry frontline saw themselves repeatedly denied by the linesman’s offside flag.
Among the best of Barry’s limited chances, towering Callum Sainty saw his first half header tipped over the Cwmbran crossbar, before Drew Fahiya connected with a later shot on goal, only for his own effort to hit the side netting.
With injuries and infringements ensuring a stop-start game, Cwmbran’s recurrent efforts to disrupt the match’s tempo looked set to be for nought when, in the midst of 10 minutes of stoppage time, James Dixon looked poised to conclusively break the deadlock.
However, Dixon’s goalbound effort would be dramatically cleared from the line - and his subsequent straight red card for a rash foul in the dying moments capped a fiery yet frustrating afternoon for the homegrown Barry forward.
While Barry would retain their unbeaten league record at Jenner Park, few in their ranks will have come away satisfied with the 0-0 outcome; a stark contrast to the visitors, whose dogged determination had helped them secure an ultimately unlikely point.
Now second with a game in hand, the Town’s title aspirations remain alive and well, but Saturday’s struggle underlined in no uncertain terms the calibre of their challenges in store, with leaders Goytre next in town on Saturday, February 25.
This Saturday sees Barry travel to Caldicot Town (2pm kick-off), hoping to replicate their 5-2 victory over the Blues at Jenner Park in September.
Manager Gavin Chesterfield will be without the suspended Dixon and defender Ryan Evans, who was forced off injured during Saturday’s bruising encounter.
However, returning midfielder Troy Greening will be among those at Chesterfield’s disposal, the former Newport County man having come on to make his 100th appearance against Celtic at the weekend.
Greening is the 10th of the current squad to reach his Barry century, joining teammates Evans, Dixon, Dan Bradley, Lewis Cosslett, James Saddler, Michael Hartley, Lee Baldock, TJ Nagi and Paul Morgan in the team’s three-figure club.
Finally, the Town’s development XI ensured the weekend would end on a winning note; overturning a 3-0 half-time deficit to beat Haverfordwest County 4-3 at Jenner Park.
Callum Flynn, Ethan Mcinery and Daniel Omoregie were all on target for the Barry team, before the returning Bradley Cotterill popped up to score the winner, completing a stirring second-half comeback.
The development side currently lie fifth in Welsh Premier Development League South, with first teamers Greening, Cosslett and Baldock among the established names to have featured for them as designated over-age players.
The next Welsh Premier Development League South match at Jenner Park comes 24 hours after the crunch Barry vs Goytre clash, as the Town’s developing fringe squad tackles visitors Merthyr Town on Sunday, February 26 (2pm).