Jenner Park will be the scene of an important double-header this week, as leaders Barry Town United continue their push for the Welsh League Division One championship.
A single point clear atop the table, the Town host Cambrian and Clydach Vale on Saturday afternoon (2.30pm), before tackling Haverfordwest County under the floodlights on Tuesday evening (7.30pm).
Barry return home off the back of a morale-boosting fifth successive victory on the road, having turned up the heat late on to win an evenly-matched encounter at Port Talbot Town last weekend.
As both sides received the backing of their colourful and vociferous support, this battle of two former Welsh Premier League adversaries (meeting for the first time in Port Talbot since 2004), saw the teams largely cancel each other out; neither doing quite enough to break the other down.
However, with the scores locked at 0-0 heading into the final quarter of play, a pivotal double substitution in the 77th minute gave the visitors a renewed impetus, before the crucial breakthrough came from an 84th minute corner; Curtis Watkins rising high to head home his first Barry goal.
With Blues boss Paul Evans subsequently sent to the stands, the Talbot contingent cannot have been pleased when referee Teifion Cook awarded Barry what appeared a soft penalty in the 89th minute.
Nevertheless, substitute Louis Gerrard made no mistake from the spot; sending goalkeeper Rory McCreesh the wrong way to double Barry’s advantage, before teammate Jordan Cotterill showed great skill and control to dispatch a conclusive third past McCreesh in stoppage time.
It was a cruel conclusion to a match that Talbot had competed well in, though with Barry having hit the post before the floodgates eventually opened, it was hard to argue that their win was undeserved.
Despite the chasing pack of Goytre, Haverfordwest and Penybont all recording comfortable home wins on Saturday, Barry’s result at Victoria Road (in front of a crowd of 238) kept the chasing pack narrowly at bay, ahead of the visit of sixth-placed Cambrian and Clydach this coming weekend.
While Barry and Cambrian are still to meet in the league during this current campaign, the side did contest a hard-fought Nathaniel MG Cup tie in the picturesque Rhondda earlier in the season; a match the Town trailed in for more than an hour, before powering through to win in extra-time.
Barry meanwhile also hold a Nathaniel MG Cup win over Haverfordwest during 2016-17, but were held to a frustrating stalemate in August’s corresponding league fixture at Bridge Meadow; suggesting a difficult encounter could be in store when the two teams meet on Tuesday.
The Bluebirds of west Wales come to the Vale of Glamorgan having won their last five fixtures, after kicking off 2017 with a thrilling 5-5 draw down the road at Caerau Ely (another club with aspirations of Welsh League Division one silverware, sitting five points off the pace heading into the weekend).
Though Barry represented themselves well in January’s Nathaniel MG Cup Final, it can be suggested that every game is a final now for the Jenner Park club this season, with a total of 30 precious points to play for between now and the end of the campaign.
With this in mind, it is hoped that a pair of large crowds will turn out to support them this week, as Gavin Chesterfield’s team pursue the Town’s first Welsh League Division One title since 1993-94.
Admission for the crunch home fixtures against Cambrian on Saturday 11th March and Haverfordwest on Tuesday 14th will be available via the Gladstone Road and Barry Road turnstiles at £5 per match, with the usual concessions for senior citizens, students and children in place.
Updated 09:56 - 9 Mar 2017 by Ashley Cox