Barry Town United are gearing up for what could be a truly memorable month in their history, as their chase for a first Welsh League Division One championship since 1994 enters its final furlong.
Top of the table with 51 points from their 24 fixtures to date, Barry’s final six games will span the month of April; kicking off with a trip to in-form Ton Pentre this coming Saturday (2.30pm).
The Bulldogs had been unbeaten in six before their defeat to Goytre United at the weekend and their previous meetings with the Town have often delivered in spades; few moreso than a pulsating 4-4 draw at Jenner Park in February 2016, where a last-gasp equaliser came to Barry’s rescue.
Ironically, there would be another slice of late drama at the ground this past Saturday, as Gavin Chesterfield’s Town welcomed Nana Baah’s Caerau Ely in a hotly-anticipated league encounter.
Watched by a crowd of 432, including a returning Terry 'the Bugle' Bullock, the Town commanded the first half at Jenner Park and would take the lead when Man of the Match TJ Nagi collected the ball on the cusp of the area; dropping a shoulder, cutting inside and firing a delicious effort into the top left corner.
Continuing to play some enterprising football in the glorious March sunshine, Chris Hugh and James Dixon both enjoyed opportunities to double the Town’s advantage, while Nagi would demonstrate his worth at the other end, denying ex-teammate Curtis Hutson with a perfectly-pitched tackle.
Nevertheless, fourth-placed Caerau have enjoyed a strong campaign of their own to date and the visitors hit back moments before half-time through Chris Quick; ensuring the neighbouring sides, who had drawn their previous encounter 1-1 at Cwrt-yr-Ala in November, headed in on level terms.
The second half saw the Cardiff outfit up the ante and their efforts were eventually rewarded when substitute Harry Short smashed home a wonderful long-range effort to attain them a 2-1 lead.
It was the first time Town goalkeeper Mike Lewis had been beaten in more than 400 minutes of play; though no-one could deny the quality of the hit that had finally broken his resistance.
With news having filtered through that title-chasing Goytre were winning heavily against fellow contenders Haverfordwest County, Town’s attempts to mount a comeback were limited, with Caerau shrugging off an indifferent first-half performance to look most likely to win it.
However, with mere moments of this entertaining contest remaining, Barry reached deep into their bag of tricks to salvage what might prove to be an invaluable point, at a crucial stage in their season.
First, inspired attacker Nagi would drag the ball past one Caerau defender, before pulling inside to beat another and creating just enough time and space to set up Drew Fahiya in the danger zone.
Substitute Fahiya then would take a key touch, before firing into the bottom corner; equalising from the edge of the six-yard box to kick-start wild celebrations, in the stands and on the touchline.
The last-minute leveller ensured that the Town completed March without a defeat, collecting four wins and a draw from their five outings, with an eight-goal improvement on their goal difference.
With Haverfordwest crumbling at Goytre, the Gwent side’s victory cut Barry’s lead at the top of Division One to five points, albeit with seven now separating the Town and third-placed County.
This Saturday’s programme sees Haverfordwest tackle relegation-fighting Port Talbot Town, while Goytre head west to Port Talbot themselves for a Welsh League clash with seventh-placed Afan Lido.
The next home game in Barry’s title tilt is against Goytre United on Saturday 8th April; a 2.30pm kick-off at Jenner Park.
Updated 09:11 - 7 Apr 2017 by Ashley Cox