2016 saw another 12 memorable months in the resurgence of Barry Town United Football Club; 12 months that saw the team come a whisker from Welsh League silverware, while hosting a marquee Welsh Cup tie, scoring some memorable goals, contesting a handful of Jenner Park thrillers and claiming a pair of Welsh Premier League scalps.
Kicking off the New Year with a 3-2 triumph over Monmouth Town, Barry’s winning run continued across the duration of January 2016, with a 5-1 whipping of Afan Lido at Jenner Park followed up by successive clean sheets in the wins over Aberbargoed Buds and Cambrian and Clydach.
Barry’s 100% record set the table perfectly for their Welsh Cup showdown with TNS and while the victors would advance by five goals to two on February’s first weekend, a crowd of well over 1,000 saw a thrilling knockout encounter, with goals from Jordan Cotterill and Drew Fahiya helping Barry sensationally lead the professional Welsh Premier League champions for around half an hour.
Seven days later, the thrills and spills were in no limited supply, as Barry and Ton Pentre contested an absorbing 4-4 draw. The match was the sides’ first meeting at Jenner Park since the infamous cancellation of 2013, but an avalanche of late goals, including one from Barry’s Kareem Leigh deep into stoppage time, ensured this classic encounter was worth the wait.
In March, Barry focused their sights on Welsh League Division One silverware, yet a 3-2 defeat at home to Caerau Ely caused a significant dent to their championship aspirations. Leading the league for much of the period (while conceding several games in hand), the match with Cardiff Met on March 26th was billed as a potential title decider, yet little was settled that afternoon, as Bobby Briers’ penalty and Dixon’s subsequent equaliser helped Barry battle back to salvage a 2-2 draw.
Town would not drop another game all season, wrapping up their campaign in April with eight points from their final four outings, culminating with a goalless stalemate with Briton Ferry at Jenner Park. However, while Barry would be top as their final whistle blew, Met’s games in hand would prove decisive, as the Cardiff outfit clinched the title (and promotion to the Welsh Premier) by four points.
The club’s annual awards night highlighted the month of May, with Lee and Andrew Selby on hand to help with the celebrations. On the night, team captain James Saddler was named both the players’ and manager’s Player of the Season, with prolific striker Dixon claiming the supporters’ award. Among a host of other prizes, goalkeeper Dan Bradley and full-back Lewis Cosslett were honoured for a remarkable ten years of service at Jenner Park, while the seeds of future Barry stars were sewn, as the club expanded to include new male and female youth and development sections.
Inspired by Wales’ heroics at EURO 2016, the Barry first team returned to training with a number of new faces on board; manager Gavin Chesterfield recruiting the likes of former trophy winners Chris Hugh, Luke Cooper, Tyrrell Webbe and Mike Lewis for a renewed tilt at Welsh domestic honours, with a reinvigorated TJ Nagi in tow. The pre-season programme proved a mixed bag, with weighty defeats to Cardiff Met and Cardiff City sides interspersed by encouraging wins over a Newport County XI and English visitors Moreton Rangers, who brought former Town manager Gary Barnett to Jenner Park as part of their matchday party.
Starting the new season on the front foot in August, Barry would avoid conceding in any of the month’s five competitive fixtures, while Fahiya’s astonishing effort from the half-way line in the Town’s Welsh League Cup opener brought mainstream media attention to the Jenner Park club.
Into the month of September, goalkeeper Lewis conceded for the first time at Cambrian and Clydach, but the tie would signify the start of an unexpected Nathaniel MG Cup run, as Barry rallied to win 3-1 in extra-time, driven on by the efforts of inspired goalscorer Cotterill.
While the club would fall in Welsh League fixtures at Cwmbran Celtic and Goytre, their form at fortress Jenner Park was proving irresistible and October witnessed MG Cup victories over both a buoyant Cardiff Met and relegated Haverfordwest County; the latter beaten by a crushing 7-1 scoreline. In the interim, another healthy attendance turned out at Jenner Park for the Welsh League visit of Port Talbot Town, the first encounter between the clubs in over a decade.
November then beckoned the season’s biggest game to date, as Mark Aizlewood brought his Carmarthen Town squad to Barry for a one-off MG Cup Semi-Final. Chesterfield’s team came into the match off the back of consecutive defeats, having exited the Welsh League Cup and the Welsh Cup on successive Saturday afternoons. However, the midweek meeting with the Welsh Premier League mainstays saw Barry rise to the occasion, with Cotterill’s wonderful second-half free-kick enough to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win and the club’s first cup final berth since 2003.
With international call-ups at various levels increasing the club’s visibility on the Welsh football radar, the first team then concluded 2016 with a dramatic December victory at Undy Athletic; Ryan Evans’s stoppage time header enough to secure the club’s final three points of the calendar year.
Entering 2017 six points off summit of Welsh League Division One, with three games in hand on frontrunners Goytre, the Town’s competitive record for 2016 stands at 22 wins, eight draws and six defeats from their 36 league and cup outings.
Now, with cup final opponents The New Saints poised to make history on the final day of the year (the Saints chasing a world-record 26th consecutive victory), Barry’s biggest challenge on the field in years may be around the corner. Nevertheless, given the events of recent seasons and the sheer endeavour and determination that has dragged the club back to this point, it is a challenge all associated with the Town will duly relish.