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Sunday, 04 January 2015 09:59

BARRY END THE YEAR UNBEATEN

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SATURDAY 27th DECEMBER: Jenner Park, cold & showery
BARRY TOWN UNITED 4 TATA STEEL 1 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 2)
After a dry festive period, there are at least no worries about postponements, and my intended first trip of the season to Jenner Park is not in doubt. Nevertheless, the weather manages to delay my journey, forcing me to take shelter at Cadoxton station for 15 minutes to avoid a fierce shower.

It's high time I watched Barry, who now top the Second Division after winning the Third last season. I perhaps could have chosen a match against a promotion rival, rather than struggling Tata Steel, who seem to be travelling in the opposite direction, having come down from Division One six months ago. My run of one-sided games may be about to continue...

Jenner Park is such a large stadium that it generally looks empty, even when, like today, a respectable crowd has gathered. It's generally believed to be around 175, which is more than some Welsh Premier matches attract, although maybe less than Barry would hope for, given they have a winning team and are doing everything possible to stimulate local interest. That said, for the spectator it's still a hit-and-miss experience: on the plus side, there's no shortage of cover, merchandise on offer and a good quality programme (although on this occasion something's gone wrong, as the line-ups have been omitted). But there's no public address operating today, and even worse, nowhere to get any type of refreshments. A hot drink on a cold day is a basic expectation at all but pure grassroots football and, while the answer should lie in the supposedly supportive Vale of Glamorgan Council granting the football club use of the large, vacant social club, in the interim an alternative is needed.

The game gets underway in an interlude between showers and does not live up to its top v bottom billing. Tata play their part in the first half and are far from over-run, while Barry struggle to assert control. After half an hour's fairly forgettable play, they do finally take the lead from a TJ Nagi header, fittingly marking his 100th appearance with a goal.

The second half starts much the same, but in rain and dipping temperatures, but is transformed by two goals in six minutes as Barry unlock Tata by getting round the back of the defence : in the 55th minute, Blatchford finishes off a neat move with a close range finish, then Dixon sidefoots a similar effort for 3-0. That just about wraps up the game and the remaining half an hour is once again academic. Tata do catch Barry by surprise from a free-kick to score a consolation, then sub Tom Billing restores the three goal cushion with a well-taken shot inside the near post. Barry enter 2015 unbeaten in the league but today's game hasn't told me much about their true strength. They've won without playing particularly well, and I suspect manager Gavin Chesterfield is likely to need to strengthen his squad for First Division football in due course - although I've been impressed with several of the current team today, notably Rhys James. It's good to see youth players being included in the squad too.

A worthwhile dose of fresh air and football in the midst of the holiday period. But when am I next going to see a game where the result is in the balance until the closing stages?

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