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Saturday, 21 December 2013 19:36


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SATURDAY 21ST DECEMBER: Jenner Park, mild and dry
BARRY TOWN UNITED 3 LLISWERRY 0 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div. 3)
When the fixture lists were published back in the summer, my choice of game for today was written into my diary: this is the day that my childhood home team, AFC Wimbledon, come closest to my adult home, playing away to Newport County. And until 12.25 today, it was as simple as that. No need to check any other fixtures. The news that the game had been called off was unexpected - after all, it hadn't actually rained during the morning. County have obviously brought their dodgy drainage to Rodney Parade from Spytty.

Come to think of it, NCFC v AFCW has been a fixture repeatedly plagued by the weather: when the clubs first met in Wales in their current incarnations, in August 2008, monsoon conditions prevailed. At New Year 2011, in the Conference Premier, a 3-3 draw was played out in a blizzard. So whenever today's game is finally rearranged, make a note to stay indoors and batten down the hatches.

All week long I've been looking forward to the prospect of seeing a fan-owned team in yellow and blue playing a team from Newport. And, despite the postponement, it dawns on me at 12.30 that I still can: Barry Town United's home game with Lliswerry is definitely on ! As it's a 2pm kick off, this means a hasty departure for the station.

It's surprising how many echoes of the AFC Wimbledon story are present in Barry Town United's, beyond the colours and the fan ownership: both clubs grew out of the worst of times, their fans' previous clubs destroyed by wicked owners; both faced a battle with their governing body for acceptance and for recognition as the heirs to the respective clubs' past; and Barry have even had their own "Not in the wider interests of football" moment as they battled to avoid being cast out of senior football altogether last summer. So Jenner Park is a fitting place to be heading today, in the circumstances. Even if it's the second time in a month that I've crossed Cardiff to Cadoxton and up the hill to Jenner Park.

Barry, second placed in Division Three of the Welsh League, are entertaining Lliswerry, the Spytty Lane based newcomers to the league, who lie fourth. The Jenner Park surface looks fine, though any rain this morning would probably have put this game in doubt too. But south Wales has been blessed with a dry interlude today, allowing quite a few matches to escape postponement. A reasonable crowd for this traditional Christmas shopping Saturday (definitely in three figures) has been swelled by some neutrals, including the Port Talbot Town ultras.

Barry are favourites and have the Lizards on the back foot from the start. They attack relentlessly, forcing corners, getting into good positions, going close. But they don't score. Both Troy Greening and Jordan Cotterill have one-one-one chances but shoot straight at visiting keeper Naylon. Half an hour passes like this, but it can't last and finally Michael Hartley breaks the deadlock, meeting a nice defence-splitting pass, advancing and hitting a cross-shot that Naylon touches, but can't stop. The chances keep coming, James Saddler missing the best of many in the closing stages of the half. 1-0 at the break, and Lliswerry are still in the game, even if they've only had the odd breakaway as respite from the yellow and blue onslaught. Barry look far sharper in midfield and have made far fewer unforced errors. Lliswerry have taken a fair bit of punishment in the first 45 minutes - except that they haven't really been - er - punished.

At half time, Santa does a tour of the athletic track around the pitch, on his sleigh. No, really. After this, it gets a bit dark, this being the shortest day of the year, and a little bit chillier, although we seem to be escaping the worst of the weather today: tweets from elsewhere talk of games interrupted by downpours and of treacherous conditions.

The second half brings early chances at both ends, and in fact a couple of times the Barry goal is under threat, the ball flashing across the goalmouth. Could Barry be made to pay for wasteful finishing ? They're still missing when goals look inevitable, Greening with the most memorable chance, hitting a post and then screwing the rebound wide with the keeper beaten. But, eventually, and oh so belatedly, Barry make the game safe: persistent chasing of a through ball pays off as the defender fails to usher it out for a goal-kick and in the centre, Jordan Cotterill has a simple close range chance, which he buries in the back of the net. That just about settles the game, although he scores a more spectacular third goal in stoppage time after a well-played advantage. 3-0 at the end, and Lliswerry couldn't have complained at double that. They stuck to their task today, but as we know, Barry shouldn't really be in this division, and defeat to them brings no shame.

A win for the Yellow & Blue: not the one I'd have wanted for Christmas, but it'll do today.

Read 5980 times Last modified on Saturday, 28 December 2013 20:22

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