Sunday, 10 January 2016

Barry Town United 3 v 2 Monmouth Town

Saturday 9nd January 2016
Jenner Park, Barry
Welsh Football League Division One
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 225
Match Rating: 4

A few months after booking today’s trip from London to Cardiff for the bargain price of just £2.50 return with Megabus, my long awaited return to South Wales finally arrived. There are some beautiful football grounds full of character in the Welsh Football League, however the ground I chose to head for today did not promise to fit into that category. A visit to Jenner Park still promised to be interesting though, the venue for a club that fell on hard times since dominating the Welsh Football scene around the turn of the Millennium, but is gradually progressing back up the Welsh pyramid.

Jenner Park is about a 20 minute walk from Cadoxton train station, and spectators can enter the ground behind either goal – one entrance through a rather grim looking turnstile block, the other via a narrow, unsigned alleyway before reaching a separate turnstile block. The presence of an athletics track around the outside of the pitch never adds to a ground's attractiveness, and this ground does have more of a feel of a municipal sports ground than a proper football ground, with no club signage whatsoever, but it does have some features that give the place some uniqueness. Behind one of the goals is the clubhouse, perched above pitch level, which offers good (if distant) elevated views of the action, but was a popular option today for many on a miserable day outside. A pathway then leans towards the main all-seater stand, which has a tall roof comprising several arcs from side to side. A much plainer looking all-seater stand is situated on the opposite side, with just hard standing around the rest of the athletics track. The 20 page programme covered the basics sufficiently and was well presented.

After being promoted as champions from Division Two, Barry have settled well into Division One football, and went into this game in fifth place, with seven wins and five draws from their 15 league games. They have also reached the fourth round of the Welsh Cup, where they will play The New Saints in a televised tie to spark some nostalgia from matches around the turn of the millennium when the two clubs were battling it out at the top of the Welsh Premier League. Monmouth Town are having a steady season, in tenth places having gained four wins and six draws from their 17 league games. When these two teams met back in September, Barry won 0-3.

On a wet afternoon, when rainfall of varying intensity continued throughout most of the match, I was thankful that this stadium now has a 3G pitch, installed last autumn, otherwise this game would surely have been either postponed or abandoned. The visitors got off to a dream start, taking the lead with just 2 minutes on the clock. The ball was curled from the left into the penalty area and Richard Greaves headed the ball over the keeper and the ball glanced the underside of the bar before bouncing over the line. On 7 minutes, the visitors doubled their lead, again Greaves getting on the end of a cross with a header to plant the ball beyond the stranded keeper. Advantage Monmouth, but the game looked far from over in what was developing into an open game. Barry saw a shot blocked on the line on 33 minutes, before Monmouth saw a lovely curling shot from the edge of the area graze the outside of the post. It was Barry who, crucially, would score the next goal. Jordan Cotterill dribbled the ball along the byline, tapped it away from the keeper and fired the ball low across the six yard box, cannoning off a Monmouth defender and into his own net from close range. Both sides continued to create chances, but it was Barry who scored next to level the scores. Some short passing in a crowded penalty area ended with James Dixon poking the ball into the net.

The 2-2 half time scoreline was a good reflection on an entertaining 45 minutes of open, attacking football, but within two minutes of the restart, Monmouth had a great opportunity to go back into the lead. A foul tackle by the edge of the area was adjudged by the linesman to have taken place just inside the area, and the referee awarded a penalty, however the keeper saved it with his legs before the loose ball was hacked clear. Barry almost took the lead themselves a few minutes later when an excellent dribble through the defence ended with the ball being flighted above the keeper only for the ball to come back off the crossbar. They did look the better side in the second half, and took the lead on 70 minutes. After the Barry keeper and one of his defenders got in a tangle, the ball squirmed goalwards but was cleared. Barry went straight up the other end and a good outstretched hand prevented a simple tap in but the reprieve only lasted seconds as some more good intricate passing in the box ended with Dixon tapping in. That turned out to be the decisive moment as Barry mostly dominated the rest of the match, hitting the woodwork twice and forcing the visiting keeper to make some very good saves. They quite comfortably held on for the win they deserved, certainly on their second half showing, and rise to fourth in the table, while Monmouth will feel disappointed to have let slip a two goal lead.

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