Barry Town have lost their first match of the 2020/21 season to TNS in a behind closed doors match at Jenner Park after three second-half goals from Scott Ruscoe’s side gave them optimism for their UEFA Europa League Qualifying Round tie on Wednesday.
Barry and TNS are two of Wales’ biggest sides domestically. The two sides have a combined total of 20 JD Cymru Premier titles between them and are two of the most successful sides in Welsh football. And so, a season opener between the two sides should be a great way to kick off the season with a bumper crowd in attendance to see new signings in action for the first time and be optimistic about what the season has in line for ahead.
But there was none of that. The atmosphere that is renowned with Jenner Park was absent, the clubhouse was closed and the space where fans would normally stand below the gantry was cordoned off with red tape for substitutes to sit socially distanced. The official attendance was 0 due to the game being played behind closed doors.
The game itself almost felt a bit irrelevant without the fans inside the stadium. It felt far from the occasion that these games normally are. With temperature checks and masks needed for every person inside the stadium, the perspective that is often forgotten with sport was firmly reminded upon everyone in attendance.
The lack of fans in attendance didn’t make the match any less competitive however and Barry started the stronger side. Chris Hugh sent in several dangerous crosses into the TNS box only to find no one on the end of them, Evan Press missed with a header from close range and Kane Mclaggon also had a decent attempt saved by Paul Harrison.
It seemed Gavin Chesterfield and his coaching staff had been working on set-pieces during the week because every time Barry had a corner, they looked dangerous. Theo Warton squandered another opportunity for the home side after managing to get a shot away from a short corner.
The match had an edge to it as well like these matches usually do. Seven fouls inside the opening 20 minutes definitely took this fixture away from pre-season territory.
Barry deserved the lead at half-time but failed to come out in the second half as the stronger side. Just three minutes after the restart, Adrian Cieślewicz gave TNS the lead and Barry failed to create the space in behind the TNS defence that they managed to do successfully before the break.
The lack of a crowd didn’t help Barry. That’s not an excuse because chances were missed in the first half but normally the side would be pushed on to equalise through one of the best sets of supporters in the Cymru Premier. 17 minutes later, TNS added a second through Leo Smith which made Barry’s task of picking up their first points at home against the Oswestry based club since 2003 a lot harder.
As Barry pushed forward to try and come back into the game, that left more space in behind for TNS to take advantage of and Barry’s fate was sealed on 65 minutes when Cieślewicz picked up his second goal of the match and TNS’ third.
It will take time for Barry to get used to playing without their fans who have often been a source of inspiration for the Linnets to score important goals in the past. A tough home game against Caernarfon Town next Saturday could prove to be an important one to see if Barry have managed to recover from their disappointment in the Faroe Islands last month.
As for TNS, they have put themselves in a good position to try and overcome the obstacle of Faroese opposition as they take on B36 Tórshavn on Wednesday night in the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round.
Co-Host of Saturday Sport and reporter on Barry Town.