Barry Town United will host a special double-header at Jenner Park this weekend, with Gavin Chesterfield’s squad pitted against two former Welsh Cup finalists within the space of 24 hours.
On Friday evening (2nd August), Barry will welcome a Swansea City XI in a 7.45pm kick-off, before entertaining Hednesford Town of England’s Southern League at 2.30pm the following afternoon.
The club is promoting a special offer for these final summer friendlies, with admission to both the Friday and Saturday matches bundled together at £7 (adults), £5 (concessions) and £3 (children).
While more widely known for their rivalry with neighbours Cardiff, Barry’s history with the Swans stretches over a century, with both formed in 1912, as Barry AFC and Swansea Town respectively.
Notably, Swansea were the first ever to score a win over newly-formed Barry, winning 5-0 at the Vetch Field in September 1913, having already claimed their first of ten Welsh Cups that spring.
In 1983-84, Barry and Swansea contested a Welsh Cup quarter-final at Jenner Park, with over 3,000 spectators seeing Phil Green (father of today’s midfielder Clayton) hitting the target in a 1-1 draw.
Despite Phil McNeil’s extra-time effort, Barry were edged out 2-1 in the Vetch Field replay, while Swansea would prevail in a pair of two-legged semi-finals, triumphing 4-1 in 1989 and 3-2 in 1991.
As it happened, 1991 would be the last year that Swansea would win the historic Welsh Cup, with a side that featured former Wales boss Chris Coleman, as well as goalkeeper Mark Kendall (father of Lee) recording a 2-0 final victory over Brian Flynn’s Wrexham at Cardiff’s former National Stadium.
It is the following campaign that ties this weekend’s double-header together, a season where, as Barry and Swansea slipped to exits at the hands of Aberystwyth Town and Cardiff City respectively, a non-league team from Staffordshire somehow made it all the way to Wales’ showpiece cup final.
Hednesford were far from the first England-based team to compete in the Welsh Cup, with the likes of Bristol City, Kidderminster Harriers and various others trying their luck across the prior century.
However, the Pitmen’s Welsh Cup heroics of 1991-92, saw them become the first English club to kick a football at Wales’ national ground, a feat not replicated until the build of the Millennium Stadium.
Starting their campaign with a 2-0 win over Welshpool Town, Hednesford would beat Penrhyncoch, Haverfordwest County and others, en route to a two-legged semi-final triumph against Colwyn Bay.
More than 10,000 fans watched the subsequent final in Cardiff, where the Pitmen were beaten 1-0 by Eddie May’s Cardiff City, ending this unique chapter in the Midlands club’s near-140 year history.
Among those in the Bluebirds’ victorious line-up that day, a 20-year old Damon Searle, who would win Welsh League championship honours with Chesterfield’s Barry, more than 20 years later.
Today’s Hednesford Town team are preparing for a season in the Southern League’s Central Premier Division, having switched from the Northern Premier League in the summer.
Since their famous day in the sun in South Wales, over 27 years ago now, the Pitmen have captured England’s FA Trophy, defeating Canvey Island at Villa Park, during the redevelopment of Wembley.
As fate would have it, one of their most notable players in this period would be future Wales captain Ashley Williams, the border-crossing defender who made his name in the colours of Swansea City.
Barry head into their matches with Swansea and Hednesford off the back of two successive victories, with the eventual thunderstorm of 23rd July preceding an evening of raining goals at Jenner Park.
Opponents Pontypridd Town brought a number of familiar faces to Barry, including the recently-departed Louis Gerrard, as well as former favourites Lee Baldock, Tyrrell Webbe and Kareem Leigh.
However, it was former teammate and Barry captain Jordan Cotterill who opened the proceedings in the 17th minute, before Pontypridd drew level from the penalty spot, with Luke Gullick converting.
After hitting the post, Jack Compton helped Kayne McLaggon to score moments before the break, only for Ponty’s Gullick to head themselves on terms again, in the depths of first-half stoppage time.
Compton and McLaggon connected again to make it 3-2, only for Gullick to seal his hat-trick, slotting past George Radcliffe after the Cardiff City loan goalkeeper initially saved Gullick’s second penalty.
Then, moments after the hour, Jonathan Hood provided the match’s stand-out moment, showing fine technique and deliberate power to blast an unstoppable effort into the Pontypridd Town net.
With half a dozen substitutes now in play, Barry made it 5-3in their favour as striker Eli Phipps converted from the spot, before Drew Fahiya showing sizzling skill to wrap up the match at 6-3.
Then, on Saturday, STM Sports replaced Llanelli as Barry’s friendly opponents, with Nana Baah’s second tier outfit putting in a good showing in warm weather, en route to an eventual 2-0 loss.
In highlights of another competitive warm-up, Keyon Reffell picked his spot and curled home a fine effort to break the deadlock in the 37th minute, before Phipps fired home his second penalty in as many matches, as Radcliffe and Mike Lewis oversaw an encouraging clean sheet at the other end.
The prospect of professionals from Swansea should provide a tougher challenge on Friday night, but Barry will have certainly gained from their two recent outings, with their competitive season now on the horizon.
With manager Chesterfield expected to cast an over his full squad this weekend, face old and new will have their chance to stake a claim for a starting berth, but strength in depth could well be key, as the campaign prepares to begin.
Nathan is the Operations Director and one half of Vale Breakfast on Bro Radio. You'll hear him reading local news, hosting at local events and presenting our facebook live videos.