We are just days away from the Nathaniel MG Cup final but what can Barry and TNS expect from one another?
It’s clear that both teams so far this season have been hugely successful, with TNS beating Johan Cruyff’s Ajax’s 26 match record winning streak by going one better by winning 27 in a row by beating Cefn Druids 2-0. It’s certainly put them on the map and everybody is talking about the 10 time Welsh Premier League champions.
They’ve played with an intensity throughout the season. They’ve been absolutely ruthless at times, and have scored a ludicrous 77 goals in just 22 outings – winning 21 out of their 22 Welsh Premier League games.
The front-line of TNS has been unstoppable at times, and is one of the main reasons why they’ve broken the record set by Ajax in the 1971/1972 season. They all have a fantastic understanding of each others’ games, and have played a real attractive brand of football throughout the season.
It’s not all been easy, though. They have had to battle hard in games too, and have had to have a certain amount of luck to obtain the record but through fantastic team spirit that has been accomplished. Every single player has worked together, and they all love playing under the influence of manager Craig Harrison.
Speaking on breaking Ajax’s record, Harrison said “We’re not comparing ourselves to Ajax in any way, but we’re proud of what we’ve achieved”.
Lately, though, there have been signs that Barry could exploit them in the final on Saturday. Defensively, where they have been so solid throughout the season, they were poor in the 3-3 draw at relegation bound Newtown. The Newtown front-line were often given too much time and space by the TNS defenders, which allowed them to punish them with three goals.
Gavin Chesterfield will be wary of TNS of course, but if Barry can punish TNS’ mistakes at the back they will have a fantastic chance of lifting the trophy come Saturday evening.
Barry on the other hand have had successes of their own this season, and are on the verge of creating something quite special. A return to the Welsh Premier League for the first time since they were relegated in the 2003/2004 season and another Cup honour to their name in the same season would perhaps make-up for the torrid times at Barry, where they were ever so close to being liquidated as a club.
Town, who are currently 2nd in the Welsh first division have been tipped by many to get promoted this season and manager Gavin Chesterfield has the foundations in place for them to be successful if they’re to reach the Welsh Premier League.
The future looks very bright for Barry with them just six points off leaders with three games in hand they look to be destined to finally reach the Welsh Premier League, which is fitting after the tumultuous years when Stuart Lovering owned the club.
This season, Barry have been one of the most attractive teams to watch in the Welsh League Division 1, winning eight, drawing four and losing the twice in their 14 games so far this season. They have a great attacking line, and have various options up front with TJ Naji and James Dixon both fighting for a place to play in the final.
Dixon put a great case up for why he should start, scoring a hat-trick in Barry’s last outing, a 3-1 win against Monmouth. They have got a superb mixture of both experience and youth, there is a great balance to the team and is one of the main reasons why they’ve been so successful in the last few seasons and they seem to be going from strength to strength.
The midfield has great tenacity, with the likes of Jordan Cotterill and Louis Gerrard at their disposal. They’re incredibly effective at breaking up play, and have a desire to win every single second ball for Barry in the midfield area which makes them very difficult to play against, which various teams in the Welsh First Division have found out this season.
Gavin Chesterfield also likes his full-backs to push on and pressurise the opposition, this was apparent in the first 20-25 minutes in the game against Penybont. They penned Penybont in their own half, and this was mainly due to how far Town’s full-backs were pushed up the pitch
TNS are obviously a completely different type of opposition, but they do have the players to punish them in various different areas of the pitch. The main concern for Town will be how they’ve struggled throughout this season to deal with opposition’s aerial threat. The majority of their goals have been conceded through dead-ball situations, and they can’t afford to switch off against a very physical TNS side. Greg Draper is one of the players who will be able to punish them in the air, standing at 6″3 tall, however Town manager Gavin Chesterfield would have drilled it into his players the importance of clearing their lines from dead-ball situations as well as preventing crosses into their box.
It’s all set up to be another sensational final between TNS and Barry, TNS winning the Welsh League Cup seven times whilst Barry winning it six with their last success coming in the 1990/2000 season.
PHOTO BELONGS TO SAMEOLDSMITHY