The New Saints claimed their first silverware of the season on Saturday, but left it late as a goal from Adrian Cieselwicz and a hat-trick from substitute Chris Seargeant inside the final 12 minutes made for a dramatic finale against a determined Barry Town United side to lift the Nathaniel MG Cup.
The New Saints 4-0 Barry Town United
NATHANIEL MG CUP FINAL
- Saturday, 21 January 2017
- Cyncoed Campus Stadium, Cardiff Met FC
The focus for The New Saints in recent weeks may have centred on world records and winning runs, but the opportunity to claim a first trophy of the campaign presented itself at Cardiff Met on Saturday as the Dafabet Welsh Premier League champions prepared to take on fallen giants Barry Town United.
The two most decorated clubs in Welsh domestic game, the final marked the latest stage in Barry Town's resurgence towards former glory, and the chance to prove their credentials against the side that replaced them as the dominant force in the national league.
Despite the freezing temperatures, the interest in the return of a traditionally famous fixture attracted a large crowd to welcome the two sides out onto the field, and it was Barry that made an immediate impression as TJ Nagi tested The New Saints' goalkeeper and captain Paul Harrison from the kick-off.
Looking to catch the holders off guard in the opening exchanges, Nagi forced two corners for his team inside the opening two minutes, but almost inevitably The New Saints began to take control of the match, and subsequently enjoyed long periods of possession in the Barry Town United half.
The first real chance for The New Saints came from Alex Darlington, who was proving to be a thorn in the side of the Barry Town United defence early on in his position behind striker Greg Draper. However, goalkeeper Mike Lewis had to be at his best, and denied Darlington, Adrian Cieselwicz, Aeron Edwards and Ryan Brobbel inside the opening 20 minutes.
Opportunities for Barry Town United were few and far between as they looked to challenge their full-time opponents on the counter-attack. Despite being lifted by the support that had made the short journey to Cyncoed, Barry Town United were restricted to the occasional free-kick, while the pace of Drew Fahiya provided a rare attacking outlet for the Welsh League side.
WATCH: You can watch the full match back courtesy of Sgorio.
The addition of goalkeeper Mike Lewis has been one of the main reasons that Barry Town United have the best defensive record in the Welsh League Division One this season, and he was certainly the busier of the two keepers as The New Saints continued to pressure the defence with a series of corners and impressive build-up play.
On 31 minutes Edwards was again denied by Lewis as his near-post header was well-saved. Barry Town United ended the opening half as they started it with a corner, but chances for Gavin Chesterfield's side remained few and far between as referee Iwan Griffith brought the goalless opening first 45 minutes to a close.
The New Saints made a double substitution ahead of the second half as Chris Seargeant and Scott Quigley replaced Darlington and Greg Draper, and Craig Harrison's side forced a corner immediately from the kick-off.
The substitutions meant a complete change to The New Saints' forward line, and it was Seargeant who tested Lewis on 49 minutes with a well-struck effort from the edge of the area.
Barry Town United continued to frustrate The New Saints as they defended in numbers, forcing the cup holders wide and restricting their opportunities, but the lack of possession was starting to take its toll on the Welsh League side, and this was evident as they struggled to get back to defend following a rare counter-attack on the hour mark.
On 67 minutes, Edwards was again denied by a block on the line, and Brobbel could only shoot wide from the resulting corner. However, the best chance of the half came at the other end of the field two minutes later when Jordan Cotterill, cousin of Wales international David, rattled The New Saints' crossbar with a well-struck effort from the edge of the area.
The game was becoming increasingly open as Seargeant again came close to opening the scoring, while Quigley was denied from converting the rebound from Lewis' latest save.
The eventual breakthrough arrived on 78 minutes, and it was no surprise to see substitue Seargeant strike a fine effort past Lewis after finding his range with a few similar efforts previously without success.
Minutes later, the lead was extended as Cieselwicz added a second as he curled a fine effort into Lewis' far post with Barry Town United clearly rattled from conceding the opening goal after a well-drilled and disciplined defensive performance.
The lead was no more than The New Saints deserved from a dominant display, but Seargeant would add two more goals on 84 and 89 minutes to complete his hat-trick and make it a resounding 4-0 victory for The New Saints.
“We tired them out by passing and moving the ball. We started the second half with a much better tempo and moved the ball better from the word go,” explained manager Craig Harrison as his side lifted the trophy. “They had one counter-attack but we've dominated play. They we're well-organised and they are a good team. We expected to be a frustrating day and we knew that we would have to be patient. We want to win the four trophies now.”
Despite the defeat, Barry Town United will take plenty of positives from the match and the occasion. With the majority of the 1,116 crowd supporting Gavin Chesterfield's side, there is huge potential for the club to build on what they have achieved off the field, while their ability to prevent The New Saints from scoring until 78 minutes is proof of their promotion credentials.
Meanwhile, The New Saints remain on-course for an unprecedented treble-treble, and Craig Harrison will set new targets and challenges for his players to ensure they finish the domestic season as dominantly as they started it.