Sunday, 19 February 2012

CTA #36 Newport Vs Stags

Fixture
Newport County Vs Mansfield Town
Competition
Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #34)
Venue
Spytty Park/ Newport Stadium
Date & Time
Saturday 18th February 2012 – 3PM
Attendance
1,285 (89)
Match Referee
Tim Robinson (Bognor Regis)


‘Missing’

On lampposts up and down the land at the moment there are millions of missing posters, a few are looking for their cat whose gone astray but all the others are searching for Mansfield Town FC, why? Because they failed to show in Newport yesterday. Before anyone panics and does fear for the physical whereabouts of our team, the missing thing is just a half-hearted gag trying to condemn the game to the sewer, never to be spoken of again.

In the entire game there seemed to be no real effort, no desire, no fight, no energy, no passion – basically it was the total opposite from the performances against Luton, Hayes & Yeading and Ebbsfleet from January as we collected a six game unbeaten run and three clean sheets in four games. Describing our performance as lethargically lethargic would be kind, in fact at half time we we’re all wondering whether it had been three weeks or three months without a game.

Reading the above two paragraphs may suggest a hammering, it wasn’t – we only lost 1-0. Not for a second am I taking anything away from Newport, they are a well drilled side turning a corner since the sacking of Anthony Hudson. They are nowhere near as open and exposed as they were in the reverse fixture at Field Mill, which again is credit to Justin Edinburgh and his staff. Our grievance the fact our performance was so lacklustre, so without spark or momentum, that we all sit here angry. Prior to yesterday’s game we we’re on a good steady run slowly picking up the points and putting acceptable shifts in which we’re helping us climb, now it seems like we’re going back to square one, about to lose one of our most influential players with no hint of a replacement. The tactical game of Jenga had a firm structure yesterday, now we’re wobbling and afraid to make that critical move.

I never have been negative about Stags and don’t intend to be today, often after a game it’s easy to let the frustration flow and let your head rule your heart, over shadowing the bigger picture. This week without doubt is huge for Paul Cox, he has to find a replacement for Dempster that doesn’t just tick all the boxes, but that can come in and make his presence felt both on and off the pitch. However the gaffer is no fool, I’m confident we will get a response, Dempster’s replacement will arrive and to quote James ‘Pink Jacket’ Williamson – the game never happened, burn the negatives.

Until that happens those, the photo’s will be shown and the negative’s are flame proof, here’s what happened as Paul Cox’s side returned from a three week weather inflicted to break, travelling to South Wales to take on Justin Edinburgh’s Newport County...              

Paul Cox predictably named an unchanged starting line up to face the exiles, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. New addition Matt Rhead, who played the full 90 minutes at Telford on Tuesday, was the one change to the bench at the expense of Louis Briscoe, who has scored four in his last three against Newport.

Alan Marriott
Ritchie Sutton – Martin Riley – John Dempster – Luke O’Neill
Ross Dyer – Adam Murray (C) – Gary Roberts – Adam Smith
Matt Green – Ben Hutchinson
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Paul Edwards – Matt Rhead – Anthony Howell – Lindon Meikle

The big February freeze had seen our last three scheduled games postponed, around 1pm it was the February flood which threatened to wash the game away to a later day, it belted down with intent and had a noticeable effect on the pitch, both goalmouths, the centre circle and some wide areas became a muddy swamp and I, along with other members of the press, was told by Newport officials that ten more minutes of rain would be too much for the pitch and the game cancelled. Luckily, or unluckily as we look at it now, the rain stopped and in the sun rose drying the pitch in time for kick off, the surface though was a certainty to cut up and anyone coming to watch a pretty game of football would have had a wasted journey.

Both sides had early chances in the opening five minutes or so, arguably it was the Stags who enjoyed the more of the ball in that period, with early runs on the left from Adam Smith putting the hosts under pressure before the hosts survived two penalty shouts. The first came on four minutes as Gary Roberts’ ball forward was perfect for Matt Green, the former exiles man got goal side of Andrew Hughes who fell going for the travelling ball bringing Green down with him. Former Stags goalie Glyn Thompson collected as the referee waved play on. The second shout for a penalty two minutes was one with real conviction and should have been given. Luke O’Neill’s corner led to the shout with his ball in finding Riley at the back post who headed wide; however Riley claimed a clear penalty as he was being pulled from pillar to post by marker Garry Warren.

On 7 minutes, still fuming from the penalty shout, Mansfield we’re extremely luck not to be behind. Nat Jarvis weaved his way down the left hand side and whipped in a dangerous ball which scuffed off Dempster’s head straight into the path of Sam Foley who somehow fired wide of Marriott’s goal from six yards with the Stags shot stopper stranded.

Mansfield had an average spell in which perhaps showed a glimpse of their previous run, first Adam Murray’s beautiful ball wide right found the advancing Ritchie Sutton, who crossed in on the half volley and was unfortunate not to see his cross bundled in by Green who was beaten to it by the home keeper. Then it was Gary Roberts turn to create on 28 minutes after picking the ball up wide right. The former Port Vale midfielder set himself for a well weighted swinging cross, which found Adam Smith unmarked at the far post, unfortunately Smith directed his diving header wide rather than beyond a rooted Thompson. John Dempster converted from a Luke O’Neill smashing home left footed from seven yards, however he couldn’t even celebrate as the whistle had already gone for a foul by a Stags body on Newport’s Gary Warren.

At the other end it was the hosts who again came close; Sam Foley missed another glorious chance, dragging a powerful shot wide of the mark after former Stags trialist Adam Chapman had provided a crisp low assist.  

On 33 minutes it was third time lucky for Foley as the hosts gained the upper hand. Lee Minshull teased the Stags on the edge of the box before threading Foley through, the Newport front man controlled well before firing a shot past Alan Marriott into the bottom corner.

Newport 1-0 Stags

Martin Riley was guilty of a poor clearance with six minutes to go before the break, with the ball falling unhealthy straight into Elliott Buchanan’s path. The Exiles midfielder volleyed wide of the mark but again highlighted the fact that what wasn’t broken before the game, now was.

Half Time: Newport 1-0 Stags

Paul Cox made all three of his changes at the break, giving debuts to Paul Edwards and Matt Rhead, plus introducing Anthony Howell for Ross Dyer, Ben Hutchinson and Adam Smith respectively. What started out as a 4-4-2 lasted a mere minute before the shape settled more into a 5-3-2 / 3-5-2 with O’Neill and Edwards acting as wing backs:

Marriott
O’Neill – Sutton – Dempster – Riley – Edwards
Murray – Howell – Roberts
Green – Rhead

Despite the changes it was Newport who registered the first effort of the second half; Nat Jarvis turned Paul Edwards with ease before firing straight at Alan Marriott. At the other end Gary Robert’s fired a 30 yard free kick over on 52 minutes, before Luke O’Neill provided a series of long throws. It was an O’Neill throw which led to Mansfield’s next chance, the bullet ball in landed at the feet of Rhead, who held it up before allowing Murray to take over, the Stags captain blazed over around 15 yards from goal.

On 57 minutes the intent from throw ins was clear, O’Neill would be launching everyone into the area. His throw, this time from the left, again caused havoc and the ball found leading hit man Matt Green, swivelling well to take his mark out the game, Green’s hooked half volley lacked any real conviction and was easily plucked out of the air by Thompson, who once kept goal for Stags during a 16 game loan stint from Fulham back in January 2000.

With an hour gone it was again the hosts, who threaten, goal scorer Sam Foley created with a curling cross from the right, winger Nat Jarvis got the lightest of touches but failed to beat Alan Marriott who collected with relative ease in front of the 89 travelling fans. Six minutes later, they along with the players, breathed a huge sigh of relief as Newport enjoyed a prolonged spell inside the Mansfield half. A cross from the right was tamely headed away, straight into the path of Lee Minshull who volleyed with real venom just over the bar from the edge of the box.

Hearts where in mouths again on 75 minutes when the poor surface saw Alan Marriott fluff a clearance following Martin Riley’s back pass. Marriott was under pressure and dropped the ball straight into Nat Jarvis’ path. The skilful wing man opened his body and curled a shot towards the bottom corner, Marriott got back superbly and tipped the goal bound ball around the post for a corner which he collected unchallenged.    

Mansfield had a golden chance to level with five to go before the full time whistle as Matt Green got in behind. In a prime position where usually Green would stroke the ball home, he tried a square ball to Howell who was, to no fault of his own, nowhere near the area Green’s scuffed pass landed in as the midfielder expected Green to finish the job. With six minutes added on due to an early injury, Mansfield threw themselves forward with Dempster heavily involved in the forward line. The soon to be departing Defender controlled well on the edge of the area and turned his marker spectacularly, before being pulled down just as he was about to smash home. Luke O’Neill stepped up to take the free kick but could only get a corner, as the ball deflected off of the seven man wall. The drama wasn’t over as O’Neill delivered the corner; Martin Riley rose highest but saw his header bobble away. The ball dropped at Matt Green’s feet, a back heel through two markers saw Dempster four yards from goal with the ball again at his feet, just as he was about to shoot his feet were taken again by Hughes who for everyone bar the referee, had conceded a clear penalty. However play was waved on and time was against Mansfield, a series of silly fouls from Edwards near the corner flag gave Newport free kick after free kick, and predictably they ran the clock down at the corner flag until the whistle blew.

Full Time: Newport 1-0 Stags

After the game Paul Cox made no excuses and refused to blame the referee for the two missed penalty shouts among other questionable decisions – refreshing and correct. Never shift the blame, we didn’t deserve a goal, we didn’t deserve anything other than to get beat. Newport where very strong and as I said at the top of the piece, credit should go to Justin Edinburgh for turning the ship around after his predecessors poor run of results which took the south Wales side from mid table to second from bottom. Now we need to show our mental strength and again write the wrongs, the season is not over and I refuse to listen to anyone who says it is – if that’s arrogant of me then for once I don’t care. I have seen the potential we have in that dressing room, I have seen the desire and I can feel the willingness to achieve success, we have a manager who is not stupid and will keep working the lads to achieve what we desire.

Keep the faith and show your support again on Tuesday, we have three back to back home matches now against three teams below us. Field Mill must be a fortress, we need to take maximum points and make progress now, at a point in the season where there has been none for the past few seasons.

If you can’t get on Tuesday night, be sure to join me for regular updates on 106.9FM only from 7.30pm.

As ever, thanks for reading.  
Match Photos: James Williamson

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