Newport County 1-2 Northampton Town
Saturday, January 4th 2014
Just as we thought we were on the brink of appointing a new manager, Andy King inspired the Cobblers to an away win that had eluded us for the majority of 2014 and, in the process, not just threw his name into the hat for the position but launched it direct into the brain of David Cardoza. It wasn’t just the result at Newport but the noticeable improvement in certain players and the team spirit from players that formed a patched up starting eleven once again that would have delighted the chairman and sent him home with much more food for thought.
Indeed, his latest interview indicates that King’s progress has given him much more time than he thought he had and Cardoza has challenged the players to keep up their performances if they want King to be the one to lead them to league safety and beyond. With all the names being thrown around, all the rumours flying through the Internet there’s only been passing thoughts for King but he’s gone about his work in tremendous spirits and not once have you had the impression that he’s a stop gap, or that he thinks of himself in that way. If he were to leave before the big home game with York City next weekend he would go with his head held high but I get the feeling that this win will have given him a big chance to be leading out the side for that one as well. It sounds as if a couple more players will be coming in this week from King’s contacts and he’s the man that’s gaining more and more momentum and trust in the race for the job.
This result wasn’t at all straight forward though and nor should it have been – Newport have held a position in and around the playoffs since we inflicted on them their first defeat since re-joining the league back in August. It took guts, flashes of quality and a late, late piece of goalkeeping heroicness to earn only a second away success of the season. It was tense but boy was it worth it once that final whistle went.
There were debuts for new loanees Hallam Hope and Antonio German who formed a new look strike force with Joe Widdowson missing out and replaced by Ben Tozer at left back. German would almost make it a dream start in Cobblers colours as he found space inside the area clipped in a deflected effort that came down off the cross bar.
The injury list grew further when Danny Emerton was taken off and David Moyo, a tad unfortunate to lose his starting place to the two new forwards, came on and soon after that the Cobblers were in front. Hallam Hope was played in by Moyo and the Everton loanee reacted quickest to his first shot being saved to put in a big debut goal.
Hope could have had another with a free header that sailed wide before Newport put a dent in our plans when Harry Worley climbed highest from a corner to nod in for 1-1 at the break.
That sort of setback could have had a real negative effect on the players but instead they rolled up their sleeves and really came back into it in the second half. Darren Carter, looking to rebuild his reputation with many of the Cobblers’ faithful, picked up the ball just outside the area and curled in a superb right footed effort into the corner of the net. If you’re hoping to get the Town fans back onside again then that’s a hell of a way to get started! Carter is one of those who has really underperformed since joining in the summer and he’ll be desperate to keep up this type of showing having been frozen out by Aidy Boothroyd.
The rest of the game was dominated by one man – Matt Duke. He’s been the star of a desperate season so far and proved his undoubted worth once again by first keeping out Robbie Willmott and then producing what could be a ‘moment of the season’ contender come May.
A questionable penalty was awarded on the right hand side after discussions between referee Fred Graham and his linesman and Andy Sandell stepped up. As we all held our breath expecting to be coming away with just a point, Duke pulled off a superb save down to his right and pushed the ball wide. That was enough to help the Cobblers to the three points that not only kick start 2014 but that ignites what will hopefully be a charge back out of the bottom two. Duke’s save was as timely as Neal Kitson’s back in the 2011 escape from trouble up at Crewe on his Town debut and could well turn out to be just as important.
For Andy King it means that a job offer may well be looked at in some capacity and it was a performance that will say a lot to the hierarchy making the big decisions in the coming weeks.
There’s the obvious argument that ‘it’s only one win’ and that’s completely valid but the very fact that King has taken charge of three tough away games and come away with four points is a credit to him. It gives Cardoza time to really assess the other candidates in comparison. King’s players, though, are doing everything they can to push his name further and further into the running.