Fight back unable to hide disappointing day in Wales…

Richards...late goal not enough

Richards…late goal not enough

Newport County 3-2 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, September 13th 2014

The Cobblers came very close to getting themselves out of jail once again on Saturday but a late fight back wasn’t enough to cover up some of the earlier deficiencies that led to a second league defeat of the season. Newport had raced into a three goal lead and it always looked as though if we were to complete a stunning turnaround it would have been rough justice on the home side who had convincingly come past a Cobblers side strangely off colour for three quarters of the game.

Perhaps it was the fact that the so far inspirational Kaid Mohammed had to stay at home after picking up a foot injury and Matt Duke was ruled out of a start through a thigh problem but if we’re relying on too many individuals to perform then any hopes of a run at the top end of the table this season may fade quickly.

There seemed a bit of imbalance in midfield with Darren Carter returning to fill in for Mohammed and the home side settled well and deserved their eighteenth minute lead. It was one of those thorns in our side that put the Exiles in front as well – Chris Zebroski always seems to find his way onto the score sheet when he takes on the Cobblers and he did so once again by scrambling in the opener.

After Joe Day pulled off a good save to deny Ivan Toney the home side took a two goal lead to leave us with even more to do. Darren Jones’ shot took a nick off Ryan Cresswell to sail past stand in keeper Jordan Archer and by half time we’d not done enough to force any kind of fight back.

Chris Wilder brought on John-Joe O’Toole and Danny Alfei at the break to try and re-shape but the next goal was always going to be a big one. Unfortunately it went to the Exiles as Lee Minshull met a free kick to head home and all but end the game as a contest.

To be fair to the Cobblers, we gave ourselves some hope at least. Third substitute Lawson D’Ath manoeuvred into position and blasted it home from distance for 3-1 with fifteen minutes to play. Ten minutes later and a grand stand finish was in the offing when Marc Richards scored his fifth of the season by converting Alfei’s cross. One final chance fell to John-Joe O’Toole but Day stood tall to deny him, meaning that the good mini-run we were on comes to an end.

That temporary bubble has now popped and we’re left trying to take the only real positive we can in that we fought back and could have nicked something where a year ago we would have undoubtedly rolled over. Only a proper bounce back will fully work us through this defeat, though, and luckily we have a big chance to do just that on Tuesday night and then again on Saturday with two home games hopefully providing us with just the tonic.

Consigning this to the history books, in other words, is the best bet before we go again back at Sixfields.

Newport County v Northampton Town: Match Preview


Newport County v Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, September 13th 2014

There’s a feeling of growing momentum with the Cobblers as we head to Newport this weekend. The last gasp victory over Exeter City was followed, last Saturday, by a solid and brilliantly produced success at Dagenham and Redbridge where a storming first half was followed by a tighter second that helped us to see out three more League Two points. Chris Wilder has put together an exciting and fluent side and it makes a big change for us to be going into weekends genuinely excited about the Cobblers’ prospects.

To continue this good will, a result at Newport will be required and we come up against a side that are finally getting a feel for this season. Justin Edinburgh’s men, in their second season back in the Football League, lost their opening four games in all competitions but the last three have seen them taking a point against highly fancied Burton Albion, win at promotion favourites Portsmouth and nicking a draw at home to Cambridge United in the final minute of the game.

The Exiles were a rare entity to us last season in that Town did the double over them by winning 3-1 at Sixfields in our opening home game and then 2-1 at Rodney Parade back in January under caretaker boss Andy King. This time out there should be less of a surprising feeling should we come away with something from South Wales and with two home games following it up there would be increased excitement should this little upturn in results and performances continue.

Wilder’s biggest problem, in a good way, is in team selection. By all accounts Joel Byrom and debutant Ryan Watson put in an excellent shift at Dagenham in the middle of the park with Ivan Toney and Marc Richards continuing their flourishing partnership up front so you’d still be hard pushed to make a case for John Joe O’Toole to start. Chris Hackett and Kaid Mohammed are providing the ammunition from both wings and are conjuring up some fantastic displays between them to spearhead attacks. They are pretty nailed on to keep their places whilst at the back you would think it’s as you were with Ryan Cresswell easing into the team for his debut at Dagenham too. Emile Sinclair is one to come back into the squad after coming through his ankle injury but Lee Collins and Evan Horwood are both still out.

Newport announced the loan signing of Joe Piggott from Charlton Athletic this week and the striker is set to make his debut against the Cobblers. Piggott came through the ranks at the Valley but has seen first team chances kept to a minimum so far having spent time on loan at Bromley and Gillingham in the last couple of years.

I don’t know about you but I’m enjoying this winning feeling and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue for another weekend if we can capture the very best from what’s been an altogether solid start to the season. Dizzy heights of optimism!

A Duke gives a King the fighting chance…

Carter...crucial winner

Carter…crucial winner

Newport County 1-2 Northampton Town

League Two

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.

Just the tonic!

O' Donovan...second of the season

O’ Donovan…second of the season

Northampton Town 3-1 Newport County

League Two

Saturday, August 10th 2013

That’ll do nicely! Though there are one or two cracks that still need a bit of TLC in the Cobblers ranks we are off the mark with a good home win that mustered the spirit of last season’s huge run of victories at Sixfields. The Cobblers didn’t have it all their own way by a long shot and Newport can come away with credit after threatening to continue a momentous first week back in the league but the main thing is those three points that get us up and running.

Today’s visitors were clearly in the mood to kick on and the hearty supporters that kept up the noise in the away end throughout the game were clearly still in celebratory mood no matter what the outcome. In truth they could have been taking home a lot more from this game had Matt Duke not been in inspired form once again.

Indeed the first twenty minutes belonged to the visitors with Duke called into action numerous times, first tipping Lee Collins’ wayward clearance over the bar and then touching Chris Zebroski’s header onto the woodwork. Max Porter blasted high and wide as the Exiles settled much better than a Cobblers side still trying to figure out their opponents’ wing back system.

It didn’t help that the defence had been shifted at the last minute thanks to Matt Heath picking up an injury in the warm up, meaning that Ben Tozer moved to centre back and Kevin Amankwaah slotted back in at right back. But gradually Town weathered the early storm and forged a way into the game.

Jacob Blyth had been putting himself a lot in the early going on his Cobblers debut and provided a new outlet that was desperately needed. His work in the air and in the simple touches gave the ever hard working Roy O’ Donovan a new lease of life to work from. Those two would give us the platform to completely reshape the game as the first half wore on.

First, a pin point cross from Ian Morris, captaining the side once again, was headed in powerfully by the leaping Blyth and the early nerves were suddenly wiped away. O’ Donovan then got on the end of another Morris pass to finish well from an angle and it was 2-0, sending the visitors into shock after they had found it so difficult to get past Duke at the other end.

The former Bradford keeper did well to save again from Zebroski as the half ended with the Cobblers’ two goal cushion intact.

The next goal was always going to be crucial and again Newport came out fighting and making the first moves. But once again the Cobblers grew into the game more and regained a sense of control that from then on in they never looked like surrendering. And the game was won with five minutes to play as Gary Deegan was found by substitute Ivan Toney and slotted in from distance for his first goal in Town colours.

There was to be a late consolation for the plucky County as Conor Washington raced past Ben Tozer on the Cobblers right and finished into the roof of the net but it was too late to put any real fear into even the most negative of home fans.

So it was that we collected our first three points of the season and that in itself is a massive boost ahead of the tough trip to Southend next weekend.

Tozer...centre back role

Tozer…centre back role

Some key points I took from my first viewing of Town this season:

Matt Duke was outstanding and will be the difference more than once during this campaign. He makes every wonder save look like it’s routine for him and is becoming a hero once again after his first spell at Sixfields went just as well.

Kevin Amankwaah is also becoming a cult figure after just a couple of outings. He’s strong in the tackle, technically sound and you just don’t know what he’s going to do next. We’re going to be entertained by his tenure at right back if nothing else. Nowhere near Pedj Bojic standard just yet but you can tell he’s going to be one to watch!

BEN TOZER IS A CENTRE BACK! He proved again today that if you put him in his preferred position then he’ll be solid. Putting him in the middle of the park or at right back usually puts him on the first bus to scapegoat city but at centre back he looks more than a long throw machine. I even clapped some of the things he did, though the organisation and occasional holes in there need sorting before we come up against more punishing front lines.

The midfield looks more cohesive. Darren Carter and Gary Deegan look a better fit than the Harding/Guttridge partnership of last season and both bring different genuine qualities to the table. Deegan took his goal well whilst Carter had a decent game alongside him.

Ian Morris as captain? Yes, it does actually work. I wasn’t easily convinced before the game but that was unfair of me before seeing him in action. Morris doesn’t have the great presence of a skipper but his hard work and communication was good. The fact that he was voted into the position by his peers says a lot.

Jacob Blyth looks a good loan signing and definitely an improvement on some of the temporary gap plugging forwards we’ve had in the last couple of years. He’s got a real presence about him and rose above everyone to power in his headed goal. Big potential there and a step up on other options at this time.

Roy O’Donovan is reminding me more and more of Scott McGleish and that can only be a good thing. The Irishman shone, especially given that he had a big man to work off again rather than having to lead the line alone. He’s going to be crucial to this season and could turn out to be this season’s Alex Nicholls, though hopefully without the leg break!

All in all, a good day’s work and we have to try and take this on to Southend where Aidy Boothroyd will likely revert back to 4-5-1. Today’s performance, in attack particularly, may yet change his mind, though.


Northampton Town v Newport County: Match Preview

sixfieldsNorthampton Town v Newport County

League Two

Saturday, August 10th 2013

Two defeats to kick off the season and more questions than answers for the Cobblers so far and now we must try to get off the mark against a Newport County team buzzing from a stunning opening to their first campaign back in the Football League.

Since culminating a twenty five year journey back to the league with a Playoff Final victory over Wrexham back in May, the Exiles have returned with a bang thanks to two eye catching results. First, a 4-1 romp over James Beattie’s Accrington Stanley kicked off the league season in style last weekend with new signing Chris Zebroski netting a brace.

And that wasn’t the end of a perfect first few days for the club as they went to Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday night and came through 3-1 after extra-time to win a place in Round Two of the Capital One Cup. That result set up a Second Round tie at Premier League side West Bromwich Albion but Justin Edinburgh’s side will be looking to keep up the positive league start first and foremost, beginning at Sixfields on Saturday afternoon.

Edinburgh, previously known in the county for his tenure at Rushden and Diamonds, has led County into the league and is slowly making a name for himself in management having played at the top level with Tottenham Hotspur. This is his first shot at management in the Football League and it’s one he’s settling into well so far.

All of that points to a tough first home league game for the Cobblers and if we’re to get off the mark in League Two it’s going to take a big effort as the season begins to roll out.


Team News…

The Cobblers welcomed back Chris Hackett and Clive Platt to training this week but neither will be risked for this game. Darren Carter should come back in after serving a one match ban against MK Dons so Aidy Boothroyd will need to decide on whether to stick with the 4-5-1 formation favoured at York or to revert to the 4-4-2 used on Tuesday night in which JJ Hooper made a first start for the club. Town could also hand a debut to Jacob Blyth after the Leicester City striker signed a one month loan deal on Friday afternoon.

Newport will be without Byron Anthony who was captaining the side at Brighton on Tuesday but was stretchered off with a double fracture of his right ankle after a challenge from Inigo Calderon. (More to follow)


Previous Meetings…

The two sides have never met during the last twenty five years and this ‘version’ of Newport County with the last game between the two clubs coming in the 1977/78 F.A. Cup when the Cobblers were 2-1 winners at the old County Ground. Town would exit the competition in the next round at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.


The man in the middle…

The official taking charge on Saturday at Sixfields is Mark Heywood who last refereed a Cobblers game in a 3-2 home defeat by Cheltenham Town in August 2011.



Newport are coming into this with bags of confidence after their landmark week back in the Football League and in the Capital One Cup. We have to blast away those Wembley blues and though it’s going to be a really tough game I think we can nick this to finally get up and running. 2-1

Fan Feature: Newport County

newportThis Saturday we welcome Newport County to Sixfields for the first time after the Exiles made their triumphant return to the league for the first time since a reincarnation of sorts in 1989. After the demise of the original Newport County in February of that year, around 400 supporters reformed the club in time for the 1989-90 season in which they began a new life in the Hellenic League, four levels below the Football League. I spoke to County fan Andy Lawrence about the rise of the new look Exiles and their transition to life back in the league.

“It’s very hard to put into words just how much it means to everyone involved with the club,” he said, “It’s been a roller coaster to say the least. To think 25 years of fighting all came down to 90 mins of football against our rivals Wrexham was unbelievable, but sometimes these stories write themselves and I think it was a case of “fate” to do it in the manner we did. When I was a little boy my dad would tell me stories of the famous European nights and beating west ham 2-1, and I remember thinking ….Would we ever get back to where we belong ?  Sadly there are a few County fans that have passed away in recent years and didn’t get to witness the achievements we have made.”

Andy names league titles, promotions and, of course, last season’s Playoff Final as personal highlights during that time:

“There have been some great highlights over the years, but I think the last 4-5 years have been the most memorable. Firstly, winning the Conference south with 103 points and breaking nearly every record in the book. We only lost 3 games that season so as you can imagine it was a good year to be a County fan. Secondly obviously has to be last season. The previous season was a struggle and we just about survived relegation, so the heroics of last season were unexpected in many ways. We didn’t drop out of the top 5 all season and I genuinely believe that our horrendous fixture pile up cost us the title, but who wants to win it the boring way? So we got promoted the “hard way” which over the years I have renamed the “County way”, seeing off Grimsby town 2-0 over the two legs and finally silencing the doubters at Wembley beating Wrexham 2-0 in the Play Off final.”

The man leading the charge back into the league is a well-known figure in these parts. Justin Edinburgh cut his managerial teeth down the road at Rushden and Diamonds between 2009 and 2011 and took the now defunct outfit to the Conference playoffs in 2010 before losing his job when the club folded in 2011. But by October of that year the former Tottenham defender was back in management and hasn’t looked back since.

“Justin is terrific,” says Andy, “The best manager I have ever seen at County. What he has achieved over the last 18 months has been nothing short of a miracle, and you get the feeling he’s not done yet in order of how far he can take us! Tactically he is a genius and I always have confidence in his decisions and signings.”

“Adam Chapman has been the “catch” of the summer. We had him on loan a few seasons ago and I think his decision to join us permanently was down to Justin and how good a manager he is. His passing is his strong point, and he’s the sort of player that can make the pass to change the game. Harry Worley is another who has joined this season and I was over the moon as soon as I found out. He’s a strong, solid centre back who’s dominant in the air and he’s light on his feet too, which is a bonus.”

So with a litter of good summer signings and the momentum from last season, how far can the Exiles go this time around?

Andy says,

“I think we will probably finish around 10th this season, I always have this feeling that perhaps we can upset the odds and perhaps sneak the play offs but I’m going to keep my feet on the ground for now and say 10th.”

And, of course, a prediction for Saturday’s game?

“I’ve looked at this game as one where we find out just how good we are. The win against Accrington was brilliant but they are relegation candidates so we can’t read too much into that. This is going to be a very tough game for both us, so I’m going to say we will draw 1-1.”

Big thanks to Andy for his thoughts. You can follow him on Twitter @gingelawrence


Newport County links

Official Website:





BBC Pages:

South Wales Argus Pages: