3 January 2012 at Twerton Park, Bath
County v Mansfield at Field Mill earlier this season. The author and daughter Kaitlyn are on the front row behind the goal.
Reproduced with kind permission of Sam Shingler
After what initially seemed to have been a torrid Christmas period, Newport County will head to Twerton Park on Tuesday evening in buoyant mood, knowing that a win will take them up to 18th in the league and give much needed breathing space between themselves and the bottom four in the Blue Square Bet Conference Premier Division.
The Christmas period commenced with a Christmas Day announcement that Danny Rose, County’s star midfielder, would be sold to an unnamed club as soon as the transfer window opened on January 1st. The timing of such an announcement, coupled with the confirmation a couple of days later that the player would be moving to Fleetwood Town for an undisclosed fee caused consternation amongst some supporters who considered the timing and lack of transparency of such announcements unhelpful.
With the announcement of the sale of Rose still fresh in the supporter’s minds, Newport County then lost out on what would probably have been their highest crowd of the season for the local derby with Bath City when the Spytty Park pitch was deemed unplayable. This left County facing the very real prospect of dropping into the bottom four before the away encounter with Bath, given that the majority of the teams around them were playing two matches whilst the Newport players and fans enjoyed an unanticipated extended stay at home eating the remains of the Christmas turkey.
During this time of idleness, however, two things have happened which has lifted the spirits of all who associate themselves with County. Firstly, only Stockport County of the teams embroiled with Newport in the relegation battle at the foot of the Conference actually managed to move above them, County securing a hard earned 3-2 New Year’s Day win against Barrow after a late Sheridan penalty. Kettering Town lost twice and, given the current financial plight of the club, are in serious trouble, whilst Hayes having lost on Boxing Day to Ebbsfleet, were saved from what was potentially going to be a second defeat when the referee abandoned the return New Year’s Day match with Ebbsfleet leading 1-0. These results have enabled Newport to remain outside the bottom four, whilst giving them potentially crucial games in hand.
The second item of significance was a double statement from chairman Chris Blight concerning the Danny Rose transfer and the desire of the directors to have openness and transparency with the fans. These messages both highlighted the reasons why the Christmas Day announcement was made and confirmed that manager Justin Edinburgh would have opportunity to strengthen the side in the transfer market during January. This was then immediately confirmed when 20 year old Cardiff City striker Nat Jarvis was brought back to the club on loan for the remainder of the season. The response of the supporters to these events has been very positive and a sizeable and vocal amber army is likely to descend upon Twerton Park on Tuesday evening.
Of course, the poor results for many teams near the bottom of the league increases the importance of this game and the pending return fixture at Spytty Park, which is potentially going to be schedule for 10 January. Bath City, who have been marooned at the foot of the table for the majority of the season, will see an opportunity from these two matches to gain six points, which would make a significant impact on their chances of survival. The official Bath City website has published a preview of Tuesday’s match with the rallying cry to supporters that they should take heart given recent improved performances that have included creditable draws with Mansfield and Cambridge, as well as a crucial victory over a Telford United side that are rapidly sliding into trouble.
The preview also claimed that Bath’s draw with Kettering was heartening, but the reality is that in order to survive, the Romans must win the games against the sides just above them in the league table. However, the only defeat Bath have suffered in the last five games was a 4-1 reverse at Kidderminster and, with home games against both Braintree and Alfreton also to come this month, the club are still far from relegated.
Whilst the media in general tend to exaggerate the importance of individual games during the early part of the season, there is no doubt that this encounter at Twerton Park could be hugely significant to both clubs. Given the buoyant mood currently at Newport County, along with their own impressive away record recently, which has included a draw at leaders Wrexham and a 4-1 victory over promotion favourites Fleetwood Town, the Exiles will start as favourites to win. Bath have struggled to score goals and will be looking to Lee Phillips to inspire them to victory by improving upon his current tally of 3 for the season. Indeed, the Romans strikers have had such a tough time this season that their goalscoring threat is most likely to come from midfield, from where Murray, Canham and Watkins have all netted four times this season.
Prediction: Bath City 1 Newport County 2
Please feel welcome to offer your own prediction by filling in the poll on the left hand side of this article. The poll will remain open until shortly before kick off.