Luton Town 2-0 Newport County
Saturday, 7 January 2012
Kenilworth Road, Luton
Referee Karl Evans unintentionally made himself the centre of attention at Kenilworth Road on Saturday afternoon when his controversial decision to send off County debutant Ryan Charles for a two footed challenge on Dan Gleeson, who was substituted shortly afterwards, proved to be the turning point of the game.
With new signings Ryan Charles and Andy Sandell both finding themselves drafted straight into the starting line up, the return of Sam Foley after suspension and the return of 30 year old goalkeeper Glyn Thompson in place of the transfer listed Danny Potter, Newport’s side had a considerably different composition to the side that had performed so poorly at Bath City a few days earlier. The fresh faces were instrumental in helping to provide the kind of commitment that had been so desperately lacking four days earlier and the net result was a much more competitive County side that restricted Luton to only a couple of half chances in the first half hour of the game.
Despite the encouraging performance, one issue which Tim Thraves picked up on in his commentary, which Justin Edinburgh will need to address, was the tendency for Newport’s back four to retreat when the Luton forwards ran at them. On occasion this allowed the home side far too much space and time in dangerous positions on the field. One such example was when Alex Lawless was given far too much room on the left hand edge of the penalty box. As the County players finally tried to close down the space, Lawless deftly dropped his right shoulder and, flicking the ball with his left foot, suddenly discovered that he had taken both Newport players out of the game.
This issue aside though, County remained fairly comfortable until the 32nd minute when Ryan Charles, in attempting to recover a ball that he had kicked too far in front of him, launched into a tackle with both feet off the ground. Whilst the studs were faced down and neither leg got particularly far off the ground, referees have been instructed to issue red cards for such dangerous tackles this season. Although Justin Edinburgh deemed the decision to be harsh, County player Nat Jarvis indicated that the red card was deserved given the nature of the tackle. Such differing opinions, even within the Newport camp, demonstrate the difficulty referees have in making these borderline judgment calls.
Ryan Charles sees red on his debut after a two footed challenge on Dan Gleeson (photograph courtesy of Sam Shingler)
The impact of the sending off was immediately apparent as Luton were ahead within two minutes. A relatively short and innocuous looking corner was met by Aaron O’Connor on the near post, though quite some distance away from goal, and his header looped into the far corner of the goal. With only 10 men on the field and a player down, County had to dig deep in order to stay in the game. However, that crucial three minute spell in the first half effectively determined the outcome of the game, even though it took Luton until the 66th minute to make the game safe as Danny Crow buried a Greg Taylor cross into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
Whilst Newport County, despite the improved performance, failed once again to pick up any points in what was their fourth consecutive league defeat, the club are somehow managing to stay out of the relegation zone. An example of the dramatic changes that can take place in football comes from the changing fortunes experienced by Newport during the 90 minutes of football on Saturday. During the middle of the first half, the projected league table showed County dropping to 23rd in the league, with only Bath City beneath them, as Kettering were leading at Telford and Hayes lead at Kiddeminster. Stockport were moving further ahead of Newport as they were drawing at Gateshead and even Bath were closing the gap as they lead 1-0 at home to Braintree.
However by full time Kettering’s weak defence had let them down again as Telford ran in 3 goals, Stockport conceded a couple to Gateshead and late goals for Kidderminster against Hayes and Braintree at Bath meant that the overall outcome from the day’s results was positive for Newport. With Justin Edinburgh hoping to make an additional three signings before the end of the month and the announcement this morning that Robbie Matthews would be leaving Newport for Salisbury, changes continue unabated at Spytty Park and there is rising confidence that Newport will survive, despite the lack of evidence from the results.
Conference Premier League (Bottom)
|23||Hayes & Yeading||27||-21||21|
Before their next engagement with Bath City on 17 January though, Newport have what might be the unwelcome distraction of an FA Trophy match at Worksop. Justin Edinburgh is likely to see this as a chance to try and build some confidence into the team and to try out different tactics with his new look team, though Ryan Charles will of course be missing after his sending off.
With all six Welsh teams playing at the weekend, why not use the poll on the left to predict which sides will win. Is there anybody out there who thinks an impressive Swansea side can overcome Arsenal?