Saturday, 4 February 2012

Carshalton Aim For Second Premier Scalp

Newport County Badge 2Carshalton Athletic Badge

Newport County v Carshalton Athletic

                FA Trophy 3rd Round

         Tuesday, 7th February 2012

               Spytty Park, Newport


When the 3rd Round of the FA Trophy finally gets underway on Tuesday night, after snow and ice caused the postponement of all eight of the last 16 fixtures at the weekend, Ryman Premier League outfit Carshalton Athletic will be seeking to claim another Conference Premier scalp in the form of Newport County after having successfully removed Lincoln City in a 2nd Round replay.

Carshalton and Wealdstone are the only two representatives that remain from the Ryman Premier League, with Northwich Victoria the only other side surviving from outside the three Conference divisions.  As a consequence, the Robins are rank outsiders in what their official homepage has described as the biggest cup game that the club have played in a decade.  However, Newport would be wise to give them respect, given that Carshalton overcame Conference Premier outfit Lincoln City in the last round and thrashed Bishop’s Stortford of the Conference North 5-0 in the 1st Round.

Carshalton Athletic Cup Run
Carshalton Athletic 3 1 Lincoln City 488 2nd Rnd
Lincoln City 0 0 Carshalton Athletic 1,743 2nd Rnd
Carshalton Athletic 5 0 Bishop's Stortford 243 1st Rnd
Maldon & Tiptree 0 1 Carshalton Athletic 72 3rd Qual.
Carshalton Athletic 3 1 Cirencester Town 225 2nd Qual.
Carshalton Athletic 3 1 Bideford 200 1st Qual.

The FA Trophy is clearly beginning to capture the imagination at Carshalton as attendances at Colston Avenue have been steadily increasing as the club have progressed through the competition, culminating in an attendance of 488 for the 2nd Round Replay against Lincoln City last month.

A delay of three days will help to increase the available options for owner and manager Paul Dipre, who may well be hoping that an appearance at Wembley might do something to alleviate the hostility that has existed between him and the fans since he banned a group of 10 fans from the stadium for allegedly abusive language.  Laurent Hamici, the second highest scorer in the Ryman Premier League last season suffered from illness all last week and was expected to miss the game on Saturday.  However, three extra days may be enough for the striker to recover and claim a starting place.  Whilst Hamici has only netted 6 times in his 24 appearances so far this season, his influence alongside leading scorer Paul Vines, who has already bagged 18 goals this season, will be crucial in providing Carshalton with a realistic goal threat. 

With midfielders Dean Lodge (minor operation), Tony Finn (cup-tied) and Anthony Joseph (hamstring) almost certainly still out on Tuesday though, Dipre will still have a major headache in trying to put together an experienced midfield.  All three players would usually be fighting to feature in the starting eleven and should all three be absent on Tuesday night, Dipre will be faced with the choice of either promoting youngsters to the first team for what will be the biggest game of their career so far, or to alter the formation of the team.

Whilst Carshalton have been impressive on their cup run and will undoubtedly seek to make life as difficult as possible for County, the evidence of their league position would suggest that Newport should not be faced with too many problems on their own patch if they match their opponents for commitment and work rate, something that is clearly a priority for manager Justin Edinburgh given the nature of recent signings.  Carshalton currently lie in lower mid table in the Ryman Premier League with a return of 34 points from the 27 games they have played to date.  This leaves the club too far adrift of the top 5 to be able to mount a promotion challenge, but sufficiently clear of the bottom 3 to mean that only a disastrous run between now and the end of April could cause them to become embroiled in the relegation battle.  That said, the FA Trophy run can hardly be said to have influenced their league form, as recent results prior to last week’s home victory over Margate had been extremely disappointing:

January League Results
Carshalton Athletic 2 3 Cray Wanderers 2-Jan-12
Bury Town 2 0 Carshalton Athletic 7-Jan-12
Aveley 1 1 Carshalton Athletic 9-Jan-12
East Thurrock United 1 1 Carshalton Athletic 21-Jan-12
Carshalton Athletic 2 1 Margate 28-Jan-12

Whilst the Robins were gaining their first win in eight against Margate, Newport County were gaining their first win in six after a stunning turnaround during the final five minutes at Gateshead.  At 16:40 in the afternoon, County were being plunged deep into the relegation zone, as pending wins for Kettering and Stockport were threatening to leave the Welsh club five points adrift of safety with only Bath City beneath them.  Then a Sam Foley penalty rebound (caricatured beneath), after the goalkeeper had saved the midfielder’s rather tame original penalty kick and a Jake Harris piledriver from the left hand edge of the box stunned the home fans and brought County a rather unlikely third away victory of the season.  This also brought to an end a sequence of three consecutive away defeats, which included the disastrous defeats at Alfreton Town and Bath City.

Sam Foley Caricature

                        Caricature of Sam Foley, courtesy of artist Tim Bye.

A quick glance at the Twitter accounts of the fans after the victory provided ample evidence of the significance of the victory.  From a position which was rapidly becoming desperate, County suddenly found themselves only two points behind 17th place with at least two games in hand on the teams above them.  The cancellation of all but one Conference game on Saturday also ensured that this situation did not worsen, which was importance in terms of maintaining confidence after the Gateshead win. 

The third cancellation of the critical home league game against Bath City will only add to what is already a heavily congested fixture list and, from that perspective, progress in the FA Trophy will only make things worse.  At the same time though, Newport find themselves playing at home to a side from two divisions below them in the football pyramid and a possible trip to Wembley is therefore becoming increasingly realistic, along with the financial benefits that such a day would undoubtedly yield.  Justin Edinburgh has made it clear in his press releases that he wants Newport to do everything possible to make that dream a reality and, with the likes of Wrexham and Fleetwood already out of the competition, victory over Carshalton will leave them only two more wins from Wembley.

Prediction: Carshalton have the capacity to cause problems and have a strike force that is capable of scoring goals.  However, there are doubts concerning the ability of the midfield to provide the necessary supply line, given the number of absentees.  With Lee Minshull and Andy Sandell having made such impressive starts and Jake Harris pushing strongly for a starting place, Newport should have the firepower to progress.  County 3 Carshalton 1

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