Sunday, 26 August 2012

Local Rivals Meet At Conference Summit

Hereford UnitedNewport Badge 2012 Smaller

Newport County v Hereford United

Conference Premier Division

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Rodney Parade, Newport

Rodney Parade Brings Back The Crowds

On Tuesday evening, local rivals Newport County and Hereford United will meet for the first time since Newport County reformed back in 1989 in a highly anticipated top of the table clash that could break the record for Newport’s highest Conference Premier League attendance.   The current record is 3,462 which was set in another top of the table clash against AFC Wimbledon back in January 2011.  However, the level of interest in the game means that this record is under threat, with County taking the unusual step of recommending that supporters buy tickets in advance and Hereford potentially bringing several hundred.

Although County’s record Conference Premier League attendance is undoubtedly under threat, it would be a remarkable achievement should their record league attendance be broken.  The 4,221 that saw the Exiles beat Havant & Waterlooville 2-0 to claim the Conference South championship was more than 750 higher than have attended any other Newport match since reformation in 1989.  Without doubt it was the occasion and the pending success of the club that drew the supporters out that day, as the next County home game against Woking just 12 days later saw only 1,742 attend, a drop of approximately 2,500. 

Although Newport have yet to find a way to keep such large crowds on a regular basis, significant progress was made under the Chris Blight regime.  When 1,080 people turned up at Spytty Park to see the 4-2 Conference South home defeat by Sutton United on 30 August 2004, it was the first time that the 1,000 attendance barrier had been breached in two and a half years.  Although the 1,000 barrier was broken again in the final home game of the season against Maidenhead United, it was only six seasons ago, in 2006-07, that County finally started to see four figure attendances on a regular basis.  In the light of this reality, the attendances during the relegation battle at Spytty last season, all of which were above 1,000, were perhaps not as bad as has been made out.

In any debate, there are always at least two perspectives.  One perspective on attendances is that they are on a long term upward curve.  However, there is another perspective which suggests that they are still not as high as they ought to be.  Back in May, upwards of 11,000 attended the FA Trophy Final against York City at Wembley.  Even allowing for the fact that some of this momentum has undoubtedly been carried forward to this season, with County recording their 6th (v Lincoln City) and 12th (v Nuneaton Town) highest league attendances since reforming, the reality is that several thousand people who attended the Wembley showpiece have not yet set foot inside Rodney Parade this season.  The hope and expectation is that, with the Exiles sitting on top of the Conference Premier League table and second placed local rivals Hereford United the visitors, that many more of the Wembley attendees will be present on Tuesday night.

Below is a list of Newport County’s top 20 league attendances.  It is interesting to note that, despite now playing at a higher level than at any other time since 1989, eight of the top 20 attendances were achieved during periods of success at a lower level.

  Attendance & Opposition Date Division Result
1 4,221 v Havant & Waterlooville 15/03/2010 Conference South Won 2-0
2 3,462 v AFC Wimbledon 03/01/2011 Conference Premier Drew 3-3
3 3,206 v Wrexham 05/09/2010 Conference Premier Drew 1-1
4 3,201 v Dover Athletic 17/04/2010 Conference South Won 3-0
5 3,084 v Bishop's Stortford 12/03/2010 Conference South Won 1-0
6 3,024 v Lincoln City 18/08/2012 Conference Premier Won 2-1
7 2,903 v Bath City 01/01/2011 Conference Premier Lost 1-2
8 2,834 v Luton Town 18/02/2011 Conference Premier Drew 1-1
9 2,802 v York City 09/10/2010 Conference Premier Won 4-0
10 2,713 v Mansfield Town 18/09/2010 Conference Premier Won 1-0
11 2,677 v Forest Green Rovers 28/09/2010 Conference Premier Won 3-1
12 2,646 v Nuneaton Town 14/08/2012 Conference Premier Won 4-0
13 2,546 v AFC Wimbledon 09/08/2008 Conference South Lost 1-4
14 2,525 v Worcester City 01/01/2010 Conference South Won 1-0
15 2,475 v Redditch United 23/08/1994 Southern Midland Won 4-0
16 2,403 v Eastbourne Borough 05/10/2010 Conference Premier Drew 3-3
17 2,271 v Redditch United 22/08/1990 Southern Midland Lost 0-1
18 2,230 v Kettering Town 30/10/2010 Conference Premier Lost 1-2
19 2,217 v Tamworth 17/08/2010 Conference Premier Drew 1-1
20 2,205 v Dorchester Town 28/12/2009 Conference South Won 3-0

Recent Form Comparison

Newport and Hereford have made fantastic starts to the season and, with top spot in the league the reward for the winners, both sides will be confident enough to be looking for maximum points from Rodney Parade on Tuesday night. Newport County’s winning sequence stretched to four matches last Saturday, when they showed great strength of character in coming from behind to beat Braintree at the Amlin Stadium. Should they manage to beat Hereford they will equal their best ever winning sequence at Conference Level, though they are still a long way short of equaling the remarkable 14 game winning streak that helped the club get promotion from the Southern League Midland Division back in 1994-95.

Hereford, for their part, are still in the process of recovering from their second relegation in the space of three years. In 2008, they finished 3rd in League 2 and thus gained automatic promoted to the third tier of English football for the first time in 30 years, winning 26 of their 46 league games, including an impression 15 away from home. However, after suffering a miserable season in League 1 in which they only won six games and finished bottom of the league, the Bulls were relegated back to League 2, where they continued to suffer. Having finished in lower mid table in 2009-10, United slid still further the following season, finishing 21st and only narrowly avoiding relegation after suffering a three point deduction. Last season the club fell still further and were relegated on the final day of the season, despite recording a 3-2 victory against Torquay.

   Newport County  Hereford United
10/11 Aug-12  4-3 (A) v Mansfield Town  2-1 (H) v Macclesfield Town
14-Aug-12  4-0 (H) v Nuneaton Town  2-2 (A) v Tamworth
18-Aug-12  2-1 (H) v Lincoln City  3-0 (A) v Alfreton Town
25-Aug-12  2-1 (A) v Braintree Town  4-2 (H) v Ebbsfleet United

As if often the case with teams getting relegated from a higher division, many expect Hereford to be amongst the frontrunners in the Conference Premier this season and their early season form suggests that this may well indeed be the case. After winning a tough opening fixture against the other relegated side, Macclesfield Town, they drew at Tamworth and then recorded two comfortable victories against Alfreton and Ebbsfleet. Like Newport, they have found goals easy to come by with seven different players scoring in the league already this season and Marley Watkins and Sean Canham both netting in three of the four games played so far.

Given that this is an early season top of the table encounter, a first derby between these sides since the 1980s and a game which will be played in front of a big crowd in the still new setting of Rodney Parade, it would not be a surprise if the game is a close, feisty encounter and neither side would view a point as a bad result.


Newport County 1 Hereford United 1

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