Wrexham v Newport County
Conference Premier Division
Saturday, 1 September 2012
Racecourse Ground, Wrexham
Record League Crowd See County March On
What a difference twelve months makes. This time last year, Newport County were rapidly dismantling the preseason expectations of their supporters as they went on a run of 12 games without a win, a downward spiral that would eventually see manager Anthony Hudson sacked and the club deeply embroiled in a relegation battle at the foot of the Conference Premier Division. The 12 game winless streak was the joint second worst sequence without a win that County had endured since reforming in 1989, with the other 12 game winless streak coming in the same calendar year as County struggled to adapt to life in the Conference Premier. Forward on 12 months and The Exiles, having won all of their matches in August, are top of the league and beginning to make a much more positive impact on the record book.
A combination of the new surroundings of Rodney (or ‘Dave’ as the locals call it) Parade, a successful start to the season and the visit of high flying local rivals Hereford United saw the club break its previous highest league attendance of 4,221. Given that this gate was recorded two years ago against Havant & Waterlooville on the day that Newport County were crowned champions of the Conference South the crowd of 4,365, following on from the 11,000+ that went to Wembley in May, may represent a watershed moment for the club in terms of permanently increasing the size of its hardcore fan base.
In an open and entertaining game, Newport once again demonstrated the quality of player that they now have at their disposal. Both sides had failed to make the most of their chances, with Len Pidgeley critically saved an early penalty and it was increasingly starting to look like a goalless draw until attacking left back Andy Sandell unleashed a spectacular 30 yard piledriver to put County ahead. Aaron O’Connor then completed a special night for the packed crowd by netting a second in injury time, taking advantage of some sloppy play by Hereford in the midfield, as the visitors vainly attempted to find an equaliser.
The win took Newport three points clear of Macclesfield Town at the top of the league and was Newport’s fifth consecutive league victory, a feat that they have only achieved on 12 previous occasions. On seven (over 50%) of those previous 12 occasions County failed to extend their winning streak any further, including the last occasion they got this far in September 2010.
However, when they seek a sixth consecutive victory at the Racecourse Ground on Saturday, The Exiles will be buoyed by the knowledge that they have one of the hottest properties outside the football league at the moment in Aaron O’Connor. The former Luton striker has become only the second County player to net six times during the month of August, matching the achievement of Carl Dale during the Southern League Premier campaign of 1999. Whilst Dale went on to net on 19 occasions in the league that season, as Newport finished 7th, O’Connor will be both hoping and expecting to go beyond that figure with a minimum 25 goals now being a very realistic target.
The table below is a compilation of all the Newport players since the club were reformed who have scored three goals or more during the month of August.
|August-99||C. Dale||Southern League Premier||6|
|August-12||A. O'Connor||Conference Premier||6|
|August-10||C. Reid||Conference Premier||5|
|August-04||J. Moralee||Conference South||5|
|August-11||D. Rose||Conference Premier||4|
|August-96||A. Evans||Southern League Premier||4|
|August-94||L. Jones||Southern League Midland||4|
|August-97||M. Boyle||Southern League Southern||4|
|August-98||K. Bayliss||Southern League Midland||4|
|August-11||E. Buchanon||Conference Premier||3|
|August-95||D. Webley||Southern League Premier||3|
|August-99||L. Brown||Southern League Premier||3|
|August-02||N. Davis||Southern League Premier||3|
|August-06||J. Alsop||Conference South||3|
|August-06||C. Hughes||Conference South||3|
|August-07||J. Bowen||Conference South||3|
|August-09||S. Foley||Conference South||3|
|August-09||C. Reid||Conference South||3|
|August-90||C. Lilygreen||Southern League Midland||3|
|August-91||C. Lilygreen||Southern League Midland||3|
Wrexham v Newport County Form Guide
Whilst the Conference Premier table makes excellent reading for Newport County fans, with the South Walian side having already opened up a three point gap over nearest rivals Macclesfield, Wrexham fans may have a few reservations about their side still. In amassing 98 points last season, Wrexham became the highest ever point scorers not to be promoted. Despite a positive preseason in which the Dragons won five times, the inevitable loss of key players from last season, such as top scorer Jake Speight and midfielder Jamie Tolley, both of whom went to Mansfield Town, dynamic midfielder Lee Fowler (who left for Fleetwood in the January transfer window), Mathias Pogba (released) and Nathaniel Percival-Knight (Peterborough United), meant that Wrexham were always likely to face a tough start.
|3||Forest Green Rovers||5||4||11|
Had Tamworth’s Duane Courtney not headed an 8th minute free kick into his own net to give Wrexham a crucial 1-0 win on Easter Monday, the table would look a lot worse than it currently does. The North Walians are currently lying 10th in the table and face a daunting set of fixtures between now and the middle of September, with trips to both Cambridge United and Luton Town following shortly after the visit of Conference leaders Newport County. Manager Andy Morrell will have to face these fixtures without talismanic defender Mark Creighton, whose knee injury could potentially see him miss the rest of the season and, with the transfer window due to close on Friday night, the Wrexham boss has admitted that he is struggling to capture the extra players that are needed to add depth to the squad.
Whilst early season results can often be unusual, Wrexham will feel that they should have picked up more points that they have, with the 1-1 draw at Ebbsfleet and the 0-0 home draw with Grimsby both being disappointing results. However, Tamworth were unbeaten prior to Monday’s encounter and a second consecutive clean sheet for Wrexham is reminiscent of the miserly defence that at one point last season conceded only three goals in 14 league games. Any notion of defence frugality though is likely to be sorely tested by the impressive Newport forward line on Saturday.
|11-Aug-12||4-3 (A) v Mansfield Town||3-1 (H) v Woking|
|14-Aug-12||4-0 (H) v Nuneaton Town||0-2 (A) v Macclesfield Town|
|18-Aug-12||2-1 (H) v Lincoln City||1-1 (A) v Ebbsfleet United|
|25-Aug-12||2-1 (A) v Braintree Town||0-0 (H) v Grimsby Town|
|27/28-Aug-12||2-0 (H) v Hereford United||1-0 (A) v Tamworth|
Newport County have met Wrexham on four occasions since they were reformed, all of which fixtures have taken place over the last two seasons. Given that The Exiles have failed to record a win in any of these games, they must either break their duck on Saturday or see another five match winning streak come to an end.
County have not only failed to record a win in their two visits to the Racecourse Ground, they have failed to even score a goal. However, those statistics do not do justice to the quality of the performance from Newport when they travelled to Wrexham in October last season. With Wrexham having won the previous five league games, the last three of which were done with clean sheets and with Newport having only just emerged from their dreadful run of 12 games without victory, the 0-0 draw that they fought out at the Racecourse Ground felt like victory to the players and fans.
Lee Evans during his home debut against Wrexham in April last season.
(picture courtesy of Sam Shingler – see Newport County Photos link on the right of this article for more of his work)
For much of the season, it looked as though the return clash in Newport would be decisive for both clubs, with Wrexham pushing hard for promotion and County fighting desperately against relegation. However, by the time Wrexham visited Spytty Park in April for The Exiles final home game of the season, Fleetwood had already clinched the only automatic promotion place and Justin Edinburgh had managed to extract just enough from his team to keep them up. Wrexham won the game 1-0 through a first half Adrian Cieslewicz strike, leaving Newport with just two draws and one goal to show from the four encounters with their Welsh rivals. As the two teams meet this Saturday though, the roles have been reversed somewhat. It is Newport who top the Conference having strung together five consecutive victories and Wrexham who are struggling to find some form. Should Newport make it six wins on the trot, it will be the first time they have achieved such a feat at Conference Premier level and, despite what will be another frenetic derby, their fans will believe victory is more than possible.
Wrexham 1 Newport County 2