Friday, 7 September 2012

Exiles Remain Positive Despite Defeats

Newport Badge 2012 Smaller

Stockport County Badge

Newport County v Stockport County

Conference Premier Division

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Rodney Parade, Newport


2011 Campaign Helps County Stay Focused On The Good Times

Whilst some of the gloss may have been taken off Newport County’s excellent start to the season after the recent losses at Wrexham and Dartford, County fans would do well to remember that the Exiles current position of 15 points from 7 games and 3rd in the league remains far superior to the situation they found themselves in last season.  As Newport prepared for the away trip to Mansfield on the equivalent weekend last season, they had just one win (against Hayes) and five points to show for their seven outings and things would get a lot worse before they improved.

Many have argued that the away trip to Mansfield, which resulted in the 5-0 mauling that effectively put an end to Anthony Hudson’s reign,  was County’s worst performance since returning to the Conference Premier.  Even though Newport recorded a remarkable 4-3 victory there this season, Field Mill is never a particularly easy place to go.  However, 12 months ago, Newport made it look like the equivalent of Old Trafford as, in front of the live cameras, they went behind to a 12th minute Green strike and were outplayed and outfought in every area of the field.  To cap off a thoroughly miserable day for players and fans alike, in testament to the unpredictability of British weather given the pleasant conditions on the photograph beneath, the final five minutes of the game were then played out in absolutely torrential rain.

Mansfield Town v Newport County


As the author and his 6yr daughter look on, Mansfield Town fire yet another shot at the Newport goal during the 5-0 drubbing the Exiles received on this weekend in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Sam Shingler (see Newport County Photos)


Unfortunately for County, things continued to spiral downwards after the Mansfield game as three points from draws against Barrow, Forest Green Rovers and Saturday’s visitors Stockport County were all they had to show from the next six games.  By the time the club began its recovery with a 4-1 victory at Fleetwood, in what was arguably the biggest shock of the whole Conference Premier season, Newport were already in such dire straits that, rather than trying to avoid a season long relegation battle, they were just simply focused on trying to stay in the relegation fight. 

The table below compares Newport’s results up to and including the Mansfield game in 2011 with the results achieved so far this season:

Date  Newport County 2011 Date Newport County 2012
13-Aug-11  2-3 (A) v Kettering Town 11-Aug-12  4-3 (A) v Mansfield Town
16-Aug-11  4-0 (H) v Hayes & Yeading Utd 14-Aug-12  4-0 (H) v Nuneaton Town
20-Aug-11  0-0 (H) v Grimsby Town 18-Aug-12  2-1 (H) v Lincoln City
23-Aug-11  0-0 (A) v Ebbsfleet United 25-Aug-12  2-1 (A) v Braintree Town
27-Aug-11  1-2 (A) v Telford United 28-Aug-12  2-0 (H) v Hereford United
29-Aug-11  1-3 (H) v Kidderminster 1-Sep-12  0-2 (A) v Wrexham
3-Sep-11  0-1 (H) v Cambridge United 4-Sep-12  1-2 (A) v Dartford
10-Sep-11  0-5 (A) v Mansfield Town 8-Sep-12  (H) v Stockport County

Stockport County Overview

One of the biggest problems that Stockport encountered in their first season outside league football since 1904-05 was the lack of a regular marksman.  Whilst an impressive 16 players got on the scoresheet at some point during the season, their top goalscorers Tom Elliott and Danny Rowe, both of whom scored against County last season, only managed eight goals apiece. 

This statistic probably explains why one player is no longer with the Hatters, with changes clearly needing to be made as Elliott transferred to Cambridge United for an undisclosed fee in the summer.  Danny Rowe, however, was a loan player who has returned to County until January 2013.  Whilst  a new set of forwards have been moderately successful in answering the charge to score more goals, with County bagging three on Tuesday evening against Macclesfield and finding the net in each of their last four games, the defence has been leaking them in at least equal measure, with eight goals being conceded in the last four games.  This does not bode well for the Hatters as they come up against what many expect to be one of the most potent strike forces in the division this season.

Date Stockport County
11-Aug-12  1-0 (H) v Alfreton Town
14-Aug-12  2-1 (A) v Grimsby Town
18-Aug-12  0-1 (A) v Tamworth
25-Aug-12  1-2 (H) v Gateshead
27-Aug-12  2-2 (A) v Telford United
1-Sep-12  1-1 (H) v Cambridge United
4-Sep-12  3-4 (H) v Macclesfield Town

Indeed, after an extremely positive start in which Stockport were one of only two teams who recorded back to back wins in the opening two games of the season, the other being Newport County, things have started to go wrong.  The Hatters, in a sequence of results that is eerily reminiscent of Newport last season, have now only picked up two points from the last five games despite having only met Grimsby of those sides who were tipped to be vying for promotion at the start of the season.  This will be viewed by Director of Football and Stockport legend Jim Gannon as somewhat disappointing, given that the club had been taking steps to strengthen and improve the squad even before the end of last season in the hope of making a concerted challenge for promotion back to the Football League this season.

Given the current losing streaks of both clubs, Gannon will be impressing on his players the importance of not conceding an early goal on Saturday.  Whilst Newport may have lost their previous two matches, confidence would quickly return to their side should they get ahead, whereas Stockport’s confidence is currently at a much lower ebb.  Should the Hatters be able to prevent the home side from being able to open them up with their intricate passing game, and thus begin to frustrate both the players and the home fans, Stockport may then be in with a realistic chance of snatching a draw, or even catching the home side on a counter attack.  However, recent defensive performances suggest that it will be a tough afternoon for the visitors.

Previous Encounters 

Until last season, Newport County had not met Stockport County in the league since the former club reformed in 1989 and, as a consequence, the only previous encounters took place last season.

20/09/2011 Newport County 1 1 Stockport County 1,205 D. Rose  
11/02/2012 Stockport County 2 2 Newport County 3,565 A. Sandell J. Harris

The first game, a 1-1 draw at Spytty Park, took place just 10 days after the Mansfield defeat described above and, depending upon perspective, could have been viewed by the Welsh club as either positive or negative.  The result was positive in the sense  that it ended a five match losing streak that had seen the Exiles tumble into the relegation zone.  The negatives though were that it was County’s eighth consecutive game without a win after a late Tom Elliott header cancelled out a 30th minute Danny Rose strike that had for so long looked likely to seal three points for the home side.  Whilst the draw left Newport floundering at the foot of the table, it was another valuable point for the mid table Hatters as they sought to recover from relegation and the financial crisis that had been threatening to destroy the club.

By the time of the reverse fixture in February, however, both clubs were firmly embroiled in the relegation battle.  The Welsh side were still in the bottom four, although a scoreless home draw with Forest Green on the quagmire at Spytty and a stunning late turnaround against Gateshead, thanks to late strikes from Sam Foley and Jake Harris, had given cause for hope.  Stockport were sitting precariously just above the relegation zone but with the knowledge that they had played more games than any of their rivals.

In a game which the home side largely controlled after the now departed striker Danny Rowe had settled their nerves with an opening 7th minute strike.  After Newport had got themselves back into the game shortly after half time through attacking full back Andy Sandell, they then compounded their own problems as their goalscorer, who was playing on the left of midfield that day, was sent off.  Given the sheer volume of red cards that Newport received during the 2011-12 season, especially away from home, this was something of a typical state of affairs for the Welsh side.  They were immediately punished for their indiscretion when Danny Rowe scored both Stockport and his second of the match with a splendid free kick.  However, in direct contrast to the first game, it was Newport who this time rescued a point late in the game when Jake Harris, who was gaining a reputation as a super sub, found an equaliser with four minutes remaining.

Although Stockport’s start has been very similar to the one they made last year, they will fancy their chances of coming away with something from Rodney Parade, especially if they can prevent Newport from getting off to another of their blistering starts.  This said though, the guile and quality of star striker Aaron O’Connor, coupled by the backing of a vociferous home crowd in close proximity to the pitch should be enough to see the Exiles get back to winning ways.


Newport County 3 Stockport County 1

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