Question of the WeekWho will win the National League?
|Newport on Sea|
The Battle of Rodney Beach
By: Andrew Doherty
"I've signed in for 90 minutes of frustration", I declared to no-one in particular. Today's remote adventure is at Newport in the Principality of Wales. Only two weeks ago we'd have written this game off with Newport riding high and Town bordering on disaster.
Newport's recent results haven't been stellar and Town now have ten new recruits. Neither of these facts makes us favourites but there is a ray of hope, and as we know it's the hope that always kills us.
Town's team today was: Eastwood - Hewitt, Mayanese, Waterfall, Bunney - Adams, Clifton, Matete, El Mizhouni - Payne, Hanson.
It seems to be the way with the weather at the moment that surfaces are churned up, and teams are having to play on bobbly mud fields. Newport's Rodney Parade pitch is known for being poor. Determination and balance would seem to have more value than silky skills, which looked to be the emphasis of Town's line-up with Adams, Matete and El Mizhouni in midfield today. Last week El Mizhouni was criticised by some for a poor performance but in his defence not only was it his first game for Town, but he spent most of it out on the wing where surface conditions were atrocious. Today's pitch lived up to expectations. Wet, patchy, bobbly and covered in sand after a rugby match yesterday all pointed to football of the atrocious kind. To their credit Town played with intensity and purpose from the off. Payne had an early chance which just eluded him, then on 11 minutes a defence-splitting pass from Mayanese found Adams who whipped in a cross from the right. There was no-one to finish. Hewitt then had a surging run up the right, crossing for Hanson whose looping header was tipped over. Adams, in particular, continued to do good work and El Mizhouni was starting to get into the game, working with Bunney on the left. Hanson dropped back and in a welcome reminder of last season burst forward to supply Adams on the right. The goalkeeper beat Payne to the cross. Waterfall almost undid the good work with a short back pass on 24 minutes but Eastwood was quick to spot the danger and blocked Telford's shot. Newport were reduced to counter attacks as Town continued to press. Waterfall had a shot blocked, then spirited work by Payne and El Mizhouni led to the Town midfielder putting in a low accurate shot. Following an error by Newport goalkeeper Townsend, Adams again supplied Payne who swivelled and turned but Townsend made up for his mistake with a good save. On 37 minutes Payne won the ball in midfield. Newport's Bennett came in hard and was sent off. Town went in at half time, a player up and having had 65% of possession. The only thing they hadn't done was score.
Adams wasted a cross early in the second half, but it was obvious that Newport had had a rocket from their manager at half time. Newport soon had their first spell of pressure, when Mayanese and Eastwood had a misunderstanding on 50 minutes, resulting in Town's goalkeeper clearing the ball hurriedly. Mayanese headed clear after the throw-in but straight to Dolan whose shot ran into a crowd of players in the box. Maynard was quickest to react and blasted the ball past Eastwood. Newport 1, Town 0. Previous form would suggest that Town were going to go into panic mode. This didn't happen. Town played the ball around patiently, but ten-man Newport closed ranks and Town were reduced to shots from outside the box, or moves just broke down. Lamy, who replaced Adams on 62 minutes, ran around a lot but didn't have Adams's creativity. Town's main threat came from the right where Hewitt put in good runs and crosses. Fouls were given first against Hanson following a header and then against Payne as Town's strikers sought to cause trouble in the box. Not much was happening on the left where Bunney seemed to be the new Tom Newey - a mobile player capable of deadly balls but also erratic. Newport by now had control of the game. Matete was booked on 80 minutes fouling a Newport player following a panicked clearance by Eastwood who was scrambling to get back to his line. Hanson had become ineffective after a good first half and was replaced by John-Lewis for the last 10 minutes. Within two minutes John-Lewis showed his worth as he muscled his way round a Newport defender but the angle was too tight. Matete set up El Mizhouni who for the second time in the half wasted his shot. Continued good work on the right from Hewitt led to a cross into the danger area but a deflection took the weight off the cross. As Town seemed to be running out of ideas, catastrophe loomed when Clifton slipped outside Town's box, leaving Scrimshaw with a clear shot on goal. As Town looked to have shot themselves in the foot, Eastwood managed to make a save with his legs. John-Lewis impressed again, shaking off Newport defender Longe-King, following another cross from Hewitt, but was penalised for a foul. Five minutes were added following an earlier midfield clash between Clifton and Long-Kinge but although there were a couple of crosses, Town had long since lost their intensity, and with it the opportunity to salvage the game. The final score was: Newport 1, Town 0. This was particularly disappointing after a promising and bright first half, and our failure to take advantage of Newport being a player down for most of the game.
The pitch was terrible and it was like playing on Cleethorpes beach but we can't blame that. Newport's game management was better. Where they tightened up in the second half, Town lost their incisiveness. It wasn't all hopeless though. There were many bright aspects in the first half, when Town created opportunities from all quarters. Adams, in particular, looked to be a player of quality, while Hanson made dangerous runs which we hadn't seen for a while. Newport closed the game down in the second half, and Town struggled but we could be encouraged by Hewitt's enterprising play down the right and John-Lewis's power and aggression. Breaking down defences is something we've been poor at for a long while but as the players get to know each other, I'd expect improvement and anticipate a win. The question is when.
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