All to play for this season

Mark Vickery
Sep 21 · 8 min read

Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade

Newport County 1 (Abrahams pen 64)

Exeter City 1 (Martin 15)

Attendance: 4,762


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Exeter City WLDdWWWWDW

Exeter have won five of their last six matches to climb to the league two summit so expecting them to examine County. All about picking the right battles today

Warm sunny and light breeze . Pitch in excellent condition.

Turned game on its head to turn the screw after slow start conceding charitable goal

Half Time switch certainly helped County

County made two changes from the Macclesfield game midweek with Danny McNamara sacrificed the bench in place of Corey Whitely and Jamille Matt replacing Tristan Abrahams. County switched format with Bennett dropping into central defence and Willmott and Haynes going wing backs in a 3–5–2 formation. Exeter made the more assured start offering plenty of enterprise with the ball and both full backs prepared to push on. On 5 minutes, an Exeter move right side offered Williams a chance to cross from the flank and eluded the late run of Law. County were little disjointed in the early stages allowing Exeter to pick them off with some bright moves. On 11 minutes, Sheehan was caught the wrong side in a tackle in the heart of the pitch and Taylor went down somewhat dramatically in a heap and the referee booked Sheehan. County were largely direct with Matt and Amond combining well in the final third but Exeter were snappy in tackle and continued to shift the ball around well to work the corners. On 15 minutes, Exeter were rewarded with a corner right side which right back Williams delivered into the six yard box and some hesitancy by the County defence allowed Martin to ghost in and pitch the ball ahead of Haynes to poke the ball home. Exeter were not content to sit back with Law positive in his approach play and work moves especially left side but County maintained their focus clearing well. On 22 minutes, County were close to an equaliser from a direct move through the middle with Matt swapping roles with Amond who took the Exeter defence somewhat by surprise when he caressed a neat lay to Matt on the right side of the box. He struck an excellent low shot which forced Ward into a reflex save but despite not holding Sweeney was able to hook the ball to safety. County gained some confidence from their approach play and were close again on 25 minutes when Whitely did well to retrieve a ball left side of the area. There appeared to be little on but his pass back found Haynes who delivered a cutting cross to front post but Labadie headed just wide from 8 yards. On 27 minutes, County created a smart move using the left side of the pitch when Matt made a clever run to receive a kick out from County keeper Tom King. Matt directed a good header inside for Amond who was crudely checked by Sweeney when he carried his run inside. Exeter continued to push forward often leaving one back but there was always a vulnerability which County didn’t always pick out. On 40 minutes, County were efficient in creating a move through the middle when Matt chested a direct ball to set up Whitely for a first time effort from 20 yards which he drilled low but Ward pushed around the left post. County had a couple of corners on the stroke of half time which Exeter didn’t look that convincing on, but they were able to scramble the ball away to safety.

County were forced into a change at half time with Amond injured and he was replaced by Abrahams up front. County were immediately on the front-foot with some forceful moves deep in the Exeter half with Matt and Abrahams combining well. On 47 minutes, County swept forward when an Exeter move broke down with Sheehan slipping a good pass right side for Abrahams peeling off to find space in behind Sparkes. His cross into the box from the right side of the area was set up beautifully for Matt who ghosted in but his effort fizzed wide of the right post from 10 yards when he should have scored. On 52 minutes, County had a couple of corners in quick succession which Exeter struggled to deal with and in the move that followed by Matt and Willmott had shot blocked deep inside the area and the rebound was fired over the bar by Labadie from 14 yards. On 55 minutes, Exeter appeared to make a tactical change replaced wing back Williams with Richardson. County remained in ascendancy making some probing runs in midfield and seeing the ball early. On 58 minutes, Sheehan exploded into action with a strong run through the middle and Law checked his run crudely getting himself a booking. From the resultant free kick, Willmott delivered a decent ball towards the front post which Matt won ahead of Moxey but his header from 8 yards was just wide of the right post. Exeter were forced into direct play using Bowman and Martin looking for scraps but the County defence were quick in the turnaround catching Exeter out on times. County kept plugging away snapping at possession and bright move right side of penalty box on 64 minutes yielded a penalty when some quick feet by Sheehan saw him coax Parkin into a foul. Abrahams confidently stroked the penalty low into the corner sending the keeper the wrong way. Exeter made a change after with Martin replacing Law in midfield. Exeter were keen to get their right channel working better with Richardson making some supporting runs but County were able to squash the threat quickly with Bennett sweeping up the loose play. On 68 minutes, a direct County move released Abrahams who span off a challenge from Moxey but was held back forcing Exeter to concede a free kick in a dangerous position across the face of the box. Haynes took the dead ball but his vicious effort was deflected just over the bar by Bowman. From the Willmott corner right side, County were again dominating the proceeding with Matt heading over under pressure. County were forced into a change on 75 minutes with Matt replaced by Dolan. County maintained their energy through the middle and kept the ball lower and Exeter looked to work balls in behind but were let down by poor distribution. On 78 minutes, Bennett did well to win the ball and drive forward from deep only to be blocked by Collins who was booked. County made another change on 80 minutes with Poleon coming on for Whitely and he went left side. County looked the more likely side to win the game in the closing minutes with some good moves left side. On 85 minutes, Haynes did well to thread a pass towards the left channel and Abrahams was quick to anticipate and burst goalside. His cross come shot from the left side of the area was blocked well by Parkes with Exeter struggling to clear their lines. Exeter had a couple of corners in injury time which tested County with their delivery but they were able to clear their lines and but ultimately forced to settle for point.

King (6) — wasn’t overworked but in general kicked well was save with his hands. Didn’t command his box on the Exeter goal and some indecision clearing the ball late on he got away with.

Haynes (7) — played quite deep first half but grew into the game with some strong runs and provided some decent crosses. Got up and down well second half and showed good stamina.

O’Brien (7) — strong in the air, soaked up the direct play well especially in the second half and was alert to clear the second ball. Timed his tackles well

Willmott (7) — struggled to get into game in the early stages, but was decisive putting in crosses and dynamic coming forward winning some good possession.

Bennett (7) — ensured defence was compact and broke up much of the danger clearing effectively. came forward to link play well when he was invited.

Howkins (7) — dominated the aerials duals, got some good interceptions in and kept passing simple. pushed up late on to get on the end of the things.

Labadie (6) — quiet first half and missed probably the best County chance. Came alive after the break, won some good tackles but a little lacklustre today.

Sheehan (7) — was on the end of several late tackles but dusted himself down and kept plugging away. Enterprising second half at the heart of the best moves and made important clearance late on.

Amond (5) — looked to be struggling with knock for much of first half. Did some good work to hold the ball under pressure but restricted on chances and replaced at half time by:

Abrahams (7) — caused problems with his pace and abrasive runs and show capability today with his crosses. Deserved a goal for his efforts and intelligent link play.

Matt (8) — don’t think Exeter knew how to play him, won majority of the aerial duals and when he dropped off was clever with his use of the ball. Should have scored one or two at least today.

Strengths — they worked some good combinations in the final third first half .nd set pieces were decent. Kept composure late on to get a draw when other sides would have crumbled.

Weaknesses — defence lacked height and pace. They were a little lightweight in midfield and allowed gaps and coaxed into conceding a lot of free kicks.

Opportunities — they pushed up and gambled first half but got punished when County got wise to this. Never really changed tact and ran out of ideas.
Threats — Williams and Sparkes both contributed well first half and manufacture crosses. Best moves went through Taylor.

N Hair (7) — was quite keen to get out his cards but generally consistent and got the key decisions right,

Jamille Matt — was always a problem for Exeter even when County were more benign first half. Clever with his link play in the air and on the floor and deserved a goal for his efforts.


County were uncharacteristically slow starting today allowing Exeter to dominate early proceedings and County will need to examine the first goal which should have been dealt with. Exeter did much the same as Northampton did pushing up high and gambling but there is always a risk playing County this way as they have the ammunition to trouble sides in transition. County did his well second half creating enough chances to win the game and the only disappointing aspect will be that they were not clinical enough. The 3–5–2 system worked quite well today and shows County have some flexibility in their armour and they did provide some better quality on crosses. County need to start their game sharper especially next week at Swindon where the early stages will be key. Swindon have plenty of pace in their side to counter attack if allowed with Rose coordinating the passing to the runners. County will need to be sharp in mind and legs and stop their key outlets with Woolery battering ram up front and Doughty and Anderson have capability on the break if not tracked.

Mark Vickery

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Unofficial Newport County Match Reports, also visible on UptheCounty website. Views are my own