Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade
Newport County 2 (Amond 50, Labadie 90+2)
Grimsby Town 0
Newport County DWWWLWDLLD
Grimsby Town LWLWLLLLdLD
Neither teams are in the best vain of form but having sacked their manager, Grimsby are vulnerable so County need to start fast and stamp authority on the game
Cold, partly cloudy and light breeze. Pitch looked in decent condition after recent games.
SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Flat first half lacking fluency but asserted game better as game progressed making the ball stick final third..
Opening game was always going to be key today.
County made three changes from the FA Cup match at Grimsby with keeper Tom King not risked and only just back from international duty with Wales, Nick Townsend came into the side. Tristan Abrahams replaced Jamille Matt up front who had to be content with a place on the bench. The was another attacking change with Corey Whitley replacing George Nurse who was substitute. County adopted a 3–5–2 formation with Willmott deputising at right wing back and Haynes left wing back. The early stages were extremely scrappy and this set a precedent with the ball spending more time in the air than on the floor. County got coaxed into the same game as Grimsby helping the ball on hopefully and there was little joy for Amond and Abrahams in the early stages with the Grimsby defence dominating the aerial duals. Grimsby were keen to break up play in midfield and caress balls in behind for former County striker Matt Green to latch onto. On 7 minutes, Green did well to prise the ball away from O’Brien and thread a pass for Cook but his shot from the right corner was wide of the right post. County made efforts to pick out their front pair who were given poor quality on times and this allowed Grimsby to press up the pitch and test County with a couple of direct balls but Innis and O’Brien dealt well with the threat. County had a better spell of possession midway through the half forcing a couple of corners which Grimsby ushered to safety. On 23 minutes, Grimsby created a decent move on the break with Green and Cook combining well and a neat lay off found Rose who blasted a decent effort from 20 yards which Innis deflected over the bar. Grimsby continued to work hard to deny County space and looked to exploit with some quick balls from deep in behind. County were vigilant clearing but a mistake by Willmott deep inside his own half allowed Cook to profit but his low curling effort from left corner of the area was claimed well low in the right corner by Townsend. County got more on the ball as half time approached but indecision continued to impair their game and allow Grimsby off the hook on times. On 35 minutes, County won a corner right side which Willmott delivered well to pinpoint O’Brien but was unable to keep his header down under pressure from Pollock. Grimsby remained robust in midfield getting the rub of the green on a couple of decisions and looking to catch County will balls in behind. County had to deal with some crosses thrown in by Grimsby but they were poor and lacking a cutting edge. On 45 minutes, County won a free kick right side deep inside the Grimsby half when Robson checked the run of Labadie. County took a quick free kick with Grimsby napping Sheehan inviting Haynes to cross into the six yard box. Amond rose well at the back post and his header was deflected into the path of Innis who headed straight at Grimsby keeper McKeown. The referee blew up for half time with just one minute of injury time played and most supporters glad to get a warm drink in.
County made effort to inject more urgency in the early stages of the second half with some better moves in the final third. On 47 minutes, a snappy move across the face of the area by County looked promising but Abrahams was crowded out and losing control he caught Hessenthaler late and was booked by the referee. County took the lead on 50 minutes with a swift break from deep when a Grimsby move broke down after a corner. Sheehan did well to pick out the run of Whitely right side who made the most of the space offered and he cut back an excellent cross into the area which Amond latched onto slot low in the left corner beyond McKeown. Grimsby continued to play direct with Hewitt directing some passes from deep to test County. On 52 minutes, Rose contested a ball launched forward by Grimsby left side but caught Willmott late in the aerial challenge and was booked. Grimsby made a change on 55 minutes replacing Green up front with Cardwell. The game continued to be scrappy with ball spending a lot of time in the air but County gradually eased their way into the game with more space and when they got the ball shifting they looked capable of adding to the goal. On 68 minutes, County went close from an unlikely source when O’Brien made a brave header under pressure from Cook and despite being caught late his clearance went into the path of Sheehan. His touch took him past Waterfall and into the area and his attempted lob from 16 yards over the advancing McKeown went wide of the left post. County made their first change on 75 minutes with Matt replacing Whitely and Grimsby responded soon after with Clifton on for Rose. County upped their game in final 10 minutes with Matt offering a more secure outlet to keep the ball and link play. On 82 minutes, Pollock was penalised for pulling back Matt deep inside the Grimsby and the referee issued a yellow card. Country kept plugging away with a better tempo to their game and Willmott thrashed an ambitious half volley from 30 yards well over the bar with Grimsby sat deep inside their own box. Grimsby made their final change just after with Whitehouse replacing Hewitt. With Grimsby more committed to push on, County were more of a threat on break. On 85 minutes, Haynes did well to manufacture a cross left side after a throw in broke down, cutting in on his less favoured right foot. His cross had venom on it and Innis was unlucky see his header from 6 yards deflected over the bar. Grimsby made efforts to press play and Sheehan was booked on 85 minutes when tracking back to deny Clifton a run inside on the right side of the area. County made another change on 90 minutes with Dolan replacing Amond. In the first minute of injury time, County created a snappy move on the counter with Haynes finding Matt and his neat turn against Pollock just inside the Grimsby half was crudely interrupted by the centre back who was sent off for a second bookable offence. County added a second goal in the second minute of injury time when they made the most of space offered on the break. Abrahams did well to carry his run right side exploiting space with full back Gibson out of position. Abrahams showed good vision to provide a cross into the area and despite Matt having his first time shot from 12 yards saved well by McKeown, Labadie was well positioned to blast the rebound home off the underside of the bar. County had a late scare deep in injury time when some indecision on the edge of the area between Willmott and O’Brien allowed Gibson to snatch the ball but his effort was blasted over the bar when he should have scored.
Townsend (6) — safe hands to deal with some shots from distance, put under pressure from some kicks but got ball safe. Dealt well with crosses into the area and kept focussed.
Haynes (7) — was the more assertive wing back, worked box to box, defending well got into some good positions and despite some crosses being delivered too short, showed flexibility to use both feet.
Willmott (6) — more reserved today and did good job to keep Rose quiet. Won some good headers and was composed clearing the ball. Provided some decent set pieces.
Innis (7) — dominated the aerial duals and despite one or two rash clearances, he was alert to deal with the ball effectively stifling threat well. went close again on a couple of set pieces.
O’Brien (8) — tenacious game, won his headers early and took several knocks again which were not always penalised. Did a good job to mark Green and deny space in behind limiting threat well.
Bennett (5) — did well in the air and was effective bumping off challenges to stifle and clear ball safely. Had spells in and out of the game, but kept passing simple and tidy with some good passes in behind.
Labadie (6) — competed well in the middle but got a bit bogged down and found space hard to find. Did his best work carrying runs beyond the lines and took goal on the break well to seal game.
Sheehan (6) — never really got any momentum going and another player crowded out in the compact midfield. Passed well from deep and set up move on the Amond with decisive pass.
Whitely (6) — made some bright runs on the break and did best work when he worked space out wide rather than drifting inside. Worked hard box to box but never really stamped any authority on game.
Amond (7) — very quiet first half and found space hard to find when Grimsby pressed up high. Took up some better positions at half time, made ball stick better, timing his runs and took the goal well
Abrahams (5) — lost possession far too cheaply first half allowing Grimsby to come out from deep. Was effective in latter stages of game when more space offered but needs to get more shots in.
SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths — saw little today, they were uncompromising and defended crosses well with aerial strength and looked most dangerous on set pieces.
Weaknesses — gave away lots of cheap fouls, never offered patience to put five passes together helping ball in behind and quality with crosses and finishing was well below par.
Opportunities — they played direct for large spells and only really got ball down late on but were unable to sustain any momentum.
Threats — Green offered outlet in behind, Waterfall and Pollock capable in aerial duals from set pieces.
D Handley (6) — waved away a couple of honest penalty appeals from County but generally got key decisions right doing best to keep game flowing.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Mark O’Brien — determination kept clean sheet which gave platform to win game. Made some excellent brave headers and saw ball early letting little goalside.
IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
County blew off a few cobwebs tonight and will be just glad to get into the next round of the cup with an indifferent display. They looked a yard off the pace and got embroiled in a game of helping ball on and not having the nerve to keep possession for large parts of the first half. County needed to keep the ball low and slick and despite not really building any sustained momentum they did pick better options second half. When they made the ball stick in the final third, they created anxiety and Grimsby gave away free kicks at will. County had several corners today but they were lacking in quality on times so will know they can do better and offer more enterprise to work the ball short or to the edge of the area. Some confidence and sharpness came back into their game late on and they will need to take this in the Oldham game on Saturday. Their opponents were not involved in League Two action on the weekend as well so key County start the game quicker and are more dynamic against a nimble Oldham side. They are likely to come to Rodney Parade and sit in with a five man midfield to suffocate play and utilise the runs of former Macclesfield striker Scott Wilson up front who will roam. County need to deal with the threat from pace but expose vulnerability they have on set pieces.