Better Late than Never

Report by Mark Vickery from Whaddon Road

Cheltenham Town 1 (Wootton 62)

Newport County 1 (Gordon 90+3)

Attendance: 3,763

Form:

Newport County LLLLLLLDdW

Cheltenham Town WLLLWWLLdW

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
 Same County starting side and difficult pitch so important play in the right areas and keep their discipline

CONDITIONS
 Cool, bright and breezy. Pitch was a bit of a gluepot and erratic so surprised it was watered just before the game

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
 Disciplined, determined and spirit got County deserved equaliser.

TURNING POINT
 None to note although late substitutions did give County late impetus

THE MATCH
 County retained the same starting side and were cautious in the early stages having to defend the worse side of the pitch which made cohesion with the ball difficult. Cheltenham settled quicker showing familiarity with the conditions working the ball into the corners with some decent moves to turn County with Water lively in support to Holman and Wootton up front. Cheltenham pressed well and were rewarded with a couple of corners which County dealt well with. The midfield was congested on times and when County did have the ball they struggled to make their passes stick allowing Cheltenham a cheap option to counter. County grew into the game when they switched play to the right side to stretch Cheltenham putting pressure on left wing back Davis. County were rewarded with some throw ins either side of the area which Cheltenham managed to get safe with some stout defending. On 18 minutes, County had a glimmer of a chance when a long throw from the right side by Nelson was headed to the “d” by Plavotic and Reid anticipated well but his volley went well over the bar. Cheltenham continued to look most threatening in the transition from defence to attack with Waters peeling off the right wing and clever link play but County kept them at arms-length. County picked up their own game mid-way through the half pressing harder in midfield with Bennett and Rose winning their tackles well. County had a decent snapshot from 25 yards by Bird charged down on 35 minutes which Cheltenham defending deep inside the area. Then on 38 minutes, another decent move by County across the face of the area appeared to have come to nothing when Boyle cleared and Nelson struck an excellent first time effort from 30 yards which the keeper read well. County added to their corner count as half time approached but Cheltenham remained resolute defending despite a couple anxious moments inside the six yard they cleared the danger. Cheltenham remained lively coming forward with Waters prepared to pick holes either side and Cheltenham were rewarded with a couple of free kicks on the left side of the pitch. Rowe executed a decent ball into the area but the County defence remained focussed winning some decent headers to clear.

County came out for the second half offering more tempo and urgency to their game with both full backs more prominent in the final third. County were most threatening down the left side with Butler willing in support and intelligent with his use of the ball. Cheltenham had to deal with a couple of crosses from the left side which they ushered away for a corner. On 50 minutes, Reid delivered a more cutting corner from the left side which caused anxiety inside the six yard and despite a scramble the ball fell unkindly before being cleared to safety. Another bright move by County on 52 minutes with pace about it, forced Cheltenham into a hurried clearance the edge of the area and Rose anticipated well only to see his low shot deflected away. Cheltenham opted to play more direct defending the worse area of the pitch and this caused County one or two problems with Bennett forced off the pitch after a collision near the byline. Cheltenham defender Onariase then received some treatment in middle but was able to resume. Cheltenham caught County napping moments later with Bennett still off the pitch, Barthram released a quick ball down the right side which caused some uncertainty with Day coming for the ball but O’Brien headed the ball to the right side of the area but the ball went straight to Holman. He adjusted with a clever half volley from 25 yards which crashed against left post and the rebound invited Wootton to shoot and his low effort from 10 yards went nestled into the right corner beyond the grasp of Day. County made a change on 64 minutes with Bennett not recovering from injury and he was replaced by Rigg who went to the left midfield. County made another change soon after with Gordon replacing Williams. County picked up their game again with Cheltenham happy to sit back and absorb pressure but their game became more disjointed. County created a couple of decent moves on the left flank with Rigg and Butler working well in tandem and despite more crosses into the box, Cheltenham remained a stubborn outfit to break down. County made their final change on 76 minutes with Reid replaced by Sheehan. Cheltenham responded with a double substitution on 78 minutes with ex-Wrexham striker Danny Wright replacing Wootton up front and Bristol City loanee Diego De Girolamo replacing Holman. County maintained their energy working the Cheltenham defence hard with some better more decisive moves in the final third. On 82 minutes, Sheehan delivered a good corner from the right side with a bit of venom on it and Bird rose well only to see his header cleared off the line Plavotic. Cheltenham were increasingly direct in their approach late on with Wright contesting headers across the line and provide an outlet to slow the game down. County kept plugging away with plenty of verve carrying the ball with Gordon and Sheehan neat in the exchanges in and around the area. On 87 minutes, County had a decent opportunity from another slick move on the left flank with Butler finding Rigg who ghosted in behind Barthram. He cut back an excellent cross from byline to the back post which Pipe read well winning his header above Onsriase but the keeper Brown saved well low down. County forced Cheltenham to defend deeply in the five minutes added on and they were finally rewarded three minutes into injury time. Butler did well to find Sheehan with a quick pass and he carried his run to find Gordon who made a great overlap who showed composure to pass the ball into the right corner beyond Brown. The sides continued to slog out the final two minutes in a physical game that neither side took no prisoners but County got a warm applause for their late salvo

Day (6) — handled and kicked well, had to be focused dealing with balls helped in behind and was bold largely. One moment of indecision saw him caught off his line

Pipe (7) — took a couple of knocks first half which went unpunished. Saw ball early and defended stoutly coming into the game late on with runs back post.

Butler (7) — decent game and showing some consistency at wing back. Passed well and cleared effectively having a hand in the goal and invention late on

Nelson (8) — went through a brick wall with some challenges, tackled well and despite not winning every header was alert when to come forward and drop off

O’ Brien (6) — made some brave headers and had to receive treatment after a knock but marshalled threat well despite a couple of lax clearances.

Jones (7) — swept up danger in behind well and enjoyed the aerial duals winning his headers early. Had the more obvious threat today from set pieces without reward.

Bennett (6) — did well in the air competing and forced into several tackles to avert danger and took a knock for his endeavours which he didn’t recover from

Rose (7) — tackled well using strength to brush off challenges and play. Got bogged down a bit on times and more effective when he shifted ball from under his feet

Reid (6) — saw less of the ball today and pressed early but did his best to provide an outlet and pick holes. had some decent chances from snapshots around the box

Williams (6) — played with back to goal too often and looked a little flat today being denied space. Went out wide to see more of the ball and prise openings

Bird (7) — worked hard to protect the ball and after a quiet first half caused more problems late on despite being given less quality to feed off from crosses

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
 Strengths — they matched County in formation and worked hard to stifle their game and showed physical resolve defending well and bright runs forward.

Weaknesses — both full backs were ordinary and County sussed that after the break. They were happy to slow game second and became increasingly laboured.

Opportunities — first half they pressed well in the middle and used Waters well before he faded. Went increasingly direct late and more predictable.
 Threats — Waters was busy and creative with ball at feet. Wootton and Pell took up some good positions quickly. Barthram instigated some good moves right side.

OFFICIALS
 C Sarginson (7) — missed some late tackles and some debatable throws in but generally consistent and kept game flowing well

MAN OF THE MATCH
 Sid Nelson — kept his concentration and lead well at the back winning some brave challenges. Made a couple of vital interceptions when County were breached

IF YOU WERE GRAEME WESTLEY WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

County showed much character and spirit today to keep pursuing when they perhaps didn’t get the rub of the green having created marginally the better chances. Cheltenham were organised and match their formation but also were prepared for the physical dual and they had the better of the ball first half especially in the middle of the pitch where they pressed hard off the ball. County used their bench well and took the game to Cheltenham later on with a vital goal to keep them pegged back in the fight at the bottom. This game may not be pivotal but the late goal did bring back reminders of when County came back against Dagenham just over a year ago in a big six pointer and went on a good run. County were perhaps a little slow starting today not alert in the middle and the front three less effective when pressed. However, they did have some cards up their sleeve and it will be important they use their bench well with several games in February. Next up are leaders Doncaster who will offer more invention and guile in the final with a lot of their best play going through right sided Coppinger and Marquis up front and Williams box to box. However, County will get opportunities in this game but will need to offer more sustained tempo than they did today to hurt them.

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