Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade
Newport County 1 (Pond 45+1)
Salford City 2 (Burgess 40, Maynard 54)
Newport County WLDWWWLWDL
Salford City DLWLLWWLWD
Salford have improved in recent weeks so County can expect a battle in difficult conditions. Important they do the dirty work first and earn right to play
Persistent rain and windy. Pitch looked in reasonable condition but glossy on top.
SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Undone by two set pieces, put in a lot of crosses and throws in but struggled to carve clearcut chances.
Salford second goal meant County were always chasing game.
County were forced into one change with captain Joss Labadie suspended and he was replaced by Matt Dolan. There was a surprise change with centre midfielder Taylor Maloney making his first starting appearance in place of right back Danny McNamara. Robbie Willmott went to right wing back with County maintaining 3–5–2 formation. Salford started the brighter and won a free kick in a dangerous position on 5 minutes when Maloney got the wrong side of Maynard tracking back. Left back Touray executed a decent delivery from 25 yards which dipped just over the bar. The pace of the game was quite slow and precise with County enjoying the better of possession but Salford kept them at arms length. County created some good moves left side with Haynes the more penetrative winning some corners. On 12 minutes, County worked a smarter shorter corner on the left side with Sheehan slipping a quick pass for Maloney and Innis poked a shot wide of the left post from 12 yards. Salford were keen to use their left flank when invited with Touray pinpointing Jervis who was quick to provide crosses from the left corner but they dropped deep. County kept working some intricate moves well left side and had a great chance to take the lead on 25 minutes. Haynes did well to support a move deep in the left corner and his deft cross pinpointed Amond unmarked inside the six yard box but his header went wide of the right post. Salford were reliant on direct play from deep on times into Rooney but their moves lacked cohesion and petered out. County remained patient and worked some throw ins either side of the area which Haynes took but Salford were comfortable dealing with the high ball. County looked more capable of opening them up when the ball was played low with Matt dropping off to shield and link play. On 38 minutes, County created a good situation from a long throw right side of the area which Innis won well and the ball dropped inside the invitingly for O’Brien but his shot from 10 yards was well blocked by Pond. Salford threatened from a counter attack moments later when Jervis broke down the left side after a good pass from Touray released him. He cut back an opportunist cross into the area that was hooked towards the right corner by Conway from 12 yards after a late run into the area but King saved well low down. Salford kept pressing left side and won a corner on 40 minutes which Conway delivered into the six yard and the ball was glanced on deep and Burgess made the most of the space invited to head home. County made efforts to pick up their game and had a decent chance on 42 minutes when they switched play well from left to right and Haynes back post cross was anticipated well by Willmott who was unfortunate to see his first time effort blocked by Touray. County kept pressing and got an equaliser in the first minute of injury time from a corner right side. Dolan delivered an excellent cross to the front post and Salford central defender Pond appeared to turn in under pressure from Innis at the front post.
Salford started the second half offering more determination in the final third and an early move through the middle saw Conway thread a low pass for Towell who was denied by a good recovering tackle by Innis. County were struggling to get a foothold in the game with Salford more assertive in the midfield and pushing Jervis and Conway higher up to support Rooney. On 54 minutes, Salford were bright coming forward right side with Conway direct running and his run was checked by Bennett. Touray took the free kick and somewhat lax defending by County allowed Maynard to steal in and head home off the bar from 10 yards. Salford were energised by the goal and were sharper to the loose ball with Conway coaxing Bennett into a late challenge on 56 minutes to get a booking. Then on 58 minutes, with confidence building Towell blasted a low shot from left corner of the areas wide of the right post with County standing off deep inviting danger. County freshened the pack on 62 minutes with McNamara replacing Maloney. County offered the most threat down the left with Haynes having the better of Salford right back Threlkeld. On 65 minutes, Haynes danced past Threlkeld and was held back giving the referee little choice but to book the player. County made another change on 66 minutes with Abrahams replacing Dolan with County changing to a more attacking 4–3–3. Salford remained sharper to the ball on times especially in the middle and Sheehan was booked on 68 minutes for catching Maynard late in a low tackle. County made their final change on 72 minutes with Willmott replaced by Whitley. County picked up the tempo of the game in the final 15 minutes with some more forceful moves right side involving Whitley and McNamara and the Salford defence worked to clear the lines from crosses. Salford remained a threat on the break especially left side and a quick counter on 77 minutes, saw Rooney release Jervis who shot over from narrow acute angle left side of the area. On 78 minutes, County looked certain to score when a better direct move saw Matt do well shield and set up Sheehan deep inside the area but his low shot from 12 yards crashed against the left post. Salford made another change on 80 minutes with Dieseruvwe replacing Rooney. County had a great chance to square things up moments later when a good slick move across the face of the area saw Whitely combine well with Sheehan and his direct run was impeded by Towell to win a penalty. Abrahams stepped up and blasted an effort down the middle and despite Salford keeper Howard got his legs to it and the ball went over the bar. Salford made their second change on 85 minutes with Towell replaced by Hughes. On 88 minutes, Hughes was booked for a late challenge on O’Brien as he cleared his lines. Salford made their final change on 88 minutes with Pierganni replacing Conway. Salford were happy to run down the clock using Dieseruvwe as an outlet to hold the ball using his robust frame. County had a couple of half chances in the seven minutes of injury time with Haynes and Sheehan blasting over when well positioned and crosses into the area lacking quality to trouble the stubborn Salford defence. Salford held on for the win to close the gap on the play offs and County remained in the play off zone.
King (5) — kicking was little erratic today and distribution was slow. Well beaten on both set pieces and could have done more to command his six yard box.
Haynes (7) — was the best attacking option during the first half and put in some good crosses. Was marked closer after the break and was more effective when he drove to the byline
Willmott (5) — never really got going, forced back to defend deep first half and restricted on crosses. Lacked usual verve final third before being replaced.
Innis (6) — comfortable in aerial duals, tracked back well to recover and did unsettle on long throws and set pieces. Bit slow and indecisive with passing on times.
O’Brien (6) — won most of his headers and made some well timed tackles, cleared in behind effectively but was more vulnerable second half when left exposed.
Bennett (5) — made good use of the ball when he had it and won some good tackles to squash threat. After booking was always on edge when dealing to come across to avert danger.
Maloney (5) — had some bright spells with ball at feet first half but got pushed off ball too easily on times and struggled to exert influence in combative midfield.
Sheehan (6) — not on the ball enough and did a lot of running off the ball but never really got into a position to hurt. Denied by post on his best chance
Dolan (6) — sharpness missing with and without the ball, provided some good set pieces from the right side and kept working before fading.
Amond (6) — did his best work when he put himself between defender and ball. Should have buried his chance first half but lack of clearcut chances a concern
Matt (5) — looked jaded at the end, misdirected a few headers when well placed but starved of service and made to look poor. Did his best to hold and link play but too often second to ball
SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths — they were strong in the physical duals and set out to stifle and pick holes. Set pieces were well worked and moves in transition
Weaknesses — defenders were prone to passing errors when pressed. Right back was vulnerable to pace and they lacked cohesion for large spells
Opportunities — pushed wide players higher up the pitch after half time which paid off. Had spell where they raised tempo briefly after half time.
Threats — Jervis left side crosses, Towell link play and shots from distance, set pieces were cutting and they had plenty of height to attack ball.
W Finnie (6) — got the key decisions right letting game flow well, but ignored several booking for dangerous play and cynical tackles.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Craig Conway (Salford 44) — not sure how long he will be at Salford, looks too good for League Two and his awareness and intelligent use of ball was key in their best moves.
IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
County have not been firing on all cylinders in the last few home games and the defeat will not come as a complete shock to many fans. County played into Salford hands today playing too direct and not low or precise enough and in truth Salford managed the game better and the conditions. County had the extra defender first half but were reluctant to push on when Salford were disjoint and lacking confidence. Maloney had a difficult game with the physical nature of the game and in truth County lost this game in the middle of the pitch. When they did go more direct late on there was not enough appetite or teeth shown to vice grip the ball and work the situations to exploit the nervous Salford defenders into mistakes. Howkins may have made more influence in this sort of game and possibly Bennett could have covered Labadie better in midfield. County have had a very good run at home, not being beaten at home since the MK Dons last season so they can be proud of that record. Next up is the FA Cup match at Grimsby and County need to put in a response of some sorts to get their season back on track. Grimsby have not been on the best run of form and with both sides out of sorts it could boil down to the side most wanting it with the bench being key.