County master conditions better

Report by Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade

Newport County 2 (Amond 6 , Willmott 66)

Exeter City 1 (Stockley 52)

Attendance: 3,318


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 Very windy difficult for pretty football. Exeter have lost their last four away matches so County will be looking to build on the sharpness and quality final third

 Mild, intermittent showers and very windy. Pitch looked more worn from recent matches and cut up a little in parts.

 Enterprising first half that should have made this more comfortable but showed spirit to find the winner.

 Exeter missed header inside six yard box to go ahead before County punished them.

 County made just the one change with captain Joss Labadie returning from suspension in place of Tom Owen-Evans who was on the bench. County reverted to a more solid 5–3–2 formation playing into a gale first half but were not deterred pushing Exeter back from the offset. On 2 minutes, County created a decent chance from a corner left side by Dolan which went low against the wind and Labadie stole in at the front post to poke an effort from 6 yards against the left post. On 6 minutes, County created a decent move down the right side with Pipe doing well to thread a low pass down the right channel which Willmott seized upon ahead of Woodman. He showed a spring in his step to get outside the left back and curled in an excellent cross to the front post and Amond expertly glanced home into the left corner. Exeter made efforts to respond with some quick passes into Stockley who did well off the bits and pieces but the County defence were tenacious and alert clearing effectively. County worked some decent move right side with Willmott carrying some strong runs into the corner working Woodman but the Exeter diverted the crosses. On 15 minutes, County had a decent chance from a move left side involving Butler who link well to find Nouble. He cut inside right back Sweeney with a neat turn and drove to the byline only for his low cross to be intercepted by Seaborne with Amond hovering. Exeter were forced to play on the counter with County holding the ball better and this gave them further momentum. On 17 minutes, a patient County move across the face of the area caused the Exeter some anxiety when Nouble held up the ball well and hooked a ball back for Labadie to contest but his header from 12 yards was saved by Pym. Exeter created some better moves using the left flank with Harley and Moxey making some clever runs. On 22 minutes, Exeter won a free kick in a dangerous position on the left side of the area when Pipe was coaxed into a mistimed tackle on Stockley. From the resultant free kick, Taylor swept over a low vicious delivery using the wind but Day held the ball very well under pressure. County continued to pick holes down the right side with Willmott stretching play well and Exeter struggled on times with their clearances. On 27 minutes, Willmott was again driving into a prominent position right side of the area and his low cross caused problems for Archibald-Henville who scuffed a clearance to Amond and his low shot from an acute angle was well blocked. County kept turning the screw well especially in central midfield with Dolan and Labadie competing well and Exeter midfielder James escaping a booking with some cynical challenges. On 32 minutes, James was booked for a very late low dangerous on Demetriou who saw the ball much earlier. Exeter had a better spell as half time approached playing higher up the pitch and using the wind more to their benefit. Exeter forced a couple of corners from their pressure which examined the County defence with swirling delivery making it difficult to get safe. The game became scrappy on times with County remaining the more cohesive outfit with Exeter overplaying several passes in the wind. On 43 minutes, an Exeter corner from the left side by James was latched onto by Tillson but County stifled the threat well forcing a goal kick.

Exeter came out a different outfit after half time playing better with the wind holding up play. Exeter played some measured passes down the left flank early on which County allowed to drop and this gave Stockley and James some ammunition. On 48 minutes, Stockley chased down what appeared to be a lost cause with White in control of possession and time to clear near the left byline. However, some indecision allowed Stockley to pinch possession and his low cross into the six yard box was scooped over by Taylor under pressure from Bennett. Exeter gained confidence from their ability to push County back deeper defending but a quick break by County on 50 minutes saw Exeter exposed and Amond was poleaxed by Seaborne on the right side of the area. Dolan took the free kick and whipped in a venomous cross but caught on the wind and went straight into the arms of keeper Pym. Exeter kept plugging away offering plenty of movement and energy in support of Stockley who did well contesting in the air. Exeter equalised on 52 minutes when they shifted play down the right channel with Sweeney slipping a low pass for Taylor. He cut back a cross from the right corner which curled back into the six yard box on the wind and Stockley was well positioned to finish with neat header into the right corner. County made effort to pick up their game but were lacking cohesion and their pressure was disjointed. On 55 minutes, Willmott chased down a ball through the middle which forced Pym to come off his line and smother the ball. On 57 minutes, another decisive Exeter break this time using their left flank saw Woodman pick out the run of Harley. He was bold adjusting to provide a first time cross into the area which James met unmarked but he was unable to keep his header down. Labadie had been on the end of several late challenges low down and Tillson was booked on 63 minutes for a crude challenge on him which caused a bit of a melee and Pipe was also booked in the aftermath. Exeter were happy to push on but County ruthlessly punished them on 66 minutes from a slick move initiated down the left flank. Butler did well to overlap and receive a pass from Dolan but he had the vision to pick out the run by Willmott down the centre. Willmott carried his run forward exploiting space before blasting low into the left corner from 25 yards with Pym grasping thin air. Exeter responded well turning County back to defend and were rewarded with some corners. On 70 minutes, a corner from the left side dropped deep and Taylor made the most of space offered but his low effort from 12 yards was deflected wide. From the resultant corner, Sweeney had a header from distance pushed over the bar by County keeper Day. County remained a threat on the break and created an excellent move on 72 minutes with Willmott pinpointing the run of the Amond to the left flank. He cut inside well to carry his run towards the left corner of the area and drilled a low powerful effort forcing Pym to parry around the left post. Exeter made a substitution moments later replacing James in midfield for Holmes who went right wing. The wind continued to make sustained football and passing difficult and the game scrappy on times. On 76 minutes, Dolan thrashed an opportunist effort from distance wide of the right post as space started to open in middle of the pitch. On 82 minutes, Dolan was in the book for an untidy challenge on Taylor with Exeter having men over down the right flank. County made their first change on 82 minutes with Dolan replaced by Owen-Evans and Exeter responded with Reid replacing Seaborne. Exeter were keen to use their right flank with Holmes put in a stinging shot from the right side of the area which Day marshalled well parrying around the left post. On 86 minutes, Holmes turned provider scooping a cross into the area with County struggling to clear their lines and Tillson saw his stretching header from 8 yards drop over the bar. On 88 minutes, Exeter lofted a hopeful ball down the left flank which sat up and White put in a brave header to avert danger but was caught up in a collision with Stockley. He received treatment for several minutes but had to leave the pitch with what appeared to be broken nose and was replaced by McAlinden. County had eight minutes of injury time to deal with and with Exeter still forcing the issue, the final minutes were a bit frantic. Two minutes into injury time, Holmes again showed his eye for a shot cutting inside but his effort from 20 yards was high and wide of the right post. County made a change soon after with McCoulsky replacing Nouble. Exeter left one player back and were nearly caught out five minutes into injury time when McCoulsky raced onto a ball in behind beating Achibald-Henville but the wind assisted the ball back into the arms of the keeper who smother his effort. Then moments later, McCoulsky did well with his back to goal to fend off a challenge from Achibald-Henville who was penalised for holding. Willmott took the free kick from 30 yards but his effort went just over the bar. Exeter had an opportunity in the last minute of injury time when a direct ball was glanced on well by Reid for McAlinden to cross to back post but Taylor struck a difficult half volley which Day reacted well to save and hold. County held on trying to hold the ball for a hard fought but deserved victory overall much to the approval of the home crowd.

Day (8) — excellent game, didn’t have much to do first half but kicked well and dealt with the wind. Made some important saves late on and was alert to shots from distance.

Pipe (7) — got tighter and timed his tackles better today in a five man defence always looks more composed. Can work his clearances from deep and quality of crosses final third.

Butler (7) — bold won some good headers and tackles, distributed well and at the heart of the best moves first half. Forced back second half and stifled majority of the crosses.

Demetriou (8) — sharpness to snap up possession and shifted play intelligently. Always a threat on set pieces, was strong in the air and forced Exeter to use the other side

White (7) — used ball effectively, read game well despite aerial pressure by Stockley but held firm. In control apart from couple of lapses allowing ball to be pinched inside area.

Bennett (7) — did a decent job in the middle, was alive to the danger and swept up well to clear danger and shift play on. Made a couple of key interceptions to stifle danger.

Labadie (8) — looked fresh, won majority of his 50–50 battles, got kicked several times but kept his discipline and head down. Tracked back to cover danger and unlucky not to score

Dolan (6) — booking took gloss a bit off his performance good first half showing appetite to win aerial duals and was precise with passing. Struggled to find a pass with wind assisting.

Willmott (8) — forced left back into a shell first half, made several well timed runs and crosses were cutting. Worked hard throughout, set up first goal and deceived keeper on winner

Nouble (6) — got in amongst things first half, penetrated more facing gale when he had something to chase down. Less effective with back to goal and poor service after the break.

Amond (7) — was sharp in and around the area and made some effective runs out wide especially on the break. Always hit the target with his headers and took chance well.

 Strengths — they offered plenty of movement and were technically sound unit offering quality in the final third when they made the ball stick.

Weaknesses — blew hot and cold, first half they stood off play and were undisciplined the middle of the pitch. Struggled with crosses all day and keeper was hesitant on times

Opportunities — a lot went through Stockley and they gambled off that. They pushed more players out wide after the break and went very direct late on with the wind facing them.
 Threats — Stockley was robust and won fair quota in the air, Taylor provided some neat crosses and Hartley pick holes well. Holmes had eye for a shot from distance.

 G Horwood (8) — got the key decisions right, took his time to stamp authority with bookings but refreshing to see referee who read game well

 Robbie Willmott — worked hard to influence game, did a lot in the final third to hurt Exeter and showed flexibility to play wide right and was effective when he came inside


County took the game to Exeter first half in difficult conditions and should have had the second goal settled much earlier. County were effective when they had the ball but equally if not more impressive was their work ethic and they never allowed Exeter to settle into the passing game early doors. After half time it was different story for a time and perhaps some casualness crept into the defending with County slow to clear their lines. County got a bit caught between deciding whether to play long from deep or keep the ball low and play patiently second half. County are forcing sides to play more direct down the opponents left side as they generally snap up and stifle play well. Exeter did have some opportunities right side from passing and flooding players out wide to initiate crosses. County also need to improve their marking and concentration on crosses into the six yard box. The Leeds Cup is up next at Rodney Parade and there are no real expectations for County other than to do better than at Elland Road. County will need marshal the threat that Kemar Roofe provides who will shoot from distance but he is likely to play down the middle feeding runs of Saiz and Sacko. Leeds are not proficient with an aerial threat so it will be about tracking the movement and stifling with a lot of the play going through Hernandez. Set pieces can be fruitful for County but they will need to get facing forward at Leeds and have guile to force them deeper into mistakes.

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