County need their mojo back

Mark Vickery
Nov 24 · 9 min read

Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade

Newport County 0

Oldham Athletic 1 (Mills 45 +1)

Attendance: 3,748


Newport County WWWLWDLLDL

Oldham Athletic LDLLLWdDWL

Oldham are not in the best vein of form so key County start the game quicker and impose their game from the offset

Cloud, drizzle, damp with slight breeze. Pitch looked in decent condition after the deluge.

Got embroiled in untidy game with poor decision making, struggled to maintain any momentum to create chances.

Another goal conceded just before half time gave Oldham something to hold onto.

County made a couple of changes from the Grimsby FA Cup game mid-week with Josh Sheehan suspended Jamille Matt returned to the side. Danny McNamara was back from international duty and replaced Robbie Willmott at right back with County adopting a 4–4–2 formation with Scott Bennett in central midfield. Oldham made the more forceful start working the ball into the corners with left back Iacovitti pushing on to overlap left side. County struggled to settle and were forced into some hurried clearances allowing Oldham pin them back and defend deeply. On 3 minutes, Smith worked a low pass near the left corner of the area and McCann struck an opportunist shot which was well blocked by Innis. Oldham gained confidence from their early spell of pressure and worked another decent move moments later this time on the right side when McCann released Morais who struck a good effort from an acute angle which Townsend did well to parry wide. County created some disjointed pressure forcing some long throws either side of the box to use Innis at the front post but Oldham dealt with the threat well. County looked more capable of opening Oldham up when they measured some passes down either side of the18 yard area but Oldham showed much determination to stifle the danger. On 12 minutes, County had a glimmer of chance from direct kick from Townsend and Matt did well to bring the ball down and spin off a challenge from Wheater but a rushed effort was blasted wide of the left post from 25 yards. County worked the right channel well using space in behind when Iacovitt pushed on but were let down on quality of the crosses with the Oldham central defence strong clearing. Oldham were keen to push both wing backs high up the pitch and Mills right side grew into the game setting up some crosses which were scrambled away by the County defence. County were forced to play long with Matt doing his best but often up against two central defenders, the possession was being starved. On 22 minutes, County created more threat from a break when left back Iacovitt was high up the pitch when a move broke down. McNamara played a good quick ball into Whitley who jinked inside near the right side of the box but his low shot was comfortably held by De La Paz in the left corner. The game degenerated mid-way through the half with several untidy fouls across the middle of the pitch with Morais and Labadie conceding several infringements. On 32 minutes, Azankpo and McNamara had to receive attention after a clash of heads and the game was stopped for several minutes as both players received attention. County continued to launch balls hopefully deep on times and with Matt given little protection from the referee, County had a very frail control of the game. On 38 minutes, County created a better more thoughtful move from the right side of the box with Whitley well positioned to receive a pass from Bennett. He jinked past left sided centre back Stott leaving him static and exchanged a pass with Amond before blasting a low crisp shot from 14 yards which Townsend held well in the left corner. County continued to probe away to work space to set up crosses but Oldham worked hard to limit time on the ball. On 42 minutes, there was a half chance when McNamara delivered an early cross which dropped deep and Matt glanced a header from 10 yards wide of the left post. Oldham remained the more threatening side and got their reward when Iacovitti drove to the byline and cut back a decent cross from the byline to pick out Smith. Despite his shot being saved by Townsend he was enable to hold the ball and right back Mills stole in to force the ball home. Deep in injury time with their tails up Oldham centre back Wheater was able to break up a County move cheaply and made the most of the luxury of space in midfield to make a forceful run but his powerful effort from 30 yards was well parried by Townsend.

County made efforts to pick up their game but the game remained scrappy especially in midfield with several interrupting challenges that went unpunished by the lenient referee. Oldham were happy to sit back and look for holes on the break with Morais and Smith combining well to by pass a static County midfield. County threw in several opportunist crosses from the right side with Abrahams and McNamara coming more into the game but Matt and Amond were not on the same wavelength and the chances went begging. On 60 minutes, Abrahams was booked for a mistimed low challenge on Hamer and frustrated continued to mount with another booking moments later when Labadie checked the run of Missilou on the right flank. County made a change on 62 minutes with McNamara replaced by Dolan with County reverting to 3–4–3 and Bennett dropping deeper. Oldham remained sharper to the ball especially in the middle of the pitch Morais continued to enjoy the freedom of the pitch with several late tackles including one from behind on Labadie on 65 minutes. County made another change on 68 minutes with Maloney coming into central midfield to replace Labadie. Morais was finally booked on 70 minutes for persistent fouling but he was soon orchestrating another decent move on 75 minutes on the right side. His clever pass through the eye of needle found the run of Mills right side but his effort from the edge of the area was blasted just over the bar. On 77 minutes, County made their final change with Nurse replacing Abrahams but he went right midfield allowing Haynes to play left midfield. County forced Oldham deeper in the final stages of the game but were always vulnerable to the break with Oldham having a good couple of decent situations to counter but County managed to stifle at the last moment to stay in the game. On 86 minutes, County had a free kick in a dangerous position near the “d” but Dolan could only strike his effort into the wall allowing Oldham off the hook. County had Innis in the book on 89 minutes for a late challenge on Smith as Oldham continued to have the upper hand with sharpness to the loose ball. County put Oldham under some pressure late on in the game but failed to work the keeper with some crosses come shots drifting to safety. Bennett was booked in fourth minute of injury time when he was late on Azankpo with County trying to force play up the pitch. In the final minute, Dolan won possession in midfield and had an ambitious shot from 35 yards to chip the keeper but it drifted harmlessly wide of the right post. Oldham celebrated at the end for the first away since August and drag themselves away from the bottom of the league but County were left to reflect on a performance well short of the standard they have set earlier in the season.

Townsend (7) — made several good instinctive saves but was a little slow with his distribution on times not using McNamara and Haynes. Put under pressure with some kicks but generally cleared well.

Haynes (6) — worked hard but forced back by Mills and when he did more forward late on was let down by indecision or crosses not having any verve. Never looked comfortable left midfield

McNamara (5) — put under some pressure, did well with distribution but left too much space on times and was far too lax defending on the Oldham goal.

Innis (6) — won headers comfortably and broke up play but clearances were often poor and lacking thought. Did his best on set pieces and had arguably the best chances from scraps inside the six yard box

O’Brien (6) — never really troubled in the air and mopped up a lot of the danger in behind. Pushed up late on in the game and did his best competing well in aerial duals

Bennett (5) — looked laboured on times and in need of rest, broke up some of the danger final third but vulnerable to pace late on, kept passing simple and sideways

Labadie (5) — very quiet game, never got to assert his usual influence and influence with runs into the box and was always treading a fine line after booking and not surprised when he was taken off.

Whitely (5) — had some bright spells early in game and saw several shots blocked but struggled to work the keeper when well placed. Faded early in the second half

Matt (5) — made to look poor playing back to goal and well marshalled on aerial duals. Did better when dropped off or carried runs out of wide but playing narrow never helped.

Amond (6) — worked hard to retain the ball and give some kind of outlet but another played that ran of steam in latter stages of the game. Didn’t work the keeper once which is unusual.

Abrahams (5) — got bogged down in the challenge and got ball prised off him too easily. Did better drifting out wide but wasted some good chances inside the box which he should worked the keeper.

Strengths — well organised defensively and compact in the middle denying County space. For what they lacked in quality they always had the legs over County.

Weaknesses — got away with several fouls for clambering and pulling, several players went down cheaply to buy free kicks and wasted a lot of time.

Opportunities — they never really changed their tact and didn’t need to. Midfield was key doing defensive work and quick to support lone player up top.
Threats — Smith had an eye for goal, Morais played some clever intricate passes to open up County. Both wings backs Mills and Iacovitti were effective with link play.

C Hicks (6) — very lenient, ignored a lot of the cynical play and spent half of the game talking and defending his decisions.

D Wheater — kept defence organised and switched on, lead side well, made some key interventions and passed well.


Oldham played in much the same sexy style as Grimsby did Wednesday pressing play hard to deny County any sustained momentum but what they did in transition was more effective. The first goal was always going to be important but County were too indecisive today with and without the ball and lacking teeth. They missed the creativity of Sheehan but also looked a yard off the pace from the first minute and could have benefitted from more changes after the touch physical match on Wednesday. County need to find a way of dealing with sides that will come to Rodney Parade to suffocate and use the disciplined template we have seen from away sides in the last few matches. It was enough for Oldham to sit in and stifle and flood players forward in transition at will. With both full backs boldly pushing up in tandem for Oldham, County again struggled to turn a side around that pressed up high. To mitigate this they needed to keep their moves efficient or alternatively work Oldham about the pitch but there was no nerve to keep the ball and shift play about with Innis and O’Brien were forced into launching long hopefuls balls. Next up is the FA Cup trip to Maldon & Tiptree which will be a test of mettle for County having been architects of shocks in recent years they won’t want to be on the receiving end. Maldon have conceded a lot of goals this season but they do have pace in abundance and will have able runners. County need to do all the key off the ball work first and foremost and get their shooting boots back on.

Mark Vickery

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