First home win eludes County

Report by Mark Vickery from Rodney Parade

Newport County 0
Portsmouth 1 (Tubbs 45+)
Attendance: 3,298

Form:
Newport County LLLLWLDL
Portsmouth dWDWLdWW

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
County need to start well and win their 50–50 battles. Cardiff City loan duo Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and Tom O’Sullivan have boosted their selection

CONDITIONS
Quite cool, cloudy with light breeze. Pitch looked immaculate

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Coped well with Portsmouth threat but despite of spirit kept at arms-length

TURNING POINT
Portsmouth goal on stroke of half time gave them the foothold they needed

THE MATCH
County made a couple of changes with Danny Holmes suffering a knock at Mansfield last weekend, he was named a substitute allowing Cardiff City loanee Jazzi Barnum-Bobb to make his debut at right back. Matt Taylor was also sacrificed to the bench in place of Scott Partridge with Notts County loanee Scott Bennett slotting into a three man central defence. County also introduced another loan signing from Cardiff City, Tom O’Sullivan in central midfield in place of Yan Klukowski who was named as substitute. Portsmouth started positively and moved the ball about efficiently reflecting a side pushing for promotion with captain Doyle and Kyle Bennett seeing a lot of the ball in midfield. After putting a couple of searching balls into the County area from the left flank, Portsmouth turned attention attacking their right channel with full back Davies prominent. County created a good situation to counter this on 8 minutes when Davies got caught up the pitch in possession and County slipped a quick pass from deep to find Elito in space in midfield. He drove down the left side of the pitch and picked a tidy pass for Ansah who cut a decent cross out from near the byline but Webster made an important intervention. County were encouraged by the move and had a half chance on 12 minutes with Elito again doing well to carry the ball into space and this time his low pass found O’Sullivan near the left corner of the area and he cut inside before chancing his arm with a low shot from 14 yards which was wide of the left post. Portsmouth played three up top with Roberts and Kaismith supporting Tubbs from deep and they worked hard to close down the County defence which caused some anxiety at the back. Portsmouth continued to persist with attacking their right flank putting County left back Scott Barrow under pressure. There were opportunities for County to exploit on the break but they were often let down by stray passing allowing Portsmouth to snap up possession and flood forward. County had the ball in the net on 25 minutes when they went more direct in their approach. Ansah did well to unsettle Webster with an aerial challenge and he was quick to seize the loose ball and barged forward with a pass to John-Lewis who slotted home just inside the area but the referee awarded a free kick for handball by Ansah. Portsmouth continued to shift the ball around with Doyle pulling the strings in midfield as they switched play about well stretching County on times. On 33 minutes, Portsmouth changed tact moving the ball from the left channel across the right side of the pitch and Bennett hit an excellent drive from 30 yards which Day parried away well. The referee had to leave play due to injury moments later and was replaced by his fourth official Wayne Barratt. County lost their way somewhat after the disruption with Portsmouth maintaining their zip on the ball around efficiently in and around the edge of the area with ex-Chesterfield striker Gary Roberts coming into the game. On 40 minutes, Roberts went close again with a shot from the left corner of the area which was well blocked by Partridge. Portsmouth got their reward in the four minutes of injury time when County allowed them to build up momentum with a move down the left side of the pitch. Bennett was again the instigator when the ball came back into the area with a clever threaded low pass to find Tubbs who made the most of space to fire home from 10 yards.

Portsmouth were back in the groove after half time continuing the pass crisply in the final third and Barrow as booked inside the first minute for a mistimed challenge. To their credit, County worked hard to deny space and find relief with Asnah and John-Lewis pick holes down the flanks but Portsmouth were quick to stifle play. On 52 minutes, County had a decent opportunity to level matters from a decisive move on the right flank. Barnum-Bobb penetrated well down the right side of the area combining well with Ansah who picked a good pass out for Byrne on the edge of the area. He struck a crisp low effort which went agonisingly just wide of the left post. County were buoyed by their approach play and another slick move on 56 minutes across the face of the area invited O’Sullivan to shoot first time but his effort was deflected just over the bar. Portsmouth made an early change with Boco replacing Naismith on 58 minutes and County replaced Ansah with Boden. Portsmouth continued to cause problems on the break with County committed to pushing on and another cute move on 62 minutes invited space when Barrow lost track of Boco. The square ball across the face of the edge found Bennett who marginally wide of the right post. County made another double change on 65 minutes John-Lewis replaced by Collins who went to left side and Rodman replaced Barrow. Elito dropped back to left wing back to cover Barrow with Rodman slotting into the middle. Portsmouth made a midfield change soon after with Hollands replacing Barton. County picked up the tempo of the game in the final 20 minutes offering better movement but found the Portsmouth defence difficult to turn and they remained unruffled. Portsmouth made change up top on 75 minutes with Tubbs replaced by Lavery. County huffed and puffed in the final stages of the game providing a few crosses to test Portsmouth but the delivery was short of the quality to trouble the well marshalled Portsmouth defence. Barnum-Bobb continued to mark well and was positive coming forward coaxing Stevens into an untidy challenge on 83 minutes which earned him a booking. Portsmouth held on strongly in the final minutes happy to run down the clock and see the game with their neat possession play paying off.

Day (7) — made a couple of smart saves and collections. Distributed well and had to deal with a number of short back rushed passes when County sat deep
Barnum-Bobb (7) — decent debut, was tenacious and not afraid to get tight. Had confidence to push on and mark things happen given the opportunity
Barrow (4) — struggled defensively today, loose marking, offered little threat coming forward and was indecisive with the ball at his feet passing untidily
Donacien (6) — didn’t have his own way in the air but generally got himself well positioned and able to clear the threat. Distributed effectively
Bennett (6) — looks a little short of match fitness, won some good headers and tackles and was aware of danger did what he had to with his clearances.
Partridge (7) — was strong in the air and despite being a bit wayward with some headers he restricted his mistakes making some good decisions
Byrne (6) — was a little rusty today especially when he went deep getting caught in possession. Arguably had the best clearcut chances with useful runs from deep
O’Sullivan (7) — was composed with his touch and showed good vision to link play. was snappy coming forward and offered some much need creativity
Elito (6) — had some bright spells in the first half with this ball at his feet, but was unable to find the killer pass. Needs to brush up on his shooting from distance
Ansah (6) — worked hard and gave an outlet with some clever runs either side of the area but unable to fashion a decent chance in the box.
John-Lewis (5) — did better with give and go but often got dragged into beating too many men. Laboured playing with back to goal and needs to get facing forward
SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths — they worked hard off the ball and had a belief and determination to keep passing and working space with intelligent runs in the final third.
Weaknesses — the left holes at the back when right back linked which better sides would exploit and allowed some room in centre when they pushed on
Opportunities — the gambled down the right flank for much of the match and made changes to maintain the tactic. Got men quickly into the area second half
Threats — Bennett was lively and enterprising in the final third, being difficult to track. Tubbs played off the last man, Roberts made them tick in and around the box

OFFICIALS
W Barratt (7) — replaced Adcock after his injury and generally coped well allowing game to flow

MAN OF THE MATCH
Kyle Bennett (Portsmouth 23) — was difficult to track and showed plenty of trickery in and around the area having pace to carry effectively from deep

IF YOU WERE JOHN SHERIDAN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
County struggled to deal with the movement and guile Portsmouth offered first half with left back Barrow often under pressure but overall the defence did well to stem the flow. County have had problems defending their left flank since the start of the season with Elito slack in his backtracking but in fairness some of the better attacking moves came from down the left side with Portsmouth gambling in the final third. Unfortunately, County were lacking confidence to exploit that which always meant Portsmouth the upper hand and an outlet. County were more effective down their right flank after the break with Jazzi Barnum-Bobb having a solid debut. County will need to improve their passing and work rate in the final third with a lot of the distribution to find John-Lewis and Ansah lacking quality. County could really do with plan B with no significant height up front they are unable to play direct, which is something you sometimes need to do when under the cosh. John-Lewis Sheridan will also believe County need to start showing a nerve to play through the middle, cut out the sloppy passes and improve their efficiency on the ball. At the moment, County are getting punished by opportunism and it’s about time they started playing sides at their own game starting at Wycombe this Tuesday

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