County Stop the Rot

Report by Mark Vickery from Rodney Parade

Newport County 1 (Elito 14)

Oxford United 1 (Bowery 13)

Attendance: 2,847


Newport County LdLLLLLL

Oxford United LWWDdLWL

 County need to be more competitive and offer more quality in the box and with Oxford eager for the points important County keep focussed.

 Mild, calm, cloudy, pitch sandy and erratic bounce made control difficult

 Gutsy response, kept concentration well and matched Oxford man for man

 None to note

 County made a couple of changes with Scott Barrow coming into left midfield in place of the injured John Christophe Ayina and with Alex Rodman injured in the warm up he was replaced by Yan Klukowksi with youth academy prospect Liam Angel taking the vacant position on the bench. The early stages of the match were even with both sides struggling to deal with the uncertainty of the sand ridden pitch. Oxford opted to play directly with County more patient side looking for shorter passes. On 5 minutes, Oxford created an opening from a long ball down the middle which Maguire saw early and drove down the space County invited down the middle. He threaded a clever pass down the right side of the area which gave Sercombe an opportunity from a very acute angle but the low shot clipped the outside of the post. County worked the channels well with Barrow and Holmes prepared to push on but the crosses were searching rather than cutting and Oxford cleared efficiently. Oxford continued to persist with the direct ball from kick outs and from deep inside their own half with Hylton robust in his approach. Oxford got their reward on 13 minutes when Wright was invited to play a long ball from deep and allowed to drop by Holmes. County keeper Day was reluctant to deal with the loose ball and Roberts presence alone with enough to unsettle County into a loose clearance which Bowery poked home from 12 yards ghosting inside to slot home. County responded well and forcing a corner immediately and with Oxford only half clearing, Byrne did well to maintain possession. His pass across the face of the area was caressed by John-Lewis into the path of Elito who drilled an excellent low half volley into the right corner. County were lifted by the goal with John-Lewis offering a good outlet and when County had movement in and around the striker they looked capable of adding to their score. On 20 minutes, County created a bright move down the right channel with Holmes whipping in a decent delivery from the right side of the area which skidded low and John-Lewis got across Wright to hit a low shot from 12 yards which lack power to trouble Oxford keeper Buchel. County were forced into a change soon after with Klukowski failing to recover from a knock and he was replaced by O’Sullivan. Oxford were happy to absorb pressure County offered a look for direct balls to turn the County defence. Oxford were most threatening on the left side with Maguire contributing well to track back and work with left back Evans. On 32 minutes, Maguire did well setting up a good move on the left side of area with ball to feet and after a scramble in the area, Davies made an important block before Roberts dragged his shot wide of the left post from a very acute angle. County made efforts to break from deep with Oxford offering some space in midfield to exploit. On 36 minutes, County had a decent chance down the middle with Boden having the opportunity to shoot from near the “d” but he generously set up Barrow who made an overlapping run on the right side of the area but he delayed his shot and the cross near the byline came to nothing. Oxford kept probing away turning defence into attack efficiently and Maguire was close on 38 minutes dragging a shot from 25 yards wide of the left post. On 42 minutes, County had a throw in on the left side which Byrne delivered and the loose clearance by Oxford was met well by O’Sullivan who hit a first time volley from 30 yards straight at the keeper.

Oxford made a change at half time with left sided Ruffels replacing full back Evans. Oxford were keen to get their left channel functioning better and a quick break on 52 minutes, County caught napping. Ruffels started the move threading a low pass for Maguire who managed to manoeuvre past Holmes near the byline coaxing him into a foul which got him a booking. From the resultant free kick, in a dangerous position executed a decent delivery which Dunkley met well under pressure from Hughes but his header from 8 yards was tipped around the post after a good reactive save by Day. On 57 minutes, County did well to snap with possession when an Oxford move broke down and Barrow played a well-timed pass for Elito who took his run into the area and appeared to be clattered by Oxford keeper Buchel but the referee ignored the appeals for a penalty. County had a couple of corners from their approach play down the right side which Barrow delivered well causing some anxiety for Buchel who flapped under pressure. On 60 minutes, Oxford made another change with Lundstram replaced by Ashby. Oxford continued to pick holes on the break with County wise to their direct approach. On 68 minutes, some indecision by County across the face of the Oxford area, invited Maguire to break forward and O’Sullivan was forced into checking his run and booked for the challenge. County created a couple of anxious moments for Oxford from direct play with John-Lewis prepared to chase and work the defenders. On 72 minutes, Boden pressurised Dunkley into a mistake and when he fell over, John Lewis carried his run forward but got the ball caught up under his feet and his low shot had the gas taken out it. On 75 minutes, another direct ball saw John-Lewis force his way goalside of Dunkley and bowled over by Buchel on the edge of the area but the referee ignored the appeals when a free kick looked the very minimum. Oxford made their final change on 78 minutes with Bowery replaced by Waring. County kept pressing in the final ten minutes enjoying more territorial possession and were unlucky not to forge ahead on 83 minutes. Byrne was quick to pick the pocket of Sercombe and race forward before unleashing an excellent volley from 25 yards which the keeper did well to get his fingertips to and parry away in the right corner. County kept plugging away forcing a few corners which Oxford managed to hook clear and both Byrne and Elito had shots blocked in advanced positions but County held on and got a good response from the fans at the end for their efforts.

Day (7) — kicked well under pressure from back passes and possibly a little slow off his line for their goal but made a couple of key saves to deny Oxford 
 Holmes (7) — made himself difficult to beat and was sturdy in his approach. Got forward well when he could and chipped in with some decent crosses

Davies (6) — better game, made some good headers, kept his concentration well to track his marker and got the ball quicker stifling space

Jones (7) — dealt with aerial approach well when he didn’t allow ball to drop, was strong deal with balls in behind and cleared effectively

Hughes (6) — timed his headers well and marked better, was positive with his clearances which he got safe. Was the more likely on a couple of set pieces

Klukowski (5) — didn’t see a lot of him in the early stages and was replaced by:

O’Sullivan (6) — offered plenty of running and energy but turned down several chances to shoot when well placed. Passing was erratic and a little untidy.

Byrne (7) — better game was sharper to see the ball and move it into the right areas. Good to see him get on a few chances in and around the box 
 Elito (7) — took chance clinically, came more into the game late on with opportunities to counter, kept passing ticking over and movement gave defenders headache

Boden (6) — forced to play with back to goal too much and found space at a premium. Was prepared to drop off and link play but slow across his marker today

John-Lewis (7) — did his best to fend off challenges without much protection and when he got deep inside the box always a threat. Restricted to chances from distance

 Strengths — they had a belief and resolve about them. Central defenders gave little charity but they did offer space when committed that better sides would punish

Weaknesses — left back was hesitant when pressed, over cooked some of their direct play and gave away several fouls in threatening areas

Opportunities — opted for a direct approach from the offset and swept forward well from deep using pace to counter attack
 Threats — Maguire was bold and clever with his passes, Hytlon strong in the air and robust, Sercombe and Lundstram got into the box well to support and link play

 G Ward (5) — another league two referee that seems to ignore the pulling and arms and Oxford may well have got away with a penalty

 Mark Byrne — one player that was able to relax and play on the pitch, reading play well and generally neat with his passes.


County responded well after six consecutive defeats and may well have nicked this game with them finishing stronger than Oxford. County kept their discipline well today not jumping into tackles and more importantly the defence kept their concentration and focus marking well. County had opportunities to counter but were a little slow to see the opportunity on times but can be heartened by their approach play down the flanks with Barrow and Holmes doing well. If County can be more explosive coming forward and up the quality with their crosses they can hurt sides. John Lewis offered a good outlet especially inside the box when County were able to get runners off him. Both sides struggled today on the surface but County remain calm and worked hard in adversity which was important. County will next up visit Luton Town who must win to maintain their play-off challenge. There will be chances for County to exploit them if they are overzealous in their approach but important County build on their cohesion and get the balance between defending and attack right.