County stop the rot

Report by Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade
Tranmere Rovers 1 (Donnelly 45+)
Newport County 1 (Byrne 83)

Attendance: 2,327

Form:
Newport County WWLLLL
Tranmere Rovers ddWDWL

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
Good to see Robbie Willmott back in the frame but we need some sort of result tonight and take it from there

CONDITIONS
Cool, cloudy, no wind pitch looked decent condition but did cut up a little second half

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Passive first half lacking quality but spirit and endeavor got deserved point

TURNING POINT
None significant to note but O’Connor header against bar sparked County into life

THE MATCH
County made a few changes with Miles Storey making his first starting appearance replacing Chris Zebroski who was not named on the bench. Lee Minshull was back in the side in place of Adam Chapman who was named as a substitute. With central defender Kevin Feeley suspended, County made a surprise change with Robbie Willmott making a welcome return after his foot injury sustained in early October. County altered their system to 4–4–2 with Willmott playing left midfield in front of left back Sandell. County started brightly with Willmott being encouraged down the left channel putting right back Holmes under pressure and an early snapshot was blocked near the left corner of the area. Tranmere worked a decent situation on 3 minutes with Molyneux striking a low opportunist effort from 25 yards which Day was alert to saving in the left corner. The game was competitive but lacking quality on times and became littered with free kicks. County had a series of corners around the 20 minute mark which Tranmere struggled to clear effectively. On 23 minutes, County settled to produce a better move across the face of the area with Byrne finding Porter who dragged a low shot just wide of the left post from 25 yards. The game continued in the same vain with several aerial duals and little composure by either side to keep the ball and use the width of the pitch although Tranmere always had an outlet to relieve pressure down the left channel through tricky runs of Swansea loanee Rory Donnelly. On 27 minutes, Lee Minsull suffered a nasty looking injury when competing in air with Thompson who appeared to shove him downwards and he landed heavily head first. He was forced to leave the field in a neck brace after several minutes treatment and was replaced by Klukowski. Both sides flirted with shots from distance but County came more into the game with some persistence down the left channel through Sandell and Willmott. On 44 minutes, Sandell had his direct run crudely halted by Jennings after a strong run on the right flank. Tranmere were keen to Odejayi as a target man and elected for direct play on times. In the sixth minute of injury time, Sandell lost the ball in deep position and a direct ball forward by Tranmere coaxed Jones forward to press Odejayi who went down despite little contact from the defender. Tranmere were quick to exploit the situation with a quickly taken free kick down the right channel with Sandell still recovering Myrie-Williams drove to by line and cut a low cross to the back post which Donnelly tapped in unmarked.

County started the second half with more tempo and urgency to their game with Storey making some searching runs down the left channel. On 52 minutes, a bright move by County on the left side involving Willmott and Storey opened up space. When the ball was offered to Sandell he provided a decent first time cross into the area which Byrne headed down the centre of the goal but keeper Fon Williams was alert to the effort. On 53 minutes, Sandell got forward again but this time when possession was lost he got the wrong side of Myrie-Williams and was booked for the challenge. County eased in the game with Tranmere sitting back and looking for holes on the break and there were some opportunities from crosses on the right side by Jackson which Tranmere struggled to clear on times. On 60 minutes, a deep cross from the right side of the area was retrieved well by Storey who manufactured some space beating Holmes but his shot was blocked by Holness. County had several decent situations mid-way through the second half which should have yielded an equaliser. On 62 minutes, Sandell provided a teasing free kick from the right side of the area which caught the keeper in two minds over whether to punch or collect the ball. The rebound sat up invitingly but County had nobody to finish the effort letting Tranmere off the hook. Another decent move on 66 minutes down the left side saw Willmott provide a great cross into the six yard box which Storey met firmly with a diving header which crashed against the bar. Then on 70 minutes, Jackson was pivotal with a strong well timed run on the right channel before cutting back a good ball to Porter. He threaded a quick ball to feet of O’Connor inside the box who swivelled with a low shot form 14 yards which the keeper managed to divert with his feet. Holmes was then booked for a desperate challenge on Porter tracking back to cover a County break. Tranmere made a double substitution moments later with Laird and Hume replacing Myrie-Williams and Molyneux to revive their game which had gone flat. County followed with a change up front that saw Jeffers replace O’Connor. County continued to probe away setting a good tempo to their game forcing Tranmere to defend deeply and they should really have made it count on 75 minutes after a panicky clearance by Holmes invited Klukowski to shoot but he somehow dragged his shot wide of the right post from 10 yards. Tranmere made another change on 80 minutes with Ridehalgh replacing Holmes. County finally got the goal their play merited on 83 minutes after forcing Tranmere deep inside the own area, the loose ball was rammed home by Byrne who hit a sweet low shot from 20 yards into the left corner. Tranmere came out of their shell again in the final five minutes with some strong counter attacks and Power went close after a direct run went unchallenged and he was invited to the shoot from the edge of the area but dragged his shot just wide of the left post. County made their final change with Howe replacing Storey on 88 minutes with County going more direct in the final stages. County had a couple of corners but were nearly caught out in the second minute of injury time when a corner broke down allowing Tranmere to counter with 3 against 2. The quick move invited Hume to shoot from the right side of the box after a good pass from Power but his effort was well parried by Day. County kept plugging away throwing in a couple of crosses but were forced to accept the point

Day (7) — save hands, kicked pretty well when put under pressure and pressed hard. Made a couple of smart instinctive saves especially the one late in the match
Jackson (7) — played more reserved in the change of system but timed his runs well to work the corners and was strong in the tackle
Sandell (6) — was at fault with the first goal not tracking back. Worked hard in the second half provided several decent set pieces but unnecessary booking
Yakubu (7) — cleared effectively, headed well, general got his decision right of when to get tight and back off. Menace on set pieces without reward
Jones (7) — strong tackles, did well tracking the danger, kept his concentration well despite not having his own way in the air
Willmott (6) — decent game after injury competing well throughout and lively with his runs forward. Crosses perhaps lacked usual quality
Byrne (8) — involved throughout, made several robust challenges to prise the ball away and had several shots blocked before his deserved goal
Minshull (6) was replaced early on by:
Klukowski (5) — did a lot of running and had several shots either blocked or dragged wide but nervous passing continues to let him down.
Porter (7) — worked tenaciously to win the ball or prevent their threat. Played some good balls to feet and had sharpness with his movement
O’Connor (7) — did well in the air despite lacking height, worked their defenders well and linked much better second half. deserved a goal
Storey (6) — plenty of verve and carried the ball effectively taking risks inside the final third. Need to improve his crossing and eye for picking out a man

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths — they were enterprising coming forward and worked hard to press before fading later in the game
Weaknesses — generally struggled to keep ball when pressed and relied on the counter too much. Defenders were very ordinary when forced deep
Opportunities — often set a slow tempo but did play on break effectively looking for the sucker punch. Left one up for much of second half gambling on set kicks
Threats — Power was strong box to box and could pass, Myrie-Williams was direct down the right flank. Donnelly wing play and getting into the box from deep

OFFICIALS
R Lewis (7) — one of the more consistent referees, but did ignore several appeals for penalties allowing pushing inside and outside the box.

MAN OF THE MATCH
Mark Byrne — his all-round game was impressive, neat with passes, endless energy and always looked the more capable scorer

IF YOU WERE COUNTY MANAGER WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
County have most importantly stopped the rot with this result and it would have been a travesty if they had not got something from this game. They adapted to the formation reasonably well and it perhaps took them 90 minutes to find their feet. County were a little one dimensional first half but raised a decent tempo after the break and with better composure inside the area from crosses and shots they would have gone on to win this match. County picked holes well especially late in the game with some decisive passing to feet, got facing forward and were bold. It was only when they were perhaps a little overzealous pushing Sandell and flooding defenders forward for set pieces did they show signs of vulnerability to the counter from Tranmere who pressed very hard for a good hour forcing County into several mistakes just inside the Tranmere half. County need to build on this now by being more decisive to give and go and take up positions inside the penalty area because when they did force Tranmere deep they unsettled them and it was only their finishing that held them back. County now visit Wycombe who humbled them first game of the season and will perhaps have a point to prove to show they are a better side than in August

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