Frustrating but creditable point for County

Report by Mark Vickery from Rodney Parade

Newport County 1 (McCoulsky 70)

Mansfield Town 1 (Rose 22)

Attendance: 3,146

Form:

Newport County dWLWWLWLWL

Mansfield Town DWdWWLWLLD

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
 Not expecting a pretty game, very windy weather so key County use conditions to their benefit

CONDITIONS
 Very gusty showery spells of heavy rain. Pitch was glossy on top but maintained decent surface despite the deluge.

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
 A little indecisive first half but got stronger and stronger as game progressed when tempo bar was raised.

TURNING POINT
 County changing formation to 4–4–2 gave them better balance and threat.

THE MATCH
 County persisted with same 5–3–2 formation and made one change with Joss Labadie injured, Mark O’Brien came back into fire and was named captain. Mansfield had the swirling wind marginally assisting their game first half and they started the more assertive and alert side snapping up play well in the middle with McDonald and Potter bright with their exchanges. County had to deal with some balls helped in behind by Mansfield but the defence remained vigilant clearing to safety. Mansfield were keen to use Hemmings as a target who was prepared to contest across the line and worked hard to close down. County made attempts to get into the game with both full backs prominent but right back White and left back Hunt remained composed timing their tackles well. Mansfield countered with a couple of decent moves from deep when County had pushed on with Potter and Hemmings angling their runs to left channel but Pipe recovered to make some important interventions. On 13 minutes, County had a throw in right side of the area which Tozer launched into the box and Pearce headed to the edge of the area which Butler latched on but his half volley was well over. Mansfield continued to play direct but constructed some better moves inside the County half when they had the opportunity. On 17 minutes, County had a warning when Mansfield created a low move right side involving Rose and Hemmings and switched play to find McDonald left side. He got forward and threaded a low pass for Butcher but his shot from 25 yards was well blocked by Demetriou. Mansfield gained confidence from their approach play and took the lead on 22 minutes from a move right side of the area. McDonald made the most of a slip by Butler and drive to the right byline and despite his effort being blocked Rose was on hand to steady himself and finish low into the left corner from an acute angle. County responded with some better cohesion down the left channel with Nouble and Butler linking well. Nouble playing as out and out winger on times started to give right back White problems and County produced a couple of decent crosses into the area but with only Amond and Pipe in support Mansfield were able to marshal the ball to safety. County with a batch of corners from their possession with Dolan providing a decent delivery from the right side but the final touch was not falling for County when the ball dropped deep. On 32 minutes, a Dolan corner from the right side was whipped in dangerously to the front post catching Mansfield cold but Nouble saw his header drop into the side netting. On 36 minutes, Nouble went on a solo run left side of the area brushing past White and his powerful rising effort went over the bar. County raised the tempo of their game as half time approached with Mansfield happy to stifle and slow down the game at every opportunity. On 45 minutes, White was finally booked for persistent fouling when Nouble crudely had his run checked on the left wing. County forced another couple of corners in the first half injury time but Mansfield managed to scramble clear with some determined defending with everyone behind the ball and some pulling going unnoticed by the referee.

The game was littered with free kicks early in the second half with neither side able to find quality with the delivery. County continued to use Nouble as an outlet with him switching attention to the right flank. On 52 minutes, County had a great chance to score when Nouble beat left back Hunt and left McDonald standing deep inside the area. He had time to pick out a cross but the low ball into the six yard area was cut out by Pearce ahead of Amond. On 55 minutes, Hunt booked for a cynical challenge on O’Brien with County threatening on the counter. With both full backs in the book, County made a tactical change on 60 minutes reverting to 442 with Rigg replacing central defender White. On 60 minutes, Mansfield went close when Potter stole late in the area to get on the end of a cross right side from Butcher and the effort appeared to deflect off Rigg and clip the right post. County made another change on 65 minutes with McCoulsky replacing Bennett with three pushed up front. County picked up the pace of the game well stretching Mansfield and getting on with their throw ins quicker. Hemmings continued to offer the main threat for Mansfield acting as a battering ram up top and eye for goal. On 67 minutes, a direct ball into the path of Hemmings saw him manufacture a shot on the turn out of nothing from 25 yards but Day held the low shot well. County started to work the left side better with Rigg and Butler prominent and County looked certain to score on 68 minutes when Rigg beat White forcing his way left side of the penalty area and his deft cross to the back stick was met well by Nouble in the air but unluckily struck McCoulsky on the back. On 70 minutes, County got the goal their play merited when a long throw from Tozer on the right side of the area was plucked by Rigg and he set up McCoulsky who rifled low into the right corner from 8 yards. Rodney Parade was rocking and moments later County were close to a second when McCoulsky manufactured space in a tight situation right side of the area but his difficult half volley flashed just wide of the right post and bar. Mansfield made a double substitution soon after to freshen their approach with Sterling-James replacing Rose and Spencer on for Hemmings. County kept probing away with Nouble seeing a lot of the ball forcing two or three players on him on times. On 80 minutes, Nouble found space despite being well marked cutting inside from the right corner of the area and his low curling effort was pushed around the left post by Mansfield keeper Logan. On 82 minutes, Butler was booked for County for a mistimed challenge on Sterling-James getting the wrong side tracking his pace. On 84 minutes, Sterling-James struck a cheeky effort around the left side of wall from a free kick on the left side from 30 yards but into went into the side netting with Day untroubled. County continued to cause problems down the left flank with Rigg making some piercing runs forward to test White. On 86 minutes, Rigg did well with the ball at his feet beating White with a run inside and ghosting past Butcher before striking an excellent shot from 25 yards which the keeper tipped over the bar. Pearce was then booked for a clumsy challenge using his arms with Dolan about to take the corner. If the ball had been in flight it would have been a penalty with Demetriou just starting his run from inside the area. County were denied a winner on 87 minutes when Mansfield struggled to clear and Pipe chipped back in a decent cross into the area which Amond met well in the air but Logon parried the ball over the bar. With County forcing the issue Nouble was again close on 88 minutes when his shot on the turn from 20 yards fizzed just over the bar. Mansfield made their final change moments later with Anderson replacing Potter. County threw in a couple of crosses deep in injury time but Mansfield held firm and when they did break they were happy to keep the ball in the corner to run down the clock.

Day (7) — dealt well with the conditions, judged kicks well against and with the wind. Remained alert and made a couple of smart saves low down at key times

Pipe (8) — made several forays forward first half to make things happen but did much better later in match with some robust defending to distribute and instigate several crosses.

Butler (7) — was put under some pressure first half and despite getting tight, got caught jumping into challenges. Influenced game more when County changed system.

Demetriou (8) — very disciplined game, strong in the air, bright with his distribution and link play. Denied on several set pieces and should have had a penalty for pulling against him

O’Brien (7) — make some excellent tackles, did well in the aerial duals and despite not back to his full sharpness, dealt with Hemmings snuffing out the threat later in the game.

White (6) — didn’t have his own way in the air but was generally alert clearing danger well when ball helped in behind. Distribution was a little erratic in the conditions.

Bennett (5) — worked hard but midfield role not his best position. Used the ball intelligently when he got it but a little slow to react and influence waivered in the game.

Dolan (7) — made some good challenges, effective when he had the ball passing neatly and made some runs to the edge of the area without reward. Provided fair quota of crosses.

Tozer (6) — kept passing simple in the conditions and had better second half when midfield pressed harder and he got space. Provided several decent long throws caused anxiety.

Nouble (7) — play as a winger on times taking two or three men with him. Deserved a goal today for his efforts and despite working the keeper did his best work outside the box.

Amond (5) — bit of an off day, couldn’t find any chinks of light and openings to shoot. Did better when he dropped deep and gave defenders something to think about

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
 Strengths — they were compact and worked hard off the ball to defend from front to back. Some of the smaller players were effective with their link play for a time but faded.

Weaknesses — got away with so much of the pulling and clambering. Both full backs were ordinary when pressed and they were happy to help the ball in behind on times.

Opportunities — Potter and McDonald were effective on the counter in spells. Never really changed their tact although late subs did boost their energy and movement.
 Threats — Hemmings was robust and prepared to shoot from distance. Potter and McDonald picking holes and crosses. Rose guile inside the box

OFFICIALS
 C Breakspeare (6) — puzzled both teams with some decisions, his approach was lenient allowing the pulling and cynical play and missed possible penalty for County.

MAN OF THE MATCH
 Conrad Logan (Mansfield keeper) — was solid and composed under pressure and made some key instinctive saves late on to deny County a win.

IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

County were in a catch 22 situation for much of the first half as when they forced the issue down the flanks they were left vulnerable to opportunist raids Mansfield constructed on the break. To their credit, their opponents did this well but their slowing tactics never allowed County to get up a head of steam. When County changed to a 442 formation they were better balanced with both full backs more disciplined and Rigg came on offering plenty of industry and craft left wing and provide some decent crosses. 442 may have not worked against Luton for County but it is looking like their more suited formation with Labadie injured and allowed Nouble also to switch sides to cause havoc second half. Nouble probably had more of the ball today than any other player on the pitch and the key for County going forward is not necessarily where he plays but how he can get more shots on goal and improve his assists. County deserved to pinch this game with the late tempo raising the bar and you feel if they can do this more consistently other sides will struggle to deal with it. Next up is second placed Notts County and this will be a good test for County but not one they need to shun. They will have spells under direct pressure but the longer they remain in the game the more chance for them to pick off and exploit, with them having legs over the hosts.