New Team New Resolve

Report by Mark Vickery from Rodney Parade

Newport County 3 (Bird 15, 56, Butler 71)

Hartlepool 1 (Amond 90+4)

Attendance: 2,271

Form:

Newport County dLLLLLLLDd

Hartlepool United LLLdLWDLLW

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
 Need to build on the last week and bed new signing in. Hartlepool have struggled for goals this season so first goal will key.

CONDITIONS
 Cool, sunny and breezy. Pitch looked a little greener but unpredictable and heavy in patches.

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
 Determined, kept focussed at the back and always had more guile in the final third.

TURNING POINT
 First goal was important platform

THE MATCH
 County made a couple of changes with Mark Randall transfer listed and not in the squad and he was replaced by new midfield signing from Mansfield Town Mitchell Rose. There was another tweak in midfield with Josh Sheehan sacrificed to the bench allowing new striker Ryan Bird from Eastleigh to make his debut. The early stages were competitive with the ball in the air a lot and Hartlepool elected to channel a few balls in behind which kept County keeper Joe Day on his toes. County created a couple of decent moves down the right flank with Pipe and Williams working well together in the corner. Hartlepool offered some threat on the break with ex-Plymouth forward Lewis Alessandra lively carrying the ball strongly but County recovered well to clear. On 8 minutes, Alessandra got in a decent shot from 20 yards cutting inside near the left corner which Day read well low down. County won some good aerial duals with Bird and Williams robust and clever with the link play and Williams was unlucky to see his snapshot from the edge of the area blocked by Bates on 10 minutes. County were encouraged by their approach play and created a decent move down the middle on 12 minutes. Reid did well to thread a pass for Williams and he picked out the run of Rose down the right side of the area who saw his shot deflected by Harrison for a corner. Another move moments later this time saw Bird carry his strong run on the right side of the area receiving a quick pass from Bennett. He hit a crisp shot from an acute angle which Bates blocked well but County got a corner on the right side. Reid took the corner with a teasing delivery into the six yard box and Bird rose strongly to head into the left corner. Hartlepool persisted with their direct ball approach with Donnelly offering some accuracy with balls dropped in behind by the County kept an eagle eye clearing effectively. The game remained scrappy in midfield but County continued to compete well especially in the air and win some good possession with Reid and Williams taking up some good positions to make the ball stick. On 30 minutes, County were close again from decisive move down the middle set up by Rose who won the ball well and Reid played a good pass to find Bird. He adjusted well before drilling a decent effort from 16 yards which was deflected off the back of Bates. Hartlepool made an effort to pick up the tempo of their game as half time approached with Woods and Alessandra lively in around the box. Hartlepool offered some penetration down the right side but County were quick to close down and squash the danger from crosses. County continued to probe away with some neat exchanges and were rewarded with a few throws in on the right side of the area which Hartlepool struggled to clear on times.

Hartlepool made efforts to maintain their approach play working harder in possession but County kept composed with some robust defending. The game continued to be scrappy in midfield but County were bright when they got the ball moving in final third. On 52 minutes, Butler did well in support down the left flank and when the cross from the left flank found Reid inside the box he scooped his effort over with a shot on the turn from 16 yards. Hartlepool freshened their pack up front on 55 minutes with Woods replaced by Smith. County kept plugging away down the right side with Pipe timing his runs well to get beyond left back Kavanagh. On 56 minutes a strong run by Pipe took him goalside only to see a decent cross in the right corner diverted. From the resultant corner by Reid the cross dropped deep and Jones directed a good header into the six yard box which Bird glanced on and Williams nodded home from close range near the right post. County were boosted by the goal and were close to a third on 58 minutes. Jones took a free kick just inside the County half which was delivered accurately into the area finding Williams. He caressed a good header into the path of Reid who saw his volley on the turn from 12 yards well saved in the left corner by Bartlett. County were keen to use the left flank especially on the break with Butler picking holes well and Hartlepool right back Donnelly receiving the attention of the physio. Hartlepool came into the game a little for a time providing a couple of searching crosses into the area but County kept them at arms-length with Oates blasting a tame shot on 65 minutes from the edge of the area. It was no surprise when Oates was replaced on 67 minutes by ex-Morecambe and Grimsby striker Amond which gave them more tempo to their game. County continued to be more fluid outfit with some neat play in the final third to work the Hartlepool defence. County got a third goal to kill the game off on 71 minutes when they forced Hartlepool to defend deep inside their own area. An anxious loose clearance popped up and Butler was quick anticipating blasting a superb volley into the top left corner from 25 yards. County were buoyant and were close to a fourth on 75 minutes, this time Rose snatching possession well in midfield from Walker. He was quick to slip a good pass down the left side of the pitch which Williams read well getting beyond the last man but lifted his effort over the bar from 25 yards. County made a change soon after with Rose replaced by Flynn. On 80 minutes, another bright move by County on the left flank saw Butler play a decent ball down the left flank and Donnelly was caught in possession by Bird. He squared a good ball across the face of the area for Williams who found Reid who was unlucky to see his low effort from 16 yards deflect wide of the right post. County made another change soon after with Demetriou replacing Jones in the heart of the defence and Hartlepool brought on Laurent for Hawkins and County responded with Samuel coming on for Williams. Hartlepool pushed on the final minutes with nothing to lose with left back Kavanagh adding some bite to their attacking play. On 89 minutes, Hartlepool were nearly caught out when Pipe got in beyond the space left by Kavanagh after a Hartlepool move broke down. Despite Pipe having his cross diverted near the byline, Reid chipped in a decent corner which Demetriou headed wide of the right post from 10 yards when well placed. To their credit, Hartlepool kept plugging away with Laurent winning some good balls in behind and they got a consolation goal deep into injury time with a forceful move on the left side. Kavanagh made the most of some space on the left side of the area and his cross in behind was poked home by Amond who had made a late run untracked in behind. County took all the plaudits through at full time with a warm applause from the crowd and an important win.

Day (7) — rarely troubled today aside from some hopeful kicks in behind which forced him to clear. Kicked pretty when pressed on a difficult surface.

Pipe (8) — tenacious seeing the ball early to squash the danger, passed well and timed his run to get some venom on crosses from tight positions.

Butler (7) — dealt well with the brief threat offered on the right. was bright coming forward and got tight to make some sturdy challenges. Scored a great goal

Nelson (7) — made some strong headers and tackles clearing effectively. Provided some useful long throws and threat from set pieces.

O’ Brien (8) — kept defence focussed with his talking and dominated in the air. Cleared danger and went close a couple of crosses into the area.

Jones (7) — won some good headers and was alert to deal with ball in behind with some solid clearances. Kept passing simple and tidy

Bennett (7) — added some bite in the middle with some robust challenges and tackles. Move ball better from under his feet and link play well

Rose (8) — great debut, read the game well winning his tackles and was quick with thought to use the ball setting up a couple of decent chances

Reid (7) — when he got the ball he was quick to get it down and shift play. Took up some good positions in and around the area and unlucky not score

Williams (8) — worked hard on and off the ball showing a good awareness to turn the Hartlepool defence with several intelligent runs. Got deserved goal

Bird (8) — showed his prowess in the air and was always a problem for defenders even when he came out wide. Could have had a few more goals today.

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
 Strengths — they did create some sporadic breaks from deep and showed spirit to finish on top but offered little cutting edge

Weaknesses — despite their height their defenders were not the most mobile and they offered little quality in the final third overplaying several passes and crosses

Opportunities — they worked the right side first half with little end product and more energy late on they did produce more threat from hopeful crosses on the left side
 Threats — Alessandra left side runs, Amond was busy late on and left back Kavanagh did provide some invention and creativity to find crosses

OFFICIALS
 K Johnson (8) — got key decisions right, was consistent in his approach and generally lenient allowing a couple of tackles from behind to go unpunished.

MAN OF THE MATCH
 Ryan Bird — worked tirelessly, was a nuisance in the air but his positioning was key and link play in and around the box.

IF YOU WERE GRAEME WESTLEY WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Despite the late goal conceded County were pretty dominant today and made the right decisions with the ball working the Hartlepool defence into several mistakes with their sharpness to recyle the ball. County improved on their set piece delivery today with both wing backs contributing well with some well-timed intelligent runs in behind. County were essentially prepared to roll up their sleeves and dog out the game in midfield but use the ball effectively when they had it. They were also more threatening today in the air and physically uncompromising despite a late Hartlepool rally. County know now they have the tools to win at home and bludgeon out results but will still need to keep the same discipline away from home and earn the right to play even on decent pitches. County have some key players to return off the bench if needed so selection will be important in the forthcoming weeks. Next up is Cheltenham Town and this again is likely to be a battle royal with the Robins pitch not conducive to pretty football. County can expect their strikers to be pressed harder but use their quality and guile to pick supporting runs and prise them open.

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