Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade
Newport County 1 (Matt 77)
Port Vale 0
Newport County DdWWdWLWL
Port Vale DDLDWLWW
County have a couple players back from injury and despite McNamara missing bench looks strong. Port Vale have had some good results at home recently and County will need to tame their energy.
Sunny spells, quite mild and light breeze . Pitch in excellent condition.
SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Did the basics efficiently, managed game well stepping up gears late on and dealt with late pressure
None to note but Matt and Whitley substitutions were key.
County were forced into one change from the Forest Green game with Danny McNamara on international duty allowing new signing Daniel Leadbetter his first full start of the season. Port Vale brought confidence into their game early on passing well with some good moves going through Worrall right side. An early hopeful cross right side from Worrall saw Montano glance well wide of the left post after a late run into the area. With Port Vale keen to get men forward, County struggled to settle but they were effective from direct play with Abrahams providing a good outlet. County were awarded a corner right side of 10 minutes which Amond did well to bring down from 14 yards but his half volley was scooped wide of the right post. County kept probing away with some good football played across the face of Port Vale area. On 13 minutes, Abrahams was held down by centre back Smith when retaining the ball under pressure and the referee awarded a free kick. Dolan whipped in an effort from 30 yards which was a little under-hit allowing the keeper Brown to gather low down. Vale were keen to use the robust frame of Bennett up front but his ball retention was poor on times and County were quick in transition to get forward with Leadbetter prominent right side. On 18 minutes, Leadbetter was checked coming inside on the right side of the area by Smith but the referee waved away the protests for a penalty. County worked some good play on the flanks and Vale were thankful for a couple of important defensive headers inside the six yard box by left back Crookes. Vale were put under pressure by some crosses into the area by County but the held firm with Legge strong clearing. Vale set their stall out to counter when invited by County stifled the threat well. On 25 minutes, a better Port Vale move right side influenced by Worrall right side created an opportunity for Amoo to cut back a cross which Bennett caressed into the path of Montano left side of the area. He smashed a low shot from 18 yards well wide of the right post when he should have tested County keeper King. County continued to work some good situations from direct play with Abrahams coming under a lot attention and clambering which the referee allowed to manifest. County kept their discipline well and went closer again on 30 minutes from a neat move around the edge of the area which went through several players and Amond caressed a good pass inviting Dolan to strike a volley from 25 yards which fizzed wide of the right post. County were snappy in possession with Willmott and Labadie creating gaps and break left side sparked by Willmott was abruptly cut short when Gibbons with a mistimed tackle. The right back was booked but County were starting to gain ascendancy in the middle of the pitch. On 35 minutes, County had another free kick in a dangerous position through the middle after Abrahams was again pinned back by Smith. Haynes took it this time but his powerful effort was rising over the bar. The game lacked cohesion on times with several free kicks interrupting flow and Port Vale were encouraged on times by the referee. County had a couple of free kick in decent positions on the stroke of half time but it was squandered with the delivery lacking bite.
The second half began with Port Vale making some intent to attack the right flank with Amoo offering pace. On 48 minutes, Sheehan was coaxed into a challenge on Amoo tracking back to defend right side of the area and booked for his first serious challenge. County continued to look dangerous from direct play with County keeper Tom King effective with some deep kicks to test the Vale centre backs. On 55 minutes, Port Vale created a opportunity when they worked a slick move through the middle with Conlon picking out the run of Worrall. He was tracked well by Innis who timed his challenge well to take the wind out of his shot and King was alert to smother the ball inside the area. On 60 minutes, County were quick to break up play with Labadie finding an extra yard to supply a pass through the middle to find Abrahams. He made a determined run towards the “d” and was checked crudely by Conlon but again no card from the referee. From the resultant free kick Sheehan struck an excellent which clipped the top of the bar. County made a change on 62 minutes with Matt replacing Labadie as County switched to a more attacking 4–3–3. County were immediately on the front foot and a move right side instigated by Willmott saw him dink a ball into Matt down the middle. He did well to pick out the strong run of Abraham left side which appeared to catch Vale sleeping but his dragged a powerful effort low and wide of the right post from an acute angle. County were close again on 66 minutes with Wilmott doing the damage right side seeing the ball early and his teasing cross was anticipated well by Matt who had his effort well by Legge who managed to clear at the second attempt. Port Vale were forced to play on the counter with the best moves going through Worrall left side and Joyce who was precise with his passing. On 70 minutes, Port Vale had a glimmer of chance when they won a free kick right side of the pitch. Joyce took the delivery which Legge glanced on and Montano struck a difficult half volley from 12 yards wide of the left post. County were increasingly dangerous going forward with Haynes coming into the game left side supplying crosses and forcing right back Gibbons deeper. On 72 minutes, a neat exchange in the middle saw Dolan thread a low pass for Hayes who cut inside and struck a great effort on his less favoured right foot from 30 yards which curled against the right post and dropped to safety. Vale made a like for like change on 75 minutes with Pope replacing Bennett in the target role up front. County responded with an attacking change to go 3–4–3 with Whitely replacing Leadbetter and Amond dropped into a deeper role in midfield. It was an inspired change and County were deservedly ahead on 77 minutes when Whitely made a marauding run right side of the area, driving to the byline to beat Crookes. He cut back a low first time cross into the six yard box which Matt slammed home with his outstretched foot. Vale made efforts to pick up their game using Amoo right side who offered pace but Haynes did well to marshal the threat and limit damage on the crosses. On 80 minutes, Vale were close when Amoo linked with right back Gibbons who went on a solo run cutting inside but his low shot from 20 yards was wide of the right post. Port Vale made another change soon after with Archer replacing Montano left side and he went into attacking role. With Vale, committed to push players forward, County remained a threat especially on the break. On 82 minutes, County had a great chance to kill the game when Whitley put in a great cross from a tight position on the right flank and with Matt lurking inside the area, Smith pulled him back to concede a penalty. Amond took the kick with an effort that Brown reacted well to palm away on the right side. Port Vale made their final change on 85 minutes with Conlon replaced by Evans to pep their approach. Vale went increasingly direct targeting Pope who was abrasive in the aerial duals but Innis and O’Brien kept their discipline well. On 87 minutes, County were close again when Whitely did well with tricky run right side of the area and his snapshot had venom on it but Brown was alert to parry around the right post. Port Vale kept plugging away and had a half chance from a corner moments later on the right side. Worrall delivered a decent cross which Crookes met with a header from a deeper position but it lacked power dropping tamely past the right post. County were forced to defend deeper in the final stages and went close in the first minute of injury time when a cross left side by Worrall was not dealt with effectively by County and an hopeful lob back into the box was met in the air by Legge under pressure from 8 yards but it clipped the bar. County made a late change with Howkins replacing Abrahams to firm up the defence. Vale continued with the direct tact to pressurise County forcing crosses. Vale were forced to play with ten men deep in injury time with Archer going down heavy under aerial challenge and had to leave the field with what looked like a shoulder injury. County held firm to continue their decent start to the season and they got a warm applause at the end for their efforts.
King (7) — solid, varied his depth with his kick but some of the longer ones from deep were very effective. Showed good handling apart from an error late on but was rarely troubled.
Leadbetter (7) — decent first game, solid defending and athletic coming forward but restricted on crosses. Put under some pressure by Worrall second half but stood tall clearing effectively.
Haynes (8) — gave little change defensively, was forced back first half but distributed tidy when he had it. Grew into the game setting up to overlap later and provide crosses. Unlucky not to score.
O’Brien (8) — was in no mood for an charity today. Dominated in most of the aerial duals and dealt well with Pope late on. Kept his focus to clear when turned back and tackled well.
Innes (7) — swept up anything loose in the air with some good header, moved ball on effectively and cleared danger. Won some important battles and kept Bennett quiet throughout.
Labadie (7) — with County playing more direct, perhaps less influence in the middle but got up to the ball early and won his battles. Went close a couple of times on set pieces ghosting in.
Dolan (7) — good full game under his belt and building his fitness back. Won some good headers and tackles and used it well when he had it. Set pieces were perhaps a bit off usual accuracy.
Willmott (8) — made several bursts forward and did well to press mistakes seeing ball early. Came alive late on in the game instrumental in several good moves and providing crosses.
Sheehan (7) — gets closer to his first goal. When he relaxed shots were close but forced a couple of shots. Did a good job linking play and despite not winning all his tackles kept working off the ball
Abrahams (8) — given little protection from the referee but kept his head down and kept working defenders. Deserved a good for his efforts, offered strength, speed and skill which was hard to defend.
Amond (7) — went close with a couple of shots in around the area which were blocked, worked hard to retain possession and did good job when he dropped deeper late on.
SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths — they were composed with the ball at feet and stuck rigidly to their plan. Created some good moves in transition and got full backs involved
Weaknesses — quite a small side and were always vulnerable on set pieces, got away with several fouls in threatening positions and were always in trouble when they sat off.
Opportunities — they offered energy early on and were keen to keep the ball low and work crosses but went increasingly direct late on
Threats — Worrall instigated the best moves and set pieces, Amoo pace right side and crosses. Gibbons enterprise right side and aerial threat from Pope late on.
C Pollard (6) — started off alright but his reluctance to book persistent fouling or blow up and issue just warning was frustrating. Got the key decisions right.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Robbie Willmott — stepped up to the mark today, his energy was key especially late on combining well with intelligent passes and cutting crosses. Worked hard on and off the ball
IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
County continue to build and they did well with their game management spot on today not forcing the issue, keeping their patience, with Port Vale set up to deliver a sucker punch. It was the type of game they would have lost or drawn last year but they ramped up their efforts last half an hour creating several chances. County won several free kicks in decent positions which they squandered and can look to improve on their delivery but what they did from open play was very effective and kept Port Vale guessing. County dealt with aerial bombardment late on and can expect more of this in their next match away at Northampton Town. They have invested in their playing squad and will look to get their full backs pressing play high with Harriman right side and Martin influential on the left side with Adams roaming to pick up bits through the middle. County worked direct play well today, not just thumping the ball but using it intelligently and that transition will be key. They will need to defend crosses but have the ability to pick holes and hurt an ageing defence.