Super County stun Pompey
Report by Mark Vickery from Fratton Park
Newport County 3 (Jones 34, Boden 69, Morgan 74)
Newport County LDWWDLWL
County need to inject some energy into their game and not allow Portsmouth get into any passing rhythm
Sunny, bright, calm, pitch in excellent condition
SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Disciplined, professional, hardworking and took chances well
Roberts sending off on the hour made County stronger again
County made a couple of changes with Tommy O’Sullivan returning on loan from Cardiff City to replace Yan Klukowski who was sub. Medi Elito also came back after suspension with striker Conor Wilkinson sacrificed to the bench with County adopting a 4–5–1 formation. County made a positive start to the game forcing Portsmouth to defend deep inside the own area and Rodman struck an opportunist early shot wide of the left post from 25 yards after a mazy run down the right flank. County set a good tempo to their game in the early stages moving Portsmouth around the pitch. A patient move on 5 minutes saw County switch play back and fore before Byrne unleashed a decent effort from 25 yards which was well blocked by Webster. Portsmouth were patient in their approach play with a lot going through ex-Chesterfield striker Gary Roberts. County had to deal with a couple of crosses from right flank by Portsmouth with right back Davies keen to get forward in support but the threat was marshalled well. On 12 minutes, McNulty was alert to the loose ball after a hopeful Portsmouth cross was only half cleared but his shot from the edge of the area was wide of the left post. County set their stall out to absorb pressure and deny Portsmouth down the flanks and look for holes on the break with Elito and Rodman menacing carrying the ball on the break. On 20 minutes Byrne was booked for a late challenge on Evans down the centre of the pitch with Portsmouth threatening to cut down the middle. County kept plugging away with some effective breaks down the right flank to test Portsmouth left back Stevens and he was booked on 25 minutes for getting the wrong side of Holmes. County gained confidence from their ability to penetrate an increasingly indecisive Portsmouth defence with Ayina swapping to the right flank and Elito becoming more direct with his runs down the left side. On 34 minutes, Ayina went on a weaving run down the left channel beating full back Davies with ease and he was checked cynically by Holland who was booked. Elito took the free kick which he delivered with venom and the ball took an odd deflection off a defender before looping back towards the keeper Fulton. He appeared to have the ball covered but aerial pressure by Jones saw him get the vital touch to head home. County were boosted by the goal and settled in a rhythm of stifling Portsmouth and picking holes on the break with Ayina and O’Sullivan making some explosive runs from deep. On 40 minutes, Elito was again causing problems on the left side with his trickery and direct running coaxing Burgess into a clumsy challenge which warranted a booking. Portsmouth made efforts to step up their game as half time approached and created some headway switching play from left to right but a lot of their play was laboured or lacked cohesion to trouble County. On 45 minutes, Portsmouth created a glimmer of chance from an opportunist cross on the right side of the area by Evans which County keeper couldn’t hold at the front post and McNulty seized on the loose ball but his shot was blocked by Day.
Portsmouth made a change at half time with Evans replaced by a former County loan striker Michael Smith. Portsmouth offered more energy for a time with some forceful play in the County half which caused some anxious moments for defence. On 50 minutes, County were a little slow to close down defending their left corner of the area and Roberts hit a smart shot on the turn from 14 yards which Day saved well low down. Portsmouth were awarded a couple of corners on the right side which County dealt well with clearing effectively. On 53 minutes, Roberts was then booked for an untidy low tackle from behind on Elito after losing possession cheaply. Portsmouth continued to persist with providing crosses from the flanks at every opportunity but County worked hard to cut out the threat with keeper Day alive to gather and distribute effectively. Portsmouth continued to probe away in and around the area with Roberts the main source and guile but the hosts were dealt a huge blow on 60 minutes when Roberts carried his run towards the edge of the area and went over somewhat lightly in a challenge from Jones and earned himself a second booking. With Portsmouth down to ten men they adjusted with an attacking midfield option Naismith replacing Bennett up front. County also made a positive change with Ayina replaced by Wilkinson. County were happy to sit back and counter hard given the opportunity and went close again moments later when Wilkinson and Boden combined well to find Byrne who had made a great run from deep but his low effort from 20 yards was deflected wide of the left post by Webster. Portsmouth made efforts to respond but struggled to maintain possession on times with County working hard off the ball to unsettle them. On 66 minutes, County were close to adding to their lead when a direct ball down the middle caused problems for Portsmouth defence recovering and Wilkinson nipped in behind only to see his shot from 10 yards blocked by keeper Fulton. Portsmouth gambled on pushing men forward despite the handicap often leaving holes in behind with both full backs committed. On 69 minutes, County punished them ruthlessly when they lost possession cheaply on the right side with right back Davies in no man’s land. Wilkinson was quick to pick out the run of Elito down the left flank and he swept back a superb cross from the byline into the six yard area which Boden directed into the left corner with a precise header. Portsmouth made a change straight after with Chaplin replacing McNulty up front. Portsmouth continued to pass and move with some patient play across the face of the County area. On 73 minutes, Portsmouth worked a decent move on the left side of the area with Stevens managing to get in a useful cross in from a tight position. The flight of the ball appeared to take County goalkeeper Day by surprise at the front post and the loose ball was scooped over by Chaplin from 10 yards when he should have worked the keeper. County made a change soon after with Elito taking a knock and he was replaced by Gosling and another change soon followed with Boden replaced by Morgan. County continued to threaten on the break especially down the left side with Gosling showing up well with some neat touches and thought with the ball. On 80 minutes, County had a honest looking appeal for a penalty when they worked an intricate move on the left side of the area and Gosling threaded a good pass from the byline to pick out the run of Rodman who appeared to blocked by Hollands but the referee was unmoved. Sullivan was then booked moments later for obstructing Hollands who threatened to exploit space down the middle. County were close to a third goal on 83 minutes when Morgan found acres of space on the left side of the box after a swift counter but he dragged his effort wide of the right post. Portsmouth persisted with using their right flank with Smith angling his runs well to provide an outlet. On 85 minutes, Smith went on an individual run coming inside from the right flank to shoot on the turn but his low shot from 20 yards was well read by Day. County got the third goal threatened on 88 minutes, this time coming from the right side with Byrne supporting a swift counter and carried his strong run to the byline. He showed good vision to pick out Morgan back post who finished with low shot from 8 yards into the empty net. Portsmouth kept plugging away and created a glimmer of chance on 90 minutes with Smith again gambling with an effort from distance which wide of the left post. County may have had a fourth in injury time when Gosling did well to float a cross from left side of the area to find Wilkinson who had a chance to hit the ball first time but delayed and his effort was smothered by the keeper. There was a late chance for Portsmouth with Naismith hitting a decent effort from near the “d” which forced Day into a good save tipping the ball around the left post. County were happy to run the clock down in the final stages and got a rapturous applause at the end for a magnificent performance
Day (7) — made several smart saves low down and claims, kicked well under pressure and despite a couple of loose collections he was rarely troubled.
Holmes (8) — solid game, put under some pressure but limited crosses and made several excellent contributions coming forward with intelligent passes
Hughes (8) — decent game, made some good runs first half but got tight when needed and made some good tackles. distribution was much improved
Jones (8) — didn’t have his own way in the air but generally had strength to deal with threat. Some erratic passing, ball getting stuck under his feet too much
Donacien (7) — did well in air and made some strong headers, tracked danger in behind and alert to threats but distribution was a little erratic
Elito (9) — best game in a County shirt, gave static defenders headaches with his trickery, was cutting with his runs and provided several superb crosses
Rodman (7) — busy first half, carried ball strongly when invited and was effective on counter. Played deeper second half but set up some good moves
Byrne (8) — competed well, was alert to the loose ball and clever with his use being more decisive as game continued. Had a hand in the second and third goals
Ayina (7) — enterprising first half offering good outlet and had flexibility to swap flanks providing some decent crosses before being sacrificed
O’Sullivan (8) — showed what County have been missing since he returned from his initial loan. Was quick with his feet and link play and difficult to track
Boden (7) — didn’t have many chances but took the one on offer. Worked hard to press and chase especially well into the right corner first half reading play well
SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths — they offered some good approach play across the face of the area and some decent crosses but saw little today
Weaknesses — full backs were hesitant first half assuming responsibility to central defenders. Left holes in behind overplaying allowing County to space to counter
Opportunities — they gambled on providing crosses which were often lacking quality. Often overcommitted second half despite creating more threat
Threats — Roberts with guile and link play. Smith and Naismith had an eye for shots from distance
B Toner (7) — was little strict with his use of cards but consistent nevertheless and got the key decisions right
MAN OF THE MATCH
Medi Elito — came back fresh as a daisy after suspension and was a constant menace with his quick feet, pace and quality of crosses involved in first two goals
IF YOU WERE WARREN FEENEY WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
County had a good shape to them today and did well to stifle and frustrate a Portsmouth side on a good run. Ultimately bad decision making proved costly for Portsmouth. County were always the more composed and disciplined outfit and this was instrumental with the referee eager to issue yellow cards so it was important County kept their concentration and took their chances. County needed to work hard off the ball especially in the second half when you expected Portsmouth to pick up their passing game. County did well down the flanks today and with the tempo and creativity they offered the looked the stronger outfit even before the sending off on the hour. County now need to carry the urgency and work ethic into the Hartlepool game next up at Rodney Parade. This will undoubtedly pose different questions and County may need to keep the side fresh with the games coming thick and fast.