Spirited County get their deserved point

Report by Mark Vickery from Lamex Stadium

Stevenage 3 (Pett 11, Norman 61 pen, Newton 72)

Newport County 3 (Nouble 55, Demetriou 77, McCoulsky 90+4)

Attendance: 2,650 (approx. 450 County)


Newport County


 New season, new hope, County have looked agile and creative pre-season but important they are measured and time their runs today

 Blustery showers and sunny spells with keen breeze. Pitch looked in excellent condition

 Created a glut of chances enough to win any game but lapses in defence undermined performance.

 Bold substitution taking off central defender Bennett for striker McCoulsky switched the pattern of the game late on.

 County manager Mike Flynn adopted 5–3–2 formation used in some of the friendly games but there was one surprise with new signing Robbie Willmott coming in at right win back in place of David Pipe who was named as substitute. Dan Butler was left wing back with Mickey Demetriou and Mark O’Brien either side of Scott Bennett in central defence. County also introduced another new signing Matt Dolan from Yeovil in central midfield alongside captain Joss Labadie and Shaun Rigg. County had a new pair up front with former West Ham and Gillingham striker Frank Nouble alongside Lamar Reynolds who joined from Heybridge Swifts after impressing in Jamie Vardie academy trials. Stevenage had the bit between their teeth in the early stages working hard off the ball and they created some snappy moves deep inside the County half using ex-County forward Alex Samuel as an outlet on the right flank. County had a warning on 7 minutes when Stevenage were given room to switch play across the face of goal and Gorman dragged his low effort wide of the left post. County were patient in their approach play and happy to work Stevenage around with some neat passing. On 11 minutes, County overplayed passing deep inside their own half with Stevenage pressing hard. Bennett played a weak pass back to County keeper Joe Day who was committed from his area but Pett had the simple task of rounding him and finished low into the empty net from 18 yards. County responded well with some intricate moves down the left flank involving Rigg and Reynolds which opened the path to attack the left side of the area. On 20 minutes, a long throw by Butler on the left side of the area saw O’Brien rise strongly ahead of Wilkinson but his header from 8 yards went just over the bar. County had a couple of decent situations near the byline on the left side and went close soon again on 25 minutes when Dolan provided a low cross into the six yard area which Franks got a vital interception ahead of Nouble. County worked the ball around efficiently and a neat move on 27 minutes saw Rigg checked crudely by Gorman on the right corner of the area. Dolan took the free kick and provided a cutting delivery which hit the top left corner of post and bar and the rebound looked certain to be turned home by Nouble inside the six yard but he somehow scooped the first time volley over. Stevenage made efforts to catch County on the break but were stifled quickly allowing further momentum. On 32 minutes, County had another free kick awarded in a threatening position when Dolan was clipped by Wilkinson just outside the “d”. Dolan took the free kick and saw his curling effort pushed around the right post. County were again denied on 33 minutes when a more direct move down the left flank saw Rigg slip in a neat pass for Reynolds. He wasted little time in getting in his low rasping effort from 14 yards which Fryer parried away low past the left post. Stevenage lacked cohesion going forward but County were kept busy with Pett providing some clever runs forward to support Newton and Samuel. On 38 minutes, County created a good counter attack when Willmott drove forward into space on the right flank and his cross was met well in the air by Nouble from 10 yards but Fryer was again alert to parry around the right post. Stevenage then snapped out of their shell on 40 minutes when right back Henry supported a move on the right side of the area and his cross to front post was glanced wide by Samuel under pressure from Demetriou. Stevenage continued to press and hound off the ball to protect their lead as half time approached but kept County at arms-length.

County started the second half with a spring in their step continued to offer good movement and energy in the final third. On 47 minutes, Rigg did well to carry the ball to the right side of the area and provide a deep cross which Reynolds retrieved back post but he appeared to scuff his low effort when well positioned. County took a grip of possession for a time with Dolan allowing Labadie to push further forward. On 54 minutes, a slick combination through the middle saw space open up for Labadie and he had options to pass wide but elected to shoot from 25 yards dragging his low effort wide of the left post. Moments later, a quick ball down the middle was latched onto Reynolds as the ball hung up in the wind and his deft chip from the edge of the area was tipped over the bar by Fryer who made an instinctive save. However, from the corner on the right side Dolan swept over an excellent cross which O’Brien rose powerfully to head into the six yard and Nouble showed alertness to poke the ball home. County continued to attack the right side and add to their corner count and Stevenage struggled to clear their lines on times with the delivery Dolan supplied. Stevenage made a change soon after with Samuel replaced by Whelpdale and this appeared to energise their game. On 61 minutes, County struggled to clear their lines and Wilkinson made a harmless looking run down the right side of the area which coaxed Bennett into a somewhat tired challenge and a penalty was awarded. Gorman stepped up to slot into the left corner just beyond the grasp of County keeper Joe Day. Stevenage made another change soon after with top scorer from last season Godden replacing McKee and County made their first change on 68 minutes with Bennett replaced by McCoulsky. County reverted to a 4–3–3 attacking formation but Stevenage remained positive in the approach with Godden and Whelpdale offering plenty of industry down the right side. Stevenage made the most of their opportunism on 72 minutes to extend their lead somewhat fortuitously. Gorman was busy with his approach play on the edge of the area and his shot was deflected off the back of O’Brien into the path of Newton who was goalside of the last man and had simple task of finishing with a crisp volley from 10 yards low into the right corner. County kept plugging away and got a goal back on 77 minutes from solo opportunist effort from Demetriou. He was assertive coming forward to pick up a loose pass in midfield and despite having his first effort from 25 yards blocked by a defender, he adjusted to immaculately thrash a volley into the top right corner giving the keeper no chance. County made another change soon after to maintain their momentum with Labadie being replaced by Owen-Evans. Stevenage responded with their final change that saw King replace Gorman in central midfield as the seek to restore some control they had lost in the middle of the pitch. County retained their tempo and urgency in the final ten minutes having two penalty calls go against them. Dolan was bowled over near the edge of the area when contesting a header from a low cross from the right flank. Then moments later another decent searching cross by Reynolds on the left side of the area was read by Nouble who appeared to get goalside of Wilkinson but his run was impaired by an untidy challenge. County kept plugging away as decisions for corners also went against them and Stevenage were happy to run down the clock with Godden providing the best outlet from runs to the right flank. County made their last change in the first minute of the six minutes of injury time with Jahraldo-Martin replacing Butler. Four minutes into injury time, County worked a slick move back into the middle and Dolan anticipated well to strike an precise effort from 25 yards which Fryer parried just wide of the right post. From the resultant corner, Dolan whipped in vicious delivery to the front post which was glanced on but Stevenage allowed to drop dangerously inside the six yard area and McCoulsky reacted superbly to rifle into the roof of the net.

Day (6) — made some solid collections from crosses and handled well but was not overworked. Kicking was a little erratic and probably needs to assert himself more.

Willmott (6) — made some well-timed runs forward and fair quota of crosses. Worked hard to defend and got blame for third goal but in general did well on his less favoured side.

O’Brien (7) — dealt with the majority of the aerial threat, cleared well but sharpness was possibly lacking. Did well on several set pieces playing big part in the first goal

Butler (7) — decent game, was more robust and fended off challenges well when he had to. Was put under pressure with some direct play second half but coped well.

Demetriou (8) — solid in the air and on the floor and aside from a couple of astray passes he was tuned in to the threat offered. Took this goal very well with thunderous strike.

Bennett (4) — poor game by his standards and perhaps suffering from less game time pre-season. Did well in the air but lacked sharpness and tired early making some untidy tackles.

Labadie (7) — combative, spirited and made some robust challenges, pushed on to craft out some chances down the middle but managed to avoid a booking before being replaced.

Rigg (7) — busy game, worked well to link and spread the ball into the right areas and was always a problem for Stevenage in and around the area. Needs to get more shots in.

Dolan (8) — very good debut, settled in seamlessly, passed well and provided several decent set pieces and corners being at the heart of two of the goals with the quality of cross.

Nouble (7) — did well with ball at his feet and was a nuisance when he got facing forward and a steam up. Was denied adding to his goal with some excellent saves and blocks.

Reynolds (6) — showed plenty of endeavour and skill and penetrated well to get in several shots with quick thought and execution. Needs to improve on his depth of crosses

 Strengths — they started quickly and worked hard on and off the ball for a time before fading. Crafted out some neat moves in the final third and centre backs dominated aerial duals.

Weaknesses — both full backs were vulnerable to pace and as a team they were unable to sustain the tempo of the game. Defending was ordinary especially on set pieces.

Opportunities — they were dynamic with their runs forward and went largely down the right flank and substitutions did little to change their tact.
 Threats — Wilkinson aerial prowess on set pieces. Godden and Whelpdale were clever in and around the area. Samuel had pace to burn and played off the last man

 M Coy (6) — didn’t have a bad first half and was prepared to let game flow and not book. Some dubious decisions late on against County were puzzling to say the least.

 Matty Dolan — managed the game well, saw the ball early and used it effectively. Provided several decent crosses from right flank and unlucky not to score.


County started slowly but soon put their own identity on this game and despite offering charity with their defending, very few in the crowd would argued against their well hard-fought point. After conceding early, County created several good chances with decisive and confident approach play and they should have been level at the break. Unshaken they got their reward only to allow their grip of the game to loosen with some untidy defending. The manager was bold in adopting 4–3–3 in the final 20 minutes but most impressive was the energy and verve was maintained for 90 minutes whilst Stevenage somewhat faded and became predictable. County still have a couple of players perhaps short of match fitness and this impaired their performance today and may need more games to fire on all cylinders. County used both channels well and when they did get round to attacking the right flank second half, set pieces and free kicks this side always looked to be fruitful. County will next travel to Southend United in the League Cup and can take momentum into this game but will perhaps need to rest one or two with three games in a week.

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