Ugly dirty win takes County through

Report by Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade

Newport County 2 (Labadie 2, 82)

Cambridge United 0

Attendance: 2,748

Form:

Newport County WLDLWLDDLW

Cambridge United dWWdWLdLdW

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
 County need to stand up and be counted today. Cambridge are robust and will test them with crosses if they allow them so important to assert control of the game in the middle

CONDITIONS
 Bright, sunny spells but mild. Pitch was a slipper in part but remain in decent condition

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
 Determined, persistent, took our chances and dealt with pressure well

TURNING POINT
 The early goal was not pivotal but gave the platform needed.

THE MATCH
 County made just one change with Scott Bennett injured, Mark O’Brien returned after a slight knock. County started well with a decent move down the left side inside the first minute with Tozer carrying a strong run past Brown who impeded him. Dolan took the free kick and swept in an excellent ball to the front post which Labadie read superbly poking his shot into the left corner after a late run into the area. County were encouraged by the goal and had an effervescence to their approach play especially down the left flank with Butler and Nouble showing a good understanding. On 7 minutes, County switched focus with a good move to the right side catching Cambridge out of position and Pipe slipped in a good pass down the side of the area for Nouble. He tricked his way past Cambridge left back Carroll near the byline but his low dangerous was intercepted well by Legge. Cambridge opted for direct play using the robust frame of Ikpeazu who offered strength to fend off challenges but County marshalled him well forcing runs outside the area. Cambridge created a more thoughtful move on 10 minutes across the face of the area and O’Neill made a late run to ghost in to the edge of the area before lashing his shot from 20 yards wide of the right post. Cambridge gained some confidence from some better approach play with Brown offering some good touches with the ball at his feet on the right wing to win some corners. On 12 minutes, Cambridge were close when a loose clearance by County was anticipated by Elito who directed a snapshot just over the bar from 25 yards. County were largely direct in their approach bypassing the midfield but when they did make the ball stick they offered plenty of enterprise with their link play. Cambridge persisted with aerial balls to test County with Ikpeazu not allowing them to relax with his strength on the ball. Cambridge offered some threat down the right side with right back Halliday prepared to support and he offered some quality from his crosses but County squashed the threat well. On 25 minutes, County put together their best move of the half involving several exchanges to work the left side as Butler was released by Dolan left side of the area and his cross into the box was well contested in the air by McCoulsky. Cambridge were only able to clear the edge of the area inviting Tozer to shoot first time but his effort was sliced high and wide. County were struggling to retain the ball from direct play with Nouble well marked and McCoulsky struggling to get across his man quick enough. This gave Cambridge the platform to keep some momentum and knock on the door with Dunk coming into the game on the left flank. County remained vigilant dealing with the crosses well and there was some space offered on the break to exploit. On 28 minutes, Nouble got into a decent position dinking a decent cross from the right byline but County had nobody at the back post. On 30 minutes, Cambridge responded well with a swift break to use their right side and Brown threatened cutting inside from the right corner with a left footed shot which Day read low down in the left corner. Halliday continued to time his runs well down the right and provide crosses from tight positions but the County defence remained focussed clearing the danger well. On 42 minutes, County threatened to counter the threat with Nouble finding a quick low pass to release McCoulsky on the left wing and he saw his run crudely halted by Legge who was booked. County had a better spell as half time approached forcing a couple of corners and went close in injury time when Demetriou pounced on a loose ball and as the ball sat up his volley from 12 yards was well blocked by Taylor. From the resulting corner by Dolan on the right side Demetriou headed over from 10 yards under pressure from Legge.

Cambridge started the second half with purpose and swept forward from deep inside their own half inside the first couple of minutes. Dunk was quick to provide Ikpeazu who went in a straight line down the left side of the area brushing past Pipe and White. From an acute angle Ikpeazu blasted his effort wide and high of the left post with O’Brien doing well to check his run. County were keen to use the flanks to turn Cambridge around but their ball retention was not the best allowing Cambridge a quick get out clause. On 52 minutes, Ikpeazu was again causing a nuisance on the edge of the area turning inside from a challenge by White but his low shot was well read by Day. County responded on 55 minutes, with a more efficient move from deep and after some better hold up play, Dolan struck a decent rising effort over the bar. On 58 minutes, Ikpeazu again showing his eye for a shot from distance but this time his low effort was well wide of the right post. County lacked cohesion with their moves but a better move on 60 minutes forcing Cambridge deep inside their own area invited White to shoot first time after a neat lay off by Nouble but his effort was well over. Cambridge made a double substitution on 63 minutes with Azeez replacing Ibhere on the right side and Amoo introduced left side instead of Dunk. County responded replacing McCoulsky with Amond up front. Cambridge continued to press but County nearly caught them cold on 67 minutes with Pipe breaking up play well with a tackle on Amoo. He released Nouble who burst down the right side carrying his run past Legge and he hit a decent effort from the right corner of the box forcing Cambridge keeper Forde into a good parry. County had a better spell forcing some corners which were executed very well but Cambridge remained strong in the air clearing to safety. On 75 minutes, Nouble was booked for intervening with the keeper as he was about to kick the ball out of his hands with Cambridge upping the tempo of their game. On 77 minutes, Labadie was cynically blocked by Taylor when he carried his run inside from the left flank after an intelligent pass by Nouble but the referee ignored appeals for a free kick. Moments later, County made a change in the middle with Dolan replaced by Willmott to give County better balance left side. County kept plugging away despite some of the decisions not forthcoming from referee Kevin Johnson. On 80 minutes, Willmott struck an opportunist effort from 25 yards narrowly over the bar with Cambridge struggling to get players back. County punished them ruthlessly on 82 minutes, when a Cambridge move broke down deep inside the County half. Nouble did well to bring the ball forward on the right side and County had three on two with Amond and Labadie in support. Nouble showed great vision to square his cross into the area and Labadie smashed a precise volley low into the right corner from 12 yards giving Forde no chance. County made another change on 85 minutes with Rigg replacing Labadie who got a standing ovation. Cambridge were increasingly direct in the final minutes with keeper Forde testing the County defence with balls into Ikpeazu who continued to provide a good outlet. On 88 minutes, Cambridge had a decent chance from a different kind of move this time slipping a quick ball over the top down the middle catching County off guard and Azeez forced his way goalside but overran the ball and Day was on hand to claim the ball near the edge of the area. County were happy to keep the ball in the corner in the five minutes of injury time and worked tenaciously to protect their lead. County held out strongly despite Brown hitting a decent low snapshot from the edge of the area which Day saved well low down.

Day (7) — Had to remain alert with snapshots from distance and he showed saved hands. Kicked well under pressure and marshalled the crosses into the box well.

Pipe (8) — tackled well, dealt with Dunk and was effective with his use of the ball today keeping the ball moving. Restricted on crosses but linked well to support build up play.

Butler (7) — Cambridge tried several players right side but he stood up well despite being under pressure. Saw him get forward less second half but limited threat from crosses

Demetriou (8) — made several brave challenges in the air and dealt well with Ikpeazu. Picked himself up after a couple of knocks and was unlucky not to score from set pieces.

White (8) — snapped up the loose ball and put in some excellent tackles to avert danger. Was bright coming forward with the ball and intelligent with his passes

O’Brien (7) — strong in the air and made a couple of important tackles when County got stretched. Got a good 90 minutes today and appears to be shaking off his injury

Labadie (9) — key in driving side forward, made several brave challenges recovering from injury. Always a threat inside box and got the excellent second goal to kill game

Dolan (7) — work tenaciously, saw a lot of the ball, providing some precise set pieces and delivery caused problems for Cambridge throughout. Went close from edge of the area

Tozer (6) — never really asserted enough influence on the game and happy to help ball on too much. Took a knock on his head first half and went into his shell a bit after.

Nouble (7) — played with back to goal too much first half and ended up doing too much. Got into some better positions second half playing on the break setting up winner superbly.

McCoulsky (5) — frustrating game, ball retention was weak, struggled to get across his man and was less dynamic with his runs today. Restricted to one effort to test keeper first half.

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
 Strengths — centre back were strong in the air and they were uncompromising in the challenge across the pitch. Provided some decent crosses right side.

Weaknesses — a lot of their play was predictable going through Ikpeazu and tempo offered was one paced. were left exposed when full backs pushed on

Opportunities — they were persistent with the right channel. Did offer some patience to pass openings first half but went increasingly direct late on
 Threats — Ikpeazu was robust but restricted to shots from distance. Brown did well linking play right side in tandem with right back Halliday.

OFFICIALS
 K Johnson (6) — lenient on times with the pulling and dangerous play. Got the key decisions right but left both sides frustrated with his decisions.

MAN OF THE MATCH
 Josh Labadie — made several challenges to stifle and often win possession turning defence into attack. Menacing when Cambridge moves broke down and took his chances well

IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

County put some of the learnings from the Port Vale and Barnet game in practice today and once they got the advantage of the early goal they were in no mood to relinquish it tamely. Despite, County not firing on all cylinders and not having perhaps the possession they expected today in the middle of the pitch, they were quick to get men back around the ball and squash danger often forcing Cambridge to shoot from distance. County dealt with Ikpeazu robust target threat well and have trained themselves ready for a similar run of games in December against sides with robust target men like Rhead, Akinfenwa and Wright. They know they will need to do better in possession and perhaps today they did not offer as much cohesion up front with McCoulsky slightly off the pace allowing Cambridge to snatch the ball too easily instead of turning them back. Next up is Carlisle at home, a chance for County to stay in touch with the play offs but they will need track their runners and match their energy with Lambe right side threat with pace and Hope enterprising up top.