Weary County play out forgettable stalemate

Report by Mark Vickery from Rodney Parade

Newport County 0

Grimsby Town 0

Attendance: 1,868

Form:

Newport County LLLLLDdWDd

Grimsby Town LWdWWLWLDL

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
 Grimsby got thumped 5–0 on Saturday so not surprised to see them match up playing five at the back. County must be resolute but look for more quality in the box

CONDITIONS
 Cool, damp and light drizzle. Pitch was hazardous and heavy in parts and erratic bounce

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
 Gutsy, disciplined performance, keep defensive focus but indecisive in the final third.

TURNING POINT
 None to note

THE MATCH
 County made a couple of changes with Maxime Blanchard not in the squad and he was replaced by Mike Flynn. Josh Sheehan also returned to the side after a recent injury in place of Aaron Williams who was on the bench. The early stages were tepid with both sides struggling to adapt to the difficult surface and find any cohesion to their passing. County worked a couple of decent moves on the right flank and tested the Grimsby defence with some long throws by Nelson which were cleared to safety. County offered most threat when they got the ball across the face of the area and created a decent move on 7 minutes which was crudely halted when Sheehan was tackled from behind Collins who was booked. Although the resultant free kick by Butler was cleared, Sheehan had his snapshot blocked well by Pearson. Grimsby replicated Doncaster in their approach play by helping balls in behind looking to catch County with Bolarinwa quick in support of Ansante up front. On 15 minutes, Bolarinwa gambled with a run down the middle to prise the ball which dropped in behind but it was well cut out by Jones. County had marginally more of the territorial possession with some moves across the face of the Grimsby area and Reid hit an opportunist volley on the turn from 20 yards which the keeper McKeown saved well low down. The game remained competitive with both sides giving no quarter in the tackle and Dyson was booked for a high tackle on Butler as he weaved down the left side of the area on 17 minutes. Grimsby were keen to come from deep using their right channel where possible with right back Mills making some influential runs to link with Bolarinwa. On 22 minutes, Bolarinwa was released forward and made a forceful run to the right side before sweeping over a dangerous cross which flashed deep. The game degenerated mid-way through the half with neither side prepared to put a foot on the ball in the middle with the surface becoming increasingly erratic. Grimsby persisted with the tact of shifting the ball down the right side to test County left back Butler with Bolarinwa going to a more wide position on the right flank. On 30 minutes, County a decent chance out of the blue which appeared to catch the Grimsby defence asleep when a cross by Pipe was deflected off the ball of Andrew deep into the area and Bird scooped his volley wide of the left post and bar from an acute angle. Mills continued to probe away with some supporting runs down the right flank and County had to be alert in dealing with some crosses. County responded with some better moves playing on the break to pick holes as Grimsby pushed on. On 37 minutes, Flynn did well to forge down the middle brushing off a tackle from Disley and find Sheehan who drilled a low shot in from 25 yards which had the wind taken out of it on the sandy surface. Grimsby picked up their game as half time approach gaining some confidence from their approach play on the right side. On 40 minutes, a free kick on the right side of the area was whipped in low by Andrew at the ball appeared to strike the right post before being claimed by County keeper Day. On the stroke of half time, Grimsby forced County to defend deep inside the own area and Dyson hit an opportunist effort from 12 yards which Day claimed comfortably low down.

The game continued in the same vain after half time being very one paced and both sides defences remaining on top. On 52 minutes, Mills was again trying his best for Grimsby with a strong run down the right side evading a tackle from Butler but his low ambitious shot from 30 yards was well wide of the left post. Grimsby elected to play ball down the middle to unsettle County but Nelson, Jones and O’Brien were in no mood for any charity dominating the aerial duals. However, on 56 minutes a long ball hooked on by Disley appeared to be have been dealt with by O’Brien but his header deflected into the path of Asante who carried his run forward but the ball got caught under his feet on the horrendous surface. Grimsby made a double substitution on 63 minutes with ex-Mansfield striker Adi Yussuf replacing Asante and ex-Shrewsbury forward Scott Vernon on for Dyson. County responded with a change up front that saw Reid replaced by Samuel. The game remained scrappy despite an increase in tempo and confrontational on times. On 72 minutes, Jones and Yussuf were booked for squaring up to one another following a challenge deep in the County half. County made another change on 75 minutes with Gordon replacing Sheehan who gave County more impetus for a time. With Grimsby keen to push on, County got more space on the break offering some better cohesion. On 77 minutes, County were in a decent position to threaten when Samuel burst down the left flank and he was crudely scythed down by Gunning who was booked. From the resultant free kick, Butler put in a decent delivery which dealt with but this time County were quick to win the second ball with Rose heading back into the area to find Bird. He did well to adjust inside the six yard box with a neat shot on the turn which was cleared near the left post by Mills. County made their final change on 88 minutes with Williams replacing Nelson with County reverting to 4–3–3. Grimsby were happy to release the ball long in the final minutes and some space opened up for County but they were unable to find that little bit of quality with crosses into the box being dealt with by the Grimsby defence. In time added on, County had a glimmer of a chance with space down the middle for Rose to exploit and Samuel in a decent position on the left flank. The option of a shot was more inviting but Rose blasted well over the bar from 25 yards which summed up a frustrating evening for County.

Day (7) — solid with his handling and kept concentration well to deal with some crosses. Generally dealt well with difficult surface kicking to safety.

Pipe (6) — did well defending and made himself hard to beat. Made some honest runs forward but indecisive on times and quality of crosses left Grimsby unnerved

Butler (7) — was forced back by Bolarinwa but got wise to it playing offside well second half. Provided a couple of decent set pieces and crosses when he got forward.

Nelson (7) — dealt well with the aerial balls and swept up danger in behind with some important tackles. Distribution was no nonsense clearing to safety

O’ Brien (8) — made some superb headers and took a couple of knocks for his efforts. Organised and kept defence focussed to the last minute.

Jones (7) — generally on top dealing with the long ball, strong fending off the challenge but forced into a couple of anxious clearances.

Flynn (6) — forced deep but was competitive and put his body on the line to make several tackles but found little space to play and effect game in the final third.

Rose (6) — gave an outlet to hold the ball and made some brave challenges. When he pushed forward later in the game in around the box he was effective

Reid (5) — struggled to make impact playing outside the area too much. Worked hard and was generally tidy with his passing but restricted to shots from distance

Sheehan (6) — probed in around box but found ball going over his head often. Had some tame shots from distance but kept plugging away making runs before fading

Bird (5) — was well marked in the air, had three men on him on times, his link play was a little slack today but unlucky not to score with his shot on the turn.

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
 Strengths — defensively well organised and released full backs well. Right back Mills was productive and they put in some decent crosses first half.

Weaknesses — despite aerial dominance centre backs were untidy with headers and passes when pressed. Midfield were content to help ball on with little thought

Opportunities — they worked the right channel well first half opting for opportunist crosses and went more down the middle but long later in the game
 Threats — Mills and Bolarinwa right side, Asante had pace down the middle. Dyson aerial threat inside the box

OFFICIALS
 J Busby (8) — refreshing to see a referee that read game well, got on top to book when necessary and let game flow where possible.

MAN OF THE MATCH
 Zak Mills — made several contributing runs forward from deep and rarely wasted the ball. Got back to avert danger several times and cleared Bird effort near the line

IF YOU WERE GRAEME WESTLEY WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Another away side set themselves to play ugly, squash threat and on times it was like watching a mirage of County with Grimsby playing 5–3–2 and a similar set up. County struggled to make an impact down the difficult middle of the pitch and needed more influence from their wing backs today. Grimsby were marginally on top down the flanks putting in some decent crosses into the box but County stifled that threat much better second half. When space opened up later in the game, County looked capable but poor use of the ball and too many crosses lacking venom allowed Grimsby off the hook. The formation is fine but you feel with sides matching County at home toe to toe they will need more quality and guile to unlock the key. Rigg and Barnum-Bobb can be potentially used to offer more attacking verve from the left and right flank respectively and this will possibly fruitful later in games. County had few corners today or set pieces being forced to play long and the Grimsby central defence largely dominated that duel with Reid not able to carry his runs deeper down both sides of the area to stretch the Grimsby defence. County need to work on their tempo and execution in the final third and be more decisive when they do get that opportunity. Cambridge away next will hopefully allow County to relax and play on a much better surface but they will need to stifle influence from Luke Berry in behind and strangle the crosses into the area for Ikpeazu and Corr who is returning to match fitness after a long lay off.

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