Newport County v Cheltenham Town

Saturday 16th March 2018   k.o 3:00pm

Sky Bet Football League Two  


Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade


Newport County 1 (Hussey own goal 54)

Cheltenham Town 0


Attendance: 3,142



Newport County        LWWLLWLWLL

Cheltenham Town     LWWLLWWLDW



Deserved win keeps slender play off hopes alive



Cheltenham have had some good win at home but poor results away so key County impose their game despite continuing injuries in midfield

Mild, light rain and keen breeze. Pitch was soft and slippery after recent deluges but held up pretty well considering.

A bit tentative first half but ramped up the tempo after half time with some slicker play final third.

Opening goal was key and relaxed County and the crowd.

County made just the one change with Joss Labadie rested and they reverted to 3-4-3 formation with Adebayo Azeez returning to partner Matt and Amond up front. Cheltenham played three towering defenders at the back with former County player in the middle coordinating some early moves from deep. Cheltenham had marginally better of the early exchanges and created a decent move on 3 minutes working the ball deep in the right corner. Newport born right back Broom instigated the move setting up Tilson on the right side of the area but his shot was rushed going high and wide of the right post. County eased into the game with some good exchanges in the final third with Matt and Azeez showing a good understanding and the Cheltenham defence found them turning back to defend. The game was slow on times with both sides struggling to put five passes together but County had a couple of the best situations but were let down by some wrong decisions with their passes. On 12 minutes, County created a more efficient move switching play across the middle from right to left and Amond saw his snapshot well blocked by Raglan left side of the area. Cheltenham were lacking ambition and reliant on the industry of Waters who was clever with his passing and link play left side. On 16 minutes, Cheltenham created a good overlapping move left side on the break with Waters pivotal caressing a pass to left back Hussey on the left channel. He penetrated down the left side of the area and drove to the byline before cutting a decent low cross which fizzed across the six yard box eluding late run in by Varney. County kept plugging with Willmott coming into the game and Cheltenham had to deal with a couple of vicious crosses but Boyle was on hand with some firm headed clearances. On 22 minutes, Cheltenham had a glimmer of chance again from a move left side flooding players into the corner and Water cut back inside before curling a speculative effort wide of the right post from 30 yards. County were forced to deal with a couple crosses swung in but Demetriou and O’Brien were on hand with some brave headers. After being caught late a couple of times, O’Brien was receiving treatment on 25 minutes after being caught late by Dawson. Then on 30 minutes, with O’Brien down again, Tozer committed an off the ball offence on Azeez while the referee was attending the injury. The linesman picked up on the infringement and alerted the referee which earned Tozer a booking. The game degenerated a half time approached with the slow pace continuing and interruptions from free kicks. Cheltenham remained most threatening on the break with Clements stringing some good passes from central midfield to pick out the runs of Waters and Varney. On 43 minutes, County had a free kick in a decent position left side well inside the Cheltenham half after Matt had coaxed from Raglan. Willmott whipped in a tantalising delivery which Tozer dealt with but the clearance was loose around the edge the area and invited Bennett to shoot. He struck a first time volley which was thrashed well over and County walked off the pitch not testing Cheltenham keeper Flinders.

County made a double substitution at half time to freshen their approach with O’Brien replaced by Pipe and Sheehan replacing Bakinson. County made their intentions clear early in the second half to pick up the tempo with some better approach play. On 48 minutes, Cheltenham had a warning when a snappy move right side saw Poole find Bennett and he slipped a good pass in behind for Willmott. He drove to the byline and cut back a dangerous low cross which fizzed across the six yard box and struck Broom who was fortunate not to concede an own goal diverting the ball away from Matt. Cheltenham looked for ball in behind to turn County with Clements providing some neat passes but they were well read by Demetriou and Poole. On 52 minutes, Clements was booked for an overzealous challenge on Azeez who did well to track back and pinch a loose ball in midfield with County upping their efforts off the ball. From the resultant free kick by Butler, Bennett made a run back post to meet the cross but his header under pressure from 10 yards was wide of the left post. County gained confidence from their approach play and took the lead on 54 minutes with a move that ripped Cheltenham apart down the middle. Matt provided the cutting lofted pass in behind on the face of the area and Amond read it superbly reacting well to chip over the advancing Flinders and despite getting a hand to divert the ball struck Hussey and went into the net. County were buoyed by the goal and with Cheltenham coaxed out of their shell, gaps began to open up final third. On 62 minutes, Butler did well to support a move left side taking the ball off Matt and he delayed before chipping an excellent cross back post which Willmott ghosted in but headed wide of the left post from an acute angle. Cheltenham continued to probe away with some crosses dinked in from deeper positions but County held firm. On 65 minutes, Cheltenham had a long throw right side which County struggled to clear and the cross back post pinpointed Boyle but his header was wide of the right post. County were more decisive with their passing and went close again on 65 minutes when Sheehan played a precise pass through the middle which Flinders claimed on the edge of the area with claims for a handball dismissed. County were caught out somewhat when Flinders kick out went deep on the wind catching Pipe out of position and Walter seized the loose ball left side of the area but his shot from an acute angle was saved well low down by Day. County had a great chance to kill the game moments later with Cheltenham pushed up the pitch and their move broke down. Bennett played a searching ball through the middle which Broom appeared to have under control but some indecision allowed Matt to steal and drive goalside. Matt took the ball to the edge of the area but was denied with Flinders saving at his feet when Azeez was supporting the move and in a good position. Cheltenham made a double substitution soon after with Bingham replacing Dawson and Barnett going up front instead of Varney. The game remained competitive and bordering on niggly on times and a late challenge on Willmott by Tilson saw him get a yellow card. County remained a threat on the break with Cheltenham committing their full backs forward at every opportunity. On 72 minutes, Willmott was presented with a half chance when he seized upon a quick ball from deep by Poole but his ambitious volley from 25 yards went well over. County were persistent playing through the middle and exposed Cheltenham crudely on 75 minutes when Matt was left one on one with Winchester and he was able to spin off a challenge only to be wrenched back. Winchester was dismissed with a straight red card which forced Cheltenham into several unforced errors. On 82 minutes, Matt did well to bring down a high ball and was play opening up he adjusted well curling a decent effort narrowly wide of the right post from 25 yards. County then had Sheehan in book after catching Raglan late in a tackle but County remained in control. County then had Sheehan and Matt in book after some minor indiscretions before Cheltenham introduced their final change with Maddox on for Waters. County were happy to sit back in the final stages with Cheltenham going increasing direct using Barnett as an outlet. Cheltenham forced a spell of disjointed pressure with some good moves right side instigated by Broom. On 90 minutes, a corner from the right side by Cheltenham found Raglan and his aerial prowess won the header from 8 yards but stretching it went well over. County made a late change in the fourth minute of injury time with Matt replaced by McKirdy. Cheltenham had some late pressure putting crosses into the box with keeper Flinders coming up but it County held on for a hard-fought by deserved win.

Day (7) – had little pressure to deal with from open play but held firm crosses into the area. Kicked well under pressure and directed some good kick outs down the middle.

Poole (7) –  solid game, was put under some pressure by Waters but marshalled the threat well and made some strong headers clearing effectively.  

Butler (7) –  quiet game, played quite deep on times and made some well-timed runs later second half providing some decent crosses.

O’Brien (7) –  mopped up threat in behind with some brave headers and was forced off at half time with injury, replaced by:

Pipe (7) – defended stoutly getting tight to make some well timed challenges and did well to recover and clear when turned back.

Demetriou (8) – won his headers and showed good reading of the game knowing when to go tight and drop off. Provided several long throw and was in no mood for charity today.

Bennett (7) – broke up play well in the middle and used ball efficiently when he got it. Came close a couple of times on set pieces in around the box.

Willmott (6) – was well marked by Hussey and got little joy goalside but his best crosses were not always read. Had a better second half but dropped deep late on.

Bakinson (6) – saw plenty of the ball first half but struggled to relax often making wrong decision on pass, replaced at half time by:

Sheehan (7) – busy game, got the ball better and made some telling passes final third to turn Cheltenham defence. Restricted on shots but kept working off the ball.

Azeez (7) – worked off the ball to unsettle defenders with some tirelessly running and with better finishing game could have sealed game early.

Matt (8) – won fair quota of headers, was always a problem for Cheltenham defence not knowing when to drop off and get tight. Should have got a goal but denied by Flinders

Amond (7) – quiet game and restricted on chances but showed great skill to set up goal. Worked hard throughout and dropped back to do a lot of the key work late on.



Strengths –
they had aerial presence and were dangerous on set pieces, showed some good link play in transition but threat was squashed.

Weaknesses –  centre backs were slow when turned back and prone to mistakes. They were slow in their approach play on times and one dimensional  

Opportunities –  first half they set their stall out to frustrate and play sporadically on break. Went more direct when Barnett came on gambling late on despite ten men.
Threats –
Waters was lively final third and had an eye for shot from distance, Dawson key link in the middle. Boyle and Winchester aerial prowess on set pieces.

L Swabey (8) – managed niggly game well, got the key decisions right and did his best to let game flow.  

Jamille Matt – took two player with him on times creating space for others, never allowed defenders to relax and despite not taking his chances never let it effect his game.


County needed a win tonight for morale and despite getting just the one goal they should have won more comfortably after creating several chances second half. The first half was lacking momentum and the stop start nature suited Cheltenham. County changed tact well second half to exploit through the middle with a variety of low and direct balls with the flanks blocked out on times. The key was in the way they moved the ball and forced errors on the opponents with the front three again causing problems. County defended their lead well and worked hard off the ball as on it. This is possibly something lacking in their away games this season when they don’t always have the control they want in the middle of the pitch. County need to aim for more consistency in the final games and can improve on their ball retention in midfield. The Oldham postponement is unfortunate as they could have done with another game to push on but it will give a chance for some of the injured players to return. Next up is Yeovil Town who could be in deep relegation problems by the time of the game having struggled for goals recently. County will undoubtedly have a point to prove at they were hammered at home to Yeovil but will need to match their work ethic especially across the middle to pressure on an ageing defence.