Mansfield Town v Newport County

Sunday 12th May 2019  k.o 6:00pm

Sky Bet Football League Two Play Off (2nd Leg)


Report from Mark Vickery at the One Call Stadium


Mansfield Town 0

Newport County 0


Aggregate (1-1) County win 5-3 on pens


Attendance: 7,361



Newport County        WddWWdWWDD

Mansfield Town         DLWWDWLLLD         



Magnificent County hold their nerve to reach play off final



County will have learnt a few things from the first leg and have boosted the midfield with Labadie starting. Key the match the work ethic of the Stags and are snappy final third.

Warm, sunny spells and keen breeze. Pitch in decent condition.

Hardworking, resilient, enterprising creating several chances and composed with penalties.

It looked like County were doing the crossbar challenges on times but missed Mansfield chances later in match were key.

County made one midfield change with Joss Labadie replacing Matt Dolan who was on the bench. Mansfield were dealt a blow with midfield enforcer Neil Bishop suffering from a calf strain sustained in the first leg allowing Willem Tomlinson to come in. County had the benefit of the wind behind them in the first half and the early stages were competitive with both sides going to toe to toe with a number of aerial duals and crunching tackles. County absorbed the early pressure and worked a good situation on 5 minutes when Bennett picked out the run of Amond right side of the area and his dangerous looking cross was hooked away to safety by Turner. Mansfield were keen to use their left flank which they used effectively at Rodney Parade with Hamilton and Walker combining well. On 8 minutes, Labadie caught Walker late from behind near in the left side of the pitch and was booked. Mellis took the free kick from 30 yards but it was bent well over the bar. County kept pressing and won a free kick on the left side just inside Mansfield half after wing back Jones pulled back Labadie. Willmott whipped in a decent free kick using the wind and O’Brien stole in at the back but his header from an acute drifted wide of the left post. County gained confidence from their approach play with Matt and Amond a nuisance across the line unsettling the Mansfield central defenders. On 12 minutes, County went close after a direct move from deep initiated by Demetriou found Matt. He held the ball under pressure from Pearce and set up Sheehan who struck a decent first time effort from 25 yards which Mansfield keeper reacted to well pushing around the left post. Mansfield elected to play directly using the guile of Rose and pace of Walker in behind but the County defence marshalled the threat well turning them back winning some corners which were cleared untidily. On 20 minutes, County had O’Brien in the book for mistiming a challenge on Walker after a strong run down the left side of the pitch. The free kick from Sweeney was blasted well over from 25 yards which he should have worked County keeper Day. County kept probing away in the final third and pressing the Mansfield defence into some passing errors. On 25 minutes, County constructed a neat move left side with Butler overlapping well to receive a pass from Labadie. He curled in a decent first time cross which Matt did well to shield and hold up under pressure from Turner and pick out the run of Amond down the right side of the area. From an acute angle, Amond managed to get in a low shot but it was wide of the right post. Another good move by County moments later forcing Mansfield to defend deep inside their own area saw Sheehan alert to a loose clearance but his crisp volley from 14 yards was diverted by Sweeney. County continued to dominate with Mansfield struggling to find their passes in midfield and their direct play was erratic. County edged closer to scoring on 35 minutes, when Matt caressed a header into the path of Willmott on the left corner of the area and hi snapshot volley was blocked by Turner. County had caused problems from long throws throughout the first half and were inches from taking the lead on 40 minutes. Demetriou launched a trademark long throw left side of the area which Bennett did well to glance at the front post and Labadie reacted smartly in the crowd but his header from 6 yards struck the bar. Mansfield kept plugging away playing most effectively on the counter and on 42 minutes Rose coaxed Butler into a clumsy tackle on the left flank. County cranked up the pressure as half time approach and won a free kick on the right side of the area on 45 minutes when Mellis bowled over Labadie with a late challenge. Butler delivered a pinpoint cross into the area which Amond read well ghosting in unmarked but his header from 10 yards went just over the bar when he should have scored. In the second minute injury, County forced Mansfield to defend very deep inside the own box and a header in the crowd was glanced onto the bar by Amond. County then won a corner deep into injury time which Butler took and a venomous cross was glanced wide of the left post by Amond from 8 yards.

Mansfield made a tactical change at half time with Benning replacing central midfielder Tomlinson. Benning went to his customary left wing back birth with Hamilton pushing into left midfield. Mansfield started the second half with more conviction and inside the first minute Walker did well being alert to chase down a long hopeful ball from Pearce. He adjusted well but thrashed a low shot from 25 yards wide of the left post. On 48 minutes, Mansfield created a decent move left side with Benning snapping up possession quickly to find Hamilton left side. He carried his run past Willmott and cut back an early cross which flashed across the face of the area but Rose struck a rushed effort well over under pressure from O’Brien. Mansfield were buoyed by their spell of pressure and another move on 50 minutes saw Jones overlap boldly on the right side receiving a pass from Mellis. He cut inside on his left foot but struck an ambitious effort high and wide of the left post from the right side of the box. Mansfield kept probing away keen to their left side but County remained compact forcing them to turn inside and they never really looked comfortable in possession. On 60 minutes, County stifled a Mansfield well in the middle with Labadie pinching the ball of McDonald. His quick pass to Sheehan released Bennett through the middle who struck a sweet effort against the bar from 30 yards with the keeper rooted to the spot. Mansfield were quickly rattled and another good patient move by County on 62 minutes opened them up. Switching play from right to left Butler swung in teasing cross which Turner hooked away to the edge of the area and Bennett direct a good header to set up Sheehan who saw a curling effort from 20 yards clawed away in the top right corner. Mansfield maintained their edge going forward with McDonald prompting play well from central midfield. On 65 minutes, Mansfield won a free kick on the right flank after Walker was checked by Labadie. Benning took the kick and delivered a low shot which Day showed safe hands to claim low down. Walker continued to cause the most concern for County with his mobility final third and Sheehan was booked moments later for a late tackle from behind. Mansfield had a glimmer of a chance on 70 minutes when Walker went on solo run through the middle after a clever lay off by Rose. He broke through a couple of challenge but his low effort was well claimed by the alert Day. County were forced into a change on 75 minutes when Labadie was caught late in a low tackle with Sweeney. He was replaced by Azeez who went into an attacking left side role with Amond dropping into a deeper role just behind. The match continued to flow from end to end with both sides showing little appetite for extra time. On 82 minutes, County won a set piece on the left side when Jones clipped the wings of Willmott who was threatening with a run from deep. Willmott took the free kick which Mansfield half cleared to Bennett on the edge of the area but his first time volley went straight at the keeper Logan. Matt was booked moment later for altercation with Logan who was trying to kick the ball long from inside his own box. Mansfield had arguably their best chance on the game on 85 minutes when they broke quickly from deep catching County cold. Hamilton did well to thread a good low pass inside for Walker who drilled a low shot under pressure from O’Brien just wide of the right post. On 88 minutes, Mansfield worked a short corner on the right side with McDonald dinking in a good delivery which Rose read but his header from 10 yards was wide of the left post. County then had Poole in the book when interrupted the run of Hamilton on the left wing with several players flooding through the middle. County made efforts to use the left flank with Azeez angling his runs out wide but he was struggling to get a foothold with the ball allowing Mansfield to recover. On 90 minutes, Mansfield broke down the right side when County lost possession cheaply. Benning produced an in-swinging delivery when Turner met well under pressure from Demetriou but his header was wide of the right post from 10 yards. Mansfield had walked tight rope with challenges several times and got their first booking in the first minute of injury time when Jones caught Azeez late as he broke left side. Deep in injury time, County were close again when a snapshot by Sheehan from 18 yards went inches wide of the left post as Mansfield struggled to clear effectively.

Mansfield made a change at the start of extra time with Mellis replaced up by Atkinson. Mansfield made the early running flooding players forward after a County move broke down On 96 minutes, McDonald arrowed a quick pass left side of area which held up in the wind and Walker stole in but struck a rising effort well over the bar. County made efforts to get their left flank functioning again using Azeez as an outlet but despite seeing plenty of the ball, he was forced into dead ends allowing Mansfield to counter. Then, on 98 minutes, Hamilton switched play with a quick ball in behind for Walker who looked suspiciously offside but his tired looking effort from 20 yards was thrashed over the bar. On 100 minutes, Sheehan did well retrieve a loose ball left side of the Mansfield area before a bold attempt to curl an effort from 20 yards but the effort was wide of the right post. On 105 minutes, Walker did well to chase hard for a ball right side of the County area and keep the ball in play before crossing low into the six yard box. County keeper Day did well to push away a low effort by Atkinson and the follow up from McDonald from 16 yards was cleared off the line with a brilliant recovery by Poole.

Mansfield made another change just before the switch in extra time with Rose replaced by Ajose. County continued to use their left flank with Azeez doing his best to link play but Mansfield were quick to stifle and turn play over. County had a better spell at the start of the second period of extra time forcing play further up the pitch but Mansfield remained a threat on the counter. County had a glimmer of a chance on 107 minutes when a long throw by Demetriou on the left side was only half cleared and Sheehan struck a low effort from 16 yards wide of the right post. Mansfield were quick to put in early crosses with Benning prominent with his runs left flank. On 110 minutes, Mansfield won a corner right side which Benning took and his delivery found Jones who headed wide of the right post. Another corner moments later was taken short and Jones put in a decent cross which Walker glanced wide of the left post from 10 yards. County made another change soon after with Dolan replacing Sheehan and McKirdy on for Azeez. On 120 minutes, Matt did well to retain possession on the right side and Mansfield defender Jones pulled him back. From the resultant free kick by Willmott, Demetriou rose strongly but his stretching header from 8 yards looped over the bar. Mansfield made a very late final change with Grant replacing Jones but the final minutes saw neither keeper troubled with both sides looking weary up top.

County won the toss and took the first penalty in front of their fans with Butler and Amond slotting home, Ajose and Hamilton slotted comfortably for Mansfield. County defender Demetriou stepped up to score the key third penalty for County and banish the demons of missing penalties during the season. This was a big moment and Mansfield suffered a huge blow when top scorer Walker saw his effort in the left corner saved by Day just after. County defender Poole took the fourth penalty drilling home confidently and Benning scored with the help of both posts and the back of County keeper Day to keep Mansfield in the game. Dolan stepped up to score with a confident low finish into the right corner to seal a memorable win and face Tranmere Rovers in League Two play-off final at Wembley

Day (8) – kept focus, kicked well under pressure and solid collections from crosses. Made some important saves in extra time to deny Walker including the penalty save.

Poole (8) –  strong in the challenge, won some good headers and distributed well from deep when pressed. Made some great interceptions and key clearance in extra time

Butler (8) –  defended well to tame runs forward by Jones and had a good hour pressing forward to make some decent crosses and provide some great set pieces.

O’Brien (8) –  determined and tenacious throughout, kept his discipline well after his booking clearing his lines effectively and timing tackles with precision.

Demetriou (9) –  went through a brick wall with tackles, strong in air, dealt well with Walker limiting to shots outside the box. Scoring penalty was massive moment for him and County

Labadie (7) – made some robust brave tackles and had to keep discipline after his early booking. Did a look good work link play and kept midfield firing before knock forced him off.

Bennett (8) – worked tirelessly and showed great stamina even in extra time reading game well and good decisions with ball. Denied by woodwork with great effort from distance.

Willmott (7) –  had to deal with Hamilton and Benning and forced back on times but still got forward well especially first half and provided some good crosses. Restricted on shots. 

Sheehan (8) – busy game, got up the pitch well to do some effective work in and around the box. Should have scored today which would have been reward for efforts.

Matt (7) – won some good headers and showed awareness to drop off when the Mansfield defence sat back. Work hard across the line to unsettle and played role of provider

Amond (7) – had some decent chances first half but lacked usual sharpness with finishing. Did a lot of good work dropping back and track back to defend making some good tackles.


Strengths –
the back three were quick to stifle and strong in the tackle. The turnaround play from defence to attack was effective when they found precision.  

Weaknesses – had less penetration down the flanks and never really got to assert any control of the game through the middle of the pitch. Lacked composure with finishing.

Opportunities – keen to use the left flank and shape play from defence but got forced around by County and unsettled. Had more control of game when McDonald went to holding role
Threats – W
alker manufactured shots with pace, Hamilton energy and supply from the left flank. Turner and Pearce aerial prowess on set pieces.

M Salisbury (8) – keen to use his cards to temper game, but got key decisions right allowing game to flow and barely noticed him.   

Mickey Demetriou – won the key battles and lead defence superbly especially when Mansfield ramped up pressure late on. Scoring penalty was a massive moment.   


County put in magnificent away performance to seal their play-off final place which was warranted over the two games. The game could have been out of sight by the hour with County hitting the woodwork several times. The key platform County had in the middle of the pitch meant they had better control than in the first game and also tightened up on the channels but were decisive in the final third. Mansfield main threat came from direct balls either side of the area but County marshalled the penalty box very well. County showed mental and physical toughness in the two games to see the game out and then crucially kept their nerve at the last breadth. County will now play Tranmere Rovers in the play off final at Wembley after they edged past Forest Green. Tranmere are likely to play at 4-5-1 formation with League Two top scorer Norwood the key threat with runs off the last man and Banks will need tracking with runs box to box. Tranmere have an effective foundation by compacting the midfield and not allowing sides to settle and have solid wing backs to counter and make crosses. They do have a over reliance on the long ball and winning set pieces that County will need to marshal direct play well on a big Wembley pitch. This one could be a war attrition with Tranmere happy to stifle momentum and look for the sucker punch so key County shift them about using every blade of the hallowed turf.