Newport County v Mansfield Town

Saturday 9th February 2019   k.o 3:00pm

Sky Bet Football League Two  


Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade


Newport County 1 (Willmott 15)

Mansfield Town 0


Attendance: 3,133



Newport County        LdLWLWDdLW

Mansfield Town         WdWLLWWWDW



Ugly but important win



County have gone with same side that gained heroic cup win. Not expecting an open game but one County will need to stick at and hopefully quality will shine through.

Mild, some very light showers and quite windy. Pitch was worn and a little bobby in parts but held out quite well after recent deluges.

Determined, focussed and work off the ball was key denying Mansfield

Mansfield early miss was not pivotal but County going behind early again would have been a huge blow.

County retained the same side that won through to the FA Cup 5th round beating Middlesbrough mid-week. Mansfield have one of the top 6 points ratios from the 92 league clubs and they started confidently opening up County inside the first minute. Mellis angled a clever ball to the right side of the area for Walker and his pace took him past Butler. Walker cut back a decent cross from near the byline which Ajose read with a late run into the box but scooped his half volley over the bar from 8 yards. It was a let off for County but they responded well with some good moves forward to pinpoint Amond and Matt. The game was competitive across the pitch with both sides prepared to put themselves about but when County got the ball first in midfield they used it effectively using the flanks well. On 12 minutes, County created a bright move on the right side shifting the ball quickly to feet with Matt linking well with to find the run of Willmott in behind. He carried his run deep to the right side of the area beating Sweeney and his deft cross was headed well over by Labadie a the front post. County kept pressing with some neat build up play and created an excellent chance on 14 minutes starting on the left side with Amond orchestrating the move holding the ball ahead of Preston. The ball was switched right for Willmott and his strong run past Benning presented opportunity to cut a cross back which Mansfield half cleared to Bakinson but his low effort from 12 yards was diverted wide of the right post. From the resultant corner, Butler delivered a low cross to the front post to find Amond which Mansfield covered but he had great awareness to pick out Willmott edge of the area who drove a rocket into the top left corner beyond the grasp of Smith. Mansfield made efforts to respond quickly with wing back Benning and Hamilton working in tandem to attack from deep. County marshalled the threat well with Poole and Demetriou mopping up well either side to clear the danger. County were forced direct on times with the midfield packed and Matt did well to get across his marker with some good headers and strength to hold the ball. On 25 minutes, County had the ball in the net again when a free kick from the right side of the area by Butler who poked home inside the six yard box by Labadie but it was ruled out for a marginal offside after a late run into the six yard box. County gained confidence for their approach working the right side well with Willmott pivotal in stretching Mansfield and turning them back. Mansfield were content spoiling in the middle of the pitch with Bishop and Mellis quick to the ball and they went close on 27 minutes when they combined but Mellis dragged an untidy low shot from 25 yards wide of the right post. The game continued to stop and start with several fouls interrupting play and neither side in the ascendancy but you felt when County got the ball final third there was more threat there. On 37 minutes, Willmott carried another strong run on the counter attack causing problems for Mansfield and Sweeney was booked for checking his run crudely. County use the long ball with Amond doing well left side to pick holes and Matt did well with back to goal to retain an outlet with the ball. Mansfield continued to play direct and were quick in transition but often let down by poor distribution. A better Mansfield move on 40 minutes keeping the ball low, saw Walker forge into a better position just inside the box but his shot was held well by Day. Willmott continued to terrorise the Mansfield defence carrying his runs from deep and forced left wing back Benning into a clumsy challenge on the stroke of half time right side of the box. The referee booked Benning but when the free kick came to nothing Mansfield created a dangerous counter left side but Poole made an important intervention left side of the area. Mansfield kept pressing as half time approached and a corner in the fourth minute of injury time saw Grant pinpoint Sweeney but his stretching header from 8 yards was well over the bar.

Mansfield made a tactical change at half time with a double substitution with Ajose sacrificed for Rose and Benning replaced by Jones who went right back in a more attacking 4-3-3 system with Walker left side in support of Rose and Hamilton on the right flank. Mansfield had a better spell from direct play forcing County back with Walker and Hamilton making some strong runs into the corner but the defence remained focussed. On 48 minutes, a slicker lower move by Mansfield saw Mellis slip a low pass to Hamilton who showed quick feet to find Rose edge of the area but his low shot was wide of the left post. Rose was eager to pick up the loose ball and drop deep on times and he was injured on 51 minutes after an aerial clash being sandwiched between Labadie and Bennett. After 8 minutes of treatment and patching up he was forced off with a nasty facial injury and replaced by Tomlimson who went into a deeper midfield role. With Mansfield forcing the issue there were options on the break for County but they were struggling for the same cohesion as in the first half. The game remained a physical slog but County again threatened from a break on 65 minutes initiating a neat move left side but Butler saw his effort from a difficult angle go wide and high of the left post. County made efforts to step up their game again forcing a series of corners which Mansfield dealt well with and O’Brien was next in the wars with a cut to his head which forced him off briefly. Mansfield were snappy on the break and County had to remain focussed and Mellis again showed an eye for goal when his volley on the right side of the area was well blocked by Demetriou. County had a great chance to settle the game on 78 minutes when a direct ball from deep put Matt up against Preston with Sweeney and Pierce off the pace. Matt forged his way past Preston and had the goal in sight but his low shot was smothered well by Smith who stood up well to narrow the angle. Mansfield kept plugging away with Grant linking play well around the edge of the area. On 82 minutes, Amond was booked for a challenge on Grant with him carrying a run right side of the pitch deep in the County half. Mansfield had calls for penalty dismissed on 83 minutes when a slick exchange left side of the area saw Grant loop a pass for Walker to latch onto and he collided with Demetriou who made a brave intervention. County made a late change on 88 minutes to solidify the team with Willmott replacing Dolan and they sat back in the final stages with Mansfield pushing defender Sweeney up front. On 90 minutes, an efficient County move down the right channel initiated by Poole released Matt and he was caught late by Pearce who was booked. Dolan took the free kick but Mansfield were again vigilant defending the delivery and able to clear. Mansfield were forceful in the 11 minutes of injury added on for the Rose injury and extras and County had to dig deep to defend and clear their lines. On 90+5 minutes, Bakinson lost the ball cheaply in the middle of the pitch when Bishop stole possession and a quick ball to left channel found Walker. His deep cross into the box was only half cleared by County allowing Mellis a chance with a snapshot volley but again County got in a good interception by O’Brien. Mansfield had a final opportunity moments later from a corner on the right side by Grant which Sweeney anticipated at the back post but his header from an acute angle fizzed wide of the left post. County were happy to keep the ball and not force the issue in the final minutes and another booking followed when Labadie made a clumsy challenge on Tomilson. Matt did well for County in the final stages holding the ball deep inside the Mansfield half, coaxing untidy challenges from Jones and County held on for a gritty but important win.

Day (7) – quiet game, made some routine collections low down and marshalled the one shot on target. Dealt with kicks under pressure safely especially second half.

Poole (8) –  anticipated superbly to make some brave headers and interceptions deep in the County half. Was bright, quick and accurate with his distribution.

Butler (7) –  had to do spells defending today especially second half and made himself difficult to beat. Won some good headers and put in some good set pieces.

O’Brien (8) –  another very solid game, defended high ball well and got tight to make several key interventions. Went close again from set pieces to getting his second County goal.

Demetriou (8) – disciplined throughout, won his aerial duals and forced back to make some important clearances in behind. His eagerness to get to the ball first was key.

Bennett (7) – did a good job in front of the defence, didn’t see a lot of the ball but stifled and competed giving little space. Kept passing simple and precise

Willmott (8) – had a very productive first half, greeting the byline with ease and providing several crosses and when he was marked tight opened up space for others.

Bakinson (6) – made several positive runs first half box to box and went close a few times. Got a bit bogged down second half and got caught cheaply in possession on times.

Labadie (7) – continues to build sharpness, made some robust challenges in the air and on the floor. Was a nuisance inside the Mansfield half but forced deeper second half.

Matt (8) – had few clear-cut chance to thrive on but off the ball work was immense and protected ball well when he was back to goal and won his fair share of headers.

Amond (7) – when he got across defender he was effective but starved of opportunities today. Kept working and did some good work to track back into midfield



Strengths –
they denied space and forced play up the pitch well and were quick to get on with the game, enterprising and energy final third  

Weaknesses –  as good as they were pressing high, they were always vulnerable when turned and gave away a lot of clumsy free kicks.

Opportunities –  first half they struggled to penetrate but changed tact at half time and were more balanced with four at the back getting more penetration in the corners.
Threats –
a lot of the cutting threat went through Walker. Mellis had an for a shot, Rose was enterprising in and around the box. Grant provided several decent set pieces.  

G Salisbury (6) – made several puzzling decisions during course of the game and his talking alone to players put on a extra couple of minutes.

Jamille Matt – selfless performance, restricted on chances against big central defensive trio but took responsibility to provide key outlet and intelligently use it.


County went with their strongest selection and they put in an enterprising shift first half, getting to the ball early and doing a lot of good combative work which is always important against Mansfield. They forced Mansfield to change tact at half time and another side has now succumbed to dumping their 3-5-2 formation after mirroring County at the start of the game. Mansfield had their spells second half and forced more territorial advantage but County defended resolutely limiting to just one shot. In the second half when space was condensed higher up the pitch, County were less fluent but they were always alert to get in behind but couldn’t quite get the killer pass to find a second goal to give them breathing space. Willmott was instrumental before fading and less able to carry his runs to the byline after the break but the work ethic was key after the cup exploits mid-week. County will now need to assess the squad ahead of MK Dons Tuesday. Dons come to Rodney Parade struggling for form but still have plenty of threats with Agard and Aneke lively up top and decent in the air. They have also signed ex-Exeter winger Wheeler who can provide an alternative outlet for crosses left flank and have former County midfielder Gilbey who will need to be tracked with his intelligent use of the ball.