Newport County v Mansfield Town

Thursday 9th May 2019  k.o 7:45pm

Sky Bet Football League Two Play Off (1st Leg)


Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade


Newport County 1 (Matt 83)

Mansfield Town 1 (Hamilton 12)


Attendance: 6,035



Newport County        WWddWWdWWD

Mansfield Town         dDLWWDWLLL         



Late Amond strike maintains unbeaten run



All about discipline, concentration and discipline tonight but key County compete across the pitch and use the ball effectively when they get it.

Mild, partly cloudy and keen breeze. Pitch in decent condition conducive to football

After early setback, fought back well and worked Mansfield harder second half to get reward of late goal.

Significance of Walker missed chance for Mansfield to go two up will be told

County kept the same starting side for the third successive game but they did have Joss Labadie back fresh after recent injury on the bench. Mansfield made three changes, with centre back Preston suffering from concussion but they retained their 3-5-2 formation with Turner deputising. There were two other changes for the Stags with Jones replacing Tomlinson allowing McDonald to play a more conventional role in midfield and Jones going right wing back. Mansfield also sacrificed left wing back Benning in place of Hamilton. Mansfield made the more alert start which set a precedent for much of the first half. County were caught sleeping inside the first minute when Jones took a quick throw right side to release Walker but Demetriou did well to divert for a corner. Mansfield pressed and County were forced into a direct game but struggled for cohesion in the fledgling minutes of the game. Mansfield were keen to use their right side to turn County around with Bishop and Mellis winning some good possession in midfield. On 6 minutes, some indecision by County in the middle of the pitch allowed Mellis to poke a hopeful ball forward which Walker read but his run goalside was checked by untidy challenge by O’Brien. The stand in referee Charles Breakspear familiar to many County fans awarded a yellow card with Poole covering the ball in behind. County continued to probe away with Matt winning some headers but the Mansfield defence swept up play well continuing to pinpoint Rose and Walker who were lively and went down somewhat cheaply buying free kicks. County eased their way into the game starting to pass the ball better but they got caught out on 12 minute when they had the ball in a promising position left side deep inside the Mansfield half. Mellis was again pivotal in the move switching play from right to left to find the run of Hamilton who drove forward from deep and his precise effort from left side of the area went into the roof of the net. County made efforts to pick up their game with some neater possession to work the Mansfield defence but they held firm with Sweeney and Pearce snapping up possession. Mansfield persisted with the tactic of pinging balls in behind to test County with Walker and Rose carrying their runs of the last man. County coaxed some fairly uncompromising challenges when they held the ball but the referee turned a blind eye to some of antics much to the frustration of the crowd. On 22 minutes, a snappy move by County proved fruitful right side when Willmott crossed into the area and Amond was bowled over by untidy challenge by Turner which was ignored and Bennett thrashed a low shot from 16 yards which Logan saved low down in the left corner. Mansfield kept pressing hard with both wing backs high but there were opportunities for County in behind but they were a little slow to advantage sometimes overplaying. Mansfield maintained the tact of stifling play in the middle and picking holes on the break with Mellis key link with Rose and Walker. On 32 minutes, Mellis went on a solo run right side and blasted over from the right corner. County got a firmer grip of the game as half time approach with some thoughtful moves in the final third and the free kicks started to reign in. On 35 minutes, Dolan had a free kick right side of the area which he curled over precisely and Demetriou glanced on for Matt who ghosted in ahead of Pearce but Logon made an excellent save to claw the ball to safety. County were left frustrated by several decisions not going punished as they raised the bar. Mansfield maintained the tact of snapping up possession and using their wing back to force County back. On 43 minutes, County had another decent chance when they forced Mansfield to defend deep inside their own area and Dolan shaped up right side to belt a volley from 14 yards which was well blocked by Sweeney. County had to deal with a couple of clever balls threaded in behind in first half injury time with Walker and Rose gambling off the last man but offside denied them.

On 50 minutes, Mansfield created a slick move on the break with McDonald orchestrating the move to pick out the run of Walker. He forced his way past a couple of weak challenges by County and past Day but his low shot was well blocked inside the six yard box by Poole. County had a great chance to equalise on 52 minutes when Dolan swept in a decent cross positioning himself well on the right side. Matt did well to caress his header into the path of Amond on the right side the six yard but Logan made a good save to smother low down. Mansfield persisted with pushing men on in numbers on the break often with both full backs high up the pitch but County dealt with the energy well and were equally good in the response back up the pitch. On 55 minutes, Mansfield right wing back Jones was caught out of position when a move broke down cheaply and Dolan did well to pinpoint Amond in space and he was crudely obstructed by Pearce and booked. County made an early change to freshen their approach with Dolan replaced by Azeez with County reverting to 4-3-3. County kept raising the bar offering more energy and guile in the final third and the change appeared to lift the shackles off Amond and Matt. On 62 minutes, another sharp Mansfield break saw Rose snap up possession too easily and pick out the run of Walker left side of the area but his low shot from an acute angle failed to trouble Day. On 65 minutes, County had a great chance with play opening up in the middle and Hamilton slipped in possession. Matt stole the ball and his run right side of the area opened up a chance to shoot but the keeper saved well low down. With County forcing play, they were somewhat vulnerable to the break and a decisive break by Mansfield on 67 minutes saw Walker do well around the edge of the area. He set up a snapshot for Mellis who saw a deflected effort well parried away by Day in the left corner. Mansfield then had Rose in the book for a clumsy challenge backtracking to deny a run from Poole on the right touchline. County made another change on 72 minutes with Bennett replaced by Labadie. The move settled County in the middle carrying them further up the pitch with Mansfield increasingly prone to unforced errors. County created a couple of decent moves left side with Butler coming into the game but Mansfield held their resolve defending crosses well. On 77 minutes, Mansfield made their first change with Benning replacing Rose. Benning went left wing back and Hamilton pushed left midfield attacking role. On 80 minutes, County forced Mansfield to defend deep inside their own area and another tired looking clearance was snapped up by Labadie but his snapshot was blocked on the edge of the area. County got their reward for persistency on 83 minutes after another move on the left side of the area. Butler did well to play a precise ball and despite Matt not getting a touch his presence did enough allowing Azeez to ghost into the area and Logan made overzealous challenge catching him and the ball. The referee awarded a penalty which Amond took but despite the penalty being saved Amond reacted smartly to stab home inside the six yard box. County made a change soon after with Crofts replacing Amond and they were in the ascendency in the final minutes. County probed well and had good decent situation from a move right side when Matt again stole in but from the right byline his low cross was cut out well inside the six yard box by Logan who held the ball low down. Mansfield were thwarted by a couple of offside calls in the final minutes with Hamilton forcing some runs from deep. County had the last opportunity, three minutes in injury time when Labadie angled his run across the face of the area and his shot on the turn from 16 yards flashed just wide of the right post.

Day (7) – got caught out on the goal not expecting a shot but settled down to kick well under pressure. Dropped some good long kicks to turn defence and made some smart saves

Poole (7) –  won majority of his tackles standing his ground well to stay on his feet. Was bright with the ball and got stronger late on when other waned initiating some decent moves.

Butler (7) –  was forced back first half and allowed Jones to dictate play up the pitch too much. Saw more influence late on timing his runs and put in some decent crosses

O’Brien (6) –  after early booked steadied himself, kept concentration and discipline. Did not have his own way in the air but got some good foot in and key interceptions.

Demetriou (6) –  his battle with Walker was always going to be key and after shaky start settled well and got tight to deny space dominating the aerial duals.

Dolan (5) – knows he will need to be more assertive on next game and got brushed off too many challenges. Put in several decent crosses and offered most threat from set pieces.

Bennett (5) – when he was on the ball he used it effectively but the problem was getting to the ball and spent a lot time firefighting today

Willmott (6) –  had spells in and out of the game and never really got the byline first half when County needed an outlet. Put in some better crosses after half time 

Sheehan (6) – never really got bossing game but passed it well when he had it. Needs to get more shots in and offer influence across the face of the area where he does his best work

Matt (7) – gave plenty of problems on aerial duals and played better late on in a three. Denied with a couple of decent efforts inside the six yard box.

Amond (6) – some good link play from Matt but struggled to maintain possession on times allowing ball to prised away cheaply. Did better later in the game inside the area.


Strengths –
they pressed up the pitch well as a unit and both wing backs had influence on game. Shaped some good moves in transition and strong work ethic.  

Weaknesses – for the size and stature of their team, very easily went down buying several free kicks. Jones left gaps in behind and gambled to leave a lot of space in middle.

Opportunities – didn’t really change tact. play through the middle very limited. Played percentage game of turning County back on their heels and using pace to unsettle.
Threats –
Rose and Walker were dynamic and had an eye for a shot. Mellis box to box and quick pass. Jones and Hamilton were bold coming forward as wing backs.

C Breakspear (5) – so many off the ball fouls and pulling went unpunished. Frustrated both sides with some peculiar decisions and poor reading off the game.   

Jacob Mellis (Mansfield 8) – key link for Mansfield, if he was not putting a shot in he was freeing up other players but was quick to break up and shift effectively.   


County never really got up through the gears today and were on the backfoot for much of the first half with the pace and craft Mansfield offered. Their opponents gambled on high pressing game with both wing backs pushed up boldly when opportunities arose but they were always a degree of vulnerability about it and it was only later in game when legs tired that County started punishing them. This was a quick tempo game and it will be interesting to see if is so prevalent in the second leg. County will need to be more assertive in the middle, to take care of the ball better and expect a few hits but it will be key to fight the fight first and foremost before they can think about playing. County lost the midfield battle this evening for large spells and got a bit bullied early on with Matt and Amond playing too much with back to goal. Mansfield have struggled this season against the slicker efficient sides that keep the ball low and the tempo rolling so County will need to inject more energy and guile into the next game in transition. County learnt from being a little tentative first half and they gradually turned the tide of the game with some better approach play which worked Mansfield about the pitch and passing mistakes were evident by the Mansfield defenders. County did much better with three up top so they may need to look at freshening their side Sunday with the quick turnover between the games. McKirdy and Marsh-Brown may have some part to play still in this encounter or even Labadie.