Newport County v Middlesbrough

Tuesday 6th February 2019   k.o 7:45pm

FA Cup 4th Round

 

Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade

 

Newport County 2 (Willmott 47, Amond 67)

Middlesbrough 0

 

Attendance: 6,552

 

Form:

Newport County        LLdLWLWDdL

Middlesbrough          LLWLWDWDDW

 

 

Super strikes seal memorable victory

 

 

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
County have several key players back after they were rested Saturday. Middlesbrough starting line up looks strong so key County don’t offer any early charity.

CONDITIONS
Mild, persistent rain and quite windy. Pitch was glossy a little worn in parts and some surface water in parts but held out pretty well.

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Defended with discipline, enterprising and cohesive with the ball creating a glut of chances

TURNING POINT
Willmott goal gave a solid platform but Hughill shot against the post was pivotal.

THE MATCH
County made several changes from Saturday with first choice goalkeeper Joe Day returning in place of Nick Townsend who was on the bench. Scott Bennett and Robbie Willmott made a welcome return after injury in place of Matt Dolan and David Pipe who were also named as subs. New loan signing from Stevenage Ben Kennedy was not legible for this game but County were able to bring in Padraig Amond who played a bit part at Grimsby. There was another change at left back with Neufville being left out of the squad but County were able to recall Dan Butler. County made another key change with Marsh-Brown sacrificed to the bench in place of Mark O’Brien who slotted in a three man central defence with County playing a balance 3-5-2. Middlesbrough mirrored the County formation and they started confidently fresh from their solid win over West Brom Saturday with Hughill and Assombalonga linking well in the final third. County were pinned back but a swift counter on 5 minutes saw Bennett slip a neat pass for Willmott who made a darting run right side of the box. He whipped in a decent delivery which struck the outstretched hand of Clayton inside the area but despite the linesman and referee being well positioned they ignored the appeals for a clear penalty. On 7 minutes, Boro went close from an unexpected source when a corner from the right side was cut back to the edge of the area. Wing took control and set up Howson on the left side but his first time shot fizzed wide of the right post from 30 yards. On 8 minutes, County were close to forging ahead when a Willmott corner from the right side caused panic in the six yard box. Demetriou saw his low effort from 8 yards blocked and Amond was denied with a block near the goal-line allowing keeper Konstantopoulos to claim the ball. In a purple spell, County had another corner moments later from the left flank which Willmott curled expertly to the back post and Amond directed a decent header just wide of the left post from a tight angle. Boro were direct in their approach pinpointing Hughill and County had to marshal the runs of Assombalonga forcing him to wide positions. On 14 minutes, County were a free kick in a decent position near the “d” after Matt had been checked by Ayala. Labadie took the free kick and blasted a powerful effort straight at the wall. Middlesbrough created an effective move on 16 minutes from deep with Clayton supplying a quick pass for Wing in the middle. He threaded a decent pass to the left side of pitch releasing the run of Hughill who blasted a decent low effort from 25 yards against the left post. County continued to look threatening down the right flank with Willmott eager for the ball forcing left back Friend deep inside his own half. On 18 minutes, Willmott showed chipped in a clever cross from the left side of the area with the outside of his foot which O’Brien glanced on superbly into the six yard box. Amond read the ball well and was denied by a brave save low down by Konstantopoulos. Boro persisted with the direct approach in an attempt to turn County but they were let down by some poor quality with their passing and found the ball coming back at them. County were the more patient side in possession and created some decent moves in the final third. On 28 minutes, another clever pass through the middle saw Bakinson slip a precise pass for Matt left side of the box. He cut back a decent ball into the box which Boro struggled to clear and just eluded a finishing touch by Bakinson. County had a good spell of possession as half time approached working Boro with some stretching moves. On 35 minutes, County created arguable their best chance when Willmott carried a strong run down the right flank and his deft cross was met well by Amond from 10 yards but the keeper was able to push away and claim at the second attempt. County were incessant and so close to taking a deserved lead on 40 minutes when another precise Willmott cross was contested well by Matt under pressure from Ayala but his looping header from 10 yards dropped just over the bar. Boro made efforts to pick up their game as half time approached but County dealt well with the balls channelled in behind and cleared their lines effectively. In first half injury time, another County corner from the left side by Butler saw Demetriou glance his header wide of the left post from a difficult angle just outside the six yard box.

Boro made a change at half time to raise the impetus of their game with left winger La Parra replacing right back McNair with Boro switching to a more conventional 4-4-2 system. County took the lead on 47 minutes catching Boro cold when a move broke down deep inside the County half. Amond glanced a neat header through the middle for Willmott and he ghosted past Layton before expertly curling his shot into the top left corner from 25 yards. Boro went on the offensive with Assombalonga and Hughill with some better play to feet around the edge of the area. On 52 minutes, a move deep inside the County box saw a cross from the right side cause anxiety for County when they were not able to clear the loose ball and Friend saw his shot on the turn from 12 yard well blocked by Bennett. Hughill was replaced on 57 minutes appearing to pull up with an injury and replaced by ex-Cardiff City striker Rudi Gestede in a like for like change. Another change soon followed with Assombalonga struggling for mobility after a knock and he was replaced by Fletcher. Boro set their stall out to force width and get crosses in with Gestede offering aerial prowess and good footwork. County dealt with a series of crosses well showing composure to clear well and find their man. On 67 minutes, a quick break saw Amond link well to find Willmott in the heart of the pitch and he made the most of space before blasting a decent effort from 25 yards which was deflected for a corner. Willmott took the corner on the right side and clever routine saw the ball played short and Amond hit a superb first time effort into the top right corner from 10 yards giving the keeper no chance. Boro made efforts to pick up their game again with Gestede making some well-timed runs in behind and offer an outlet Boro had been lacking on times. County made their first change on 75 minutes with Labadie replaced by Dolan in central midfield. Boro were keen to use their left flank and pace from La Parra who made some jinking runs but little end product. On 82 minutes, a neat Boro move low down saw Howson find the run of La Parra and his low dangerous shot was well blocked by Poole. Moments later, a Boro corner from right side from Wing was half cleared by County but the ball sat up invitingly for Fletcher but his low effort from 10 yards was saved well by Day in the left corner. Boro kept plugging away with Wing busy in his link play in around the box with Gestede and Fletcher showing some good awareness. On 86 minutes, another bright Boro move saw La Parra pick out Wing in space but his low effort from 20 yards was diverted by Bakinson. County made another change soon after with Pipe replacing Willmott and they were happy to run down the clock in the final stages. County had a couple of good situations left side on the counter with Butler driving forward but his crosses were overplayed. Boro forced County deep in the four minutes of injury time but their day was summed in the final minute when Wing struck a rising effort well over from 20 yards when well placed. County held on for a fantastic rewarding victory which will see them play Manchester City next at Rodney Parade which the crowd celebrated wildly.

Day (7) – not overworked by any means but kept focussed and handled well in the conditions. Kicked well throughout and pinpointed some good moves final third.

Poole (8) –  composed under pressure but reading and positional play was key. Made some good headers under pressure and accurate with his distribution.

Butler (8) –  had spells when he had to defend but marked tightly and made some excellent headers. Provided fair quota of crosses and intricate passes to turn Boro around

O’Brien (8) –  sound in the aerial duals and kept concentration dealing with balls in behind. Benefiting now from a run in the team and was effective on several set pieces.

Demetriou (9) – dealt with Hughill very well and gave little space to operate. Made several excellent challenges to recover and track back clearing danger well.

Bennett (9) – read game superbly and always well positioned to move ball on efficiently. Made some good tackles, was quick and intelligent with his use of the ball

Willmott (10) – his best and most important County performance which will never be forgotten. Worked left back into submission, exquisite strike and set up fantastic second goal

Bakinson (7) – pick holes well final third, offered plenty of energy and made himself available throughout. Kept passing simple and ticking over and went close a couple of times.

Labadie (7) – edging his way back to match fitness. Made some robust challenges and linked very well box to box. Got about the pitch well before fading

Matt (7) – struggled in the early stages but was prepared to drop short and pull defenders around. Worked tirelessly and won his fair share of headers going close a couple of times

Amond (8) – selfless display, worked like a trojan to keep and retain ball when he had and was clever with his headers to find men. Dropped back deeper late on doing good work

 

 

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths –
they started well offering energy final third and despite aerial prowess were unable to put a glove on County

Weaknesses –  poor laboured distribution, over reliant on direct play and one dimensional for large parts. When they got the ball down more late on it was too late

Opportunities –  mirrored County first half but wing backs were too deep. Changed tact second half to get the ball down and offer width to set up crosses.
Threats –
Hughill strong heading, Assombalonga pace in behind. Wing was clever with his approach play and prepared to shoot. Flint, Ayala aerial on set pieces.  

OFFICIALS
S Attwell (8) – generally consistent, didn’t need to get out his cards and tried to let game flow. got key decisions right apart from penalty omission.


MAN OF THE MATCH
Robbie Willmott – unplayable on times tonight with his trickery on the ball and pinpoint precision. Endless energy and craft at the very heart of both the goals.

IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

County had a number of pressures to deal with today knowing a win would mean they would reach the FA Cup 5th Round for the first time in 70 years and also the carrot of the Manchester City game next if they won. They didn’t disappoint. They were composed, determined and refreshed and the managers decisions in rotating the side were proved justifiable. In contrast, Boro went with the backbone of their side from Saturday and despite starting well they faded in certain respects and were only able to pick up their game late on. County dealt well with direct play and the important ingredient today was keeping their focus, discipline and belief. They should have been ahead at half time but were unshaken and kept to the game plan. County were very effective with the 3-5-2 system today and forced Boro to change their tact second half. The win today was richly deserved because County offered more thought with the ball and were the more creative outfit. The key now as they return to league action will be in bringing the same intensity in their game. Mansfield are up next at Rodney Parade and County do have a point or two to prove against them. They can expect a physical uncompromising encounter with their defenders pressing the game up the pitch and the key for County could be finding pace in behind. County need to stop Notts Forest loanee Tyler Walker as the majority of goals go through him and track the runs of ex-Bury forward Danny Rose.