Newport County v MK Dons

Tuesday 12th February 2019   k.o 7:45pm

Sky Bet Football League Two


Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade


Newport County 0

MK Dons 1 (Aneke 88)


Attendance: 2,860



Newport County        dLWLWDdLWW

Milton Keynes Dons  LLDWLLLWLL



County left scratching their heads falling to late sucker punch



MK Dons have sacrificed one of their strikers to the bench and having conceded several goals recently so key County assert their game for the offset wit

Mild, cloudy and light breeze. Pitch was a little erratic in parts and made footing difficult

Creative and persistent for an hour and carved out several chances which should really have put game to bed.

Any number of missed chances but Kennedy effort against bar was big lift for Dons.

County made a couple of changes with Josh Labadie rested and Fraser Franks returned after injury replacing Mark O’Brien who was on the bench. MK Dons played a somewhat defence format to start the game with Agard playing lone role up front with ex-Exeter attacking midfielder David Wheeler in support with Alex Gilbey who spent half a season on loan at County in their Conference Promotion season. MK Dons made their intentions clear from the offset with some direct low balls to find Agard who was busy and robust with the ball at his feet. County snapped out of their shell on 3 minutes with a good break left side when Butler released Bakinson who saw his snapshot left side of the box pushed away by keeper Moore. County kept probing away enjoying plenty of possession with Dons content to sit and flood players forward on the break. On 8 minutes, MK Dons created a decent chance when they switched play well from left to right with Lewington finding Agard and he played a clever pass inside for Brittain to latch onto. He adjusted well but his effort from the right corner of the box went over the bar. The move settled MK Dons and a patient move moments later saw Lewington again turn inside the play a pass which found Gilbey and his crisp low effort from 25 yards was saved in the right corner by Day. County enjoyed plenty of space coming forward especially right side with Willmott and Poole combining well but Dons working hard to contain with Cargill doubling up with Lewington. County found space in the middle on 12 minutes when Demetriou cut inside from the right side of the area after a throw in had broken down. MK Dons were slow to pick up and his low effort from 25 yards was well marshalled by Moore. County cranked up the pace of the game terrorising the right side on times with Lewington forced back and Willmott providing foil for space. Poole did well supporting the moves and delivery a couple of excellent crosses into the box which were agonisingly close to a final touch. On 16 minutes, Poole did well to dink in a great cross towards the penalty spot from a deeper position and Matt was unfortunate to see his glancing header fizz just wide of the left post. County continued to add to their corner count and a had a great chance to forge ahead on 25 minutes from a delivery left side. Willmott pinpointed the late run of Franks to the front post and despite being unmarked he could only head over the bar. MK Dons persisted with direct play to relieve pressure but they used the ball wisely with some accurate balls to find Agard who gave them an outlet. County mixed their game up well with Matt doing well under pressure to link despite being given little protection from the referee Johnson. County were thwarted a few times deep inside the MK Dons with Cisse stifling in the front of defence and they were quick to counter which continued to keep the County defence worked. On 33 minutes, County were caught out somewhat when Lewington stole forward from deep with a strong run left flank and his crisp exchange with Gilbey set up chance to thread a pass low for Wheeler on the edge of the area. From a tight position, Wheeler struck a low shot through the crowd from 20 yards which clipped the outside of the right post. County continued to probe away with menace on the flanks peppering the area with crosses but the MK Dons central three of Martin, Walsh and Carghill remained focussed and in a position to deal with aerial crosses. County kept persevering and MK Dons had another let off on 37 minutes when Poole played a great ball to the face of the area which Bakinson snapped up and penetrated beyond the last defender but delaying his shot, it allowed Brittain to make a vital recovery to tackle. County had a purple on the stroke of half time winning a series of corners and went close again on 40 minutes when a Butler corner left side was glanced on well by Demetriou but crashed against the bar. MK Dons continued to probe away on the break with Wheeler going on a couple of solo runs but his efforts to shoot were restricted to distance and went well over. On 43 minutes, County looked certain to score when Willmott showed flexibility to provide an early ball with a deft cross using the outside of his right foot. Matt ghosted in to meet the header but glanced it just wide of the left post from 10 yards.

County continued in the ascendancy in the early stages of the second half and when they made the ball stick they threatened. On 47 minutes, Matt did well to drop off from Walsh and bring down a direct ball near the “d”. His shot on the turn was dragged wide of the left post when he should have worked the keeper. On 50 minutes, County played MK Dons at their own game, countering from deep with Cisse losing possession cheaply. Bakinson drove forward down the middle into acres of space and struck a powerful shot from 18 yards but it struck the under of the bar and rebounded down to safety. County were rewarded with a couple of corners from their pressure and for the third time the woodwork denied them on 53 minutes. Willmott delivered a teasing delivery from the right side which dropped viciously deep and Franks got a touch under pressure from Martin only for the ball to clip the outside of the left post. On 62 minutes, MK Dons had a good situation when they broke right side with Martin finding McGrandles and he did well to turn off a challenge and cut inside before firing a low shot from 25 yard which Day had covered. On 65 minutes, County were denied a fourth time when an excellent Willmott cross from near the right byline was anticipated well by Kennedy but his header from 8 yards clipped the top of the bar. MK Dons were struggling to find cohesion aside from some forays on the break by Martin right side and County dealt well with the crosses. On 68 minutes, County were caught out somewhat from a direct kick out by Moore not concentrating and allowing the high ball to drop. Agard ghosted in a snatched possession but his left footed shot from outside the box was dragged wide of the left post. County made a change on 70 minutes with Dolan replacing Kennedy and the move seemed to backfire with MK Dons becoming more bold and attacking final third. On 75 minutes, County were given a warning which they allowed space for MK Dons to sweep forward right side and Agard cut back a decent deep cross from the right corner which McGrandles headed just over stretching his neck to meet the ball. MK Dons made a double substitution to pep up their approach with target man Aneke replacing Wheeler and another attacking outlet left side Hesketh replacing Martin. MK Dons adjusted to a 3-4-3 formation in the final stages which gave them the impetus late in the game with the Hesketh and Aneke penetrating deep inside the County half. On 82 minutes, County made the most of space offered left flank with Butler roaming inside from the left flank into space but his low shot from 25 yard was held well by the keeper. County made another change soon after with Marsh-Brown replacing Amond. MK Dons persisted with their tact of counter hard from deep winning a couple of corners which County managed to get clear. On 88 minutes, County were punished when Bakinson ran into a dead end in central midfield with McGrandles feeding a quick pass through the middle for Gilbey. He threaded a precise pass to the right side of the box which Brittain played in low to the back post and despite Day doing well to block the effort from Hesketh the rebound fell invitingly for Aneke to blast into the unguarded net. County made a change straight after with Franks replaced by Sheehan. County huffed and puffed in the final stages but were unable to work the keeper and Dons celebrated getting back into the play off zone.

Day (7) – was a spectator on times first half such was the threat kept at arms-length. Put under pressure by some kicks and forced in some smart saves later in the game

Poole (8) –  contributed well was bright coming forward in support and dinked in some great crosses. Was alert to the danger and made some important tackles clearing well.

Butler (6) –  was forced back on times second half allowing Martin to get outside him. Did a lot of good work to mop up pressure but threat limited from crosses

Franks (5) –  returning from injury looked a little off the pace on times. Made some good headers but caught several times on direct play switching off allowing ball to drop.

Demetriou (7) – mopped up in behind, defended box well and despite getting beat for cross on goal he little goalside. Provided good long throws but equally a threat inside the box

Bennett (7) – sat largely deep and protected the middle and generally passed well. Made few errors and only a matter of time before he gets a set piece goal

Willmott (7) – enterprising first half and provided plenty of energy and trickery. Delivered fair quota of crosses but was clever with variation putting some low.

Bakinson (6) – worked hard box to box and should have a had a least one goal. Did his best work when he didn’t dwell and think to long from late runs bursting into area.

Kennedy (6) – covered a lot of ground between front two and midfield and was bright when he demanded ball. Restricted on chances before fading.

Matt (7) – was again well marshalled but was clever dropping off to make things happen. Not sure how he didn’t score today from headed chances but his time will come again.

Amond (7) – marked tightly throughout, did well protecting ball under pressure and bold when he got it. was just never able to get on one of the many crosses which went begging.



Strengths –
they were composed with the ball and were efficient using it when they did break their transition play was good and got reward for perseverance.

Weaknesses –  despite having three central defenders they struggled with some of the crosses into the box. Left gaps in the middle and lot rested on Cisse breaking up play.

Opportunities –  played on the break for large chunk of the game and it was very opportunist threat but effective. Made offensive changes late on with three up top which paid off.
Threats –
Agard was quite dynamic on the ball. Gilbey precise with his passing key to find third. Wheeler industry and shots from distance. Aneke robust and pace in behind.  

K Johnson (5) – turned a blind eye to a lot of the cynical climbing and pulling off the ball. Slowed game down on times wanting to explain every decision

Regan Poole – very mature performance, read game well, made some good tackles and headers and showed different side to his game today – crossing.


County will look back on this as another game that got away and there have been too many this season in the league. They were all over MK Dons for an hour like a rash and it was only combination of inches and wayward finishing that kept hope for their play-off seeking opponents. But when there is hope there is always a chance and County fell to the sucker punch allowing them to counter in behind very late on. Franks came into the team but still looks a yard short or two of match fitness and Kennedy struggled to adjust to the tempo on times. Willmott was again closely marked today but both Poole and Demetriou showed capable foil with crosses when the flanks were blocked. County can improve the variation on their crosses but in truth they provided more than enough ammunition to win two games. Sides are now coming to Rodney Parade playing on the break and gambling somewhat opportunistically and County were most vulnerable when they had the ball deep inside the Dons half but Bakinson or Matt lost possession cheaply. The FA Cup returns with Manchester City next up at Rodney Parade and it is difficult to predict their starting line-up. On the face of the last two games, you would not expect them to overload their side to physically contest against County or be confrontational. Whatever side they put out, they are likely to play a precise low passing game to feet and the likelihood is that will go with technical players to break with venom using their pace out wide to drive to the bylines with Sterling and Jesus effective either side with Mahrez and Sane pivotal through the middle . What County do off the ball will be key as opportunities will be limited but they need to be bold when they arise.