Newport County v Swindon Town

Tuesday 10th April 2019   k.o 7:45pm

Sky Bet League Two

 

Report from Mark Vickery at Rodney Parade

 

Newport County 0

Swindon Town 0

 

Attendance: 3,314

 

Form:

Newport County        LLWLWLLWWd

Swindon Town           WWDWLLdWWD

 

 

County forced to accept battling draw

 

 

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
Both sides need a win to maintain their play off hopes. County will need to get balance right from being vigilant at the back and improve retention especially in the middle.

CONDITIONS
Cloudy, mild and light breeze. Pitch was glossy on top but in reasonable condition.

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Started well but after injuries went into shell and some last ditch defending got a point.

TURNING POINT
County never really asserted control of the game after Matt injury.

THE MATCH
County made just the one change Keanu Marsh-Brown sacrificed to the bench in place of Padraig Amond retaining a 4-3-3 attacking formation. County started well forcing Swindon to defend deeply with Jamille Matt key orchestrating some early moves to unsettle the Swindon defence. On 3 minutes, County created a good move right side penetrating deep into the Swindon area and Matt did well to spin off some tight marking by Woolfenden deep inside the box. He was forced wide by Anderson who appeared to lunge some recklessly taking away the feet of Matt and the ball simultaneously. It was high risk but the referee Kevin Johnson was not convinced and awarded a corner right side. Willmott dinked over a decent corner which came through the crowd and Amond stretched to meet with a decent header from 10 yards but it went wide of the left post. Swindon were happy to absorb pressure and break quickly using the prowess they had with pace from Woolery, Anderson and Robertson. County continued to be effective when the kept the ball shifting and created a decent chance from nothing on 10 minutes. Matt did well to angle his run out wide to receive a pass from Poole and carry his run past Koiki before playing a clever ball across the face of the area to find Amond. He controlled well before turning to address a somewhat rushed shot from 20 yards which went wide of the left post. County kept plugging away enjoy the bulk of the possession and Butler directed a couple of decent moves from the left flank. County worked some crosses left side of the box which dropped deep which Swindon were less than convincing clearing but nobody applied pressure within ten yards of the ball allowing Swindon off the hook. Swindon persisted with the tact of remaining compact and pick holes on the break and County had a warning on 18 minutes after losing possession cheaply deep in Swindon half. Bennett was able to penetrate far too easily through the middle and carry his run right side of the box before drilling a low rasping shot from 16 yards which Day parried away but the rebound fell conveniently to Robinson who blasted over from 8 yards when he should have worked County keeper Joe Day. Swindon gained confidence from their snappy raids forward with Woolery and Anderson tricky with the ball at their feet. On 20 minutes, Woolery won a free kick in the heart of the pitch after Labadie got the wrong side in a challenge. Anderson struck a decent effort from 30 yards which forced Day into a good save to push the ball around the post for a corner. County made efforts to pick up their game with Matt working hard to retain possession but County struggling across the middle to coordinate any structure to their play. On 25 minutes, County were dealt a blow when Matt was overworked holding the ball and stretching to maintain possession appeared to pull up and he was replaced by Azeez. Swindon became increasingly menacing with Anderson enjoying plenty of space through the middle and County more indecisive in the tackle. On 30 minutes, a move summed up the half for County when Azeez and Kennedy combined to steal the ball in a decent position right side of the area but allowed the ball to stolen back. Sheehan was loose with a pass and then overcommitted tackling to win the ball back from Anderson and was booked. Anderson then left his frustration leaving a late challenge on Kennedy as he attacked from deep on the left flank. County went into their shell dropping men deeper allowing Swindon room to operate from the back which played into their hands. On 34 minutes, Woolfenden arrowed a ball from deep to pick out the run of Bennett who was checked by Poole. This time the free kick from 30 yards was harmless with Anderson dragging his shot well over the bar. The game remained competitive in the middle with several untidy challenges going unpunished by the referee. On 37 minutes, County were fortunate to not be behind when Anderson again went on a mazy erratic run towards the right side of the area before blasting a decent effort which was blocked but Woolery saw his smart first time effort from 16 yards go inches over the bar. After being under pressure, County had a great chance to forge ahead on 40 minutes when Azeez did well to unsettle Conroy and Willmott snatched the loose ball off Woolfenden and forge goalside. He didn’t appear to be aware of the space and thrashed a powerful effort straight at the keeper from 18 yards when he time to pick his spot. Swindon continue to offer threat on the stroke of half time flooding men forward from midfield. County were presented with a more difficult task in first half injury time when Labadie stretched to win a challenge quite high up the pitch and he was replaced by Andrew Crofts.

The second half saw County adjust to play a more conventional 4-4-2 with Kennedy and Willmott in wide midfield roles and Azeez supporting more closely to Amond up top. The second half followed a frustrating pattern for County with ball retention poor especially in the final third with Azeez struggling in the target man role and it was an easy option for Swindon to steal possession and look to counter with balls in behind. County had been given little parity in decisions on Saturday and the trait continued with Poole and O’Brien both on the end of overzealous challenge but no booking forthcoming. On 55 minutes, County had a let off when a poor free kick delivery allowed Swindon to counter attack and with 3 v 2 they should really have done better. Robinson was strong attacking the left flank but his failure to pass proved costly and despite setting up Bennett left side of the box his snapshot from 14 yards was well saved by Day. On 63 minutes, County put themselves in trouble when they squandered possession cheaply on the right side of the pitch. Crofts was forced back to tackle but caught left back Koiki from behind and was booked. County had a couple of good situations from long throws either side of the area and went close on 67 minutes when Demetriou launched a throw into six yard box which Azeez glanced on well but Swindon keeper was able to claim the ball low just ahead of Amond. Swindon made an attacking change on 70 minutes with Doughty replacing Woolery. Swindon persisted with directing long balls from deep to turn County back on their heels. A bright Swindon move on 72 minutes initiated by centre back Woolfenden released Anderson who had an extra yard to win the ball ahead of Demetriou who clipped him late and he was booked. On 75 minutes, Swindon went close after a free kick was played back post for Conroy who saw his header blocked and Bennett snapped up the loose ball but his half volley from 10 yards was parried away well by Day. County made their final change on 77 minutes to pep up their approach with Marsh-Brown replacing Kennedy and Swindon replaced ex-County midfielder Rose with Richards up top. With Swindon committed, County had some better luck on the break with Marsh-Brown and Willmott enjoying space. On 83 minutes, Marsh-Brown made a direct run down the middle and had options either side of the area with players splitting and elected to shoot but his low effort was well blocked by Conroy. Swindon kept plugging maintaining their energy and drive and swung in a couple of decent crosses from wide positions but the ball flashed though and went out for a throw in. County had another half chance on 90 minutes with a patient move across the face of the area involving Amond and Azeez who found Sheehan but his low crisp effort from 18 yards was diverted by Knoyle. County were stretched on times and thankful for an excellent challenge by Crofts in the first minute of injury time when he bravely won the ball ahead of Carroll. He was unable to recover and was booked for leaving the pitch slowly which seemed somewhat harsh under the circumstances. McCourt replaced Carroll and with Swindon still pressing, County may have pinched the game in the final minutes when Butler crept up to support swift break near the edge of the area. He adjusted but curled his effort from 20 yard wide of the right post. In the seventh minutes of injury time, Swindon swung in another cross right side with Anderson cutting a decent ball from a tight position but Richards headed well wide of the right post under pressure from Demetriou.

Day (8) – put under several times from back passes but cleared well, kicked long from his hands and made a couple of smart instinctive key saves to protect a point

Poole (6) –  lost out on a couple of challenges jumping in and was a bit anxious with some clearances. Did well to support moves right side and reasserted his game late on

Butler (6) –  forced back on times especially by Anderson and less influence final third. Did come back into the game in the final quarter but restricted on crosses.

O’Brien (6) –  generally cleared well, put in some brave headers and took a couple of knocks. Got bowled over to the floor several times and need to keep in his feet.

Demetriou (7) –  busy game, dealt well with Robinson and was overworked on times dealing with Anderson. Provided several good throws but best work in defensive half.

Labadie (6) – competed well in the air and had good spells before his knock when he won possession and carried ball forward, replaced by:

Crofts (6) – decent game, made some good tackles especially the one late on and passed effectively when he got on the ball but spent a lot of time firefighting.

Willmott (5) – forced back to defend and saw less threat today from wide positions. Put in some good set pieces but restricted on delivery from open play. Missed best chance

Sheehan (5) – never really got on the ball and dictate the game. Got brushed off the challenge too easily and after needless booking was treading a tightrope.

Amond (6) – didn’t see enough of the ball final third and forced to drop back. Always does his best work deep inside the area and only one real chance from header.

Matt (7) – took up some good positions was causing problems with his aerial presence and runs before injury and replaced  by:

Azeez (5) – played target man but let down by poor ball retention and decisions when he got ball. Needed to get early shots in and be bold but got bogged down with ball under feet

Kennedy (6) – starved of possession, dropped back far too deep on times. Needs to hold his line in the final third to close down and force defensive mistakes further up pitch

 

 

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths –
they had pace and trickery up top and were robust despite their size. Full backs were positive pressing space and quick as team in transition.

Weaknesses – both centre backs were casual on times and should have been punished with ball at feet. Lacked height in the middle of the pitch and suspect on crosses to back post.

Opportunities –  they didn’t use the middle of the pitch greatly, it was all a bit quick release in behind to use pace and chase down lost causes. Had about four strikers on at the end.
Threats –
Anderson was a livewire and prepared to shoot, Woolery was robust and carried pace in behind. Bennett linked space well from box to box.

OFFICIALS
K Johnson (6) – got the key decision right but failed to pick up on some of the pushing and cynical antics which warranted bookings allowing non-existent advantage.  


MAN OF THE MATCH
Joe Day – league two player of the year and showed his credentials again reacting late with some smart saves making himself big.

IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Another clean sheet and robust defensive display by County but lack of goals is something of a concern. The injuries to Matt and Labadie unsettled County and they never were able to exert any grip on the game with limited momentum lost too easily. Azeez did his best to replace Matt in the target role but it was easy picking for the Swindon defence to double up,  steal possession and ping balls in behind which Anderson and Bennett chased down all day. County ended up doing a lot of unnecessary firefighting but they really needed a midfield to take control and vice grip the ball but were often left being overran. Sides are sitting in against County playing five man midfield that are looking to counter attack and in the last two games, County have not been able to get their wide players and creators like Butler, Willmott and Sheehan into the game. With Matt injured, County may need to revert to 5-3-2 as the front three looks too lightweight. Sheehan and Willmott have been instrumental in specific games this season but can they both play as effective unit together in away games. Next up is Cambridge United away who are still not completely safe from relegation. County can expect a physical uncompromising encounter with Deegan driving the opponents in central midfield with Lambe and Amoo offering pace of wide. County will need to remain compact but need to utilise their full backs better and get their wide game back firing on all cylinders.