Indifferent County play into Rovers hands

Report from Mark Vickery

Venue: Rodney Parade

Newport County 0

Forest Green Rovers 2 (Davison 43, Matt 63 pen)

Attendance:

Form:

Newport County LDLdDLLWLD

Forest Green Rovers DWDLDLWLWW

PRE-MATCH THOUGHTS
Forest Green have some injuries in defence so expecting more direct approach but County will need to be more creative and cute in the final third to get anything from this game.

CONDITIONS
Mild, partly cloudy and light breeze. Pitch erratic and heavy in parts with few greener parts.

SUMMING UP OUR PERFORMANCE IN ONE STATEMENT
Probed well first half without reward but lost control of game second half making too many poor decisions.

TURNING POINT
Second Forest Green goal effectively killed off challenge.

THE MATCH
County were forced into a defence change with David Longe-King not available but had Liam Shephard back after suspension and he went right back with Priestley Farquharson slotting into central defence. County adjusted with 4–3–3 formation with Anthony Hartigan back in the side in place of Matt Dolan who was on the bench. There was also a couple of changes up top with Dominic Telford and Jake Scrimshaw replacing Ryan Taylor and Luke Gambin who were on the bench. The early staged were passive with Forest Green happy to sit off and allow County to play from deep but they were quick to press in midfield. County kept their nerve well under pressure and worked some good low moves towards the left flank. Forest Green were happy to play direct using former County striker Jamille Matt and new loan signing Davison to test County but Farquharson and Demetriou marshalled the aerial balls well. County flirted with a couple of moves left side with Scrimshaw busy but the game was littered with several free kicks to interrupt the flow with the referee whistle happy. On 8 minutes, a quickly take free kick left side by County invited Haynes to cross and the ball was blocked by Davison but the appeals for handball fell on death ears. County kept probing away and a move right side on 11 minutes yielded a throw in. Farquharson took it quick and found Shepherd who crossed first time from a deeper position pinpointing Telford but his header from 8 yards went just over the bar. County remained in better control of the game with Farquharson neat with his distribution right side. On 13 minutes, Forest Green worked a quick move right side when County lost the ball cheaply in the middle of the pitch and Whitehouse released Matt right side of the area. He elected to shoot early but his low effort was wide of the right post. Rovers remained disciplined sitting in and snapping at challenge in the middle of the pitch looking to exploit County with some snappy moves in transition. The game remained a stop start affair with County showing more thoughtfulness with their short passing but the free kicks continued to reign in at will with the referee killing any momentum built for either side. On 25 minutes, County had a free kick right side of the area in a decent position which Sheehan delivered well but Stokes was on hand to clear the danger back post. Forest Green offered more force coming forward around the half hour with more determination down the flanks. On 32 minutes, Moore-Taylor released Cargill who drove into space left side of the area and from near the byline his low cross found Davison but the first time effort was well read by Townsend. The remained contentious in the middle of the pitch and Hartigan was booked in altercation in the centre circle and Bernard was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card for kick out. County kept persisting left side with Haynes and Scrimshaw combining well with some low intricate moves. On 38 minutes, County won a free kick near the left touchline which Sheehan whipped in well and Demetriou ghosted in poking a low effort from 10 yards which the keeper Thomas held well. County worked some patient low moves as half time approached despite the erratic surface, managing the game well. A decent move on 42 minutes across the face of the area invited Hartigan to shoot but he hit a rising effort well over the bar when well positioned. After being some reasonable control of the game, County inexplicably switched off moments later showing softness that has become too much in their character in recent matches. From the left side, Matt was allowed to peel away from a challenge and play a diagonal pass into space right side which Davison latched onto. Despite County having men back in position Davison was allowed to roam inside past Haynes and drilled a low shot into right corner beyond the right corner. County offered little response after the goal scratching their heads coming off after being in a decent position.

Forest Green were more forceful in the early stages of the second half allowing less time for County in midfield and Adams was booked for a late high challenge on Labadie on 50 minutes. Rovers were unshaken and stuck the plan forcing several corners as indecision by County crept back into their game. On 58 minutes, Forest Green had a glimmer of chance when a cross was glanced on well by Matt and Davison met a first time header back post which Townsend held well. County made a triple substitution on 60 minutes with Amond, Taylor and Ellison replacing Maynard, Telford and Scrimshaw. County were in further trouble on 62 minutes conceding a calamitous goal from a free kick inside their own half. A long ball was launched forward and not read by despite having Taylor and Labadie around the ball. Stokes directed his header forward which Sheehan appeared to have under control but his weak back pass put Townsend in trouble and he was adjudged to have taken out Davison on the very edge of the area. Townsend was booked and Matt took the penalty slotting into the top right corner with Townsend going the opposite way. Another Forest Green booked followed on 67 minutes with Godwin-Malife checking the run of Labadie left side of the area. Haynes took the dead ball and a decent delivery found Labadie who headed just wide of the left post from 8 yards when he should have worked the keeper. County made efforts to pick up their game with Shephard offering more influence right side and he dragged an effort wide of the left post from the right corner of the area. County made another change on 75 minutes with Hartigan replaced by Lewis who went right midfield with Forest Green introducing their first change on 77 minutes with right sided defender Richardson on for Davison. Rovers were happy to sit back and contain County who opted for direct play which did little to unsettle Forest Green with Stokes and Moore-Taylor dominating the aerial duals. County won their first corner of the game on 85 minutes not long after Farquharson had been pushed forward as a make shift striker with Lewis going right back. Forest Green made a late change up top with Young on for Matt. County forced Forest Green to defend deeper in the 6 minutes of injury time throwing in several hopeful crosses and Farquharson contributed well but the best threat they could muster was when a low move worked into Ellison resulted in snapshot blocked inside the area. Rovers held out for a solid well deserved win and underline their position in the automatic top 3 positions with County top 7 position looking increasingly at risk.

Townsend (6) — made a couple of solid collections, wasn’t overworked but kicking was a little erratic struggling on the heavy surface. Vision seems to be blocked on the opening goal.

Farquharson (7) — was the more composed defender, saw ball early and broke up most of the threat left side. Made some strong headers and did well when he went up front late on.

Haynes (5) — seems to be struggling for confidence presently and indecisive in the challenge. Provided some decent crosses first half but got beaten to the ball too often especially on headers

Demetriou (6) — had bright first half constructed some good moves from deep and pushed on to make things happen. Got turned back more second half but went close on couple of set pieces

Shephard (6) — adapted well after suspension, competing well but found little headway beyond 18 yard box. Faded second half but put in some reasonable crosses from deeper positions.

Hartigan (6) — did well in the first half to provide link on several good low moves but saw less influence after half time, second on too many tackles and pretty anonymous after booking

Labadie (7) — easily the most effective and creative player and did his best either side of area. Got caught late several times second half and did well to maintain his discipline

Sheehan (5) — made to look poor today, did get on the ball first half but brushed off too many challenges. Put in some of the best crosses but poor pass lead to second goal

Scrimshaw (6) — when he got an early pass from Haynes or Demetriou he did well but often got the ball as an after thought and never really got into positions to work the keeper.

Maynard (6) — restricted to zero chances and kept at arms length when he needs to be inside box. Did well in his link play but got caught offside too many times

Telford (6) — missed a decent chance first half and gave defence plenty of think about with his movement and with better ball may have profited. Did little to profit from direct ball second half

SWOT ANALYSIS OPPONENTS
Strengths — they were vigilant in and around their box stifling threat quickly and won their headers. Competed and suffocate space in the middle and took their few chances.

Weaknesses — Moore-Taylor struggled for mobility when turned back. Committed several booking from over-zealous challenges which better sides would have punished.

Opportunities — they never really need to change tact, sat off and pressed harder in middle of the pitch to exploit in transition. Direct play didn’t hurt County but was effective release.
Threats — Matt aerial prowess, Davison eye for goal, Cargill and Caddis worked well in tandem left side dynamic runs.

OFFICIALS

S Oldham (5) — made game less flowing, blowing up needlessly for shoulder to shoulder challenges. lenient when he needed to show authority and game was close to boiling over

MAN OF THE MATCH

Chris Stokes — been converted to centre back this year and showed experience to deal with aerial duals, read game well leading defence to limit County chances.

IF YOU WERE MICHAEL FLYNN WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

County made changes to the side today that appeared to benefit their game and despite going in at half time 1 down there were signs that they could unlock the key if they kept their mental strength and organisation in check at half time. County were measured and thoughtful with the ball first half and just needed to keep doing what they were doing but raise the bar final third. The opening goal came from switching off again defending left side not getting tight quick enough and allowing player to roam cheaply inside. Unfortunately, the second half performance saw them reverse that instruction and was not good enough with County electing to launch the ball hopefully long which allowed Stokes and Moore-Taylor to mop everything. This was prevalent before the changes and it became even more impaired after the early triple substitution which did little to improve the situation. County have become a naïve often soft outfit in recent weeks allowing other sides to assert control after being in control themselves. Forest Green were effective and organised but there was not a lot between the two sides in terms of chances but they offered more control box to box and that was key. County did make late changes to ask questions with Farquharson showed flexibility to his game going up front late on. However, the concern for fans is changes often made during the games is making County weaker. Next up is Walsall away who are in some form of limbo after manager Darrell Clarke departed and they have put a caretaker manager in place probably until the end of the season. County need to assert their strengths better in midfield as they are in danger of slipping out of the top 7. Walsall will need to adjust without Kinsella in central midfield as he was sent off on the weekend. They are likely to play three up top with Osadebe aerial outlet alongside McDonald offering pace left side alongside Lavery who carries threat on shots at distance.

Unofficial Newport County Match Reports, also visible on UptheCounty website. Views are my own

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