Saturday, 31 March 2018

My Fifty-Sixth 17/18 Game - Newport County vs Coventry City

Easter Weekend is finally upon us, with games now coming in thick and fast ahead of the end of the season we've got barely any time to stare agonisingly at the table wondering how and where we're going to finish. Last time out we handed it to Grimsby in a very routine performance, which we really need to do, we've got a few of those sorts of games left this season so to dispatch of them all with ease would be perfect. Newport away however isn't really one of those games, so when I saw the weather forecast, I'd have taken a point and ran, ran so very far.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
McDonald
Haynes

Vincenti
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Stokes
Davies
Barrett
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

Completely unchanged, and why shouldn't we be? Everyone was brilliant last week, as Gary McSheffrey put it, it was like a training session. Tom Davies got back onto the bench for the first time since breaking his collarbone at Forest Green nearly 2 months ago, but considering how well Hyam and McDonald have been doing there's no need to break them up. The return of King Carl Baker drags on for another game as according to his Twitter he got man flu in the week. I'll honestly be devastated if we never see him in a City shirt again, maybe Monday is the one.

First Half

Possibly being the wettest any man has ever been in Newport's open roofed terrace, we started easily the better of the two sides and it took just 7 minutes for us to have a real chance. In a switch up of roles, Clarke-Harris crossed into Shipley who only managed to hit the side netting from close range. It was a tight angle and all that but he really should have hit the target at the very least. Positive early signs however. It honestly seemed like we must have had about 30 corners in that first half, Shippers was floating every single one in but unfortunately the hosts are good at set pieces defensively as well as maintaining the most goals scored from them in the League this season.

It became clear quite early on that this wasn't the best game of Marc McNulty's career, he blasted one very good chance over the bar and then later on when one on one with the keeper he skied a chip from about 12 yards. As we all know by now, if we start well and score early on, then we're more than often fine, but if we start well and don't score, we struggle to maintain it and just start to deteriorate as the match goes on. Even though we were all over them, this was the case today.

Dan Butler put a weak cross in from the left side, and Rod McDonald wasn't tight to his marker, leaving Amond the ability to flick on which gave Mickey Demetriou all the time and space in the world to tap in past Burge at the back stick. It's happened time and time again, we had so many opportunities to stop them going ahead, mainly through McNulty, and we didn't. It's unfair to criticise him though given how much he's stepped up since Jodi's injury back in November.

One thing that gave me a small glimmer of hope going into the break was that we came roaring straight back at them after the goal, and Haynes very nearly curled one into the top corner on his weaker foot. Had we got the swift reply it would have been happy days, instead it was an ever so slightly miserable, drenched 15 minutes for us all as Newport headed in with, it's fair to say an undeserved lead. But what can you do, if we don't put our chances away and they do then you can't really call it that.

Half Time - Newport County 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

In what I can think is only an attempt to grossly annoy us, Frank Nouble plodded on the pitch for The Exiles. Whilst this time we had the poorer start of the two sides, we were so close to equalising just 5 minutes in. On a break, Clarke-Harris shot across goal and Demetriou skewed the clearance out, the ball could have gone literally anywhere, but instead it managed to go straight into the arms of Joe Day. Luck at its pure finest. Actually, that's probably a bit hypocritical as about a minute earlier Matty Dolan grazed the post from about 25 yards.

Just after the hour mark past, I think we got the call to action and the wake up call we so desperately needed, because god knows how we didn't concede in this minute long period. First of all, Burge made one of the best saves I've ever seen from point blank range to flick a header over the bar. It's probably beaten only by Reice Charles-Cook's save from that free kick at Port Vale a couple of years ago. From the resulting corner they got yet another free header in the box, and out of nowhere Dominic Hyam flung himself at it to scoop it over the bar. Still shellshocked, they put it in the box from a corner once more, this time the header was right at Burge and he was able to pull it to his chest.


God knows how it was still 1-0, but I think Robins knew at this stage something needed to be done. Kyel Reid was on for Shipley, and a couple of minutes later because he was badly limping, McNulty was off for Ponticelli. Let's just hope he's alright and this was just a minor blip because god help us for the run in if not. Then finally with about 15 minutes left Vincenti made way for Maxime Biamou who went out to play on the right with JCH and Ponticelli up top. The three of them could probably just about scrape 10 goals in all competitions this season.

We won the ball back in a good position when Reid picked it up about 35 yards out, he drove with it and as he reached the box he dinked it across to the far side in a Wembley-esque motion. It looked as if he'd missed everyone, but it was in fact much better than that, as like an lion hunting for pray, Maxime Biamou came steaming in towards the back stick and first time on the volley found the small gap between the keeper and the post. 1-1. Limbs everywhere. The French Pele stepped up when we needed him most.

We could, and probably should have snatched all 3 points in the last 10 minutes as it was all Cov. In fact I'm pretty sure there'd have been deaths in the away end had Rod McDonald's last minute header not been cleared off the line. There definitely should have been more than 4 minutes added on given the amount of time that was wasted and stoppages for injuries, but the referee ended up blew for full time letting the game finish 1-1.

Full Time - Newport County 1-1 Coventry City

It's disappointing we couldn't go away with 3 points, but we dug very deep to get that point when we were far from our best in spells of the game. We're still in sixth, results went relatively in our favour, and that's now 7 games unbeaten. This is certainly a point gained as opposed to two dropped. However it does mean we have to absolutely beat Yeovil on Monday to cement a play off spot and keep the automatic dream alive. 7 to go... Also, on a more personal note, this is the 200th post I've done on here, so thanks everyone for actually reading them so I have the motivation to carry on.

My Man of the Match - Lee Burge - If he doesn't make that ridiculous save we lose that game, it's as simple as that. I've said this so many times before, and I'll say it again, he's as good a keeper as we could get and in my opinion is the best since Westwood. However even now he'll skew a kick now and again and is crucified for it. Honestly, could we actually do better? He's one of the players of the season. I'll forever back him.

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