County fail to find inspiration despite supporter heroics: Match report
THE headlines for this one wrote themselves, or so we thought.
"County make hay as the sun doesn’t shine", or "fans put County top of the league", were going to be the talk of the city today, weren’t they?
Because there was a tremendous happening at Rodney Parade on Saturday. The Amber Army performed with great distinction and were a credit to the club in a performance that will have impressed fans across the land. But unfortunately, none of that happened between 3 and 5pm.
And it wasn’t the Newport County players who impressed and inspired, far from it, it was the supporters, 120 hardy souls who braved the elements and got the game on by assisting the ground staff.
If a single one of them left Rodney Parade on Saturday uttering anything different than: "I wish I hadn’t bothered", they are far better people than me.
Because as a performance this was as limp as I’ve seen from Newport in ages, and for a team with designs on winning the Conference, it was nothing short of pathetic.
Those are strong words but justified after a contest where Newport looked like they could play until Christmas Day and still not find the net.
Throw in a potentially serious injury to your top scorer and arguably best player and it might well be that come the season’s end, we’ll look back at Barrow at home as one of the games where it all got away.
Credit is definitely due to the Bluebirds who defended for their lives and were strong and resolute.
But what is it about Newport and the weather?
They seem to decide that on a weather-affected pitch – rain or cold – that they simply can’t play passing football.
We saw it on New Year’s day when Forest Green Rovers massacred them and we saw it again on Saturday.
The slick passing that has been Newport’s great asset this term degenerated into 50 and 60-yard long balls fired from the fullbacks or midfielders.
When your target is Danny Crow or Aaron O’Connor, it’s mind-numbingly pointless and frustrating.
Speaking of O’Connor, don’t be fooled into thinking that County lost because they couldn’t adjust to his departure which, worryingly, was on a stretcher.
It was a blow, of course, but Newport had already failed to create anything of note for nearly half the game before his exit and that was a pattern that didn’t change markedly, even with County getting more and more gung-ho and ending the contest playing 3-3-4.
What to do, what to do against the lesser sides at home? It’s a problem County still can’t crack.
When visitors put ten men behind the ball and look for the quick counter, County often look bereft of ideas. Never more so than on Saturday.
There wasn’t a County effort on goal worthy of mention in the first half, lots of squandered possession and long passing but no true menace, the complete contrast to their previous performance.
Barrow could’ve gone ahead earlier when David Pipe was exposed by the overlapping Gavin Skel-ton, but he couldn’t beat Alan Julian.
However, when Newport failed to clear properly from a corner four minutes before the interval, they did pay for it, Matt Flynn tapping home from all of a yard.
That came not long after a turn and shot from O’Connor that nearly hit the corner flag, as he went down and stayed down.
He was stretchered off with a thigh injury and thousands of fans will anxiously await news of his scan.
He was replaced by Danny Crow, but the ex-Hatter was entirely starved of service, save for one tame second half effort easily held by Danny Hurst.
Only once did Newport really look like scoring, Andrew Hughes’ firm header and two scrambled rebounds diverted by first Hurst, then a defender on the line and then turned wide in a frantic exchange after the break.
And by then County looked well beaten, having fallen two down by wilting as Adam Boyes fed Danny Rowe whose finish took a slight deflection to deceive Julian.
County threw more and more players forward and Mike Flynn and Lee Evans both came close as the minutes ticked away, but in truth even a consolation strike looked well beyond Newport as Barrow blocked and scrambled their way to a deserved win.
Harsh words were spoken after the game and boss Justin Edinburgh didn’t meet the press, but the Exiles have an immediate chance to make amends at Woking tomorrow and will hopefully be fired up to reward their supporters.
Newport County: Julian, Pipe (Swallow 72), Sandell, Hughes, James, Evans, Flynn, Minshull (Washington 69), O’Connor (Crow 37), Jolley, Willmott Subs not used: Pidgeley, Yakubu Booked: Pipe, Evans Barrow: Hurst, Flynn, Skelton, Hessey, M Pearson, Owen, Rutherford, Baker, McConville, Boyes, DL Rowe Subs not used: S Pearson, D Rowe, Harvey, Hunter Booked: McConville, Hurst, Skelton, Baker Referee: Lee Swabey Attendance: 2107