MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Snow doubt Exiles must add to squad
9:00am Tuesday 22nd January 2013 in Sport
COLD as it might have been, there was a whiff of excitement in the air as County’s travelling 150 fans left Sincil Bank after seeing their team hit four past Lincoln City without really getting out of second gear just over a week ago.
That’s the kind of performance a team who win the league produce and when (presumably) many of the same die-hard supporters cleared the snow at Rodney Parade on Saturday, they’d have expected at least more of the same.
Barrow were bottom of the league and surely County could just turn up and win? It almost seemed like the players thought so.
It was a depressing performance, more so than when they were pummelled 5-0 by Forest Green Rovers.
There was an element of Man City at Old Trafford last season about that game. County, like United, were so gung-ho they turned a three goal defeat into a massacre.
On Saturday Newport were one dimensional, naive in possession and outfought by basement boys Barrrow.
But let’s add one ingredient to the debate not yet uttered anywhere in South Wales. Barrow were really good.
And when we let the facts get in the way of a good argument, it’s not hard to see why.
Not only the clichéd football-speak arguments – ‘they’re battling for their lives’ and ‘every game for them is a cup final’ – there was legitimate cause to think Barrow had every chance of causing an upset.
Why? Because they are a much better side away from home. They’ve won the same amount of away games this season as legitimate promotion challengers Grimsby Town (five), and have only two less points on the road than Luton Town, the outright pre-season title tips.
They’ve also scored more away goals than Grimsby (18 to 17) and Kidderminster Harriers and just one fewer than the Hatters.
County were beaten by a gritty, determined, at times nasty but always hard working side who defended deep but effectively and broke enough to reward their defensive efficiency.
In terms of critiquing the Exiles, it’s a difficult task, particularly after savaging them in my match report, there’s no ground to be gained in doing so again.
What does seem clear, in terms of County’s promotion potential, is that there will be more transfer activity in the remaining nine days before the window closes.
For me, irrespective of Aaron O’Connor’s prognosis, there should be two clear targets for Edinburgh in terms of not only strengthening his squad in terms of ability but perhaps more importantly, in terms of his options in regard to adaptability.
Some of my followers on Twitter of a County persuasion are becoming disillusioned with Justin Edinburgh’s strict adherence to a 4-3-3 formation, but I think that’s only reflecting his squad.
Before January County had five central midfielders (Jake Thomson has since left on loan to Lincoln), one winger in Ben Swallow and a plethora of strikers also capable of playing wide in a three man front line. A simple enough equation.
And it’s worked. Again we see from the pesky league table that far from being a Jekyll and Hyde team who win one week and lose the next, only Wrexham and Grimsby have lost fewer games than Newport.
No one has won more, but County could do far better when it comes to turning losses into draws. Only four times this season have County finished level and only in one of those games did they come from behind.
An inability to change shape has been a hindrance and with one stroke last week, Edinburgh took his compliment of genuine wingers from one to three by signing Christian Jolley and Robbie Willmott and put 4-4-2 back on the table.
And that’s not the end of it. A pursuit of a central defender will bring 3-5-2 into play (or any variation on a formation with three starting central defenders).
David Pipe and Andy Sandell would be natural wing-backs and this could help a defence that have lost their way somewhat.
I’d also love to see County sign a player who can play in that mythical ‘hole’ behind a striker or strikers.
Max Porter is an essential midfield cog and Mike Flynn is getting better and better, but neither player will get double figures this season in terms of goals.
Neither will 18-year-old Lee Evans, nor will Lee Minshull.
County don’t have a player in that mould and I just wonder whether it’s something Edinburgh will look to address.
The league table doesn’t lie and we need to do what we expect the County players to do. Dust yourselves off and get ready for the next game. Newport aren’t rubbish because of one loss. They just need a few more options and they need to find them in nine days.
No pressure then...