County cruise at Woking - match report
IF a week is a long time in politics it’s an age in the crazy world of football.
Former prime minister Harold Wilson, the man behind that famous quote, was a Huddersfield Town supporter, so he knew a thing or two about the ups and downs of being a football fan as well as the vagaries of life in Westminster.
And seven days in the life of Newport County AFC just go to show once again how quickly things can change.
Last Saturday County were cursing their luck and manager Justin Edinburgh was fuming after they were denied a win against Tamworth by a controversial stoppage-time penalty.
A week on the Exiles boss was beaming after seeing his side dispatch a rampant Mansfield Town in midweek before brushing aside in-form Woking on Saturday.
The response from what was a gut-wrenching blow has been mightily impressive and underlines what Edinburgh has said all season – that this is a group of players with great character who still believe they can achieve their target of promotion to the Football League.
A quick glance at the Blue Square Bet Premier table certainly makes for better reading than it did after the Tamworth match with County now just two points off the top, having taken maximum advantage of Wrexham and Grimsby Town’s FA Trophy commitments.
And all this has been achieved without three of the team’s stand-out performers, with Lee Evans having departed for the Championship and Max Porter and Aaron O’Connor still sidelined by injury.
In the absence of top scorer O’Connor, Edinburgh will be pleased to see goals coming from all over the pitch, with midfielder Lee Minshull the hero at Woking with two well-taken strikes.
The ex-AFC Wimbledon man has struggled to claim a regular starting-place this season, but having doubled his County goal tally in 15 first-half minutes at the Kingfield Stadium, he will be hard to shift on current form.
Centre-back Byron Anthony is another player who has admitted to being frustrated by his lack of first-team opportunities in recent months but he has taken his chance in some style.
The former Cardiff City and Bristol Rovers defender struggled when thrown in as cover at right-back but has really shown his pedigree alongside Tony James and Ismail Yakubu since the switch to 5-3-2.
And he’s also displaying a welcome eye for goal, having found the net against Tamworth and bagged the killer third against the Cards.
Defensively the Exiles also look a lot more solid in the new formation, having kept their first clean sheet since October in the win over the Stags, and Lenny Pidgeley was only denied another by a stoppage-time consolation for Woking sub Gavin McCallum on Saturday.
Perhaps the only concern for Edinburgh at the moment is the lack of goals from striker Danny Crow.
He was unlucky not to score inside the first 10 minutes against Woking when stand-in goalkeeper Elvijs Putnins pulled off an outstanding save from close range.
He’s also had an injury-ravaged campaign and been asked to play out wide for long periods, but just two goals all season tells its own story and he desperately needs one to go in off his knee, his shin... any part of his anatomy, as long as it goes in.
At least with O’Connor nearing a comeback and new boy Rhys Griffiths also on board, the manager has plenty of options up front.
This match was won in the first half with Andy Sandell the main creative force.
The left wing-back crossed for Minshull to head home the opener on 19 minutes, although Putnins should have kept it out having got a hand to the ball.
Sandell also made the second after 34 minutes as his free kick from the right was headed onto the inside of the post by Anthony and Minshull was the first to react to bundle the ball home from close range – showing a real striker’s instinct.
The third came just three minutes later from Scott Donnelly’s corner as the excellent Mike Flynn flicked the ball on to Anthony, who swept it home at the far post with another excellent finish.
Pidgeley made a fabulous save to deny Joe McNerney just before the break and the second half was a containment job on a horrible playing surface with Flynn to the fore.
McCallum’s late strike was a minor blemish but it couldn’t spoil a highly satisfactory week for the Exiles.
Woking: Putnins, Newton, Ricketts, McNerney, Parkinson, Bubb (Williams, 52), Betsy, Sawyer (Stockley, 52), Johnson, Knott (McCallum, 15).
Subs not used: Cestor, Little.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Sandell, James, Yakubu, Anthony, Flynn, Minshull, Donnelly (Thomson, 60), Crow, Jolley (Willmott, 83).
Subs not used: Washington, Evans, Julian.
Referee: Wayne Barratt
Attendance: 2,116 (257 County)
Argus star man: Lee Minshull