County positives masked by Tom Naylor's nightmare day
COUNTY 2 MORECAMBE 3
OLDER readers will recall the Matthews FA Cup final of 1953 and younger fans will remember the Gerrard final in Cardiff in 2006. For County supporters this will always be the Tom Naylor match.
It wasn’t a cup final but it felt like a big game for the Exiles after three successive draws and Naylor dominated it for all the wrong reasons.
It was a match that the hosts should have had wrapped up by half-time but Morecambe were wise to County’s defensive frailties and ended up stealing the victory.
A classic ‘game of two halves’ left Justin Edinburgh’s men 12th in League two and without a win in four matches but there are definitely positives to take from this first home defeat since March.
For one thing, poor Naylor surely won’t have another game like this throughout his career!
He has been the Exiles’ best defender since joining on loan from Derby County last month but against the Shrimps everything that could have gone wrong for him did go wrong.
Two own goals in one match is bad enough but to concede the winning penalty as well really put the seal on a nightmare afternoon for the 22-year-old.
He was in no mood to do so on Saturday night but Edinburgh can also take solace from a highly impressive first half display from his side.
Conor Washington, who started in place of Christian Jolley, combined well with Chris Zebroski, Robbie Willmott, Adam Chapman and the returning Mike Flynn as the hosts played some superb attacking football and dominated the first 45 minutes.
And the boss seems to have made another fabulous signing in Billy Jones who slotted in seamlessly at left wing-back and scored a stunning goal with his first touch for his new club.
Washington played the ball out to the left and Jones unleashed an unstoppable left foot piledriver that gave Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche no chance.
County were 1-0 up inside three minutes and even Naylor’s first own goal, an unfortunate attempted clearance from Kevin Ellison’s header on 12 minutes, didn’t disrupt their flowing football.
Washington had missed a glorious chance at 1-0 but it didn’t seem to matter as Willmott put his side 2-1 up midway through the half with a superb effort that just crossed the line via post and bar.
County were full of confidence and passing the ball with real pace and precision and they should have wrapped up the points before the break.
Washington was making himself a real handful for the visiting defence on his full Football League debut and Naylor twice went close to scoring at the right end.
Harry Worley had also cleared a Padraig Amond header off the line after another Naylor mistake but at the break County looked nailed on for the three points.
Then, just before the hour, it all went wrong as far as the majority of the Rodney Parade fans were concerned.
Naylor and Lenny Pidgeley failed to communicate and the defender nodded the ball beyond the Exiles’ goalkeeper, who scrambled in vain to try to stop it creeping over the line.
And things went from bad to worse 20 minutes from time as Naylor clumsily brought down Ellison in the box and Amond beat Pidgeley from the spot.
It would be wrong to lay the blame for this defeat at one man’s door, however.
Yes, Naylor had a shocker, and was eventually taken off for his own good, but County as a whole were desperately disappointing in the second half.
They looked full of nerves after the second equalizer and then dumped their passing game for a route one approach late on, which made no sense once Danny Crow had replaced Zebroski.
Edinburgh’s men are clearly learning about life in League Two the hard way at the moment then, but the signs are there that they have the talent to flourish in the fourth tier of English football.
County: Pidgeley, Jones (Jolley, 79), Hughes, Naylor (Yakubu, 74), Worley, Pipe, Flynn, Chapman, Willmott, Washington, Zebroski (Crow, 68)
Subs not used: Stephens, James, Burge, Jackson
Booked: Naylor, Worley
Morecambe: Roche, Diagne, Hughes, Parrish, Wright, Drummond, Kenyon, Ellison, Williams (McGee, 85), Amond, Sampson (Mwasile, 90)
Subs not used: Arestidou, McGowan, Doyle
Booked: Kenyon, Williams
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
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