MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Injury woe might be the making of County
11:02am Tuesday 22nd October 2013 in Sport
Dagenham and Redbridge's Gavin Hoyte battles with Newport County's Andy Sandell..(Photo by Ashley Crowden/CameraSport)..Football - The Football League Sky Bet League 2 - Dagenham & Redbridge v Newport County - Saturday 24th August 2013 - The L
IF a weekly column isn't the place for wild theories I don't know where is and to that end, how about a Newport County one?
Call me naive, call me silly, I'm often called worse, but County's injury crisis this term might well be the making of them in League Two.
It seems preposterous to claim that being without the likes of Aaron O'Connor, Christian Jolley, Byron Anthony, Andy Sandell and Max Porter could be beneficial, but I honestly believe it's working out well for the Exiles.
Firstly, in light of Saturday's comfortable, dare I say easy home win over York City, Newport are a mere four points off of the League Two summit.
How could we possibly have asked for more? Even with every player fit and firing for the entirety of the campaign to date, I can't believe anyone is currently disappointed with the Exiles' points haul?
Only the home reverse to Morecombe stands out as an opportunity missed and that game was almost the dictionary definition of a freak result with so much misfortune falling on a single player.
Not only have Newport been without the high profile five players already listed during that time, but the likes of Mike Flynn, Tony James, Ismail Yakubu, Lenny Pidgeley and David Pipe have also missed portions of the campaign.
Newport might be trailing in the 'how many subs can you name?' stakes, but for all their troubles in the treatment room, a small squad has performed brilliantly.
The Exiles are making Rodney Parade a fortress for the second season in a row. On the road, they are finding their feet.
For all the players that have been missing, opportunities have been created elsewhere. Those chances have been grasped firmly and confidently.
In the infrequent absences for Pipe, Ryan Jackson has been afforded game time, especially in the cup competitions. Every time he's impressed and now he's become a viable option to start in the league.
The Exiles have had a raft of injury problems in the centre of defence, but that has again led to a key emergence.
Two seasons ago Andrew Hughes seemed certain to be sold to a Football League club, but his progress stalled last term and his stock feel.
But any dispute as to whether Hughes has what it takes for this level of football is a memory. He's been a beneficiary of injuries this term and he's seized his chance.
He's not alone.
It's arguably in attack that Newport have most benefitted from injuries.
If there were two strikers no County fan was concerned about this term, they would've been Jolley and O'Connor. Both can and will perform for the Exiles at this level when they are fit.
However, there were more question marks over Chris Zebroski, Danny Crow and especially young Conor Washington.
Would Zebroski adjust to his new surroundings? Can Crow score goals regularly and at a higher level? Is Washington at all ready?
I'd suggest Washington would barely have featured with a full complement of strikers. However, now when O'Connor and Jolley return, Washington will certainly be in the mix. He's improved game on game. He's been nothing short of a revelation.
Crow is scoring goals, two at Brighton and another on Saturday, a poachers' effort that he'll have enjoyed considerably.
Zebroski looks a fantastic signing. Strong and agile and with a superb work rate. But how much would we have seen of him if Jolley and O'Connor had been fit?
Not only that, but the injury problems meant the Exiles drafted in unexpected signings in Billy Jones and Ryan Burge.
Should they impress, I'd expect both players to agree to a longer stay come January. By then they'll already be established at the club and that's beneficial over a totally new signing.
Speaking of which, the much talked about financial restrictions in the Football League are particularly punishing for newly-promoted clubs out of the Conference.
They must survive on projections based on the previous term in a different division and that'll hurt Newport in January who are right at their wage limit.
Last term County were able to sign Christian Jolley and Scott Donnelly in the January transfer window, but such moves less likely in 2014.
However, as shot in the arms go, Newport might enjoy the turn of the year more than any other League Two club.
It is my understanding that January is the expected, not the hopeful, but the expected return date for Sandell, O'Connor, Anthony and Porter.
Imagine what a fillip that will be for a club currently looking like a top half finisher at least.
Injuries have created chances that have been seized at Rodney Parade and the return of those players can create extra momentum and buzz for the Exiles heading into the business part of the season.
That's my hunch.
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