MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Sky is the limit for County
10:02am Tuesday 3rd December 2013 in Sport
HIGH HOPES: With the likes of Adam Chapman (left) improving all the time and Andy Sandell returning from injury lay-off, County fans must be feeling hugely optimistic about their promotion prospects
GENUINE promotion contenders and now the hard work truly begins in earnest.
That’s the situation for Newport County following arguably their most eye-catching week yet in the Football League.
A draw at a team who reached the play-offs last term, a draw at the league leaders (and in both games the woodwork prevented Newport victory) and then a superb win over high-flying Chesterfield who could’ve gone top.
That’s the sort of statement that shows you’ve got serious promotion credentials and in pure mathematics, Newport are now only three points off top spot themselves.
However, for my money we are now reaching the truly crucial period where the congested nature of the division will start to move somewhat, with the genuine promotion challengers finding another gear.
Only four points split the top ten sides and in a sense, that makes Newport’s position precarious.
But ALL evidence points to them having staying power.
Absolutely everything suggests that Newport County AFC are in fact the real deal.
Firstly, forget the statements emanating from the club that no new players will be signed in January.
That’s not strictly accurate. What Justin Edinburgh has said is that he doesn’t need to sign any players, that he has a squad where the competition is fierce and the unit cohesive.
However, I think those in the corridors of power at Rodney Parade are only too aware that this season the club are once again exceeding their pre-season expectations.
At the start of the campaign, consolidation was acceptable, now it would be disappointing.
That’s because the Exiles are currently a club without a weakness.
That’s inclusive of their first XI, their squad, their management, their board of directors and their home of Rodney Parade.
My biggest fear when the County reached the Promised Land was not that the team couldn’t cope with the step up, it was that the club as a whole, so used to being non-league, simply weren’t ready to operate at a higher level.
That fear was unfounded.
Indeed, off the field, County have excelled. Their work in the community has never been more prominent, their ticketing policy was given proper care and attention and the result is a very, very healthy average attendance. I scoffed at the notion that even in League Two Newport would be ‘a big fish’ but the passion and loyalty from the people of Newport has shown me to be dead wrong.
It seems rather pointless to re-iterate my thoughts on Edinburgh, I believe the best (to steal boxing parlance) pound-for-pound manager outside of the Premier League, but the longer that remains our little secret, the better!
Because the ultimate barometer for success is the team and Newport’s squad isn’t found wanting in any regard.
I’ve yet to see a better goalkeeper in League Two this season than Lenny Pidgeley and I’m yet to see a more consistent defender than Ismail Yakubu.
The Exiles have plenty of attacking options and have coped easily with Aaron O’Connor missing all season (20 goals last year), Christian Jolley missing six weeks (15 goals last season) and now with Chris Zebroski sidelined.
However, that has allowed others to step forward and with all their strikers fit; County would have a veritable embarrassment of riches to pick from.
What is really key, however, is that Newport make hay while the sun shines and push on in the next six weeks or so.
Because once we head into January, we reach that time in the season of inevitable postponements and in my view, it was that, more than anything else, which prevented the Exiles from winning the Conference National title 12 months ago.
Because if County can continue their momentum, the play-offs might prove to be far too small of an aim with automatic promotion a genuine possibility for them.
Add Max Porter, Aaron O’Connor and the likes to this group and there is no telling how far they can go.
It’s a very exciting time indeed for football fans across the area.
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