County unable to reclaim Conference top spot
RODNEY Parade hosted a wedding reception as well as a top Blue Square Bet Premier clash on Saturday, and you have to hope that the happy couple and guests had a better time than those of us who came to watch the football.
The new home of Newport County AFC has seen some great games already this season, but this was not one of them.
With Forest Green Rovers having sneaked into top spot on Friday evening the stage was set for County to see off fellow promotion hopefuls Grimsby Town and reclaim their place at the summit.
But Justin Edinburgh’s men were left frustrated after an extremely close contest with both sides largely nullifying the threat of their opponents.
The Exiles will feel that they could have edged it, with Danny Crow seeing a goal-bound effort blocked on the line in the first half and substitute Ben Swallow hitting the post with a cross in the second.
But they couldn’t find their way into the Mariners’ net, and in truth, a draw was probably a fair result.
The visitors also had their chances, with County goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley doing superbly to deny Nathan Pond after the break and it would have been harsh on them to have had to make the long journey home with no reward.
Rob Scott and Paul Hurst’s side have now gone 10 games unbeaten and will surely be challenging for promotion come the end of the season.
As Edinburgh said after the match, it shows how far his side have come in such a short space of time that they were so disappointed not to have beaten Grimsby.
County were not quite on top of their game but they still more than matched a major rival and they are beginning to look like the real deal in the upper echelons of the Conference.
They are now a point behind Forest Green, who they play home and away over Christmas, and three points clear of Welsh rivals Wrexham in third.
After a week of rest and recovery they travel to seventh-placed Tamworth on Saturday and Edinburgh is still looking to improve his squad despite their hugely impressive start to the season.
The manager announced on Saturday that Pidgeley had been rewarded for his fantastic form with a contract until the end of the season.
That is vital for the club, with summer signing Alan Julian still some weeks away from being able to make his competitive debut.
And the Argus understands that another new signing will be unveiled today.
Lee Evans’ creativity was certainly missed against Grimsby, with replacement Jake Thomson too often misplacing his passes.
Thomson started ahead of Mike Flynn in central midfield after coming off the bench against AFC Telford United and creating a goal for Ismail Yakubu.
But he, Max Porter and Lee Minshull struggled to stamp their authority on the game in Evans’ absence.
The good news is that the 18-year-old is on course to make a comeback from his hamstring strain in time for the trip to Macclesfield a week on Saturday.
Also pleasing was the performance of County’s back four, who notched up a fifth clean sheet in 12 games.
David Pipe, Andy Sandell and Tony James were all impressive to varying degrees but there was no doubt about the best man at Rodney Parade on Saturday; Yakubu was simply superb.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe (Flynn, 80), Sandell, James, Yakubu, Porter, Minshull, Thomson, Crow, Louis (Swallow, 66), O’Connor
Subs not used: Hughes, Harris, Perry
Grimsby: McKeown, Thomas, Pearson, Colbeck, Disley, Artus, Cook (Elding, 79), Wood, Pond, Nielson (Thanoj, 86), Hannah (Southwell, 86)
Subs not used: Hatton, Miller
Referee: Chris Knowles (Northampton)