6:50pm Sunday 13th January 2013
By Michael Pearlman
AS a combination when you’re trying to win the league, pace and potency will take you an awfully long way.
One can only imagine how ex-County boss Dean’s twin brother, David Holdsworth, the Lincoln manager, will be feeling today.
For 90 minutes on Saturday his side, a mid-table Conference outfit with a rich Football League history, gave it absolutely everything against the Exiles.
They were committed, ambitious in attack and with a decent variety to their play, as a manager, you’d ask for little more. They were the better side in a draining second half and missed a golden opportunity at 0-0 to take the lead.
And with all that said, Newport County absolutely blew them away.
Those two words, pace and potency were the key, County’s new-look attacking trio of Aaron O’Connor through the centre with debutant and re-debutant Robbie Willmott and Christian Jolley flanking him tore Lincoln to pieces.
Any watching scouts must have been worrying they’d turned up at the wrong game because the swashbuckling nature of County’s counter-attacking in the first half had no place in division five.
Talk about making up for your shortcomings. Despite Justin Edinburgh being keen to sign a defender it was in attack, not defence, that the Exiles missed out on three points against Wrexham last time out, a host of chances squandered despite a fine performance.
Not so on Saturday. County weren’t as good against the Imps as they were against Wrexham, not even close, but in the final third they were as deadly as they’ve been all term.
How can we not start by talking about the man they know on Twitter as OCizzle? O’Connor was simply electric, again.
As revealed in today’s Argus, O’Connor has been pleading with Justin Edinburgh for a chance to play centrally, or in other words, he’s the top scorer in the Conference without playing in his favoured role!
In the middle, in the past 120 minutes, he’s been unplayable. He drops off, he’s strong enough to not get bullied when his back is to goal and he’ll happily charge down a flank and let, in this case, Willmott or Jolley, peel into the box.
With all three of them so quick, it’s horrible to defend against and four times in the first half this tandem were simply too good for Lincoln.
Other than an O’Connor sighter Newport didn’t really muster a thing in the first quarter of this contest, but they woke up in some style on 22 minutes when interplay between the midfield and Willmott fashioned an opening for O’Connor that he blasted home unerringly from 18 yards.
Fifteen minutes later and again, County hadn’t really created anything, but then Lincoln lost possession and were over-committed.
O’Connor dropped off and collected and within one swift movement he left two Lincoln defenders trailing. He wove on unabated for a further 40 yards and then under pressure drilled home expertly. It was the kind of goal you associate with a player bang in form.
Three minutes later and County broke again with O’Connor sniffing a hat trick, but as the ball came loose it was Willmott in the right place, again finishing expertly into the corner from the edge of the box to put County out of sight. It was tough on Lincoln. They fluffed their moment on 19 minutes when Jamie Taylor went clean through, Alan Julian producing maybe his biggest moment in a County shirt to save brilliantly to keep the game scoreless.
Neat interplay, a fine cross and a perfect header from Vadaine Oliver just before the break did beat Julian, but County maintained their cushion with a strike right on half-time.
This time it was Jolley who sprang the offside trap and he initially made a mess of things, taking too heavy a touch when rounding Paul Farman, but he more than made up for it by showing great awareness to square for Willmott, who helped himself to a second.
It wasn’t the same Newport after the interval with the forwards starved of service and the Exiles often on the back foot, Chris Bush hitting the bar and several efforts blocked by defenders as County made 4-1 look a little uncomfortable.
Bush did get his goal with 12 minutes remaining, but by then it was too late as County moved within striking distance of the top of the Conference.
And currently if you’re looking for people to strike, no-one else in the division has the menace of Newport.
Lincoln: Farman, Robson (Nicolau 46), Bush, Boyce (Robinson 46), Miller, Power, Sheridan, Gray, Taylor, Oliver, Larkin. Subs not used: Platt, Preece, Barraclough.
Booked: Power, Oliver.
County: Julian, Pipe, Hughes, James, Sandell, Porter (Minshull 46), Evans (Crow 78), Flynn, Willmott (Swallow 85), O’Connor, Jolley. Subs not used: Pidgeley, Anthony.
Booked: Pipe, Evans, Jolley.
Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire).
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