County desperate for some home comforts
IT’S not exactly the green, green grass of home but Newport County AFC will be looking forward to getting back to Rodney Parade after their latest defeat on the road.
Saturday’s defeat at Hartlepool United was the eighth away match in the last ten fixtures for County due to six postponements at home and their travel sickness has seen them slip to tenth in League Two.
But with the next five all at home, starting with Oxford United on Tuesday, the hope will be that the rain finally eases off and the Exiles can earn their first win since Boxing Day and start to get some momentum going again.
Justin Edinburgh will prefer to look forward because, after an encouraging start, Saturday turned into another miserable afternoon for his side.
Rustiness, defensive errors, a comedy classic of an own goal, frontline failings, the curse of the black away kit; whatever you blame it all adds up to a disappointing day at the office.
Edinburgh’s men did start well with Ryan Burge and David Pipe providing plenty of attacking intent down the flanks in a 3-4-3 formation.
The visitors looked comfortable and the natives were getting restless, the home fans venting their frustrations at their team and the officials.
Pools captain Sam Collins and teammate Christian Burgess both went close to beating debutant Elliot Parish in the County goal early on.
But the Exiles then took charge with Pipe firing just over from distance and Harry Worley getting forward to see two headers narrowly miss the target.
Then star man Burge, set up by Pipe and Robbie Willmott, had a volley cleared off the line on 37 minutes as the visitors piled on the pressure.
But just three minutes later, and seemingly out of nothing, came the crucial first goal and it went to the hosts.
The ball was cleared to the left wing but Pipe left it to Shaun Jeffers to chase and when he lost the race it was whipped back in to home striker Luke James.
The teenager was surrounded by three County defenders but showed superb skill and composure to control, turn and fire past Parish in an instant.
It was harsh on Edinburgh’s men but they would have been hopeful of turning things round after the break following a good first half display.
That hope was extinguished ten minutes into the second half after a moment straight out of a Danny Baker’s Own Goals and Gaffes video.
Tom Naylor and Lee Minshull both attempted to head clear a corner but collided with each other and only succeeded in smashing the ball into the face of poor Andy Sandell and Parish could do nothing as it zipped past him and into the net.
The calamitous nature of the goal seemed to sap County of energy and belief and they never looked likely to get back into the game.
The return of Chris Zebroski from the bench provided some impetus but he and fellow substitutes Max Porter and Christian Jolley couldn’t turn the tide.
The third goal in injury time was cruel on County but was another example of poor defending and tired legs as Luke Williams was one of three unmarked Pools front men in the box and he smashed the ball past Parish with ease.
A day to forget for County then and especially for the 127 fans that made the near 600-mile round trip. Those home comforts can’t come soon enough.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Richards, Holden, Monkhouse, Collins, Burgess, Walton, Walker, James (Franks, 87), Harewood (Barmby, 72), Williams
Subs not used: Poole, Rafferty, Compton, Sweeney, Duckworth
Booked: Holden, Walker, Harewood
County: Parish, Worley, Naylor, Sandell, Pipe (Zebroski, 73), Chapman, Minshull (Porter, 62), Burge, Willmott, Jeffers (Jolley, 72), Howe
Subs not used: Hughes, Crow, Jackson, Thompson
Booked: Worley, Naylor
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Attendance: 3,470 (127 County)