County impress in hard-fought draw
COUNTY 2 SWANSEA CITY Xl 2
NEWPORT County AFC fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw with a young Swansea City XI last night as front men Aaron O’Connor and Jefferson Louis continued their scoring streaks.
In stark contrast to the match against Merthyr Town last week, which also finished 2-2, this was an encouraging performance from Justin Edinburgh’s men.
The Exiles boss will be delighted with the form of his front men in the absence of the injured Danny Crow and the Swans provided his defence with a good tune-up before the big kick-off at Mansfield Town on August 11.
Lennie Pidgeley’s County career started in unfortunate circumstances as a speculative long-range effort from Swansea’s James Loveridge deflected off Tony James and looped over the goalkeeper’s head and into the net after just three minutes. But he looked steady thereafter and a more than capable deputy for Alan Julian.
And it didn’t take long for the Exiles to respond to going behind as O’Connor turned impressively in the box and squeezed his shot inside David Cornell’s post to level the score on 11 minutes.
That was O’Connor’s second goal in as many games for his new club and Louis put the hosts ahead six minutes later with his fourth of pre-season.
Most of the credit goes to captain David Pipe, however, as he burst down the right and put the ball on a plate for Louis to poke home on the line.
O’Connor and Lee Minshull, who started in central defence, both then had efforts stopped by Cornell as County really hit their stride.
But the Swansea youngsters always looked dangerous and Pidgeley had to be alert to stop Loveridge grabbing his second goal of the match with a smart block.
It was an intriguing night for the home fans as they got a look at the talented Swans squad, many of whom Edinburgh will have been sizing up as he looks to bolster his squad with loan signings.
Loveridge, Henry Jones and Rory Donnelly all caught the eye in a high quality contest between two evenly matched sides.
Young Lee Lucas may regret tangling with Mike Flynn if he heads to Rodney Parade, however.
Andrew Hughes replaced Tony James after the break as Edinburgh explored his central defensive options further.
And it was soon all square as the unfortunate Minshull headed into his own net on 52 minutes.
Ismail Yakubu is expected to make his first friendly appearance against Sam Foley and Yeovil Town on Friday night after a final operation on his injured hand.
In truth the Exiles would have struggled to contain the fledgling Swans with a whole team of centre-backs as they upped their game noticeably.
Pidgeley showed great agility to keep out a beautifully lofted shot from Josh Sheehan and former Wrexham speed merchant Curtis Obeng showed Pipe a clean pair of heels.
At the other end substitute Ryan Charles impressed as he hit the side netting with one shot and saw another acrobatically pushed behind by Cornell, and Jake Harris went close to adding to his pre-season tally.
Pidgeley saved well from Obeng before Loveridge and Donnelly both came within inches of grabbing the winner.
And County trialist Ben Swallow, on for Harris, almost scored the goal of the game with a corker, which crashed off Cornell’s bar and away to safety.
Louis set up Charles with a superb cushioned header in injury time but the striker couldn’t quite connect and both sides had to settle for a hard-earned draw.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, James (Hughes, 45), Minshull, Sandell, Porter, Flynn (Charles, 63), Thomson, Louis, O’Connor (Evans, 63), Harris (Swallow, 76).
Subs not used: Cooper, Jones, Holmes, Perry.
Swansea: Cornell, Obeng, Tancock, Situ, Alfei, Lucas, Jones, Sheehan, Bray (Llewellyn, 45), Donnelly, Loveridge.
Subs not used: Waters, Evans, Francis, Atyeo, Davies.
Referee: Derek Eaton (Tewkesbury) Attendance: 891 Argus star man: Louis