Exiles impress despite losing to strong Glovers side
COUNTY 1 YEOVIL 3
NEWPORT County were defeated for the first time last night by a classy Yeovil, but the signs remain good seven days before County’s big kick-off.
The Exiles travel to Field Mill to face Mansfield Town and certainly shouldn’t be overly concerned by this 3-1 reverse considering the quality on show genuinely caught the eye.
County’s style and desire to keep the ball is much improved from last term and the signs are good after a pleasant pre-season.
The Exiles have hopefully by now become accustomed to life at Rodney Parade and are feeling more comfortable, but this game felt more like a welcome home party than a housewarming.
He might not have reached Tommy Tynan or John Aldridge levels but of the modern era Newport County AFC it is hard to think of many more popular players than Sam Foley.
After three-and-a-half years of honing his craft on the mud at Spytty Park, Foley belatedly joined the Rodney revolution, his one night only appearance with Yeovil a nice chance for a fond farewell.
Foley was the first recipient of the Ray Taylor Memorial Award in honour of the huge County fan and as a pallbearer at Ray’s funeral that was only fitting.
Foley was also the first player on the field to legitimately take the game by the scruff of the neck by rattling a 25-yard effort towards goal on six minutes which short-term signing Lenny Pidgeley did well to tip around the post. Foley looked comfortable in central midfield and will have impressed new boss Gary Johnson, playing the full 90.
Foley’s chance was indicative of the fast start made by the Glovers and on 11 minutes they took the lead with a well constructed goal, Gozie Ugwa’s teasing cross flicked home by Reuben Reid who was given too much space.
The Exiles responded well with Mike Flynn keeping things ticking, but two errant efforts from Danny Crow failed to bring any reward. Nevertheless there was plenty to feel positive about, the Exiles patient and economical with possession, looking to keep the ball and build from back to front. At times their passing lacked verve and tempo, but isn’t that what these games are for?
The Exiles grew in stature and from a wonderful Andy Sandell cross Crow really should’ve nodded home, instead heading across goal and wide. It was even more surprising moments later when after another fine Sandell cross, Flynn nodded wide, usually so reliable from such situations.
You’ll maybe get away with such misses against the Braintrees and the Wokings of this world but not a League One outfit and on the stroke of half time the visitors doubled their lead. Once again the build-up was exquisite and this time it was Foley who was the architect, a splendid run and pinpoint cross leaving Nathan Ralph in a position where scoring was easier than missing.
Unfortunately a total lack of away support led to a disappointing crowd and a flat atmosphere. The Olympic Velodrome this was not in terms of noise, and things got even quieter when a super strike from the impressive Gozie Ugwa made it 3-0 to the visitors who certainly look ready for another season in League One.
Certain factors in pre-season by far trump results and the best news for County last night was seeing defender Ismail Yakubu mark his return following wrist surgery. The Yak hasn’t yet featured alongside new signing Tony James and his introduction on the hour provided a boost on a night when it was confirmed that Lee Minshull is injured and struggling to return for the big kick-off.
Jake Thomson was replaced by Lee Evans and if those two are directly competing for a start at Mansfield, the 18-year-old substitute may just have the edge, his passing last night a delight.
The Exiles huffed and puffed and eventually got a consolation, a soft handball award resulting in a penalty that was well dispatched by stand-out performer Sandell.
Jake Harris nearly added a second after a super Ben Swallow cross but Gareth Stewart beat the ball to safety.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Hughes, James, Sandell, Flynn, Thomson, Porter, Charles, Crow, O’Conner
Subs: Yakubu, Louis, Harris, Evans, Cooper, Swallow, Fielden, Perry
Yeovil: Stewart, Ayling, McAlliser, Hinds, Blizzard, Hayter, Reid, Foley, Ralph, Clarke, Ugwa
Subs: Stek, Marsh-Brown, Upson, Young, Ince, Haynes-Brown