COUNTY 0 FOREST GREEN 5
NEWPORT County turned their New Year’s Day celebrations into a Halloween-style horror show at Rodney Parade as they were torn to pieces by a rampant Forest Green Rovers.
The Exiles produced a stunning result at the New Lawn and knew the visitors would be searching for revenge on a difficult day at Rodney Parade, and they got it with interest in a one-sided massacre of Justin Edin-burgh’s side, this the worst performance County have produced since the 5-0 mullering they got at Mansfield last season.
The ground staff obviously worked wonders to get the game on at all less than 24 hours after the Dragons hosted the Ospreys on the pitch, but this fixture still represented the first occasion this campaign where conditions were Spytty Park-like.
County were also without their skipper, David Pipe (hamstring) failing a fitness test, Byron Anthony drafted in to a side that also saw returns for Andy Sandell and Ben Swallow.
Newport’s success on Boxing Day largely came from free-flowing, counter-attacking football and unfortunately for the hosts, that was precisely the manner the visitors played in during a first period when they deservedly took a grip on proceedings.
County dominated for barely 20 minutes but couldn’t find an opener and they paid fully against a Forest Green side whose away kit frankly hurts the eyes but whose passing football and cutting edge certainly did not.
It was Steve Brogan who had the first shot in anger, goalkeeper Alan Julian doing brilliantly to tip the ball away when a goal seemed almost certain.
At the other end County’s chances were less clear cut, a brilliant Michael Smith cross almost paying dividends before Julian again produced a fine stop to deny Jamie Norwood’s cross shot.
When a real opportunity came for the hosts it fell to the wrong man, defender Andy Sandell all alone when Sam Russell spilt the ball, but his effort with the keeper stranded went just the wrong side of the post.
That was the catalyst for a storming close to the half for Rovers who utterly took control.
First they scored from a preventable position, a throw-in worked to Norwood on the edge of the penalty area from where he was able to drill past Julian.
Norwood was the shining light for the visitors and made a key contribution to the next break, a quite outstanding team move that culminated in Yan Klukowski racing clean through, but he fired wide.
It was a big let-off but Newport didn’t heed the warning, another break down the left from Norwood allowing a cross into space that Klukowski simply couldn’t fail to convert from inside the six yard box.
The two goal advantage didn’t really flatter the visitors, more so just emphasising what a vital moment Sandell’s miss was in a game of few chances.
The Exiles were out for the second half a good five minutes before the visitors, but we’d passed the hour mark before another good opportunity befell either side, their urgency not translating to chances.
That was a big issue because from Forest Green’s first opportunity in the second half they did find the net, Norwood waltzing through a static rearguard to comfortably slot past Julian just moments after he should’ve been booked for an outrageous dive.
The Exiles’ spirit was broken and when you’re 3-0 down and making individual errors, further disaster is only moments away.
The fourth goal came with Julian coming for a through ball he was never going to get, Reece Styche nipping in to head almost out of Julian’s hands to finish with a tap-in.
The self destruction continued as the visitors made it five, Byron Anthony’s dreadful backpass leaving Tony James stranded as Norwood drove home for his hat-trick.
County huffed and they puffed but couldn’t even find a consolation, Lee Minshull’s late header ruled out for offside as their misery was complete.
Friday’s game with Welsh rivals Wrexham now takes on even greater importance.
County: Julian, Anthony, Sandell, James, Yakubu, Flynn, Evans (Minshull 72), Porter, Smith (Charles 55), O’Connor, Swallow (Washington 72)
Subs not used: Hughes, Pidgeley
Forest Green: Russell, Hodgkiss, Stokes (Asafu-Adjaye 75), Bangura, Kuklowski, Forbes, Taylor, Oshodi (Rowe 71), Norwood, Racine, Brogan (Styche 58)
Subs not used: Viera, Green
Referee: Graham Horwood
Attendance: 2787 (214 away)
Argus star man: Jamie Norwood