NEWPORT County AFC got their League Two campaign up and running with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Sutton United.

The Exiles fell behind when Omar Bugiel reacted swiftly to score from a rebound but Omar Bugle responded with a powerful header in the 38th minute.

County had the better of the second half but had to settle for a point at a ground where they were edged out 1-0 in April.

Here are the talking points from Gander Green Lane…


This was a typical season opener and similar to last season at Oldham.

On that occasion Kevin Ellison struck at the death to steal a 1-0 win but this time there were no late heroics from the Exiles in front of the away contingent.

County finished strongly and had a huge double chance when Bogle failed when in on goal then Aaron Wildig scuffed his effort from the rebound. The midfielder would lament on Twitter that it was “a sitter”, that is over-egging it but it was a big opening.

Perhaps it was an opportunity missed for a win given the late pressure but in the end it was a solid point against a Sutton side that will no doubt continue to mix it with more established and fancied clubs.

Day one predictions can look daft down the line but I would suggest not many will leave Gander Green Lane with something, even though they have lost dangerous forward David Ajiboye and goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis.

County fell behind but responded well, giving them a solid base to build from in the coming weeks as new combinations settle.

South Wales Argus: CALLING THE SHOTS: James Rowberry in the County dugoutCALLING THE SHOTS: James Rowberry in the County dugout


Manager James Rowberry was quick to praise his side’s physicality after the game against a side who thrived last season thanks to their combative nature.

County had a plan and stuck to it, something that was shown by lack of subs.

The boss has labelled the opportunity to make five replacements as a “game changer” but he left it until late to bring on Robbie Willmott for Sam Bowen and Lewis Collins for Omar Bogle, then Chanka Zimba got the final minute of added time.

It was telling that the waspish James Waite, a man I think can have a big impact this season, was left on the bench.

This was a more pragmatic Rowberry and a solid County, which earned a point that could have turned into three late on. Lessons learnt from his first season in the hotseat?


The boss declared pre-game that he wanted to see an improvement in both boxes from set plays, something that he believes will be helped by fielding three central defenders.

It was a job well done defensively while the Bogle leveller came through a Mickey Demetriou long throw, getting the set play tally up and running.

Being greedy, you’d like to see the percentage go up after a number of corners and free-kicks – Sam Bowen from the left, Matty Dolan from the right – failed to really put Sutton ‘keeper Jack Rose under serious stress.

However, the hosts are a physical, well-drilled side and they dealt pretty well with a surge of late Demetriou missiles.

County scored some crackers last season but the ability to score from training ground graft on set plays is just as satisfying.


The need to mix it with Sutton meant that County didn’t really ping it around in midfield as they did for much of last season under Rowberry.

That wasn’t just down the loss of influential loanee Finn Azaz, who scored a cracker on his Plymouth debut in League One.

On the whole County went quite long to use the pace of the impressive Offrande Zanzala and power of Bogle rather than playing through Sam Bowen, Scot Bennett and Wildig; all three battled hard but didn’t get to show their ability on the ball too much.

That will no doubt come as we approach the autumn with County keen to thrive more in the spaces between the opposition’s defence and midfield.

South Wales Argus: STARTER: County new boy Will EvansSTARTER: County new boy Will Evans


There was one surprise in the County line-up when it was announced at 2pm with Will Evans given a full debut at left wing-back.

Signed primarily as a forward, the 25-year-old showed his versatility in pre-season to get the nod ahead of Aaron and Adam Lewis.

The mid-Walian had the physical attributes for the task at Sutton while he also made several telling contributions defensively at the far post.

In time we will see more of him in attack while he will also be useful in other roles when it is a Lewis down the left.

Fit and energetic, this was an accomplished EFL debut for a player who has followed Priestley Farquharson and James Waite to Rodney Parade from the Cymru Premier.