Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Newport County Vs Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #34
Venue: Rodney Parade
Date & Time: Tuesday 12th February 2013 – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Charles Brakespear (Surrey)
Attendance: 1,902 (90)
Winning runs can’t last forever, it’s impossible; at some point you’re bound to get stuck in the mud, that’s exactly what happened to Stags last night in Newport. The writing was probably on the wall from the off in fairness as they say pride, such as our 8-1 slaughtering over Barrow, comes before a fall.
Add into the mixing bowl the fact you had the two best attacking teams in the division going toe to toe, and the fact that Stags have never beaten Newport County on Newport soil in the conference – you could probably see the eventual outcome from the off.
Not for a second am I going to blast Mansfield’s performance last night, it was a case of it wasn’t to be – the pitch certainly didn’t suit Stags’ 4-2-3-1 system in my opinion, and whilst you can say “it’s the same for both teams” – it wasn’t as Newport knew the state of the pitch following their 2-2 draw with Tamworth at the weekend and adapted accordingly. Is their blame to be laid? No, football throws up these dilemmas at times, do you stick with the same system which has suited Stags so well on the road and with the same side to have trounced Barrow and Dartford in recent matches or do you risk rumbling the pack to suit a playing surface – it’s a catch twenty-two situation really.
Newport, in my opinion, are one of the best attacking sides and most organised units I’ve seen this season and deserve the credit for taking all three points, the fact that Newport journalists were saying the same about us last night not only highlights what a close run thing it was in the end, but is enough to accept the outcome and re-focus on the Cambridge game on Saturday.
Naturally nobody likes losing, the drive home always seems seven hours longer after defeat, however in the grander scale of things I think Paul Cox will have learnt a few more things about his side last night and can act accordingly. Stats show that Newport had possession for the majority of the match, but what they don’t show is how well Stags defended, apart from the defending for the second goal that is! Yes there were a few times where players were caught out and dragged out of position, but general players got good blocks in and put their body on the line for the cause, none more so in my opinion than Luke Jones who was the pick of the bunch last night.
Despite the result Stags remain in 6th place, three points off the play-offs, eleven from top spot, with games in hand over all above them and a few of those teams above still to play –Forest Green away, Grimsby home and Wrexham home and away, so the seasons’ far from open and still remarkably wide open as results from last night show.
Paul Cox unsurprisingly again stuck with the same line up and bench following the 8-1 thumping of Barrow.
Line Up [4-2-3-1]: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Demsper, James Jennings, Adam Murray (C), Anthony Howell, Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel, Matt Green
Substitutes: Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Nick Wright, Chris Clements, Matt Rhead.
It was certainly one of the toughest first halves Stags have endured in recent games, one which offered few chances in front of the Newport goal for Paul Cox’s side. Newport began brightly and on seven minutes pumped a deep free kick into the Mansfield box, Christian Jolley’s eventual goal-bound effort smashed clear by Lee Beevers. Three minutes later it was John Dempster’s turn to slam clear as Jolley put in a testing cross following David Pipes reverse pass to find space ahead of James Jennings.
The Stags left back was then involved at the other end on 13 minutes as he swung in a corner, County keeper Lenny Pidgeley collecting with ease and booting forward to start another spell of Newport pressure, Junior Daniel on hand to mop up as the fluid moving Micheal Flynn advanced at a canter.
Two minutes later Flynn was again involved in a fluent Newport attack as he combined with Pipe and Crow, New signing Scott Donnelly came close to completing the move and netting his second goal in as many games, however he blazed over the top of Marriott’s bar from the edge of the box.
The hosts continued to pressure and came close through an Andy Sandell free kick on 18 minutes when Jennings felled Crow on the edge of the box, seconds later defender Ismail Yakubu fired wide through the crowd following a deep assist from centre half partner Tony James.
Stags saw a rare sight of goal on 21minutes with two quick corners with Stevenson and Jones both pressure, however it was at the other end where Jones would be key as seven minutes later, he headed a goal bound shot from Jolley off the line, the seconds after Marriott had denied Donnelly with a strong low save.
With eleven to go before the break Newport were denied a penalty when Lee Beevers and Danny Crow came together strongly, the hosts failed to let the frustration grow as the pressured further and saw further efforts from Sandell, Pipe and Crow all go astray before the half time whistle.
HALF TIME: Newport 0-0 Stags
Stags began the second half in sharper fashion and enjoyed a series of corners and more fluent attacks; they saw their best chance saved on 57 minutes as Lee Stevenson’s glancing front post header from a Jennings corner was palmed away by Pidgeley.
Alan Marriott however was the busier keeper and saw Christian Jolley fire over the bar before saving two efforts in quick succession from the advancing Sandell on the hour mark. Six minutes later Marriott was picking the ball out of the back of the net as Sandell gave Newport the lead from the spot after Beevers was judged to have fouled Jolley, Sandell stroked into Marriott’s bottom left hand corner with the Stags keeper worryingly static as he made no attempt to dive.
Newport 1-0 Stags
Four minutes later Matt Rhead replaced Louis Briscoe as Stags looked for a target man, the substitution failed to ruffle any feathers despite Rhead’s best efforts as Christian Jolley doubled the hosts lead on 77 minutes, capping a quick counter attack which saw the Stags defence nowhere to be seen and James Jennings easily beaten at left, with a low finish underneath Marriott.
Newport 2-0 Stags
Newport’s second goal pretty much sealed things and there was little fight back from Stags on the tough pitch and freezing cold night, they had Alan Marriott to thank in the games dying seconds as he saved low from County substitute Connor Washington.
FULL TIME: Newport 2-0 Stags
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