Newport County 2-2 Mansfield Town (Pearce, Rose) | Sky Bet League Two | Saturday 3rd August 2019 | Rodney Parade, Newport
Craig Priest writes…
The brand new season is well underway, but despite a new manager, new fixture list, new kit and a few new faces – the Mansfield Town journey still comes with the same old cliché’s – that football really is a game of two halves!
If we’re being totally honest, the majority of us would have taken a point from old adversaries Newport on the season’s opening day – but the manner in which the Stags did so left us all reaching for the blood pressure monitors, as John Dempster’s men went from woefully below par, to being comfortably in control!
Throw in a missed penalty, a red card and a local referee who clearly resented Mansfield and you had all the hallmarks of a classic, which now we’ve all slept on it, leaves us with a wry smile that Football is well and truly back!
Reflecting on the game and Mansfield were unacceptably below par in the first half, getting torn to pieces by a Newport side wanting to hit the ground running following last season’s play-off final defeat. The lack of pressure in the final third (Danny Rose aside, I’ll come to him in a second) was a real concern and had the system not changed in the second half, not only would I have put out ‘Missing’ posters for the Stags midfield, I’m convinced we’d have been on the end of a real battering.
Newport’s opening goal was a soft one to concede as we allowed them far too much space out wide and just watched as the world’s slowest cross bobbled into the net, whilst the penalty again came from not closing down out wide, a far cry from the solid defence we’d become accustomed too.
Going to a 4-4-2 worked wonders and allowed us to have more stability across the pitch, Newport simply couldn’t deal with our structure and more direct play which reflected in the goals we scored, Danny Rose’s especially.
Naturally the laughable red card to Jacob Mellis for falling over hindered our flow, but Mansfield coped tremendously with the pressure applied by Newport – with Conrad Logan making a tremendous save, and Danny Rose having the best game we’ve seen from the much loved number 32 in a very long time.
Rose was phenomenal, there’s not a lot more to add to that really. From the first second to the least his relentless pressure really got under the hosts skin and stopped them playing their usual game, whilst he won 99% of everything thrown at him in the air. His movement opened up space for others, but also pockets for him to exploit as shown by his goal – the first, hopefully, of many for him this season as under Dempster, he has a much freer role.
When we went down to ten men, Rose proved again he’s the clubs best defender (Sorry chief!) and held the line well, he was vocal and marshalled the troops well – nothing was beating Danny Rose.
If that wasn’t enough, did you see his long throw in the opening minutes?! Big Ex is clearly on the coaching staff!
All joking aside, the spirit the Stags showed during the second half was a joy to behold – it gives us as supporters faith and belief that we can go on and achieve something, plus gives the lads something to harness and work on ahead of the double visit of Morecambe in the League on Saturday and then in the cup in midweek, where’d I’d be starting as we finished – 4-4-2!
45 More league games to go, the bar has been set!
John Dempster named just one new signing in his first ever starting line-up as a League Manager, with Nicky Maynard partnering Danny Rose up front. Fellow new arrivals Andy Cook, Dion Donohue and keeper Aidan Stone were on the bench, as the Stags started with their familiar three at the back.
Mansfield actually started brightly with some good early running but it was Newport who grabbed the opening goal with a whimpering bit of defending from the Stags, Joss Labadie the man with the effort which found its way beyond the static Stags with just six minutes played.
Padrig Amond whistled one over Conrad Logan’s crossbar on 17 minutes as Mansfield began to sink deeper, Neal Bishop had the Stags best opportunity to level three minutes later, sending a diving header into the side netting.
Jacob Mellis also sent one whizzing wide on the half hour but Newport remained on top, hitting the cross bar through Matt Dolan’s free kick before doubling their lead from the penalty spot when Sweeney was judged to have pulled Matt down – Amond stepped up and beat Logan from 12 yards.
CJ Hamilton was replaced by Kellan Gordon seconds before the half-time whistle, which left Mansfield needing one hell of a response.
Otis Khan replaced the booked Sweeney at the break as Mansfield went 4-4-2 with Khan taking up the left wing slot and MacDonald moving out to the right. The changes too just two minutes to work as the Chief nodded Mansfield back into the game from Mellis’ fine free kick.
Were Mansfield done? No. Danny Rose was the man to pull the game level with a perfect back step and left footed swing to connect with Otis Khan’s left sided delivery – a fully deserved goal following his injury at Newport last season, a side who seemed determined to injury him again as during the break – Rose needed his head gluing back together!
Back at 2-2 Mansfield were then thankful of the alertness of Logan who made a fantastic save to deny Labadie who found a way through, the stage then looked set for Maynard to grab his first Stags goal when he was handed penalty duty for the Stags 58th minute spot-kick. Home keeper Tom King guessed correctly and denied Maynard.
The former Bury man then fired over King’s cross bar on 66 minutes before Mansfield were dealt a blow two minutes later, Mellis’ fell accidently on Labadie and was soon heading down the tunnel, following a straight red card.
A battle of defensive shape followed as Mansfield saw out the remainder of the game protecting the 2-2 score line with some brave defending – the full time whistle came as a relief as Newport were starting to dominate again, alas Mansfield had done what seemed at the break the unachievable – a valuable point to start the new season.
FULL TIME: Newport County 2-2 Mansfield Town | Attendance 4,481 (493)
STAGS: [3-5-2] Conrad Logan | Matt Preston, Krystain Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney (Otis Khan 46) | CJ Hamilton (Kellan Gordon 45+4), Jacob Mellis [SENT OFF 68], Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning | Danny Rose, Nicky Maynard (Andy Cook 82) Unused Subs: Aidan Stone, Omari Sterling-James, Dion Donohue, Alistair Smith
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