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29 August 2017 Venue The New Lawn Attendance

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REPORT| Exiles suffer defeat in Checkatrade opener

29 August 2017

The Exiles started their Checkatrade trophy exploits in defeat, with a 2-0 reverse at Forest Green Rovers.

Dan Wishart gave the home side the lead on 21 minutes, capitalising on a David Pipe error to fire home.

Then when County went in desperate search for an equaliser, Luke James confirmed a Rovers victory with a neat finish from just outside the area on 84 minutes.

The result leaves County and Cheltenham Town with defeats from the opening group E fixture, after the Robins lost 2-1 to Swansea City U’21s last week.

Mike Flynn elected to make eight changes to the side that beat Chesterfield on the weekend in the Rodney Parade homecoming game.

That saw defenders David Pipe and Ben White keep their place, with midfielder/striker Robbie Willmott also retained.

Ben Tozer came in for his first start in an Exiles shirt since January, after only making substitute appearances thus far this campaign.

It appeared as if the Exiles were setting up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Joe Quigley as the target man.

Forest Green Rovers manager Mark Cooper chose to make three changes to his side that lost 5-1 to Colchester on the weekend.

The first of those changes came in goal, as Sam Russell came in for Bradley Collins.

One occurred in midfielder as Drissa Traore came in for Lewis Collins – whilst Dan Wishart came in for Reece Brown up-front.

Scott Laird almost created the opening opportunity in the 4th minute, but after beating Willmott on the County right-hand side, couldn’t find Newport-born Christian Doidge in the centre.

Other than that, neither side could create a meaningful opportunity in the opening five minutes, both midfields starting positively.

But when the next opportunity came, the home side should have scored on six minutes. Captain Liam Noble capitalised on an error from Ben White but somehow curled wide when in clear on goal.

Exiles supporters didn’t have too long after that early scare to see the first real opportunity, although Tom Owen-Evans’ chipped effort sailed well over the crossbar.

James Bittner, making his first County appearance of the season, had to alert to deal with the threat of left-back Laird, who attempted a 50-yard effort which Bittner just about tipped over.  

That brought up the opening 20 minutes, neither side getting the ascendency at the New Lawn.

But straight after that, the home side took the lead on 21 minutes. Dan Wishart sprinted clear of County captain David Pipe before drilling a shot under Bittner from just inside the area.

Owen-Evans forced a finger-tip save from home goalkeeper Russell within moments of the restart, Quigley heading wide from the resulting corner.

Doidge came close to doubling the advantage on 24 minutes, only to head over from around eight yards. In fairness to the home side, the chance was the product of some intricate passing play. Luke James played it to Noble, before knocking it straight out wide. Laird crossed it but Doidge couldn’t quite connect.

Rigg created the next County opportunity on the half-hour, but Russell had the simplest of jobs to save the attempt.

Owen-Evans found an opportunity on the edge of the area just two minutes later, although couldn’t get the curl required to test Russell.

A suspected ankle injury to Pipe caused a temporary delay to proceedings, although he was was fine to continue.

That left ten minutes to go in the first-half, where County were growing into the game the more it progressed, although no equaliser could as yet be found.

Wishart almost doubled his and his sides advantage on 38 minutes, but the midfielder saw his 30-yard effort clip the post on its way out.

The game’s first yellow card came on the stroke of half-time, Robbie Willmott the offender, fouling James 25-yards out.

Bittner well held the free-kick as two additional minutes were indicated.

But no further chances could be created by either side, as referee Brett Huxtable blew the whistle for half-time.

Not the most exciting first-half that Exiles fans would have seen so far this season, but County could be encouraged by the fact that they were creating some chances, although none were taken.

Goal scorer Wishart, seemingly the architect of all the chances for the home side, was by far the best player on the pitch, although a combination of Butler and White were doing extremely well to limit him to only a few openings in the opening 45 minutes.

Flynn brought on two substitutions at half-time as Pipe and Willmott came off. Reece Cole and Jazzi Barnum-Bobb entering the play, in what was Barnum-Bobb’s first minutes of the season.

But neither could force a County opening in the opening five minutes after the restart, although the home side didn’t seem like creating a chance either.

Wishart was the man to create the first second-half opening in the 57th minute, although White did expertly to block for a corner which yielded nothing.

Rovers captain Noble was booked shortly after for halting a County breakaway, as the hour mark came and went.

Butler forced a solid save from Russell after a superb Barnum-Bobb tackle, as Rovers scrambled the resulting corner away.

Owen-Evans received a yellow card on 65 minutes, with Rovers making a substitution before the resulting free-kick could be taken, defender Manny Monthe replacing Drissa Traore.

Jahraldo forced a good save from Russell, before Quigley saw his header cleared off the line by Doidge.

Padraig Amond was sent on by Flynn straight after, as Cooper fired wide for the Green Devils.

That was the final thing to happen as the game approached the final 15 minutes, Rovers making their final substitutions in a double change.

That saw Shamir Mullings and Reece Brown replace Cooper and Doidge, with County continuing to press.

Owen-Evans fired into Russell on 80 minutes, with James forcing a simple save from Bittner at the other end.

Bittner had to be alert to deny Noble on 81 minutes, before James fired past him to double the Rovers lead within 10 seconds of the save. After Barnum-Bobb had given the ball away on half-way, Noble burst forward, forcing the save from Bittner. But the ball fell perfectly for ex-Peterborough man James to control and fire home from just outside the area.

The Exiles searched in vain for a way to get back into the game, as four additional minutes were indicated.

But no further chances could be created against a stubborn Rovers defence, as the Exiles ended their opening Checkatrade Trophy game in defeat at the New Lawn.

 

County: Bittner, Pipe (C) (Barnum-Bobb 45’), Butler, White, Bennett, Jahraldo, Owen-Evans, Rigg, Tozer (Amond 70’), Quigley, Willmott (Cole 45’)

Subs not used: Day, Foulston, Dolan, Nouble

 

FGR: Russell, Iacovitti, Bennett, Laird, Traore (Monthe 67’), Noble (C), Cooper (Brown 77’), Wishart, Roberts, James, Doidge (Mullings 77’)

Subs not used: Collins, Simpson, Evans, Stevens

 

Referee: Brett Huxtable

Attendance: 1,090 (239 away)

Next up for County: Exeter City (away) 2nd September

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