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30 December 2017 Venue LCI Rail Stadium Attendance

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REPORT| Padraig Amond strikes in draw with Cheltenham Town

30 December 2017

Padraig Amond’s first goal since 14th October ensured County took a point from their exploits at Cheltenham Town following a 1-1 draw at the LCI Rail Stadium.

Both goals of the afternoon came in a second half that followed a first-half of few clear-cut chances.

Robbie Willmott had an attempt cleared off the line, while a good reaction save from Joe Day denied Cheltenham’s Kevin Dawson.

But the game burst into life following Amond’s first goal in over two months, as his looping header ten minutes after the restart put the Exiles in-front.

It was a header of real quality from the Irishman when it looked like the chance wouldn’t present itself, thundering a header from Ben White’s long pass into the net from a huge 18 yards.

But the Robins fought resiliently to find a way back into the contest at the LCI Rail Stadium and duly found their equaliser with 13 minutes remaining.

Striker Mo Eisa was the man to get, doing well to twist and turn his way into the area before calmly dispatching the chance into the bottom left corner.

A draw in Gloucestershire means the Exiles finish 2017 in 11th position in the League 2 table, just the four points off the play-off positions heading into the New Year.

Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that suffered a 2-0 Boxing Day defeat at Wycombe Wanderers as several players were missing through suspension, injury and illness.

Captain Joss Labadie missed out after picking up two yellow cars at Adams Park, as David Pipe took the armband.

Tom Owen-Evans made his third league start of the season for the Exiles in his captain’s place, as County changed to a 4-4-2 formation in Gloucestershire.

Robbie Willmott and Padraig Amond also came into the starting side for the final County changes, with Shawn McCoulsky and Ben Tozer named on the bench.

Robins manager Gary Johnson only made the one change to his Cheltenham side that also suffered a 2-0 defeat on Boxing Day.

Influential talisman Harry Pell surprisingly sat out the game at the LCI Rail Stadium with an unspecified injury, as Brian Graham came back into the side after recovering from his hamstring injury.

That like-for-like change saw the home side set-up in the familiar 4-4-2 system from the off, with Mo Eisa partnership Graham up-front.

And Graham had the opening opportunity of the afternoon within the first three minutes.

It took a big slice of bad luck from an Exiles perspective for the chance to arise, as after Mickey Demetriou and Nigel Atangana challenged for the ball in the middle, it swung back towards Joe Day’s goal.

That afforded Graham the chance to head at goal, although Day did well to get a hand to it, as Dan Butler cleared the resulting cross.  

And Day had to be alert again in the sixth minute to thwart a lively start by the home side. This time Eisa was found with time in the area, although Day got his leg to it in a crowded area.

The Robins had certainly made the faster start in Gloucestershire, although when County fashioned their first chance of the afternoon, it nearly resulted in a goal.

Demetriou’s long-throw was only half-cleared to Robbie Willmott on the edge-of-the-area, but Taylor Moore was there to clear off the line with goalkeeper Scott Flinders beaten.

After a frantic opening ten minutes, the game did seem to settle out from there until the half-hour mark, although Frank Nouble looked determined to get a goal and came close on three separate occasions with testing attempts.

And another marauding run from the frontman almost got County the opener with 33 minutes on the clock.

Nouble was causing havoc to right-back Moore with his quick bursts from the centre-circle, this time cutting the ball back to Dolan who saw his effort saved by Flinders.

You would have to say everything was falling the way of Nouble in the middle-part of the first-half, this time seeing his flicked header from Willmott’s cross somehow kept out as Flinders looked at first to have dived in the opposite direction.

That chance brought about the indication of the one additional minute at the end of the first half, and Cheltenham had a glorious chance to snatch a half-time lead right at the end of the added extras.

Kevin Dawson was played in with a splitting through-ball from Jerell Sellars and had the goal at his mercy, only for Day to make a stunning reaction save to keep out the attempt.

That brought proceedings to a close at the LCI Rail Stadium, with the first half an entertaining battle from the two sides. County probably shaving things in terms of chances created, although both goalkeepers had to make smart saves to keep the game goalless.

Nouble was looking assured up-front, while Demetriou was coping well with the threat of the towering Brian Graham.

But Graham would be involved in creating the opening chance of the second-half within the opening 60 seconds.

His pass found Aston Villa loanee Jerell Sellars, who did well to turn his man before firing narrowly wide of Day’s far post.  

It was another lively start to a half for the Robins, but they could do nothing to prevent County from netting the opener with another early contender for goal of the season on 55 minutes.

Ben White’s long ball towards the area looked hopeful at best, only for Amond to somehow send a looping header from around 18 yards over Flinders into the net to spark wild celebrations from the 916 jubilant away fans.

That goal clearly sparked the home side into trying to find that extra gear against a stubborn Exiles defence, Atangana and Will Boyle both having attempts saved as the game ticked past the hour-mark.

Welshman Joe Morrell was the next man to come close for the Robins on 68 minutes, this time Day required to tip the attempt form the danger area after a clever run and shot from the Bristol City loanee.

And on 72 minutes, Ben White was mightily relived to not score a bizarre own-goal.

Boyle’s long ball was destined for Eisa on the edge-of-the-area, but White was there to get a foot in. But the clearance spun back and looped over the advancing Day, only for the ball to fortunate bounce over the crossbar as-well.

On the counter-attack, County almost snatched an equaliser with 15 minutes to go.

Nouble had to it all himself with a solitary run, skipping past the challenges of three Cheltenham players before picking his spot, only for Flinders to put it behind.

The County resistance was holding out superbly well to contain the Cheltenham attack, although could do nothing to deny Eisa getting his 11th goal of the season with 13 minutes to go.

The striker, who was signed from the non-league in the summer, twisted and turned his way into the County area before curling an effort into the bottom left corner.

That goal sparked County back into life as they searched for another goal, Demetriou forcing a stunning save from Flinders with a header from a corner.  

Nouble came within a few inches of a winner with just a minute to go, although Flinders did really well to tip the effort from a wide angle over the crossbar.

The indication of three additional minutes added time couldn’t produce any further opportunities, however, as the Exiles had to settle for a point in their final match of 2017.  

 

County: Day, Pipe (C), White, Bennett, Demetriou, Butler, Bennett, Dolan (Tozer 69’), Owen-Evans, Nouble (McCoulsky 90’), Amond

Subs not used: Bittner, Foulston, Reynolds, Touray

 

Cheltenham: Flinders, Moore, Grimes (C), Boyle, Winchester, Dawson, Morrell, Atangana, Sellars, Eisa, Graham (Wright 67’)

Subs not used: Lovett, Storer, Holman, Bower, Hinds, Lloyd

 

Referee: Antony Coggins

Attendance: 3,637 (916 AWAY)

Next up for County: Exeter City (1st January) HOME

 

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