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English Football League - League Two

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PREVIEW | County start the home campaign with the visit of Crewe Alexandra

11 August 2018

Newport County AFC will be looking for their first victory of the season when they welcome early pace setters Crewe Alexandra to Rodney Parade on Saturday. The Exiles will also be searching for their first home Football League success over the visitors since 1978, while the Railwaymen will be looking to build on the emphatic victory secured on the opening day.

Here, find out all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter.


Opening day and pre-season results

If there was ever a way to establish yourself as a contender in League Two after the opening fixture, then a 6-0 home victory will certainly go some way towards helping Crewe Alexandra have that impact.

Two goals from Alex Nicholls and James Jones sandwiched in between strikes from Charlie Kirk and Chris Porter saw Crewe inflict Morecambe’s worst ever opening day defeat in their history.

The result came as somewhat of a surprise from the Cheshire outfit after a relatively low-key pre-season schedule.

Following a behind-closed-doors game against Wigan Athletic, the Railwaymen secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Nantwich Town thanks to a goal from Jordan Bowery.

Those results were followed by a 2-1 success at Colwyn Bay, a 1-0 defeat at National League Barrow and another 2-1 victory at Kidsgrove Athletic.

They finally started to get into the extra gears when seeing off Altrincham 3-0 but weren’t able to build on that when a Crewe XI drew 1-1 with Leek Town. The Railwaymen concluded pre-season with a draw at home to Blackpool – Alex Nicholls the scorer.


Summer Incomings / Outgoings

Crewe Alexandra have had a relatively quiet summer transfer window to date as manager David Artell looks to keep the majority of his squad together.

They have, however, bolstered the squad with four new additions.

That starts with the arrival of midfielder Paul Green. The 35-year old played at Gresty Road for a significant part of last season and re-joins following his release from fellow League 2 outfit Oldham Athletic.

In-fact, all their summer arrivals have come in from sides either in League Two last season or this season, including striker Shaun Miller who re-joins the club from Carlisle United.

Winger Alex Nicholls has also joined up with the squad ahead of the new season having left relegated Barnet, while their summer incomings are completed by the arrival of Nicky Hunt, following his release from Notts County.

In terms of outgoings, the most surprising one was striker Chris Dagnall. The 32-year old had been struggling with injuries towards the back end of last season, and joined Bury FC immediately after his release from the Cheshire side.

Zoumana Bakayogo, George Nunn, Daniel Udoh and Ross Woodcock have all also left the club.



The Railwaymen have a couple of injury headaches to contend with before making the trip to Rodney Parade.

Club captain George Ray is currently in a race against time to be fit for the encounter, having been substituted on the weekend following taking a knock to the ribs.

Crewe manager David Artell said: "He [George] got a bang in his ribs at the back, we'll have to see how he is come the weekend. We'll wrap him up in cotton wool, he's got a bit of bruising, but he should be alright. We don't know yet, it will be touch & go.

"If he's fit, he's fit. If he's not, he's not. It's no big deal either way. It's a long season with a lot of games to get through."

The only other absentee from his 29-man squad is striker Shaun Miller, who missed the game last week with a suspected knee injury.

Therefore, it is expected that Artell will keep to the same squad as last weekend should his club captain be fit to continue.

Crewe team vs Morecambe (4-4-2): Richards, Ng, Ray (Hunt 29’), Nolan, Pickering, Jones, Green, Wintle, Kirk (Ainley 75’), Nicholls (Porter 75’), Bowery


One to Watch – Alex Nicholls

If you asked any footballer to describe what they would consider to be a ‘dream debut’ then you would imagine scoring twice in a 6-0 home victory would be right at the top.

That’s what 30-year old Alex Nicholls managed to achieve last weekend in the Railwaymen’s emphatic success over Morecambe.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold and that can certainly be used here – after Nicholls’ former employers Barnet were relegated on goal difference last season after the Shrimps survived with a draw at Coventry City.

Of all the players involved in that Barnet squad last season, Nicholls was probably the unluckiest as he hit a real rich vein of form towards the end of the campaign when doing everything to keep his side in the Football League.

Out of the eight goals he scored during the season, seven of them came after February and accrued his side an impressive 14 points.

After the Bees beat County at the Hive in April, they had to travel to Morecambe knowing only a win would take their chances of survival to the final day. Up popped Nicholls with a late winner, although even another goal the following week couldn’t keep the Bees up.

His other strikes came in the 1-1 draws with Accrington Stanley and Port Vale, alongside netting the winners in contests with Forest Green Rovers, Notts County, Colchester United and Tottenham Hotspur U23s.

This current spell with Crewe Alexandra is the fifth club of the winger’s career, which started at West Midlands outfit Walsall.

After impressing in the academy and then the reserve side, Nicholls made his professional debut in December 2005 during an Emirates FA Cup clash with Yeovil Town, the first of 13 appearances he made in total that season.

Nicholls broke his leg during the latter part of that campaign, a season in which the Saddlers were relegated into League 2, meaning the 30-year old virtually missed the next season through injury.

He did, however, manage a short loan stint at Burton Albion whilst trying to regain his fitness. Nicholls made 14 appearances with the Brewers, although couldn’t find the target either home or away.

Walsall were promoted back into League 1 during Nicholls’ absence, but it didn’t take him long to get back accustomed with the side – scoring his first Football League goal on 8th January 2008 at Yeovil Town.

He stayed with the Midlands outfit for a further four seasons before deciding to leave on a free transfer and join Northampton Town, departing the Saddlers having scored on 28 occasions from 219 appearances.

After an impressive start, his first season was once again cut short after breaking his leg for the second time in his career.

He missed the following campaign with that injury and didn’t find it easy to integrate himself back into the team upon his return, so the winger joined Exeter City on loan twice during the 2014/15 season.

One goal in 13 appearances was enough to tempt the Grecians into making the arrangement permanent, Nicholls leaving Northampton in January 2015 after scoring nine goals in just 29 appearances.

He spent one and a half seasons as a permanent fixture with the club and scored 12 goals from 61 appearances before his departure, joining Barnet ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.

A loan spell with Dundee United was also completed during the second part of that season after failing to hold down a consistent place in the side, although it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Nicholls as he won the Scottish Challenge Cup during that stint.


Manager – David Artell  

Since taking over in the hot seat of the Cheshire outfit, David Artell has slowly but surely been ascending the club further and further up the table every season.

Joining the club initially in July 2014 as Academy operations manager – a role he twinned whilst playing for Bala Town – Artell clearly impressed and was appointed as first-team manager on 8th January 2017 with the club dangling precariously over the drop-zone in League Two.  

After warning his players that relegation would result in them “ending up in the Conference North on £200 a week with a job as a milkman,” the squad regrouped and four wins from five in March moved them up to mid-table.

He led the Railwaymen to an eventual 17th place finish in his first-half season with the club, warning his players that he would not be happy if they were to finish in that position again during his first full-season in charge.

It appears that the players didn’t quite get the memo to start off the 2017/18 campaign, however, and could be found in 22nd place during November, although did regroup come the end of the campaign and finished in 15th place having accumulated 56 points.

Artell will also be proud of what he managed to achieve on 5th May 2018. With a good league position assured, the 37-year old selected a side on the final day against Cheltenham Town that was composed entirely out of players who had graduated from the Crewe academy earlier in their career.

Reflecting on that momentous occasion after the side secured a 2-1 victory against the Robins, Artell reflected: “It is what this football club is about. It is diminished if you don’t win the game but that’s the second time we have done it and the second time we have won.

“You don’t get that at any other football club and it is a hard thing to achieve in the modern era. I am not sure that it has been done ever and we have done it twice.”


Meetings between the two clubs in the 2017/18 campaign

Goals from both sides in both meetings, but unfortunately for County only one point could be achieved across those matches following an away draw and a home defeat.

After the Railwaymen agreed to reverse the fixtures following County receiving special dispensation from the EFL to start the season away, the two sides met at Gresty Road on 12th August 2017.

And the Exiles started almost as quickly as the trains driving mere yards away from the stadium, Frank Nouble slotting home on 12 minutes after home goalkeeper Ben Garratt had made two point-blank saves to initially keep the Exiles out.  

Perry NG was then dismissed for a second-bookable offence after just 17 minutes, but the home side weren’t about to fold having gone down to ten men and levelled a minute after the sending off, George Cooper’s drilled cross being poked home by Chris Dagnall.

That concluded the scoring as the two sides played out the 1-1 draw, but it wasn’t for the want of trying from both teams as they searched in vain for a winner.

Ben White had to block Chris Porter’s attempt off the line and divert it against his own post to clear in first-half stoppage time, before Lamar Reynolds twice had efforts hooked away from the goalmouth in the second-half.

Read the full match report from the contest at Gresty Road.

When the sides met to do battle again at Rodney Parade on 24th March 2018, Crewe Alexandra became just one of four sides to secure all three points in South Wales from a League Two encounter.

After some initial good-work from County to start proceedings, the away side struck a sucker punch to the Exiles when finding the net with their first realistic sight at goal.

On loan Aston Villa striker Harry McKirdy did well to come out the better of an aerial challenge with Mickey Demetriou, calmly dispatching a shot into the bottom corner following 26 minutes of football.

In the second-half, that lead became two for the away side as fellow attacker Jordan Bowery finished from close range after Charlie Kirk had initially been denied by a combination of the post and Joe Day.

County did find a way back into the contest with nine minutes remaining when Mickey Demetriou rose highest to head home a Robbie Willmott corner-kick, but despite their best efforts the Exiles couldn’t find an equaliser as the away side held on for victory.

Read the full match from the contest at Rodney Parade.   



Referee: Brett Huxtable  

Assistant Referee 1: Christopher Husband

Assistant Referee 2: Gareth Viccars

Fourth Official: Craig Taylor

Huxtable is currently embarking on just his third season as a Football League referee having officiated his first game in League Two on 13th August 2016 as promotion bound Doncaster Rovers drew 1-1 with Crawley Town.

He is yet to referee a match in the 2018/19 campaign, although was fourth official last weekend as Middlesbrough staged a late comeback to salvage a draw at the Den in the 2-2 draw with Millwall in the Championship.

That means he will be taking charge of his first match this season at Rodney Parade, although is highly experienced at this level following his exploits in the last two years.

In the 2016/17 season, Huxtable awarded 140 yellow cards and five red cards from his 39 matches, whilst 136 yellow cards and seven red cards were brandished in the 37 matches he presided over in the last campaign.


County Connection 

Huxtable has refereed Newport County AFC matches on ten previous occasions across League Two, the Conference, the FA Trophy and the CheckaTrade Trophy. The Exiles have a mixed bag of results from the previous matches officiated by Huxtable – following three wins, two draws and five defeats.

That includes being the man in the middle for three County matches last season, the most recent of which was the 0-0 draw with Lincoln City on 23rd December 2017.  Mark O’Brien was given his marching orders in that game, whilst captain Joss Labadie also picked up a caution.

He also refereed two of the CheckaTrade Trophy encounters last season. Tom Owen-Evans was booked in both – the 2-0 defeat to Forest Green Rovers and 2-1 reverse to Swansea City U23s – whilst Robbie Willmott was also cautioned against the Young Swans.

In the 2016/17 campaign, Huxtable again took charge of three matches involving the Exiles.

He coincidentally officiated the tie with Swansea City U23s – again the same 2-1 scoreline at Rodney Parade on 4th October 2016 – with Mark Randall and Jazzi Barnum-Bobb this time booked.

Huxtable then refereed the 4-1 victory over Alfreton Town in the Emirates FA Cup – goals from Rhys Healey, Jordan Green, Josh Sheehan and Barnum-Bobb sealing a comfortable win. Sheehan also found himself cautioned in one of three bookings on the night.

The final game that season came in Mike Flynn’s first ever home game in charge of the Exiles – against Blackpool on 18th March 2017. Three County players were booked in the 3-1 defeat – namely David Pipe, Dan Butler and Scot Bennett.

There is then a couple of years break between County matches presided over by Huxtable, although again it was three matches in the 2012/13 promotion season.

The first came in County’s first ever competitive fixture at Rodney Parade – goals from Jefferson Louis, Lee Evans and two from Aaron O’Connor seeing them to success over Nuneaton Town.

Next comes the 3-2 home defeat to Woking on 27th October 2012 and the 4-1 victory over Macclesfield Town on 11th April 2018. No yellow cards were given to any County players in either fixture.

Finally, Huxtable also officiated a County game in the 2010/11 season. That came on 11th December 2010 as the Exiles were held to a 0-0 draw in the FA Trophy by Wealdstone. No bookings were awarded to either side.


Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs)

Cambridge United vs Notts County

Carlisle United vs Northampton Town

Colchester United vs Port Vale

Crawley Town vs Stevenage

Forest Green Rovers vs Oldham Athletic

Lincoln City vs Swindon Town

Macclesfield Town vs Grimsby Town

Milton Keynes Dons vs Bury

Morecambe vs Exeter City

Tranmere Rovers vs Cheltenham Town

Yeovil Town vs Mansfield Town


Can’t make the match?

You can follow along on social media using @NCAFCLive  on Twitter, or via the Club’s official Facebook, Snapchat (OfficialExiles) and Instagram  pages.

Don’t forget – if you reside outside of the UK, you can watch the game live by subscribing to County’s iFollow service. Commentary by Charlie Brown and Richard Shepherd can also be found at the Match Centre from 2.45pm.

An on-the-whistle match report of this match will be provided on the club website upon the end of the game. Michael Flynn’s post-match analysis will appear on the website the day after the game, while you can watch all of Flynn’s post-match press conference as-well as two County players by subscribing to #iFollowExiles.

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Match Reports

REPORT| County secure victory against Crewe Alexandra in Rodney Parade opener

11 August 2018

Padraig Amond and Joe Day were the heroes as Newport County AFC ushered in their first success of the 2018/19 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Crewe Alexandra.

After a frantic opening by both sides, the only goal of the game came on 33 minutes and highlighted everything that was good about the County attack at Rodney Parade.

Mickey Demetriou and Mark Harris were both involved on the left-hand side to allow the former to whip an inviting delivery into the area, the Irishman met it and planted a header into the far side and away from the best attempts of Dave Richards.

Crewe were certainly displaying why they topped the table before the game even at this early stage, James Jones hitting the post with a long-range freekick.

Their best chance was still to come, however, as they were awarded a penalty on 65 minutes after Paul Green was fouled in the area by Mickey Demetriou.

The Railwaymen captain for the day got up to take it, but found a resurgent Joe Day in his way as the County shot stopper got a powerful hand down quickly to his right-hand side to keep out the spot kick.

That means even after two matches, the Exiles rise seven places and up to 16th in the League Two table as Mike Flynn mounts his charge towards a better league finish than last season. 

Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that suffered an opening day defeat to Mansfield Town last time out.

It was a change in each area of the field during a trio of attacking changes for the Exiles in their 3-5-2 formation, starting with David Pipe replacing Tyler Forbes in the right-wing back position.

Keanu Marsh-Brown missed out on the matchday squad as part of the five injury problems for County, having his place in the team taken by Josh Sheehan – who came off the bench last weekend.

Mark Harris completed the changes when coming into the side for his Exiles debut, starting with Padraig Amond up-front as Jamille Matt was named on the bench at Rodney Parade.

Crewe manager David Artell made one change to his starting side that won 6-0 against Morecambe last weekend, although it was an enforced change for the 37-year old to make.

Club captain George Ray missed out completely after taking a hit to the ribs against the Shrimpers, his place taken by Nicky Hunt as the Railwaymen stuck to their 4-4-2 formation in South Wales.  

If last weekend was anything to go by, the Exiles and their opposition were again out of the traps with intent and both could have had a goal within the opening three minutes.  

Crewe were the side to initially hit the ground running at Rodney Parade - but after some clever work on the right-hand side, Charlie Kirk found Scot Bennett in his way and the County defender timed an interception to perfection to deny the shooting chance.

The Exiles hit back from there and almost opened up the away defence with some splitting play. Harris was the main architect of the attack, his run and cross finding Amond in the area, but neither he or Sheehan on the follow-up could find a way of beating Abergavenny born Dave Richards in the Crewe goal.

County were not afraid to implement a system that pressurized the away side from the off, putting them on the back foot by playing with intensity, and creating a couple of chances against the early League Two pace setters.

Amond had a further two chances in the opening half-hour but they only tested the palms of Richards, and for all the endeavour from the Exiles, it was in-fact Crewe who had the best openings in that period.

After a marauding run past three challenges, Alex Nicholls fired narrowly wide of the mark on 12 minutes, before James Jones hit the outside of the post with a curling 25-yard free-kick.   

But the lively presence of Amond in the penalty area was a constant source of attack for the Exiles; it was only a matter of time before the Irishman found the net and it came on 33 minutes.

It came from another clever piece of play on the left-side - the area County had been exploiting from the off - although it was Mickey Demetriou and not Dan Butler on this occasion to whip the delivery into the area, pinpointing Amond to allow him to head back across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.

Crewe did attempt to hit back immediately but despite some encouraging pieces of play, no further chances could be created by either side as County took a slender lead back with them to the dressing rooms.

From an Exiles perspective, Harris was particularly standing out on his competitive debut, his tenacity and attitude of chasing every cause highlighting just why Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock rates the 19-year old so highly.

County were backing that intense attacking play with a resolute defensive system, and Fraser Franks and Scot Bennett almost used their skills to advantageous effect at the other end when sending headers just wide of the post from corners within minutes of the restart.

Sheehan was next to see his attempt from range tipped over the bar by Richards, but that was the only other chance produced before the hour mark as the wet, windy and swirling conditions were certainly playing their part on the football played at Rodney Parade.

At that point, Flynn decided to make his first tactical substitution of the afternoon as Harris was replaced to a standing ovation, the youngster working his heart into the ground for the Exiles until being replaced by Antoine Semenyo.

On 65 minutes, Crewe had a massive chance to get an equaliser in the contest after captain-for-the-day Paul Green was felled in the area by Demetriou and the visitors had a spot-kick.

Joe Day got down well to the effort after Green stood back up to take it, getting a strong hand on the attempt to not only save the penalty but push the ball away from any potential rebounds.    

Crewe certainly had the ascendency at that point but found a resolute defensive unit in their way, Charlie Cooper coming on in place of Josh Sheehan to provide that extra shield for the Exiles.

That change worked a treat for County as even with the indication of four additional minutes, no further chances could be created as the Exiles kicked off their Rodney Parade campaign in style with a victory against the early table toppers.


Newport County AFC (4-3-3): Day, Pipe, Franks, Demetriou, Butler, Bennett, Crofts (C), Dolan, Sheehan (Cooper 69’) Amond (Matt 90’), Harris (Semenyo 60’)

Subs not used: Townsend, Bakinson, Foulston, Forbes


Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Richards, Ng, Hunt (Raynes 89’), Nolan, Pickering, Jones, Green (C), Wintle, Kirk (Ainley 55’), Nicholls, Bowery

Subs not used: Garratt, Walker, Lowery, Finney, Reilly


Referee: Brett Huxtable

Attendance: 3,243 (253 AWAY)

Next up for County: Cambridge United (14th August 2018) AWAY – Carabao Cup First Round

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