Newport County AFC will be looking to inflict a first league defeat of the season on Forest Green Rovers when they travel to The New Lawn on Saturday. The Exiles could theoretically go top of League Two with a win and other results going their way, whilst the home side will want to keep their unbeaten start intact whilst closing the gap on the automatic promotion places.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
Last five results in League Two
Only five of the 92 top four division sides in England are still unbeaten this season and Forest Green Rovers help to compose that list alongside Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Portsmouth.
Too many draws – seven in total from 11 league fixtures – probably explain why Rovers can remain unbeaten but not be in the automatic promotion spots of the table, and their run in the last five league games starts with back-to-back draws.
The first of those came at The New Lawn when they were held to a 1-1 draw against Port Vale on 8th September. Carl Winchester gave Rovers the lead, but they dropped two points when Tom Pope converted a penalty to level the scores. Farrend Rawson was dismissed for the home side late on so they had to settle for a point.
In the next draw, Rovers had to this time rely on a penalty of their own to get back into the contest. Chuks Aneke gave MK Dons the lead at Stadium MK but Reuben Reid kept his composure ten minutes from time to secure another stalemate for Rovers.
Amazingly, it took Rovers until the ninth game of the season to secure their inaugural home victory of the season and it came when they inflicted Gabriele Cioffi’s first defeat as Crawley Town manager. Reid again found the net for Rovers, seeing his strike deflect in during the second-half.
Rovers certainly like to draw 1-1 and they had to settle for another stalemate when they were held at basement boys Macclesfield Town. Dayle Grubb scored within minutes of the restart to put Rovers in-front, but Scott Wilson netted his first of the campaign to equalise shortly after.
In their most recent game, Rovers survived a scare to preserve their unbeaten start to the season with a 3-1 victory at struggling Cambridge United. Jevani Brown put the U’s in-front, Paul Digby equalised before half-time, while Grubb and Matt Worthington’s clever finish secured all three points for Rovers.
Forest Green Rovers manager Mark Cooper will have a fully fit squad to choose from after all his players were able to come through Tuesday’s victory at Cambridge United unscathed.
Cooper made three changes to his side for that win at Cambridge having been left frustrated with the draw at Macclesfield Town in the game before, but he may keep faith in his side once again after a positive result.
If he were to make changes, Matt Worthington would be the likeliest player to come in. The defender has put in some stellar performances of late and scored in midweek.
Fellow defender Carl Winchester also came from the bench on Tuesday night, but he has starred this season excellently since moving from county rivals Cheltenham Town and has scored a couple of goals already.
Forest Green Rovers team vs Cambridge United (3-4-1-2): Sanchez, McGinley, Rawson (Worthington 88’), Digby, Mills, Brown (Winchester 62’), James (Gunning 69’), Shephard (C), Grubb, Reid, Campbell
One to Watch – Dayle Grubb
Forest Green Rovers attacking midfielder Dayle Grubb has made an excellent start to his first full season as Football League player.
From his 12 appearances so far this campaign, Grubb has found the net on five occasions across three different competitions, including goals on the road in League Two against Notts County, Macclesfield Town and Cambridge United.
He netted in the dismantling job of Cheltenham Town in the ‘El Glosico’ derby in the CheckaTrade Trophy and scored as they were eventually knocked out of the Carabao Cup on penalties against Wycombe Wanderers.
That follows the five League Two goals he was able to score having joined Rovers in the January transfer window – grabbing two against Cambridge United, alongside further goals against Crewe Alexandra, Mansfield Town and Chesterfield.
Rovers are Grubb’s second club of his career having spent the rest of his time in the Conference South with Weston-Super-Mare. He is also a qualified sports teacher, a role he twinned whilst playing part-time with Weston.
Across eight and a half seasons, Grubb found the net on 88 occasions from 314 appearances, including scoring an impressive 29 goals during the calendar year 2017 – clearly alerting a host of Football League clubs.
Rovers staved off the other competition to secure the agreement for his signature a month before the window opened, with the 27-year old officially joining in time to make his Football League debut on 6th January 2018.
Manager – Mark Cooper
Only Pep Guardiola, Maurizio Sarri, Jurgen Klopp, Kenny Jackett and Mark Cooper can boast teams unbeaten in their respective leagues of the top four divisions, as Cooper continues his good form since taking charge at Rovers.
Joining the club just after their National League play-off final defeat in 2016, Cooper took them up at the first time of asking, winning at Wembley 3-1 against Tranmere Rovers. They had been title contenders for most of the season after patches of good form, but ultimately came up short for the title as Lincoln City completed the campaign with 99 points.
Last season, Cooper bounced back from an awful start to the season, they were in the relegation zone as late as January, and just about managed to preserve Rovers’ stay in the Football League after a 21st placed finish – one point above the drop zone.
This spell at Forest Green is the eighth managerial position for the highly experienced Cooper, who started at a club he once played for in Tamworth in 2004.
Good FA Cup runs couldn’t hide some poor league form at the club, however, so Cooper moved on to Kettering Town in 2007 where he finally managed to find some success.
The Poppies were promoted in his first season having won the Conference North title by a clear 17 points, while he backed that up with an 8th placed finish in the Conference the following season as well as reaching the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup.
That alerted Peterborough United who appointed Cooper as Darren Ferguson’s successor in November 2009 but that role never really worked out and he was dismissed three months later.
Spells in the non-league with Darlington - where he won the 2011 FA Trophy - Kettering Town and AFC Telford United soon followed, before he returned to the Football League with Swindon Town ahead of the 2013/14 campaign.
A debut season that saw the Robins finish just outside the play-offs was soon followed by the desired top-seven finish, although they failed to achieve promotion after a 4-0 play-off final defeat to Preston North End.
He was dismissed early into the 2015/16 campaign after a poor run of results, a short stint at Notts County soon followed but Cooper elected to leave the Magpies and join Forest Green for the following season.
Stadium – The New Lawn
One of the closest grounds to Rodney Parade in terms of distance, The New Lawn is a stadium to have been frequented often by Newport County AFC and its supporters.
The official capacity is 5,140. The record attendance for the stadium stands just short of that figure as 4,836 people were there on 3rd January 2009 to see Rovers lose a seven-goal thriller to then Championship side Derby County in the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Solely a venue used for football, it’s location within Gloucestershire means it was once shared by Gloucester City during the 2007/08 season.
On matchday, County have been issued with 1,200 tickets. Those tickets are spread across two parts of the stadium, with uncovered standing areas running alongside one side of the pitch, while there is both covered seating and standing found behind one of the goals. More ticket information can be found here.
Saturday’s game will be the eighth time County have visited The New Lawn and they have a good prior record – winning on three occasions, drawing twice and losing the remaining two matches.
The first meeting in the 2010/11 season saw 505 County fans travel for a 0-0 draw, 389 went the season after for another draw in Anthony Hudson’s final game in charge, while County won an FA Trophy tie there in-front of 80 away supporters.
The Exiles gave 1,039 away supporters a late Christmas present with a come from behind victory on Boxing Day 2013, while after County’s promotion later that season, they next returned for a 4-3 pre-season defeat ahead of the 2016/17 season.
Last season, Forest Green’s first in the Football League, ended with two visits to Nailsworth for the Exiles. A total of 239 supporters were there to witness the CheckaTrade Trophy defeat on 29th August 2017, whilst 815 attended the dismantling 4-0 away victory just under two months later.
Meetings in the 2017/18 campaign
Ten goals in the two league meetings between the sides last season and County had the better of those League Two fixtures when picking up four points.
However, before they could do battle for the first time in the Football League, there was the small job of a CheckaTrade Trophy encounter on 29th August 2017.
Rovers secured all three points on their way to qualifying from the group, defeating the Exiles 2-0 thanks to goals from Dan Wishart and Luke James.
Mike Flynn said after the game: “It’s never nice when you lose a football match, but I think the best team won tonight. We’ve come here, give it a go, come up short but there were some positives tonight.”
The league meetings start with a comprehensive 4-0 victory away from home at The New Lawn for the Exiles on 14th October 2017.
Padraig Amond scored his first away goals in County colours, grabbing a header and a tap-in during the opening 45 minutes, while Scot Bennett and super-sub Shawn McCoulsky made it an afternoon to remember in Nailsworth by finding the target in the second-half.
Mike Flynn said after the game: “Arguably it is the best performance under me, yes. That was a solid performance, we played some good football, created lots of chances, set-play delivery was good, defending was good, talking was good and like I said, the boys were faultless today.”
County and Forest Green Rovers were then due to meet for the reverse fixture on 10th February 2018 but that encounter was called off before kick-off due to a waterlogged pitch.
It was worth the wait, however, to see the two sides do battle again as they shared a six-goal thriller at Rodney Parade on 6th March 2018.
Paul Hayes and Dan Butler combined for every single County goal, the left-back also hooking a cross into his own net, while replies from Gavin Gunning and Lee Collins ensured the away side took a point back with them to Gloucestershire.
Mike Flynn said after the game: “I see it as two points dropped. We conceded three poor goals and we missed too many chances at 2-2 and 3-2. We should have definitely been 5-2 up at that point and out of sight. We showed the character in getting back in-front and we should have killed the game off. Simple as that really.”
Referee: Tim Robinson
Assistant Referee 1: Ian Cooper
Assistant Referee 2: Graham Kane
Fourth Official: Tom Reeves
Robinson is currently embarking on his seventh full season as a Football League referee having first taken charge of a fixture in League Two on 18th August 2012 as Accrington Stanley secured victory away against Southend United at Roots Hall.
A highly experienced referee at this level, Robinson has spent most of his time in recent seasons in the Championship, and this will be his first League Two fixture of the 2018/19 season.
Eight of his previous 12 games this season have come in the second-tier, giving out 49 yellow cards and five red cards, including five yellows and a red on the opening day as Wigan Athletic started off their stint back in the Championship with a thrilling victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
There has only been one occasion where Robinson hasn’t gone to his pocket this season, that coming as West Bromwich Albion secured a comfortable victory at home to Millwall.
His most recent game came on Tuesday night as Brentford were held at Griffin Park against Birmingham City. A season high eight yellows and one red card were given out during that fixture.
All that follows on from refereeing a total of 47 games during the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Robinson brandished 150 yellow cards and 11 red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.
Robinson has refereed a match involving Newport County AFC on eleven previous occasions across League Two, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the Conference Premier. He is not one of the luckiest omens, however, as County have won just twice from those previous matches – drawing another two and losing seven.
Interestingly, its been over a year since he took charge of a County fixture and that came on 25th March 2017 as Portsmouth strengthened their grip on promotion by securing a 2-1 victory at Fratton Park. Sean Rigg, Joss Labadie and Jennison Myrie-Williams were all booked.
In the 2015/16 season, Robinson officiated two County matches and they were identical score lines against the Exiles. Unbelievably, Medi Elito was sent off in both as well, the Exiles losing 2-0 at Barnet on 26th December 2015 and then Crawley Town on 1st March 2016.
Another two County matches were presided over by Robinson in 2014/15, starting with the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Swindon Town on 23rd September 2014. Chris Zebroski, Yan Klukowski and Aaron O’Connor all cautioned.
He was also the man in the middle when Zebroski struck a dramatic stoppage time winner against Dagenham & Redbridge on 18th October 2014. Three yellows for County – Kevin Feely, Andy Sandell and Lee Minshull the offenders.
In County’s debut season back in the Football League, Robinson again took charge of two County fixtures, with Harry Worley booked in the draw at Dagenham on 24th August 2013. No bookings were awarded to County players during the defeat to AFC Wimbledon on 25th February 2014.
The remaining four games come during the 2011/12 season in the Conference. No bookings were awarded as Danny Crow won the game for Luton Town in stoppage time on 26th November 2011, while Tom Doherty was cautioned during the defeat to Bath City on 3rd January 2012.
Lee Minshull and Nat Jarvis were both cautioned as County beat Mansfield Town 1-0 on 18th February 2012, whilst there was again no bookings on 17th April 2012 as County were held at home against Darlington.
Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs)
Bury FC vs Mansfield Town
Crawley Town vs Cambridge United
Grimsby Town vs Port Vale
Lincoln City vs Crewe Alexandra
Macclesfield Town vs Notts County
MK Dons vs Cheltenham Town
Morecambe vs Tranmere Rovers
Oldham Athletic vs Carlisle United
Stevenage vs Colchester United
Swindon Town vs Northampton Town
Yeovil Town vs Exeter City
Can’t make the match?
You can follow along on social media using @NCAFCLive on Twitter, or via the Club’s official Facebook, Snapchat 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 Tim Thraves and Charlie Brown 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 iFollow Exiles.