County drew a blank for the first time in League Two during a somewhat tepid encounter at Gigg Lane, but nevertheless returned home delighted with another well-earned point on their travels. For the statisticians amongst us, it was the Exiles’ second successive away clean sheet, in what was their fourth unbeaten away league match on the bounce. Something that doesn’t make for bad reading at all when weighing up the lengthy injury list that boss Justin Edinburgh has had to contend with. All in all, County have experienced defeat just twice in their opening ten league games and sit handily placed in ninth position, lurking ominously just a solitary point away from those coveted League Two Play-off berths. Reason enough to feel happy indeed.
Heralding the start of three tough away fixtures, the Newport gaffer made just one change to the side that had beaten Torquay last weekend; Lee Minshull returning to his central midfield role in place of Robbie Willmott. These two sides had contested a seven-goal thriller during County’s last visit, back in September 1986; sadly this match would prove to be the polar opposite. A turgid first period offered precious little for the visiting faithful to enthuse over, indeed the Exiles barely mustered an effort on goal. Hosts Bury enjoyed the bulk of possession, although they too were more than a tad guilty when it came to producing worthwhile end product.
The best chance of the half fell to Marco Navas, older brother of Manchester City’s latest expensive import Jesus; arriving on the end of a super Tom Soares cross on 25 minutes, the Spaniard inexplicably nodded wide with the Newport at his complete mercy. It was to prove a costly miss for the Shakers as nobody would go quite as close again all afternoon. County’s only response was a Danny Crow toe-poke on the turn that flew wide of Brian Jensen’s goal.
It prompted boss Justin Edinburgh into an offensive change at the break; striker Chris Zebroski replacing defender Tony James. The move did pep County a little, but if ever a match ‘had nil-nil written all over it’, then unfortunately this was it. Soares blasted wide of Lenny Pidgely’s upright, whilst a Nathan Cameron block halted a fine run from Conor Washington. Nine minutes from time, a Minshull header was acrobatically flipped over by Jensen, before a magnificent late challenge from Man of the Match Ismail Yakubu prevented Bury from snatching a late winner. That sadly was about as good as it got; on a rather forgettable afternoon in which County earned themselves another very decent away point.
“I’m very pleased with the clean sheet” explained the County boss afterwards; “We started the game particularly slowly, but fair play to Bury, they had a good tempo about them and we struggled to find a foothold in the game. But I made some changes at half-time and I thought we had a better shape and better purpose about us in the second-half. It was a tactical change, I thought we needed to get an extra body up the field; it felt like we were being outnumbered in that department. Chris Zebroski certainly gave us a bit of emphasis and we looked more of a threat in the second-half.
“I thought as the game wore on we might nick one and take all three points, which maybe wouldn’t have been deserved; but we’re delighted with the point. Any point away from home is a good point. I can’t praise the players enough and the supporters who travelled today; it is a really good start for us. We have a busy week with three consecutive away games; today was the start of that and it gives us a solid foundation for the next two.”