Following their midweek heroics away at Crawley, County came crashing down to earth with something of a thud following a resounding beating at Rochdale. Completely outplayed all over the park, the Exiles can have no complaints on an afternoon described by manager Justin Edinburgh as “a wake-up call.” From the moment former Newport target Peter Vincenti lashed home a stunning long-range strike after just five minutes, County were always second best; their afternoon of woe complete when Adam Chapman missed a second-half penalty. Maybe with their injury-stricken squad so stretched, in what was, lest we forget their third lengthy away game in a week, fatigue had finally caught up with County.
Dale’s Spotland ground has rarely been a particularly happy hunting ground for Newport teams over the years though, no supporter the wrong side of forty-something could ever forget that night in 1980 for instance when we wondered whether the old Ironsides had famously blown promotion once more. Thankfully, they hadn’t; and likewise on this occasion, the defeat shouldn’t conjure severe ramifications either. County had barely had chance to settle when goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley was beaten for the first goal on five minutes; Ismail Yakubu’s headed clearance lacked distance, and Vincenti smashed home a peach from fully thirty yards that flew in off a post.
As poor as the Exiles would be, credit must go to opponents Rochdale who looked far and away the best side County had faced this season; indeed but for keeper Pidgeley, they would have been staring down the barrel of a serious hiding. Graham Cummins fired over when he should have scored, whilst Pidgeley saved well from Matthew Lund on 29 minutes. The second goal was only a matter of time though, and it duly arrived on 38 minutes; Cummins atoning for his earlier miss. Once again the visiting defence were at sixes and sevens as Jamie Allen struck the crossbar when it looked easier to score; sadly County couldn’t react and Cummins rifled home the resulting loose ball.
With striker Chris Zebroski cutting a lone figure up front, the Newport manager made a double switch at the break; Conor Washington replacing Michael Flynn in order to assist him somewhat, whilst Ryan Jackson came on for Andrew Hughes at left-back. Despite the changes, it was still the hosts who continued to press and Jackson did superbly to thwart Allen. On 53 minutes, Pidgeley produced a terrific one-handed stop to deny Ian Henderson, before Cummins fired wide from an excellent position.
Just past the hour mark, County were tossed a lifeline when, in a rare venture forward, Washington was adjudged to have been brought down inside the area by Dale’s Jack O’Connell. Referee Mr. Rushton pointed to the penalty spot, which seemed a tad harsh on the defender if we’re to be brutally honest; sadly, proof that it simply wasn’t going to be County’s day came when Chapman’s spot kick was subsequently saved by the legs of home keeper Josh Lillis.
Ten minutes later, what could have been 2-1 swiftly became 3-0 and it was game over for Newport; substitute Bastien Hery rubbing salt into the by now gaping wound. Skipper David Pipe struck an uncharacteristically short back-pass, allowing Hery to nip in and clinically seal County’s fate. There could be no complaints, only a mixture of keeper Pidgeley thereafter and a kindly upright spared Newport further misery on an afternoon they’ll want to forget very quickly.
“Rochdale are a very decent side,” admitted skipper David Pipe afterwards; “But we contributed to that; we were disappointing collectively and individually. We are all disheartened, nobody likes to lose, and you’ll see a reaction and a performance from us in our next game, because that’s the kind of group we are.” Manager Justin Edinburgh added; “We were convincingly beaten by the better side, all three goals could have been avoided and we didn’t deserve to get back into the game. We were desperately poor by our standards and it was in every area; there are no excuses. We must learn from and move on; make sure it doesn’t happen again. This is a fantastic group of players and this will be a learning curve for us.”