County battle for point
It was a full blooded Good Friday encounter at the Cherry Red Records! Stadium between Newport County AFC and hosts AFC Wimbledon that finished in a 2-2 draw.
Both teams may have been sitting in mid-table prior to this Bank Holiday fixture but there was certainly no end of season feel with both sets of players showing great commitment from the first whistle.
Justin Edinburgh named and unchanged team as Newport County AFC looked to build on the 2-0 victory last weekend against Wycombe Wanderers. The interest was in the substitutes named as Aaron O’Connor took his place on the bench being named in the squad for the first time this season. Adam Chapman was also named as a sub after completing his 3 match suspension.
AFC Wimbledon came into the game on the back of a fine 1-0 win at Southend Utd with Jack MIdson getting the all-important goal with a second hall penalty at Roots Hall. Midson was again leading the attack with former County players Darren Jones and Aaron Morris also in starting XI for the Dons.
It was County, playing in all white, that started with more purpose and the attacking trio of Howe, Jolley and Zebroski were putting the home side on the back foot. In the fifth minute Sandell cut In from the left and delivered a pin-point cross to the far post that Jolley met with a powerful header which was tipped around the post by Worner in the AFC Wimbledon goal.
County continued to press and from the resultant corner Feely headed over from six yards after another quality cross from Sandell. Zebroski was causing danger down the left hand side and Newport born Darren Jones made a determined block on the edge of the box before Jolley’s turn and shot from the ricochet was deflected to safety by fellow Dons centre back Frampton.
On 15 minutes County took a deserved lead when a throw in on the right from Jackson fell to Zebroski and after the front man had juggled the ball between 2 home defenders he let fly with a rising volley from 20 yards that Worner could only parry into the top corner. It was another wonder strike from Zebroski and the third successive game in which the striker had scored for The Exiles.
AFC Wimbledon were shell shocked after a dynamic opening period of the first half from the visitors and it took until the 25th minute before The Dons created their first opportunity as Nicholson’s low cross was missed by the stretching Blake and deflected off McLoughlin and Feely before rebounding into the grateful arms of the County keeper as Midson was ready to pounce.
Aaron Morris then made a strong run down the right and cut the ball back to Sammy Moore on the edge of the area but the midfielder’s side footed placed effort sailed over the bar.
Jackson and Jolley were combining well down the right as County reasserted their dominance as the first half drew to a close and following good work by the 2 former Dons a corner was won that was swung in by Sandell. Feely headed back across goal but the ball wouldn’t drop for Minshull in time and his snatched effort flew over the bar.
Half Time 0-1
The second half started with a bang as Neal Ardley made 2 substitution and changed to a 4-3-3 formation. Hylton and Arthur came on for Fenlon and Nicholson with Appiah pushing forward to join Midson and Hylton up front.
It was County who continued in the ascendancy as Jolley broke down the right and beat 2 players before cutting into the 18 yard box and being floored by Frampton. Referee Woolmer had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and captain Mike Flynn took charge by grabbing the ball and placing on the spot before sending Worner the wrong way and placing the ball low to the keeper’s left to send the County faithful into raptures.
Within 2 minutes AFC Wimbledon halved the deficit as a free kick given away by Minshull, who was booked in the process, was swung in from the right by the ever dangerous Francomb and headed in at the far post by the on rushing Appiah. There was real commitment from both sides and the challenges were flying in and gradually AFC Wimbledon were pegging County back.
On 70 minutes the moment all County fans were hoping for happened. Justin Edinburgh made the change and replaced Rene Howe with Aaron O’Connor and the Amber Army were in fine voice as the striker made his first appearance in the Football League and first appearance this season.
It was the Dons who continued to press and the impressive Francomb drove forward from midfield and unleashed a shot from the edge of the area which took 2 deflections before spinning past the outstretched finger tips of McLoughlin and nestling in the keeper’s right hand corner of the goal levelling the score.
Edinburgh reacted to the equaliser by making a double substitution bringing on Chapman and Willmott for Flynn and Jolley and the latter received a warm reception from all four corners of the ground as he left the pitch.
Chances continued to fall to either side with County looking to hit AFC Wimbledon on the break and Aaron O’Connor was close to a dream return when he picked the ball up 35 yards from goal and drove menacingly toward goal. As he broke into the area the front man shaped to shoot before cutting inside onto his right foot but his low drive from 10 yards our was deflected narrowly wide by Jones.
AFC Wimbledon went close to scoring as a dangerous cross from Fuller was turned goalwards by Hylton but rebounded off the post before Porter cleared to safety.
It was the turn of the match officials to hold the game up as the assistant needed treatment from the home doctor for what seemed to be a bout of sun stroke as both sets of supporters enjoyed the fine weather on offer. This stoppage led to 5 minutes of added time but neither team could find the winner they craved and it ended honours even in South London.
Final Score: 2-2
County: McLoughlin, Porter, Minshull, Zebroski, Sandell, Blake, Flynn (Capt.) (Chapman 80), Jackson, Feely, Jolley (Willmott 80), Howe (O’Connor 70)
Subs: Pidgeley, Hughes, Chapman, O’Connor, Willmott, Jeffers, Holloway
Referee: A. Woolmer
Att: 4,389 (412 County)