County go down up North
Newport County AFC fell to a 3-0 defeat at a windy Victoria Park against a Hartlepool United side that leapfrogged the Exiles in the process.
County went with an attacking 3-4-3 formation and the with the outfield 10 that started against Southend in the last match just over a fortnight ago getting the nod. The only change was an enforced one with
Emergency Loan signing Elliott Parish making his debut in goal replacing the injured Lenny Pidgeley.
Hartlepool United were also forced into one change following their 2-0 victory at Dagenham & Redbridge with their captain Neil Austin who was unable to recover from a foot injury sustained in that win meaning Jordan Richards came in to the starting XI.
Despite the conditions across the country and a steady drizzle the pitch was in excellent condition and County immediately took the game to the hosts with some crisp passing forcing Hartlepool on the back foot. A quickly taken corner in the first minute led to Robbie Willmott cutting inside from right and drilling a low shot into the near post only for Flinders to dive full stretch and turn around the post. County obtained 3 corners in the first 3 minutes and the ‘Pools were under pressure before they broke to earn a corner of their own that captain Collins headed over from close range.
As the game settled down Burge was again influential in midfield working well with Chapman and Minshull allowing Pipe to maraud forward. After a neat interchange between Willmott and Howe, the tall striker teed up Pipe who drove a rising shot first time just past the post from 20 yards. Chapman then crossed from the right to pick out Willmott at the far post and his first time cushioned cut-back fell to the on-rushing Burge but his volley was cleared off the line by Collins.
Hartlepool United were showing little in attack in the opening quarter and the their strike partnership of James and Harewood were growing increasingly frustrated. Indeed, Harewood was cautioned a minute after his colleague Holden was also shown the yellow card as tempers started to fray. As the half progressed Hartlepool came more into the game but were mainly restricted to shots from distance that failed to test debutant Parish.
Burge broke down the left on 24mins and picked out Worley with a far post cross but the central defender’s header back across goal looped onto the top of the net. Willmott was continuing to cause problems down Hartlepool’s right as County switched between 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 to good effect.
As Hartlepool gained a foothold in the game their coveted young striker Luke James fashioned an opportunity out of nothing when he instantly controlled a low cross with his back to goal. A quick turn saw him then hit a low shot into the bottom right hand corner from the penalty spot to give Parish no chance and open the scoring on 41 minutes. This was harsh on County who had dominated possession and the immediately tried to get back on level terms as good pressing from Willmott dispossessed Richards on the edge of the area and Burge burst into the box shaping to shoot before turning to his left and with the goal open a last ditch tackle from Burgess prevented a deserved equaliser.
Half Time 1-0
Neither team made any changes at half time and it was the home side that created the first meaningful chance of the half as Brad Walker tested Parish but the keeper was equal to his effort and saved well. Walker was in the thick of the action at the start of the second period bringing down Burge to earn a yellow card but County were unable to capitalise on the subsequent free kick.
Worley then received a caution for a challenge on Williams that means the tall defender will be suspended for the next 2 matches after accruing 10 yellow cards this season.
On 51 minutes Holden attacked down the right wing for Hartlepool and earned a corner. Walton swung the ball in right footed and the wind sent it into the six yard box where County players tried to clear. The ball deflected off 2 of the defending players and bounced into the net doubling the home side’s lead.
Manager Edinburgh and assistant Jimmy Dack felt changes were needed and replaced Minshull on 62 minutes with Max Porter whilst Jolley came on for Jeffers on 70 minutes. Neither side could build any momentum as the blustery conditions were now coupled with a low lying sun affecting the sight lines from long balls. The biggest cheer of the day for County fans appeared on 72 minutes when Chris Zebroski made his long awaited comeback after dislocating his knee in an FA Cup tie last November. Pipe made way for the rangy striker and the captain’s armband was given to Naylor.
Willmott switched to the right hand side and Zebroski looked to cut in from the left at every opportunity. The 2 combined on 81 minutes as Willmott’s in-swinging cross found Zebroski but Collins deflected the header to safety. Sandell then hit a 30 yard volley that faded wide as Hartlepool were happy to hit County on the break.
With 5 minutes to go Porter got to the by-line down the right and his low cross was met by fellow substitute Jolley only for the goal bound effort to be blocked by the Hartlepool rear-guard.
Holden was looking dangerous for the home side down the left and Naylor was booked for an infringement on the young winger before Williams rounded off victory with a low shot smashed into the corner from 10 yards on the left hand side of the 18 yard box after good work by Monkhouse to give the hosts a flattering 3-0 scoreline.
Final Score: 3-0
County: Parish Pipe (Zebroski 73) Willmott Jeffers (Jolley 72) Chapman Minshull (Porter 62 ) Sandell Burge Howe Worley Naylor
Subs: Hughes Porter Crow Zebroski Jackson Jolley Thompson
Hartlepool United: Flinders Richards Holden Monkhouse Collins Burgess Walton Walker James (Franks 87) Harewood (Barmby 72 ) Williams
Subs: Franks Poole Barmby Rafferty Compton Sweeney Duckworth
County Bookings: Worley, Naylor
Hartlepool United Bookings: Harewood, Holden, Walker
Hartlepool United Goals: James (43), OG (51), Williams (90)
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Att: 3,470 (127 County)