Unhappy Rovers Return
Newport County AFC fell to a 3-1 defeat at the Memorial Stadium in a keenly fought contest against local rivals Bristol Rovers. In an entertaining game where players and supporters experienced everything the weather could throw at them it was County who started brighter trying to keep possession as the wind and rain threatened to halt proceedings.
Manager Justin Edinburgh again chose an offensive 4-3-3 formation with two changes to the team that fought for a 3-3 draw in the last encounter away at Accrington Stanley. Harry Worley returned for the injured Ismail Yakubu and Christian Jolley started up front in place of the departing Conor Washington.
Ryan Burge again began to dominate midfield with David Pipe and Lee Minshull creating good ball for the midfielder to utilise. Jolley was looking particularly dangerous down the right and after 15 minutes he cut inside before laying the ball back to the edge of the 18 yard box where fellow striker Rene Howe drove a right foot shot rising into the top corner of the goal before Bristol Rovers keeper Mildenhall produced a fine save to tip it onto the crossbar. A fine move down the left involving Sandell, Howe and Burge resulted in Minshull breaking into the box before cutting inside and curling an effort towards the far corner that Mildenhall tipped around the post. Rovers were restricted to shots from distance before the wind picked up and made the game a lottery.
Dead ball situations were nigh on impossible as the blustery conditions meant free-kicks and corners were rushed and one goal kick from Pidgeley blew back for a corner without any player touching the ball! The rain swept down turning to hail as the half progressed and the referee asked both captains if they were happy to continue. The players understood the nature of a derby and whilst the tackles continued to fly in they were from honest endeavour as opposed to anything malicious and the game continued.
As the hailstorm subsided, Bristol Rovers became dominant and Eliot Richards shot wide when well placed. John-Joe O’Toole then saw a snap shot go wide as the fourth official indicated 3 minutes of added time were to be played. In the final move of the half a cross from the left caused confusion in the box and debutant Kaid Mohamed drove the ball under Pidgeley’s body from an acute angle on the right hand corner of the 6 yard box to give the home side the lead.
Half Time: 1-0
The first few minutes of the second half saw County pressing before a long ball clear from the Rovers defence fell to Richards who drove to the edge of the area before hitting a well-placed right foot shot into the far corner of the goal as Bristol Rovers doubled their lead.
Despite County being 2 goals down they didn’t drop their intensity and, as the sun now shone down on the Memorial Stadium, hit back on 57 minutes as Rene Howe scored his first goal for the club with a tidy finish after good approach play from Jackson and Pipe and a smart lay-off from Burge saw a calm side-foot finish 6 yards out to get the former Burton Albion off the mark.
This provided fresh impetus to the away team with Jackson and Pipe combining well down the right hand side causing Rovers problems. Sandell was also getting forward and flashed a 30 yard drive just wide. The Amber Army roared their team forward and as the wind picked up again Pidgeley’s free-kick from just inside his own half eluded everyone as Minshull ghosted in at the far post to head against the post from inside the penalty area. Minshull was in the thick of it as a strong challenge from Sandell on a Rovers player saw several players square up before the referee and the 2 captains calmed things down resulting in a caution for Sandell.
As tempers frayed Worley joined Sandell in the book for a challenge with Richards on the half way line. Andrew Hughes then made a welcome return replacing Sandell at left back. Minshull then indicated to the bench that he couldn’t continue and Max Porter was introduced for the first time since mid-August on 84 minutes. The game was opening up as County chased the game with shots from Pipe and Porter fizzing wide. Then, in the final minute the home side made the game safe when O’Toole cut in from the left and from 20 yards out placed a low curling right foot shot into the right hand corner of the goal giving Pidgeley no chance. Despite 4 minutes of injury time County couldn’t find their way past a resolute Rovers defence and were left to reflect on a harsh defeat when they certainly matched their opponents.
Final Score: 3-1
County: Pidgeley, Pipe (Capt.), Minshull (Porter 84), Willmott, Sandell (Hughes 81), Burge, Jackson, Naylor, Worley, Jolley, Howe
Subs: Hughes, Porter, James, Flynn, Stephens
Goal: Howe (57)
Bookings: Worley, Sandell
Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Smith, Brown, Lockyer, Parkes, McChrystal, Mohamed, (Woodards 85' ), O'Toole, Richards (Harding 77' ), Beardsley (Harrison 90 ), Clarke
Subs: Woodards, Clarkson, Norburn, Harrison, Harding, Gough, Santos
Goals: Mohamed (45), Richards (48), O’Toole (88)
Bookings: Parkes, O’Toole
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Attendance: 7,288 (1,236 County)