County 1-1 Cheltenham
A cold Friday the thirteenth in South Wales played host to Newport County against Cheltenham Town for a game which both sides needed to win for very different reasons. County were looking to state their claim on a playoff position whilst the visitors were hopeful of putting some distance between themselves and the relegation zone before Saturday’s fixtures.
Newport started the game well, passing the ball around and trying to find a way through the Cheltenham defence but it was the visiting side who had the first good chance of the game when Danny Haynes found half a yard of space on the left edge of the penalty area and fired a shot across goal that Joe Day couldn’t reach but luckily for County, was wide of the far post.
The game was very physical in the early stages with some hard challenges and awkward landings from headed efforts but it was Cheltenham who benefited and found themselves a goal up after Wes Burns capitalised from some confusion in the Newport defence after Feely was caught out trying to shield the ball for Joe Day to collect but Burns was able to take it off him, move past the onrushing Day and slot the ball into the empty net after just thirteen minutes.
After that Newport became a lot weaker in possession, trying to play long balls over the top for O’Connor and Storey who were unable to win the majority of the headers, gifting the ball straight back to the Robins. Newport did come back into the game as the half progressed but failed to deliver the crucial final ball that would see them draw back level.
The home side did find themselves on level terms though after thirty six minutes when Ryan Jackson beat Danny Haynes down the right wing before delivering a beautiful cross to the near post that Miles Storey connected with, pulling off a superb looping header that beat Trevor Carson and put the Exiles back on level terms ten minutes before the break.
HALF TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY 1 – 1 CHELTENHAM TOWN
The second half became scrappy and lacked flow as both sides were desperate to try and get the goal that would give them the three points. Newport had more of the ball but were still unable to find the final pace for O’Connor or Storey to get on the end of. No matter what they tried they could not break down the strong visiting defence. On several occasions County got balls bobbling around in the box but there were just too many bodies in between them and the goal to get a shot away. Yan Klukowski had one of Newport’s better chances in the second half when he unleashed a powerful shot from thirty yards that swerved in the air, almost catching Carson out who ended up deflecting it away for a corner with his forearm.
As the clock ticked down Newport continued to throw men at the goal but seemed to panic around the penalty area and rushed several of their shots when around the Cheltenham box. With just five minutes to go Mike Flynn found himself all alone twenty yards out from goal and fired high over the bar on the volley with time to control the ball. In the final minute of normal time Newport were once again in the Robin’s penalty area and the ball came away to Byrne who tried to volley the ball on the half turn, but his shot was also wide of the net.
That proved to be the last real opportunity of the game and despite Newport’s 54% possession with 5 shots on target. They were unable to take all three points and the push for the playoffs moves onto Tuesday's game against Luton a crunch tie at Rodney Parade.
FULL TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY 1 – 1 CHELTENHAM TOWN