County 1-0 Luton
Tuesday night in South Wales saw Newport face off against out of form playoff opposition Luton Town. County knew that victory could see them back in the top seven with the games rapidly running out, Luton were looking for their first win in four, having only won one game in the last six.
Newport started the game very strongly and dominated the early possession, keeping the ball away from the visitors for large chunks of the first ten minutes. Ryan Jackson was causing all sorts of problems for the Luton defence, time after time getting past his marker to put a cross into the area. It was Jackson who had Newport’s first chance of the game, picking the ball up just inside the Luton half after a pass from Lee Minshull before running at the defence, cutting inside into the penalty area onto his left foot and firing a shot towards the bottom corner but this was comfortably saved by Eliot Justham in goal.
County’s domination eventually paid off after just twenty one minutes when Jackson launched a long throw into the penalty area which Minshull flicked on to Aaron O’Connor, who swung a right boot at it from the penalty spot and the ball found its way into the top corner past the helpless keeper. Once they had got in front Newport didn’t look back and continued to bombard the Luton box. Just two minutes after the goal, Yan Klukowski found himself in space in the area and was able to send a looping header goal wards, similar to Miles Storey’s goal against Cheltenham, but his effort landed on the roof of the net.
Joe Day wasn’t troubled at all in the first half, the most he had to do was punch away one cross from the left hand side, and collect the ball from the ball boy behind the goal. County finished the half as strongly as they started it, Lee Minshull fired just wide of the goal from eighteen yards after some more fantastic build up play from Jackson down the right. Newport could have easily been three or even four goals up at the break, nevertheless Jimmy Dack would have been very happy with the way his side performed in the first half.
HALF TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY 1 – 0 LUTON TOWN
The second half began much more evenly than the first. Luton had successive spells of possession that resulted in numerous corners and pressure on Joe Day’s goal. Some fantastic keeping from Day however, kept them at bay. The woodwork was rattled twice by the visitors, first by Eliot Lee after his left footed shot hit the upright and secondly on sixty eight minutes a headed effort was only a few inches from flying into Day’s top right hand corner, only for the crossbar to come to his rescue.
Luton had come out for the second half a completely different side, stringing together passes and making sure that Newport did not have it all their own way. Mark Cullen caused Day to get down well to his left just before the hour mark to stop his effort sneaking in at the near post. It was still Newport who were controlling the midfield though and this eventually began to show. Aerial battles were consistently won by the men in amber leading to the game being played in the visitors half for long periods at a time.
It was Max Porter who had one of the better chances for Newport in the second half when his twenty five yard effort just right of centre was deflected, nearly catching out Justham in the Luton goal but unfortunately the looping ball ended up just over the bar. With just twenty minutes to go Chris Zebroski replaced Shaun Jeffers up front and immediately made an impact, almost scoring with his first touch of the game although his outstretched leg was unable to make contact with O’Connor’s low driven cross. The two then swapped roles as, with ten minutes to go, Zebroski’s through ball cleverly found O’Connor inside the penalty area, and it was a good save out of Eliot Justham that stopped him getting his second of the night.
The last ten minutes saw nerves begin to creep in around Rodney Parade from fans and players alike with players scrambling to get the ball away from danger and long balls being played up the field towards no one in particular. Luton continued to try and prevent Joe Day from having a clean sheet deep into the four minutes of added time, but it was Newport County who came away with the three points, and are now only outside the playoff places on goal difference with less than ten games to go.
FULL TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY 1 – 0 LUTON TOWN