Impressive performance earns County a point against table-toppers Oxford United at Rodney Parade.
In the penultimate home game of the season, Newport knew that a point would be enough to secure safety in League 2 and even defeat would be enough if York failed to beat Portsmouth at home. Oxford on the other hand wanted a win to maintain their position in second in the league but were coming off a home defeat to Luton Town at the weekend, a result which gave Northampton Town the title.
There was a lengthy delay only a couple of minutes into the match when Yan Klukowski twisted his ankle as he went down and Oxford took full advantage of the break in play when a couple of minutes later a through ball found Danny Hylton who beat Joe Day and side footed the ball towards the open goal, only for it to strike the bottom of the post and fall to the grateful Scott Barrow, who put his boot through the ball and cleared it to the boxes in the Bizley stand.
The visitors then took the lead in the 12th minute when Danny Holmes failed to clear and Jordan Bowery found himself in loads of space in the penalty area and was able to comfortably slot the ball past Joe Day to give the visitors the lead.
GOAL: NEWPORT COUNTY 0 – 1 OXFORD UNITED (JORDAN BOWERY 12’)
They weren’t in front for long then when 90 seconds later the ball fell to Medy Elito on the edge of the penalty area and he fired a left footed half volley past the outstretched arm of Benjamin Buchel for his first goal of the season and Newport County had the point that they needed straight back.
GOAL: NEWPORT COUNTY 1 – 1 OXFORD UNITED (MEDY ELITO 14’)
With twenty minutes of the first half gone it was still a goal a piece with the game being played at a frantic pace but with County having more time in the attacking third than the visitors. The atmosphere inside the stadium was magnificent with both sets of supporters in good voice for their respective sides and their respective causes. The players were responding well to this and it was a much better County side then the one which lost to Stevenage at the weekend.
With half an hour of the game gone news spread around the ground of York City’s goal at home to Portsmouth and three points for York would mean that safety was not 100% guaranteed. The crowd atmosphere suddenly changed to nervous mumbles and this wasn’t helped by the news four minutes later that York had doubled their advantage.
Oxford continued to put pressure on County and had a couple of good chances as the half neared its conclusion. Firstly a shot from 25 yards by Chris Maguire went narrowly wide of the post before a good through ball went through everybody in the penalty area, and it would only have taken a deflection to send it into the corner. Newport weren’t without their chances though as Tommy O’Sullivan volleyed a ball towards goal after it span to him from a corner but his shot was straight at Buchel and it was a comfortable save.
There were three minutes of added time which County spent a lot of time in the attacking third for but were unable to find a goal, and the sides went into the break all square at one goal apiece.
HALF TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY 1 – 1 OXFORD UNITED
York City scored a third a few minutes into the second half to almost put their game beyond doubt and as things stood it left County nine points clear with three games to go. The crowd knew that one goal for the Exiles would guarantee safety and the County choir were doing their best to urge the players forward. It was the visitors though who got a free-kick in a dangerous position and it was whipped into the penalty area and it took a fantastic save from Joe Day to keep the scores level.
Newport began to look strong and the crowd were lifted of news that Portsmouth had a goal back against York. They were urging County forward and after a mistake from the Oxford defence Lenell John-Lewis was almost through on goal but his shot was blocked at the last moment and eventually after a penalty area scramble the ball was deflected over the bar.
With half an hour to go the atmosphere was still electric inside Rodney Parade with both sets of supporters wanting goals for different reasons. With York still leading by two goals County knew a goal for them would secure safety, Oxford wanted a goal to remain in second in the league. The pace of the game remained high but neither side looked like slowing down as the game entered the final twenty minutes of normal time.
With fifteen minutes to go Newport got a corner and the fans were enticed after the referee Gavin Ward failed to give a free kick to John-Lewis after he collided with the keeper on the edge of the area, several players crowded the keeper who managed to get a fist to the ball but it was far from convincing although it did the job and the ball was cleared away.
Mark Byrne nearly gave County the lead with a superb volley from thirty yards out which was so close to the top corner that it hit the post, hit the back of the keeper’s hands and went out for a corner. County were having much more of the ball and were throwing everything at the Oxford goal in the dying moments of normal time.
The rest of the game passed without incident and County go in to their game away at Luton Town nine points clear of the drop with a possible nine to play for and a goal difference 11 better than York City.
FULL TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY 1 – 1 OXFORD UNITED
Newport County: Day, Holmes, Barrow, Jones, Davies, Elito, Klukowski (O’Sullivan 19’), John-Lewis, Hughes, Boden, Byrne (c)
Subs not used: Green, Coulibaly, Morgan, Owen-Evans, Partridge, Angel
Goals: Elito 14’
Bookings: Holmes, O’Sullivan
Oxford United: Buchel, Bowery (Waring 78’), Wright (c), Sercombe, Hylton, Kenny, Lundstram (Ashby 24’), Maguire, Roberts, Dunkley, Evans (Ruffells 45’)
Subs not used: Slocombe, Mullins, Ruffells, Giles
Goals: Bowery 12’
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 2,847 (1040 Away)