REPORT | Newport County AFC vs Crawley Town FC
The Exiles have closed the gap on safety to just five points with a narrow 1-0 victory against Crawley Town.
Mickey Demetriou scored the game’s only goal on 18 minutes with a spectacular 25-yard effort that left Crawley goalkeeper Glenn Morris helpless.
The victory is the first at home for caretaker manager Mike Flynn as the gap decreased by another point as County head into the final six matches.
Flynn decided to make two changes to the side that narrowly lost 2-1 to Portsmouth last time out. Mitch Rose, back from a five-match suspension came in for Tom Owen-Evans and Mark O’Brien, who had also served a one-match suspension was in for Darren Jones.
Dermot Drummy elected to name the same side that beat bottom club Leyton Orient 3-0 last week. That meant goal scorers from the 3-1 win against County earlier this season in James Collins, Josh Yorwerth and Jimmy Smith all started.
Those fans expecting an easy game or a ‘day-off’ from Crawley would soon realise that the visitors came to Rodney Parade to pick up the three points. Theoretically, Crawley are safe and are too far from the play-offs to mount a push. However, as Flynn anticipated in his pre-match conference, the Red Devils were “professional and wanted to keep their professional pride intact.”
This game was the 4th meeting between the sides since Crawley’s relegation in 2015. Coincidentally, the Red Devils were meeting their 4th County manager after Terry Butcher, Warren Feeney and Graham Westley had taken charge of the Exiles in this fixture. And unlike his predecessors, Flynn would lead the side to their first win over the Red Devils since a Checkatrade trophy victory in 2013.
The game started in a cagey manner, with neither side able to get the initiative with both sides trying to catch out the other’s defence with long balls through the middle.
Then the first moment of note and another contentious penalty decision – and another one that did not go the way of County. Sean Rigg tried his luck from 20 yards, only for his shot to be blocked by the arm of a Crawley defender. Somehow, the referee said no penalty. Alex Samuel blazed over amidst the protests.
But County weren’t down for long as they took the lead on 18 minutes. After Scot Bennett had been denied by Glenn Morris in the Crawley goal, the ball was poorly cleared. And with that, it sat up nicely for Mickey Demetriou to fire home from 25 yards into the top corner.
The visitors looked shocked with that brilliant strike and Kaby Djalo soon found himself receiving the game’s first yellow card when he pulled Ryan Bird down in the centre-circle.
And County came close to doubling their lead on 28 minutes. After Bird had flicked on into the area, captain Joss Labadie tried to chip past Morris at his near post, but the keeper was equal to it and the ball was cleared.
Bird then came close to giving County a bigger advantage, but he couldn’t connect fully with his header that went over the bar.
County looked fully in control of the game at this point, with both defences seemingly winning the battle and Crawley offering little in the way of clear-cut chances.
But for all the County domination, the visitors came agonisingly close to an equaliser. After good build-up through the middle, Rhys Murphy tried his luck from 25 yards; but his shot went inches wide of the post.
But the visitors couldn’t build on their only opportunity of the first half; and almost found themselves two-down deep into the two minutes of injury time. First, Rose was denied with a close-range effort before Alex Samuel headed over.
That brought proceedings to a close for a first half that was clearly edged by County, who had the two clearest opportunities at goal. The defences of both sides were holding firm on a somewhat soggy Rodney Parade pitch but that suited County who took their time, and then took the chance when it came – in spectacular fashion.
The game seemed to be starting in a similar fashion with neither side forcing too much – then a strange incident with two red cards in a matter of seconds. County’s Joss Labadie and Josh Yorwerth seemed to tangle in the area as Crawley prepared to take a free-kick; and after consulting the linesman, the referee brandished red cards to both. That meant both teams would have 10 men for the remaining 40 minutes.
County seemed to respond better to the decision, with Scot Bennett forcing a decent save from Morris from 25 yards. Crawley responded with their own 25-yard effort but Djalo didn’t connect properly with his effort that was easily saved by Joe Day.
Demetriou then came close to getting his second but his header was tipped over.
County then came agonisingly close just seconds later. Ryan Bird had managed to get the ball past the on-rushing keeper but then couldn’t divert his effort goalward as Crawley looked mightily relieved to not be further behind.
Josh Payne was then booked for the visitors as they tried to gain a foothold in the match. But they couldn’t assert any authority on the game as County came close again through Samuel.
Substitute Conor Henderson couldn’t find his range from a long-distance free-kick as County prevented the visitors from any clear-cut opportunities.
Boldewijn was then booked as County looked to counter, before Samuel was adjudged to have been offside after being played in by Owen-Evans.
County then looked to shut-up shop on the visitors and accept a solitary goal victory when defender Sid Nelson came on for striker Samuel.
To do that they would have to survive six additional minutes. And if it wasn’t for Joe Day, the visitors may have snatched an equaliser. A smart save at his near post denied Lewis Young before Day pushed James Collins’ effort from the resulting corner out for another.
That brought proceedings to a close at Rodney Parade – much to the relief of a near 3,000 crowd. The fans sang “We’re Newport County, we fight to the end” as the Exiles faithful realised the Great Escape was one step closer to completion.
County: Day, Pipe, O’Brien, Demetriou, Bennett, Butler, Labadie (C), Rose (Owen-Evans 75), Rigg, Bird (Myrie-Williams 82), Samuel (Nelson 90+2)
Subs not used: Bittner, Gordon, Barnum-Bobb, Randall
Crawley: Morris, Young, McNerney, Yorwerth, Blackman, Boldewijn, Smith (C), Payne (Henderson 77), Djalo (Cox 59), Murphy (Harrold 71), Collins
Subs not used: Mersin, Bawling, Clifford, Lelan
Referee: Darren England
Attendance: 2,946 (113 away)
Next up on Parade: Yeovil Town (14th April 3pm kick-off)