The 2017/18 season sees Newport County AFC take on six new opponents after four teams were relegated from League 1 and two were promoted from the National League. Some of these teams will be familiar foes for Exiles fans, others will not. Here, we preview League Two’s newcomers….
Forest Green Rovers
The Exiles will embark on one of their shortest trips of the season when they travel to Nailsworth to take on Forest Green Rovers on 14th October.
Rovers, promoted last season via the National League play-offs, will be competing in their first ever season in the Football League. A 3-1 victory against Tranmere Rovers in that play-off final came after finishing 3rd in the table, accumulating 86 points in the process.
Since Dale Vince took control of the club in 2010, they have become the world’s first ‘eco-friendly’ club. This means they pioneer initiatives like an organic pitch, powering the stadium through solar-power and a ban on all red meat for matchdays. The club also intend to open a new stadium within the next five years made entirely from renewable sources.
The match on the 14th October will be the eighth time the two teams have met.
The New Lawn is familiar territory for County. The Exiles have met Rovers four times at the stadium, remaining unbeaten, winning two and drawing the other two. That includes victory on their last visit, when goals from Ryan Charles and a direct corner from Ben Swallow secured a 2-1 scoreline on Boxing Day 2012.
FGR have already made considerable progress ahead of their first Football League campaign, signing Charlie Cooper last week. He will join a roster including goalkeeper Sam Russell, club captain Liam Noble and Newport-born striker Christian Doidge. Doidge finished last season with 27 goals, the second highest in the National League.
Rovers are currently at odds of 18/1 to secure the League 2 title next season, while back-to-back promotions can be found at 9/2.
Chesterfield’s three-season stay in League 1 came to an end as they finished bottom of the table last season. The Spireites won only nine games during the campaign, as their tally of 37 points was not enough to keep them in the third tier.
Our match on the 26th August will be the third time the teams have met.
The last time the Exiles played against Chesterfield was during the 2013/14 season, as County went unbeaten against the Derbyshire side. They took the spoils 3-2 at Rodney Parade before a 1-1 draw at the Proact Stadium, Max Porter striking with eight minutes remaining for his first goal in 14 months.
Understandably, manager Gary Caldwell has made major changes to his playing squad for next season. Bradley Barry became the club’s first signing in late May and since then Scott Wiseman, Joe Anyon and Jerome Binnom-Williams have all joined the club. They join players retained from last season including Ian Evatt and Kristian Dennis at the Proact.
The Spireites are currently priced at 16/1 to win League 2 next season, while promotion straight back to League 1 is at 7/2.
Port Vale will be playing in League 2 for the first time since County’s promotion season in 2013 after finishing 21st in last season’s League 1 table.
Twelve wins were not enough to secure the Valiants safety, although victory on the final day against Fleetwood would have seen them leapfrog Gillingham in the table.
County’s match on the 11th November will be the first time they’ve faced Valiants since 13th October 1987. Back then, the Exiles came out on top 2-0 with goals from Roger Gibbins and Paul Giles securing the victory at Somerton Park.
Manager Michael Brown has already been busy on navigating a way back to League 1, tying several players down for the season. Billy Reeves, Danny Pugh, Dan Turner and Ryan Boot have all extended their stay with the Stoke-on-Trent club, while ex-Exile Sam Foley will not feature against County after leaving the club to sign with another ex-Exile, as he has joined Justin Edinburgh at Northampton Town.
The Valiants are currently priced at 22/1 to return to League 1 as champions, or 5/1 for promotion.
Swindon Town FC
Swindon Town FC and Newport County AFC have never met in League 2; the Robins earning promotion to League 1 the season before County’s arrival. Swindon had some real success in League 1 reaching the Play-Off final in the 2014/15 Season. It wasn’t meant to be and they suffered a difficult 4-0 defeat to Preston.
Both the 15/16 and 16/17 Seasons proved difficult for The Robins and they found themselves relegated from League One after finishing the league in 22nd Place.
Our match on the 25th November will be the third meeting between the two teams.
The last meeting between the two teams was in the EFL Trophy in September 2015. The game ended in a 1-1 draw but was eventually won on Penalties by Swindon.
Former Barnsley and Bury manager, David Flitcroft was announced as Swindon Town’s manager in June and – a Club Statement said – been given “a competitive budget” with which to build his squad. As of the weekend, he was yet to make a signing.
Swindon Town are currently sitting at 12/1 to win the League Outright and 11/4 to gain promotion via automatic places or the play-offs.
Lincoln City FC
Lincoln City FC took the only automatic promotion spot as they won the National League with an impressive 99 points. The Imps became everyone’s “second team” during their remarkable FA Cup run which took them all the way to the quarterfinals before they were dispatched by eventual winners Arsenal.
Lincoln have spent 7 years in non-league but appear to be back with vengeance now.
Our match on the 23rd December will be our fifth meeting and the start of the festive footy period.
The Exiles and the Imps met four times in the Blue Square Premier resulting in three victories for County including a dramatic 4-2 win in which Robbie Wilmott scored two second half goals to secure the win.
Many of the squad are signing new deals with the Club as they look to build on the successes of last year. With manager Cooke targeting the play-off places and ambitions of Championship football in the not-to-distant future, there is surely some transfer market news coming soon.
Lincoln are currently sitting joint second favourites to achieve a second league win on the bounce and sale straight through to League One. There odds a very healthy 9/1. If you wanted to take a punt on Lincoln achieving one of the other promotion places, a £10 bet would earn you just £20.
2001 saw Coventry relegated from the Premier League after a 34-year tenure in the top-flight. Difficult times followed and The Sky Blues almost saw themselves go out of existence in 2007, SISU buyer stepping in just 20 minutes before the Club went into administration. In the past few months, the hedge fund company have refused a number of offers to buy The Sky Blues.
The Club were Championship Survivors for 4 years before 2012 saw them relegated to League One. They join us in League Two after finishing 23rd in the league. It is the first time The Sky Blues have been in the fourth tier of English football since 1959.
Remarkably, the fixture on the 19th August will be the first time the two Clubs have met since County ceased to exist in 1989.
However, the two Clubs spent many years locking horns in Division 3 throughout the 50s and 60s competing 39 times in total with 16 wins each and seven draws.
At the close of the season, Manager Mark Robins, promised Coventry fans that he’d be working really hard in the transfer window and, true to his word, the Club have been busy. After taking the job in March, and finishing 23rd in League 2, it’s understandable that the Club are looking to make changes.
Coventry City are 10/1 to win the league and 9/4 to get promoted making them fourth favourites behind Mansfield, Lincoln and Luton.
FOR MORE ON #FIXTURERELEASEDAY FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW:
- Newport County AFC Fixtures Page
- Newport County AFC Fixtures Released (including fixtures image and table of matches)
- Dates for Your Exiles 2017/18 Diary
- Don't miss a single Home Match with your 2017/18 Season Ticket