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PREVIEW | County head to the Hive to take on Barnet

19 April 2018

Newport County AFC will be looking to continue their late push towards the League 2 play-offs when they travel to Barnet on Saturday. The Exiles will also be looking to build on the victory against play-off chasing Swindon Town at Rodney Parade last time out, while the home side will be desperate to pick up maximum points knowing that they could be relegated should they lose at the Hive, and other results go against them.

Tickets for this fixture are still available and here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League 2 encounter.

 

Last six league matches

The Bees have been on a relatively good run of form of late, although will need to be almost faultless in their remaining three fixtures if they are to have any chance of prolonging their stay in League 2 past just three seasons.   

They have amassed seven points from their last 18 available, six of those coming at the Hive, but you would have to say that they will need at-least six from the final three fixtures to stand any chance of getting out of a relegation zone which they have spent the majority of the season within.

Barnet’s run over the last six matches starts on 17th March, although the result wasn’t what they were hoping for as the Bees were condemned to a 2-0 defeat at home to automatic promotion chasing Wycombe Wanderers.

Joe Jacobson gave the Chairboys a half-time lead with a composed penalty, while Luke O’Nien confirmed the three points would be heading back to Buckinghamshire when scoring a superb free-kick just 17 minutes before the end.

That soon became back-to-back defeats when they lost 2-0 against Luton Town in-front of the Sky Sports cameras, a game which marked the return of Martin Allen as manager of the club for the fifth time.

Lethal League 2 strike-duo Danny Hylton and James Collins both scored in the second-half to end a rotten run of results for the Hatters, as they capitalised on a weekend off for Accrington Stanley to regain top stop, albeit temporarily.

But Allen would have been encouraged by the Bees’ performance at Kenilworth Road against the perennial promotion contenders, and they may have made a game of it if they had scored eight minutes from the end, although Luton goalkeeper James Shea did remarkably well to save a curling free-kick from Simeon Akinola.

Their next match saw Allen contest his first home game in charge against Crewe Alexandra and the 52-year old would have been mightily pleased with John Akinde’s ice cold temperament as his late penalty secured a much needed 2-1 victory.

Akinde actually opened the scoring with another spot-kick just six minutes after the restart, although that lead was swiftly cut out by a goal from Aston Villa loanee Harry McKirdy.

That set the stage for Akinde to step up again from the spot with just 100 seconds remaining, the talisman as cool as you like when rifling the attempt into the top corner.

But the side were brought back down to earth with a bang as they suffered a comprehensive 4-1 defeat at Stevenage in what was Dino Maamria’s first victory as Boro boss.

Danny Newton scored either side of half-time to put Stevenage in command, while a first goal for the Boro by Alex Revell further extended the advantage early in the second-period.  

A goal from Shaquile Coulthirst eight minutes before the end did give Barnet the opportunity to mount a late charge, but another from Revell nullified any hope of a comeback as Stevenage returned to winning ways in confident fashion.

In their next match, Allen kept his 100% home record since returning to the hot seat alive by securing a narrow 1-0 success against fellow strugglers Forest Green Rovers.

Alex Nicholls, who had been on a rich vein of form before Graham Westley’s dismissal, ended a four-game run without a goal in order to secure them a massive three points in their quest for an unlikely survival.

Those survival hopes looked all the more likely when they battled back to take a lead at Grimsby Town last weekend, although a late equaliser handed the initiative back to the Mariners as the two sides played out a 2-2 draw at Blundell Park. 

Danny Collins struck after just six minutes of the contest to give Grimsby an early lead, although goals from Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro and Curtis Weston gave Barnet hope that the gap to the Mariners could finally be decreased.

But ex-Exile Mitch Rose kept his composure to hit a dramatic late penalty, ensuring Grimsby were still in charge of their own destiny following taking a share of the spoils from the contest.  

All that leaves Barnet marooned in 23rd place in the League 2 table ahead of County’s visit to the Hive, five points behind Grimsby with just three matches left to play, although the Bees do currently hold a superior goal difference should it come down to it.

 

Team-News 

The Bees are currently going through what can only be described as an injury crisis at the moment, with the side potentially missing 11 players for the contest at the Hive.

They have at-least one absentee in every part of the side, starting in goal with the news that ex-Exile Jamie Stephens could miss the match with a knee injury.

Fellow goalkeeper George Legg is also expected to miss the game with an unspecified problem, while the Bees could also be missing three defenders for the game.  

Elliott Johnson looks likely to be absent with the same knee injury as the aforementioned Stephens, while Harry Taylor (broken metatarsal) and Darnell Smith may also face late fitness tests.

Midfielders Mauro Vilhete, Ephron Mason-Clark and Fuad Sule remain absent, while the attacking threat of the Bees has taken a hit with the news that Dave Tarpey (knee) and Simeon Akinola are injury doubts.

Defender Ricardo Santos completes the list, although he has the best chance of returning after almost making the bench last time out, with manager Martin Allen calling up several youth players to cope with the heavy injury list.

Interestingly, Allen was still able to name an unchanged side against Grimsby Town last weekend, with all those injury problems noted clearly long-term troubles.  

Barnet team vs Grimsby Town (4-4-2): Ross, Tutonda, Nelson, Sweeney (C), Brindley, Kyei (Clough 35’), Weston, Watson, Nicholls (Akpa-Akpro 59’), Akinde, Coulthirst

 

One to Watch – Alex Nicholls

 

Barnet winger Alex Nicholls has hit a good run of form at just the right time of the season as the Bees look to stave off the possibility of relegation to the non-league.

The 30-year old has six goals throughout the entirety of the campaign, five of which have come since February, while those strikes have amassed a total of 11 points for the Bees this season.

Nicholls scored in 1-1 home draws with Accrington Stanley and Port Vale, whilst scoring the most dramatic of late winners when giving Graham Westley his first win as manager during his short stint after finding the net in the 97th minute to beat Notts County 1-0 at the Hive on 10th February.

He also scored the solitary goal in the victory over Forest Green earlier this month, whilst his remaining goal at home came on 28th November when scoring the winner against Tottenham Hotspur U23s in the CheckaTrade Trophy.

Nicholls has also chipped in with one away goal this season, that yet another matchwinner to add to his ever-growing list, with that strike coming at Colchester United on 24th February.

Barnet are just the fourth club of the 30-year old’s career to date, which started at West Midlands outfit Walsall.

After impressing in the academy and then the reserve side, Nicholls was afforded his first opportunity of first-team football at the Bescot Stadium during the 2005/06 campaign.

That saw him make his professional debut in December 2005 during an Emirates FA Cup clash with Yeovil Town, the first of 13 appearances he made in total that season.

Nicholls broke his leg during the latter part of that campaign, a season in which the Saddlers were relegated into League 2, meaning the 30-year old virtually missed the entirety of the next season through injury.

He did, however, manage a short loan stint at Burton Albion whilst trying to regain his fitness. Nicholls made 14 appearances whilst with the Brewers, although couldn’t find the target either home or away.

Walsall were promoted back into League 1 during Nicholls’ absence, but it didn’t take him too long to get back accustomed with the side – scoring his first Football League goal on 8th January 2008 during an away victory at Yeovil Town.

He stayed with the Midlands outfit for a further four seasons before deciding to leave on a free transfer and join Northampton Town, departing the Saddlers having scored on 28 occasions from 219 appearances.

Nicholls made a pretty good start to that 2012/13 campaign with the Cobblers, finding the net on eight occasions in his first 16 appearances, but his season was once again cut short after breaking his leg for the second time in his career.

He missed the entirety of the following campaign with that injury and didn’t find it easy to integrate himself back into the team upon his return, so the winger joined Exeter City on loan twice during the 2014/15 season.

One goal in 13 appearances across those two spells was clearly enough to tempt the Grecians into making the arrangement permanent, Nicholls leaving Northampton in January 2015 after scoring nine goals in just 29 appearances.

He spent one and a half seasons as a permanent fixture with the club and improved his goals to games ratio quite substantially. Nicholls scored 12 goals from 61 appearances before his departure, joining Barnet ahead of the last campaign.

A loan spell with Dundee United was also completed during the second part of last season after failing to hold down a consistent place in the side, although it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Nicholls as he won the Scottish Challenge Cup during that stint.

He has held down a starting position much more frequently this campaign, making 25 appearances to date across all competitions, meaning Nicholls will face County with statistics of 59 goals from 392 career appearances.

 

Stadium – The Hive

One of the newer stadiums in the Football League, Barnet have only resided at the Hive since the beginning of the 2013/14 season. That move to the London Borough of Harrow ended a 106-year association that Barnet previously had with their old stadium Underhill.

A friendly with Championship outfit Ipswich Town was announced to unveil the new stadium on 20th July 2013, a game in which ex-Exile Mark Byrne wasted a glorious chance to score the first goal at the stadium when Ipswich goalkeeper Scott Loach saved his penalty.

To make matters worse for the Bees, David McGoldrick scored the match-winner just before half-time for the away side, meaning Barnet started their tenure at the stadium with a defeat.

They did, however, secure a victory in their first competitive fixture at the stadium. A crowd of 2,543 was in attendance to witness a comfortable 3-0 victory against Chester in the Conference, goals from Luke Gambin and two from Jake Hyde confirming the success on 10th August 2013.

The current capacity of the stadium for Football League matches stands at 5,176, although the record attendance is a little higher than that figure with 5,223 attending a match against Gateshead on 25th April 2014.

It was party time during that game, hence the high attendance, as the Bees secured promotion back into the Football League thanks to a double from Mauro Vilhete in a 2-0 victory.

The Hive has also been home to the London Bees Women’s football team since the 2014/15 season, a side who currently play in the second division of the Women’s Super League, while the London Broncos rugby league club also shared the ground that season.

The stadium has also played host to England age grade matches alongside various other friendlies, while the Brazil national team have used it as a training base ahead of facing England at Wembley. It was also used to train referees ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

On matchday, Exiles supporters will be housed in the North Stand behind one of the goals. Just under 1,900 tickets will be available for the game, in a stand which is all-seater.

It will be the fourth time that County have visited the stadium.

A total of 329 County fans were in attendance on 5th December 2015 to see Scott Boden score the match-winner in the Emirates FA Cup, while 245 were there just three weeks later as the Exiles suffered a 2-0 defeat on Boxing Day.

159 made the trip to the capital last season as both sides played out a 0-0 draw.  

 

Manager – Martin Allen

 

Already somewhat of a club legend at the London outfit, Martin Allen’s stock amongst the Barnet faithful will only increase ever further should he keep the club in the Football League during his fifth tenure.

He has only been in-charge of five matches thus far in this latest spell, picking up seven points from the 15 available since his appointment on 19th March.

Barnet have a perfect record at home since he took charge, securing victories against Crewe and Forest Green, while they have drawn at fellow strugglers Grimsby Town alongside defeats to League 1 bound Luton Town and Stevenage.

This is currently the 15th year of his managerial career and that also started with Barnet in March 2003.

Allen led them towards the top half of the table in the 2003/04 season after making wholesale changes in the previous summer, although didn’t see out the entirety of that campaign as the temptation to join Brentford in the Second Division was too hard to turn down.

He had two highly successful seasons during the 2004/05 and 2005/06 campaigns and finished in the play-offs on both occasions.

But they suffered back-to-back semi-final defeats in both play-off runs, first to Sheffield Wednesday and then Swansea City, whilst also reaching the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup both times, although they went out to Southampton and Reading respectively.

Allen somewhat surprisingly resigned from his position in May 2006 citing lack of board commitment as the reason for his departure, although the 52-year old wasn’t out of work for long as he joined League 2 side MK Dons just over a month later.

Another play-off semi-final defeat then came that campaign whilst losing to Shrewsbury Town, but his performances at the club clearly attracted the attention of Leicester City, who negotiated a deal to bring him to the club in May 2007.

He didn’t last too long at the club after several disagreements with owner Milan Mandaric, leaving the side for Cheltenham Town after just four games in the hot seat.

Financial difficulties at the club saw him leave that position just over a year later, while he only managed three games on his return to Barnet before leaving for Notts County.

He was sacked eight months later, joining Barnet yet again for the remainder of the 2011/12 campaign and he kept them in the Football League with a win on the final day against Burton Albion.

Gillingham were the next destination on his list, a club where he won the League 2 manager of the year award in 2013 having won the title with the club, but a poor start to the following campaign saw him dismissed in October 2013.

That saw him back with Barnet for a fourth spell, this time spending two and a half years at the Hive whilst managing 135 games and winning the Conference title, although strangely left the club in December 2016 to join National League side Eastleigh.

He only managed to win two of the 14 matches in charge so was sacked two months later, with Allen spending a year out of the game before again being appointed at the Hive last month.

All that sees Allen face County for the fifth time boasting statistics of 225 victories from 558 competitive games as a manager.

 

Last time out

Newport County AFC 1 – 2 Barnet

Tuesday 21st November 2017

It was late heartache for the third successive game for Newport County AFC as Barnet scored twice in the final two minutes to steal all three points from Rodney Parade in a 2-1 away victory.

Goals from Anton Forrester and Mallik Wilks in the final ten minutes had seen County throw away leads in the two previous games against Port Vale and Accrington Stanley respectively, but this time it was the two Barnet strikers who completed a remarkable turnaround late on.

That dramatic finale followed what was in all fairness a rather dour first-half, with the sodden conditions at Rodney Parade clearly having an impact on the amount of chances that could be created during the opening 45 minutes.

County were the side to come closest in that first-half, Scot Bennett’s speculative attempt taking a major deflection off Bees defender Ricardo Santos on it’s way to goal, although the touch also sent it past the post to the relief of ex-Exile Jamie Stephens in the away goal.

At the other end, Barnet had their best chances of the half in the final five minutes.

John Akinde was found well in the area before forcing a fingertip save from Joe Day to deny his header. But the rebound fell kindly to Dan Sweeney, who fired a shot that had Day beaten all ends up, only to see Ben White head it off the line – the 7th time the defender had done that already this campaign.

It would be impossible not to link the amount of chances created at Rodney Parade to the difficult weather conditions and that certainly transpired into the opening period of the second-half as-well.

But the game suddenly burst into action in the 73rd minute as County took the lead.

Frank Nouble’s delivery into the area caused Stephens all manner of problems in the Barnet goal, with the shot stopper only able to punch the cross into the path of Ben White, who powerfully headed home his first goal in professional football from the edge-of-the-area.

Padraig Amond and Nouble both had efforts to kill the game off saved confidently by Stephens - as it looked like County were about to see the game out in composed fashion.

There was still to be drama in the closing stages, however, as Barnet staged the most dramatic of comebacks to secure their first victory in 15 matches from all competitions.

Their equaliser came on 88 minutes and it was a goal of fine quality. The Bees played the ball through several phases before sending it out wide to Jamal Campbell-Ryce, the winger needing one touch to get it under his command before crossing in a pinpoint delivery for John Akinde to head home from two yards.

And the comeback was complete mere seconds into injury time as the away side scored a carbon-copy of their opener.

This time it was Shaquile Coulthirst’s turn to guide home a Campbell-Ryce delivery, scoring from a similar distance to the first goal, ensuring Barnet had a first victory in just their second match under new manager Mark McGhee.

Shawn McCoulsky did almost find the net deep into the six minutes additional time added on at the end of the game, but it wasn’t meant to be for County at Rodney Parade as it became six matches without a win for the Exiles.

Mike Flynn said of the second home defeat of the season: “I don’t think we were good enough really tonight anyway but again we’ve gone and blown a lead in the last ten minutes. I’m not going to try and blind you with science, they didn’t listen. We drew with a team second in the table on Saturday and possibly should have won it. Now, we’ve lost to second from bottom.”

Barnet manager Mark McGhee added of the victory: “It was total relief when that whistle went. We reshuffled a little bit when Newport scored, we kept going, put some great crosses into the box and then two great finishes from our centre-forwards. It’s massive to stay off the bottom of the table and I hope that a belief will now be instilled within the squad.”

 

Officials

Referee: Robert Lewis

Assistant Referee 1: Paul Graham

Assistant Referee 2: Steven Brown

Fourth Official: Marc Wilson

Lewis is currently embarking on his 12th full season as a Football League referee having officiated his first game in League 2 on 1st October 2005 as Rochdale secured a 2-1 victory against Rushden & Diamonds.

He has refereed 27 matches this season, of which the last came on Easter Monday as Lincoln City kept their League 2 play-off ambitions alive with a 1-0 away victory at another promotion contender in Carlisle United.

Four yellow cards and a red card to Carlisle’s Mike Jones were all brandished on that occasion at Brunton Park, taking his season tally to 75 yellow cards and seven red cards from the previous 27 matches. He has also awarded four penalties this season.

That follows on from refereeing just 16 matches during the 2016/17 campaign, a season in which Lewis brandished 50 yellow cards and two red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.

 

County Connection

Lewis has refereed Newport County AFC on seven previous occasions in League 2 and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. The Exiles have a mixed bag of results from the previous games officiated by Lewis - following two wins, two draws and three defeats in those matches.

He has already officiated the Exiles on two occasions this season, of which the first game came on New Year’s Day as County started 2018 with a 2-1 home victory over Exeter City.

Padraig Amond’s early header was cancelled out by Grecian striker Jayden Stockley midway through the second-half, before Robbie Willmott secured all three points with a spectacular 25-yard winner.

David Pipe and Matty Dolan were booked that afternoon from a County perspective, while Jordan Tillson and Lloyd James were cautioned for the away side.

More recently, Lewis was also the man in the middle as the Exiles played out a 0-0 draw with automatic promotion chasing Notts County on 17th February 2018.

David Pipe and Joss Labadie were both cautioned on that occasion, while Jon Stead was the solitary booking for the Magpies.

Interestingly, Lewis was also supposed to be the referee for this season’s home game with Colchester United on 17th October. But a clash with Charlton’s Josh Magennis three days prior to the game caused Lewis to be ruled out with concussion and replaced by Darren England. 

The 2016/17 season also saw one County game officiated by Lewis.

That came on 7th January 2017 as a Matt Godden hat-trick saw Stevenage to a 3-1 home victory. Dan Butler grabbed a late consolation for the Exiles that afternoon, while Sid Nelson and Scot Bennett were both booked.

In 2015/16, Lewis again only officiated one game involving County, a match in which Paul Mullin struck a stoppage-time penalty to give Morecambe a 2-1 victory at Rodney Parade on 12th September 2015.

Scott Barrow had earlier cancelled out ex-Exile Alan Goodall’s header with a stunning long-range effort, who later received a booking alongside Aaron Hayden.

The 2014/15 season saw Lewis be the man in the middle for two matches involving the Exiles.

Mark Byrne struck a late equaliser to cancel out Rory Donnelly’s strike in the 1-1 home draw with Tranmere Rovers, Andy Sandell the only player booked for the Exiles on 10th February 2015.

Cian Bolger and Stephen McLaughlin’s goals either side of half-time saw Southend to a 2-0 victory on 14th April 2015, no bookings given out to County on that occasion.

That just leaves the first game to be refereed by Lewis involving County, which came in the first season that the Exiles were back in the Football League.

Goals from Chris Zebroski, Adam Chapman and an own-goal from Connor Essam saw County overturn a two-goal deficit to beat Crawley Town in the JPT, Andy Sandell the only County player cautioned on 8th October 2013.

 

Other League 2 fixtures that weekend (All 3pm Saturday unless stated)

Coventry City vs Stevenage (Friday 7:45pm kick-off)

Cambridge United vs Cheltenham Town

Carlisle United vs Luton Town

Crewe Alexandra vs Morecambe

Exeter City vs Crawley Town

Forest Green Rovers vs Chesterfield

Lincoln City vs Colchester United

Mansfield Town vs Port Vale

Notts County vs Yeovil Town

Swindon Town vs Grimsby Town

Wycombe Wanderers vs Accrington Stanley

 

Can’t make the match?

You can follow along on social media using @NCAFCLive on Twitter, or via the Club’s official Facebook, Snapchat (OfficialExiles) and Instagram pages.

Don’t forget – if you reside outside of the UK, you can watch the game live by subscribing to County’s iFollow service. Commentary by Tim Thraves can also be found at the Match Centre from 2.45pm.

An on-the-whistle match report of this match will be provided on the Club website upon the end of the game. Michael Flynn’s post-match analysis will appear on the website the day after the game, while you can watch all of Flynn’s post-match press conference as-well as two County players by subscribing to iFollow Exiles. 


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