Newport County AFC will be looking to end the campaign at Rodney Parade in perfect fashion when Cambridge United are the last visitors to South Wales on Saturday. The Exiles will also be looking to build on the stunning victory against champions elect Accrington Stanley last time out, while Cambridge will be heading into the game determined to keep themselves above County in the League 2 table before the completion of the campaign.
Tickets for County’s final home game of the 2017/18 campaign are still available and here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League 2 encounter.
Last six league matches
Cambridge United have been on a relatively good run of form at the moment as they seek to pip County to a place in the League 2 top-half come the end of the season.
They have amassed 11 points from their previous six matches, having won on three occasions, drawn twice and lost just once.
Cambridge’s run over the last six matches starts on 24th March 2018 as the U’s fought back to secure a 1-1 draw at play-off chasing Carlisle United.
George Maris’s goal five minutes after the break cancelled out an earlier attempt from Richie Bennett, although the U’s couldn’t find a winner as Carlisle held on to make it seven games unbeaten in their quest for a late push into the play-off positions.
They returned to winning ways in their next match, however, as they dispatched of another play-off chasing side in Crawley Town with a confident 3-1 victory at the Abbey Stadium.
Striker Jabo Ibehre and another from Maris gave the home side a comfortable cushion at the break, although that was halved just four minutes after the break as Josh Payne calmly converted a penalty.
Jevani Brown struck just before the hour mark to confirm the victory for Cambridge, in what effectively ended Crawley’s hopes of making a late push into the top-seven in the division.
They couldn’t convert that success into back-to-back victories, however, as they suffered a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of another play-off chasing side in Exeter City.
Ibehre scored just before half-time to give the U’s a half-time advantage, only for Exeter to level proceedings through free scoring Jayden Stockley.
Maris put Cambridge back in-front just before the hour mark, although Exeter stunned everyone in the Abbey Stadium when making a staggering comeback in the final six minutes.
Matt Jay and Jake Taylor both found the net late on to turn the game in the Grecians favour, as the home side were condemned to defeat following a poor showing in the final few minutes.
They bounced back from that disappointment by returning to winning ways in their next match – this one a 2-0 success away at Stevenage.
Barry Corr scored twice in the second-half to confirm all three points at the Lamex Stadium, meaning Cambridge secured the league double over their hosts for the first time in the Football League.
In their next match, Cambridge and Cheltenham Town proved that teams with nothing to play for can still produce a thriller in the latter parts of the season, following a 4-3 victory for the U’s at the Abbey Stadium.
George Lloyd’s first goal in professional football for the visitors was cancelled out by Greg Taylor in the opening ten minutes, although Cheltenham were back in-front before half-time thanks to a splendid free-kick from Mo Eisa.
Ex-Exile Medi Elito missed a penalty to level proceedings again in first-half stoppage time, although they weren’t behind for too long following an equaliser from Maris.
Brown put Cambridge ahead for the first time in the match, Eisa levelling things up for the third time in the contest, but it was to be Cambridge getting all three points following a late winner from Corr.
On Tuesday, the U’s were held to a 0-0 draw at strugglers Morecambe. That point kept Cambridge above County in the League 2 table and still in the top half in 12th position, although the Exiles are only a point behind the side and also have the added advantage of a game in hand.
The U’s have a couple of injury headaches to contend with ahead of making the trip to Rodney Parade on Saturday for the third meeting between the sides this season.
It looks like Jabo Ibehre’s season has already come to an end as the striker continues to nurse a knee problem, while fellow attacking option Barry Corr may be unavailable with a long-term problem.
Midfielder Liam O’Neil is almost certainly an injury casualty following a recent thigh problem, although fellow midfielder Piero Mingoia may be able to return from a groin complaint.
All those problems saw the U’s only able to name five substitutes on the bench against Morecambe on Tuesday, with caretaker manager Joe Dunne confirming that the side are struggling at the moment.
Dunne said ahead of the Morecambe draw: “We’re a little bit short. There’s a County Cup final game tonight and I think four players might be involved in that.
“There’s a couple of knocks as-well from Saturday. It takes its toll playing on a Tuesday late in the season, especially when you have a small playing squad.
“We’ll see what we are like going into the game, but we are a bit short I have to say.”
Those injury concerns saw Dunne make four changes to the side on Tuesday night, including handing Dimi Mitov his debut in the Football League. Uche Ikpeazu, Harrison Dunk and David Amoo also returned.
Cambridge United team vs Morecambe (4-4-2): Mitov, Carroll, Taft, Taylor, Halliday, Dunk, Maris, Deegan, Amoo (Waters 76’), Ikpeazu, Brown
One to Watch – George Maris
One of the starring players in the Cambridge United side this season, George Maris has hit a rich vein of form at just the right time as the U’s look to end the campaign in as strong a position as possible.
The 22-year old has scored nine goals from midfield thus far this season, four of which have come in the last six games, whilst also accruing five points for his side.
He netted the winner in home matches against Yeovil Town and Barnet, alongside getting the equaliser at Carlisle United earlier this month.
That strike at Brunton Park was just his second on the road this season – following grabbing a consolation in the convincing defeat at Forest Green, while he has also scored at the Abbey Stadium past Crewe Alexandra, Grimsby Town, Crawley Town, Exeter City and Cheltenham Town.
It is just his second season with the U’s having joined on a free transfer at the start of the season, although some injury problems did hamper his debut campaign somewhat and he was only able to find the net on four occasions.
Still in the beginning of his career, the 22-year old only broke into professional football in May 2014 when signing a professional contract at Barnsley, a club who he scored 20 goals for at U18 level.
He was sent on loan to Nuneaton Town midway through that season to experience more competitive football, although he couldn’t find the net from nine appearances whilst with the club for three months.
His performances did, however, encourage Barnsley to give him a chance upon his return, making his professional debut on 25th April 2015 when coming on as a late substitute away at Bradford City.
He started for the first time at Oakwell just eight days later as the Tykes secured a thumping win over Rochdale on the final day of the season, although was again shipped out on loan in the following campaign having found regular game time hard to come by.
A short spell at Guiseley in the National League saw the 22-year old return to Oakwell and make a further two appearances in League 1 and then the Emirates FA Cup, although he was off again during the January window.
That saw Maris at Lincoln City for the remainder of the campaign, a club where he scored his first goal in men’s football when finding the net in the defeat to Tranmere Rovers on 25th March 2016.
He scored a further goal for the Imps on 9th April 2016 in a home success over Chester City, although his performances at the club weren’t enough for Barnsley to give him an extended contract, meaning he joined Cambridge United at the start of the last campaign.
Caretaker manager – Joe Dunne
After a poor start to 2018 under the management of Shaun Derry - where the side failed to win all throughout January - Joe Dunne has since joined the club in a caretaker capacity and has steadied the ship for the U’s.
He has managed 13 games since that temporary appointment and currently has a win percentage of 46.2% ahead of his visit to Rodney Parade. That means he has won on six occasions since taking to the hot seat, while he has drawn on four occasions and lost just three matches.
You would have to say that some of those victories were expected for a club of Cambridge’s stature – although they have secured a superb win over automatic promotion chasing Notts County since his appointment.
The U’s recently announced that they will appoint a successor following the conclusion of the season, but if Dunne keeps up the form that he has brought to the club of late then he must be considered at-least as a candidate for the position on a permanent basis.
This is Dunne’s second managerial position of some sort, having worked his way through the system at former club Colchester United following his retirement in 2003.
His services were retained following that decision to hang up his playing boots, starting almost immediately as a coach in the youth set-up alongside Micky Cook.
In 2004, Dunne took charge of a successful FA Youth Cup run that saw Colchester United reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time in their history.
The U’s saw off Chelsea, Cardiff City and Crewe Alexandra on their way into the last eight, although were quite convincingly beaten by Ipswich Town as the Tractor Boys won 5-0 at Layer Road.
Various managerial changes over the course of the following three years saw Dunne asked to stand in as assistant manager on several occasions, with that work twinned alongside his youth team exploits enough to be promoted to reserve team manager in 2007.
Some more success in that capacity saw the 44-year old afforded the opportunity of becoming caretaker manager following the shock resignation of then manager Paul Lambert.
He had varying success in those games – one win and three defeats (one on penalties) but was overlooked for the job on a permanent basis as the U’s elected to appoint Aidy Boothroyd instead.
Following Boothroyd leaving the club for Coventry City and successor John Ward not having the most fruitful spell, Dunne was finally handed the reigns of the club on 27th September 2012.
The U’s staved off relegation in his first season by beating Carlisle United 2-0 on the final day of the season, before finishing 16th in the following campaign.
But a poor start to the 2014/15 campaign saw Dunne relieved of his duties, ending his 18-year association with the club in the process.
He left the club with a win percentage of 28.4% as permanent manager – having won 27, drawn 20 and lost 48 matches of his 95 matches in charge of the club
The 44-year old then joined Cambridge United on 12th May 2015 as an assistant manager to Richard Money, holding that job for nearly three years before being appointed as interim manager on 9th February this year following the dismissal of Shaun Derry.
Last time out
Cambridge United 1 – 2 Newport County AFC
Saturday 16th December 2017
Christmas came early for Newport County AFC as captain Joss Labadie struck a dramatic stoppage time winner to ensure that the Exiles would take all three points away from Cambridge United in a 2-1 away victory.
Just two weeks prior to the game, the Exiles ousted the U’s from the Emirates FA Cup with a comfortable victory at Rodney Parade, and the home side were clearly intent on avenging that defeat by making all the running early-on.
Liam O’Neil wastefully headed an attempt past the far post having been found unmarked from a corner, while George Maris really should have done better on 18 minutes when failing to hit the target from the edge-of-the-area.
An uncharacteristic error from Joe Day almost afforded the home side with another opportunity shortly after, although Ade Azeez saw his effort blocked by Mickey Demetriou and out for a corner-kick.
After weathering that early storm at the Abbey Stadium, the Exiles started to grow into the game the longer it progressed, and they duly provided a sucker punch to the home side just two minutes before the interval.
Frank Nouble sublimely played a chested pass into Labadie’s path, who let fire from 25 yards which home goalkeeper David Forde couldn’t quite hold onto, and Shawn McCoulsky was quickest to react and poke home the opener from two yards.
That was his 10th of the season and he almost got a second of the afternoon within a minute, although couldn’t quite direct his header on target.
That brought proceedings to a close for a first-half that you would have to say was edged by Cambridge in terms of possession and territory, and they flew out of the traps again in the second-half following that late goal from County.
Azeez fired well over the crossbar after skipping past two challenges and into the area, while it required the combination of Day and County substitute Scot Bennett to somehow keep out an effort from Bradley Halliday.
It was a total bombardment on the County goal by the home side as they pushed for an equaliser, with it taking another world class save from Day to repel another good attempt on 62 minutes.
This time Jake Carroll’s delivery to Paul Lewis looked for all the world like it would be nestling in the top corner, only for Day to somehow get a hand to it and tip it past the post.
The pressure on the Exiles goal was only ever going to be withstood for so long and Cambridge finally found their equaliser after 76 minutes.
The ball was played into Jevani Brown’s path about 35 yards out, where he ran 10 yards towards the defensive line before unleashing an unstoppable stop that flew just inside the far-left corner.
County again had to repel some positive attacks from the home side as the game approached its dying embers – setting the stage for Labadie to steal all the points in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Matty Dolan’s pinpoint free-kick outfoxed everyone in the Cambridge penalty area which forced Forde to make a reaction save, only for the ball to bounce off the shin of the County captain and move the Exiles into 9th position ahead of the festive fixtures.
Mike Flynn said of the away victory: “I’m delighted. I didn’t think we were at our best today and fair play to Cambridge because they made it very difficult for us.They played some really good football and we weren’t at our best. But what a nice feeling when you win it at the end having not been at your best. I’ve got a smashing group of players who give me there everything nine times out of ten and I really can’t praise them enough today for battling and getting the important win against a decent Cambridge team.”
Cambridge manager Shaun Derry added: “I've been here a long time and I've seen some fantastic highs and I've seen some pretty poor lows. At this moment in time it's a pretty tough time but I don't see that as a low point as an afternoon because as I say, as a manager, I can only really talk about the performance.”
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Assistant Referee 1: Marvyn Amphlett
Assistant Referee 2: Simon Knapp
Fourth Official: Adrian Tranter
Salisbury is currently embarking on his 17th full season as a Football League referee having officiated his first game in League 2 on 11th August 2001 as Mansfield Town and Hartlepool United played out a 1-1 draw.
He has refereed 31 games so far this season, the last of which came on 14th April as Scunthorpe United boosted their hopes of finishing in the League 1 play-offs by securing a 1-0 victory away at another play-off chasing team in Charlton Athletic.
Only the one yellow card was produced during that contest at the Valley, taking his tally for the season to 128 yellow cards and 13 red cards from the previous 31 games. He has also awarded two penalties this season.
That follows on from refereeing 36 matches during the 2016/17 campaign, a season in which Salisbury brandished 116 yellow cards and five red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.
Salisbury has refereed six previous matches involving Newport County AFC in the Football League. The Exiles have a mixed bag of results from those previous games – having won on two occasions, drawn twice and lost the other two.
He has already officiated the Exiles on one occasion this season, that coming on 13th January as County maintained their unbeaten start to 2018 with a third successive 2-1 victory at struggling Grimsby Town.
A stunning long-range effort from Robbie Willmott alongside a deflected strike from Frank Nouble were enough to give County all three points on that occasion, although Mariners striker Jamille Matt did make it an interesting conclusion when getting one back with ten minutes remaining.
Matt was sent off shortly after his goal to somewhat stifle any hopes of a comeback from the home side, while County picked up four yellow cards themselves at Blundell Park.
Padraig Amond, Ben White, Ben Tozer and Joss Labadie were all cautioned on that occasion.
Salisbury also refereed one County match last season – that coming on 25th October 2016 as the Exiles drew 2-2 with Barnet at Rodney Parade in what was a rearranged fixture.
Ben Tozer’s header midway through the first-half gave the Exiles a lead at half-time, although that was swiftly wiped out completely thanks to a double from Bees striker John Akinde.
Sean Rigg kept his nerve with a minute to go when scoring a penalty to share the points, while the Exiles received three bookings on that occasion – Ben Tozer, Mark Randall and Jennison Myrie-Williams the offenders.
Salisbury was the man in the middle for two County matches across the 2015/16 campaign, the first of which was a 0-0 away draw at Dagenham & Redbridge on 19th September 2015. No bookings were given out to either side in London.
The second game that season, however, was a lot less fruitful from a County perspective.
It came on 19th March 2016 and even though Alex Rodman scored within 120 seconds of the first whistle, eventual promotion winners Bristol Rovers fought back at Rodney Parade to secure a 4-1 victory.
Darren Jones and Mark Byrne were both booked that afternoon.
Only one County game was overseen by Salisbury in the 2014/15 season, that coming in the away tie at Stevenage on 7th March 2015.
A late consolation from Adam Chapman was about as good as it got for the travelling supporters on that occasion, as goals from Charlie Lee and Bira Dembele secured the Boro a 2-1 victory.
During that game, Robbie Willmott and Kevin Feely were both shown yellow cards, while Chris Zebroski was sent off in stoppage time for a second bookable offence.
That just leaves the first ever County game to be officiated by Salisbury, that coming in the first season back in the Football League, as goals from Chris Zebroski, Lee Minshull and Danny Crow secured a routine 3-0 victory over York City.
Lenny Pidgeley and Adam Chapman were the only two Exiles players to be shown yellow cards on 19th October 2013.
Other League 2 matches that day (All 3pm kick-offs)
Accrington Stanley vs Lincoln City
Cheltenham Town vs Coventry City
Chesterfield vs Wycombe Wanderers
Colchester United vs Swindon Town
Crawley Town vs Crewe Alexandra
Grimsby Town vs Notts County
Luton Town vs Forest Green Rovers
Morecambe vs Barnet
Port Vale vs Carlisle United
Stevenage vs Exeter City
Yeovil Town vs Mansfield Town
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 Charlie Brown 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 #iFollowExiles.