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Match Previews

PREVIEW | County return to league action with a trip to Exeter City

17 August 2018

Match Previews

PREVIEW | County return to league action with a trip to Exeter City

17 August 2018

For the second season in a row, Newport County AFC will travel to St James Park whilst Exeter City reside in top spot of the League Two table. The Exiles will also be looking to build on Tuesday’s emphatic victory at Cambridge United, whilst the home side will be looking to keep their unbeaten start to the season intact against County.

Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…

League and Carabao Cup results


It’s a familiar scenario for County now – going to Exeter City when the Grecians are sitting atop of the League Two table.

They have got to top spot after a stunning start to the season and in doing so, have silenced some critics who argued it would be an impossible task to replace Paul Tisdale who left in the summer for fellow League Two side MK Dons.

Exeter have insisted on sticking to the beliefs created by Tisdale and even his predecessors, as they are looking to continue playing in the ‘Exeter’ way for the forthcoming season.

And that style which has guided them to the play-off final for the past two seasons seems to be working as they comfortably dispatched of Carlisle United on the opening day in a 3-1 home victory.

The hosts raced into a two-goal lead courtesy of debutants Nicky Law and Jonathan Forte, although the Cumbrians did get themselves back into the contest before half-time when Richie Bennett struck.

It took a little while for the Grecians to finally see off their visitors, but after they held off a mini-fightback, Tristan Abrahams fired home in stoppage time to ensure that new manager Matt Taylor started his managerial career off with all three points.

They backed that composed performance up with another slick victory at Morecambe, who would still have been reeling from their 6-0 defeat to Crewe Alexandra on the opening day.

The opener came in somewhat controversial circumstances as Morecambe insisted a foul had been committed outside the area, but a penalty was awarded, and Pierce Sweeney converted.

Jayden Stockley opened his account when heading home to all but confirm the victory, Exeter jumping up to top spot on alphabetical order from Lincoln City.

Like County, Exeter were also in midweek action away from League Two as they hosted Championship side Ipswich Town in the Carabao Cup.

Interestingly, it was two former Tractor Boys who saw Exeter into the draw for the Second Round of the competition as Troy Brown equalised against his former side, whilst Lee Martin smashed in the winning penalty during the shootout.



Grecians manager Matt Taylor has confirmed that he expects to be able to call upon virtually all of his team on the weekend.

He does, however, expect to be carrying some tired legs ahead of the contest after naming a fairly strong side in midweek as they saw off Championship side Ipswich Town on penalties in the Carabao Cup.

In his pre-match press conference, he said: “I have got some tired bodies that we have worked with today. Some did part training, some did part recovery. I have just got to hopefully have a fully fit squad going into the weekend.

“The 21 players that I have at my disposal are all ready to play League Two football and that’s the main thing. I’ve got to get them ready, keep them happy as best as I can and keep them motivated.”

Taylor will, however, have to check on the fitness of summer recruit Nicky Law. The 30-year old limped out of their win at Morecambe last weekend and was rested in midweek as a precaution.

Therefore, it is expected that Taylor will name a similar team to one that Law featured in against the Shrimpers – after he made four changes from that side for the Ipswich encounter.

Exeter team vs Morecambe (4-4-2): Pym, Sweeney, Martin, Brown, Moxey, Taylor (C), Boateng, Law (Tillson 38’), Holmes (Martin 72’), Stockley, Forte

Exeter team vs Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Pym, Sweeney, A. Martin, Brown, Woodman, L. Martin, Taylor (C), Tillson, Boateng (Sparked 61’), Jay (Collins 51’), Stockley (Abrahams 51’)   


One to Watch – Jayden Stockley

Now in his second season as a permanent fixture at the club, striker Jayden Stockley is certainly making great strides towards paying back his transfer fee after the Grecians broke their transfer record to sign him on Deadline Day in the summer of 2017.

He currently has one goal from the opening three matches in all competitions to start the season, that coming when heading home in the second-half to confirm a victory at Morecambe.

Stockley certainly has a long way to go if he wants to keep up the imperious form that he was in during the last campaign – the 24-year old’s 25 goals in all competitions coming as one of the main reasons why Exeter City were able to reach the play-off final.

The Grecians are currently the third permanent club of his career, with Stockley starting out in the academy set-up of now Premier League outfit AFC Bournemouth.

That saw the 6’3” striker make his debut with the Cherries aged 16, playing in the Football League Trophy match with Northampton Town on 6th October 2009.

Interestingly, because Stockley was so young at the time, manager Eddie Howe actually had to ring his school to request permission for the striker to play in the game, as he was due to sit a GCSE Maths Test that afternoon.

He also became the second youngest player to take to the field for Bournemouth in that game, although found further game time hard to come by and had nine loan spells away from the club.

That saw the striker turn out for sides including Portsmouth, Luton Town, Accrington Stanley and Exeter City – gaining vital experience in divisions all the way from the Conference South to League 1.

After agreeing a pre-contractual agreement, Stockley joined Aberdeen prior to the 2016/17 campaign. He made his debut on 30 June 2016 in a Europa League First qualifying round tie against Fola Esch, before scoring his first goal for the club in the following round against Ventspils.

But his spell at Pittodrie didn’t exactly bring out the best goals to games ratio for Stockley and he completed the campaign with six strikes in 39 games. He played two games early in the 2017/18 campaign for the Scottish side, but Exeter stumped up the cash to bring him back to the Football League – and he seems to be a wise investment.


Manager – Matt Taylor

It’s easy this management lark. At least, that’s probably what Matt Taylor is thinking after making an unbeaten start to his first ever managerial stint.

Replacing Paul Tisdale was always going to be a mammoth task as the 45-year old had been in the dugout at St James Park for nearly 12 years – and was, albeit briefly, the longest serving manager in the top four divisions after Arsene Wenger called time upon his stint at Arsenal.

But Taylor seems to have fitted into the role like a hand into a glove and can boast a near perfect start to his life in management.

The only blemish comes as it took penalties to see off Championship outfit Ipswich Town in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday following a 1-1 draw, but that came after two convincing wins to start off the League Two campaign.

Speaking ahead of facing the Exiles in his fourth match in charge, Taylor said: “We certainly won’t be over-confident because I don’t think many people in football get over-confident on the back of two league wins.

“Yes, we are playing well and we are picking up points, which is the main thing, but we know how tough Saturday is going to be.

“Newport are a good, strong team and they are on the back of two excellent victories as well. We are under no illusions how difficult the weekend is going to be. They will be in our face, they will be physical, and they are a good team as well.”


Stadium – St James Park

St James Park is currently undergoing a major £3.5million development as the Grecians look to offer a vastly enhanced fan experience with far superior facilities in the future.

Those works started at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign and are currently keeping to deadline – with Exeter confirming in August that the plan remains to be fully finished by their first fixture in October.

In the intermittent period, the ground’s capacity has decreased significantly to accommodate the building works and St James Park now holds 6,087, which is down from 8,541.

Both of those figures are far lower than the record set for the stadium which originally opened in 1904, as 20,984 were present as the Grecians lost 4-2 to Sunderland in an Emirates FA Cup tie.

The stadium has also hosted some international matches. In February 2008, England ‘C’ won 2-1 against Wales, whilst in 2006, England Women’s U21 were held to a 1-1 by their French counterparts.

Due to those redevelopments mentioned above, two parts of the ground are still out of use, including the away terrace behind one of the goals.

This means that County will only be able to take a maximum of 350 supporters to the game after Exeter got special written dispensation from the Football League for this to occur until October.

That was also the case last season as-well, although the fact that Wales had a home international later that day may have also affected things and 343 supporters made the trip to St James Park for the 1-0 defeat.

Since County secured themselves a promotion into League Two back in 2013, they have visited the stadium on five previous occasions and won on two of those occasions.

A total of 364 supporters were in attendance to see Tom Owen-Evans keep the ‘Great Escape’ alive with a fine strike in the 1-0 victory, whilst a superb 864 were there on 21st September 2013 for the 2-0 success.


Meetings between the two clubs in the 2017/18 campaign

Two extremely close affairs between Newport County AFC and Exeter City in the 2017/018 campaign but ultimately, both teams had to settle for a home win apiece.

The first encounter came on 2nd September 2017 but not even Ben Woodburn’s magic for Wales in their 1-0 triumph over Austria could inspire County to a similar result on the same day as they fell to a 1-0 reverse at St James Park.

County did start the better in Devon despite the final result, however, as Padraig Amond forced Christy Pym into two smart saves from Sean Rigg passes across the face of goal.

All the County chances appeared to be falling to Amond but even when the Irishman did eventually find the net, it was controversially ruled out after the referee had adjudged that Frank Nouble had committed a foul in the build-up to Amond’s header.

On the counter-attack, Exeter could have themselves found an opener before half-time. Lee Holmes whipped in an inviting delivery that Joe Day could only parry into the path of Jake Taylor, who looked destined to score, only for Ben White to head the attempt off the goal-line.

Exeter then made their own goal-line clearance as Amond was once again denied, this time Troy Brown launching himself in-front of the shot to keep the scores level at the break.

The home side would eventually take the lead, however, as Holmes finally broke the deadlock after 58 minutes. Reuben Reid did well to tee up his midfielder with a deft flick following a throw, Holmes taking a touch to compose himself before curling an attempt into the far corner.

Nouble almost grabbed a point when he hit the post late on with a looping 30-yard attempt, but the Grecians held out confidently to keep themselves atop of the League Two table after one month of action.

Read the full match report from St James Park.

County were able to make amends for Exeter inflicting their first league defeat of the season as they too secured a home victory in what was the first game for either side in 2018.

It came on 1st January 2018 – six days before County’s heroics against Championship outfit Leeds United – and resulted in the Exiles securing their first home victory against the Grecians since 1986.

Padraig Amond started the new calendar year in the same vein as he ended the previous one, looping a header over Christy Pym from just outside the six-yard area following Robbie Willmott’s cross.

Lloyd James should have equalised for the Grecians within a minute of the restart, somehow only tamely hitting Jayden Stockley’s pullback and allowing Dan Butler to get back and clear after originally having the goal at his mercy.

Exeter did eventually level eight minutes after the break as Stockley this time took no chances and finished off a flowing move himself, heading home Jake Taylor’s cross into the top corner.

The game was turning into a real end-to-end affair at Rodney Parade, both sides looking likely to find the net, and it was County that found the decisive goal with 25 minutes remaining.

Robbie Willmott was the man to get it and it was certainly a goal of real quality, the midfielder firing home from 25 yards into the bottom right corner. But Willmott will be more famed for his celebration after hitting the target, humorously electing to celebrate in-front of an empty stand.

Read the full match report from Rodney Parade.



Referee: Christopher Sarginson

Assistant Referee 1: Mark Pottage 

Assistant Referee 2: Ravel Cheosiaua

Fourth Official: Adam Matthews

Sarginson is currently embarking on his 11th season as a Football League referee having taken charge of his first game in League Two on 16th August 2008 as Rotherham United secured a comprehensive 3-1 away victory at Morecambe.

He has only refereed one other game so far this season and that came on Tuesday night as Cheltenham Town entertained fellow League Two side Colchester United in the Carabao Cup First Round.

Sarginson brandished four yellow cards during the contest, in a match that went straight to penalties at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium after a 2-2 draw. Cheltenham eventually won the tie 6-5 on spot kicks.

Those early statistics follow on from refereeing a total of 43 matches across all competitions in the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Sarginson gave out 136 yellow cards and five red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.

County Connection 

Sarginson has refereed a match involving Newport County AFC on nine previous occasions across League Two and the Emirates FA Cup. He is not the luckiest of omens for the Exiles in terms of win percentage, however, as County have only managed two wins from those previous matches.

But the Exiles don’t lose on many occasions under Sarginson either and in his most recent County game on 6th March 2018, the Exiles shared a six-goal thriller with Forest Green Rovers at Rodney Parade.

Dan Butler and Paul Hayes combined for all of County’s goals on that occasion but were ultimately left to share the spoils after a late equaliser by Lee Collins. Butler was the only player booked from either side.

That game was one of two officiated by Sarginson last season and the other was much better as the Exiles struck late to steal all three points at Cambridge United on 16th December 2018.

Shawn McCoulsky’s opener was cancelled out by a world-class strike from Jevani Brown, but just as County looked like they had to settle for a point, Joss Labadie – or more so his knee – deflected David Forde’s clearance back into his own net. Labadie was also booked, alongside Ben White and Frank Nouble.

In the 2016/17 campaign, Sarginson was only the man in the middle for one County game and that wasn’t without its dramatic finale either.

The date was 4th February 2017 and a Janaai Gordon goal deep into injury time in-front of over 800 County fans rescued a point in the 1-1 draw with Cheltenham Town. Gordon was also booked in that fixture.

The 2015/16 season saw Sarginson officiate two matches, starting with the 2-2 draw at Accrington Stanley on 14th November 2015. Yan Klukowski and Scott Boden both scored for County at the Wham Stadium, as Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and Alex Rodman were cautioned.

Sarginson’s other game that season came as Northampton Town continued their charge towards the League Two title thanks to John Marquis’ solitary effort on 25th March 2016. Mark Byrne picked up the only booking.

In 2014/15, another tie with Northampton Town was again presided over by Sarginson but this result was far better for the Exiles as they secured a 3-2 victory at Rodney Parade on 13th September 2014. Kevin Feely and Joe Pigott were booked.

Sarginson first refereed County on the road against Luton Town on 8th November 2014 in the Emirates FA Cup. The Hatters secured a 4-2 victory in the First-Round clash, as Lee Minshull and Chris Zebroski were both shown yellow cards.

That just leaves the first ever County games refereed by Sarginson and those two encounters came in the first season that the Exiles were back in the Football League.

The first of those matches came way back on the 14th September 2013 as a penalty from Padraig Amond helped Morecambe to a 3-2 victory at Rodney Parade. Billy Jones scored on his debut and Robbie Willmott also found the net for County, as Harry Worley and Tom Naylor were both booked.

The next game refereed by Sarginson that season came in the 0-0 draw with Bury at Rodney Parade on 25th March 2014. This time four yellows cards were given out to the Exiles – Adam Chapman, Chris Zebroski, Aaron Holloway and Lee Minshull all cautioned.


Other League Two fixtures (All 3pm Saturday unless stated)

Notts County vs Yeovil Town (Friday 17th August – 7:45pm kick-off)

Grimsby Town vs Lincoln City

Bury vs Forest Green Rovers

Cheltenham Town vs Carlisle United

Crewe Alexandra vs Milton Keynes Dons

Mansfield Town vs Colchester United

Northampton Town vs Cambridge United

Oldham Athletic vs Macclesfield Town

Port Vale vs Crawley Town

Stevenage vs Morecambe

Swindon Town vs Tranmere Rovers


Can’t make the match?

Tickets for this match are on sale from the Club Shop until 3pm today but if you can't make the match...

You can follow along on social media using @NCAFCLive on Twitter, or via the Club’s official Facebook, 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 and Damien Footsoy 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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