Newport County AFC will be hoping to secure their second win in four days at Rodney Parade when they welcome Grimsby Town on Saturday. The Exiles have to be looking to build on that dramatic last gasp win against Notts County last time out, whilst the away side will be looking to improve on the couple of draws they have mustered in the last week.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
League and Cup Results
After conceding what can only be described as one of the most bizarre own goals ever seen on the opening day, the Mariners have steadied the ship since then and have started to pick up some notable results.
Things had been going so well on the opening day against Forest Green Rovers as they took a lead with them into half-time thanks to yet another penalty from Mitch Rose.
But after Carl Winchester had equalised, Danny Collins decided to take no risks when playing the ball back to his goalkeeper. The only trouble was that James McKeown was no-where near his goal at the time and the pair had to watch in astonishment as the ball trickled over the goal line.
Christian Doidge started the new campaign off in the same vein as he finished Rovers’ first in the Football League, netting a double to confirm a comprehensive 4-1 away victory at Blundell Park.
It was important for Grimsby to bounce back from there and they were able to do it with an effective victory at newly promoted Macclesfield Town. They could even afford to have Mitch Rose dismissed in the game, as goals from Jordan Cook and Charles Vernam were enough for a 2-0 success.
The Mariners then turned their attentions to the Carabao Cup but couldn’t provide a giant killing in the competition, going down to an Oli Rathbone double in the 2-0 reverse against League One Rochdale.
When returning to League Two action, Grimsby were able to share the spoils with Lincoln City in a Lincolnshire derby game at Blundell Park. Martyn Woolford had put the Mariners in-front with an emphatic strike, but they were ultimately pulled back by a penalty from John Akinde.
In their most recent game, the Lincolnshire outfit were able to secure another distinguished performance when holding Paul Tisdale’s MK Dons to a 1-1 draw at Stadium MK.
The Mariners have certainly been making a habit of scoring first in league games and this was no exception, Cook again finding the target, but Robbie Simpson equalised just after the break to ensure Tisdale remained unbeaten as MK Dons manager.
Grimsby Town will have to contend with several injury and disciplinary problems when they travel to Rodney Parade on Saturday.
In midweek, Paul Dixon was dismissed with a straight red card late on, so he will miss the trip to South Wales, as will defender Danny Collins who has recently undergone surgery on a broken right arm.
The Mariners are also expected to be missing Elliott Whitehouse and Harry Cardwell who are suffering from knee and groin injuries respectively.
But they will be boosted by the return of clinical penalty taker Mitch Rose, who will be able to face his former side having now served his three-match suspension.
Interestingly, manager Michael Jolley only made one change to his side in midweek, but he will have to make at-least that again on Saturday as the player to come into the side was Dixon, who is suspended.
Grimsby Town vs MK Dons (4-5-1): McKeown, Davis, Whitmore, Dixon, Famewo, Woolford, Clifton (Hendrie 72’), Welsh (C), Hessenthaler, Cook (Thomas 78’), Hooper (Vernam 58’)
One to Watch – Jordan Cook
Having tasted the feeling of getting promoted from League Two last season with Luton Town, Jordan Cook looks determined to lead his new employers to the same feat whilst reinvigorating his career.
The 28-year old is currently the Mariners top scorer so far this campaign, scoring on two occasions away from home having found the net against Macclesfield Town and MK Dons.
Cook has experience of playing at the very highest level, an achievement he secured whilst with Sunderland, the club he spent his youth career with.
If you could pick a stadium to make your Premier League debut at, I’m sure Old Trafford would be up there, and Cook made his Sunderland debut on 26th December 2010 after being introduced as an 82nd-minute substitute for Steed Malbranque in a 2–0 defeat away to Manchester United.
He made a further two appearances for the Black Cats alongside several loan spells away from the club, replacing Nedum Onuoha in a defeat to Chelsea, alongside another late cameo in an away win at West Ham on the final day of the 2010/11 season.
Cook’s loan spells away from the club came with Darlington, Walsall and Carlisle United – clearing doing enough to impress Charlton Athletic after his release from Sunderland in the summer of 2012.
The attacker never quite settled with the Addicks, however, and following 10 Championship appearances and a loan spell with Yeovil Town, Cook returned to Walsall on a permanent contract in 2014.
He finally managed to get some consistent game time with the League One outfit and came agonisingly close to his first piece of silverware in his first season, playing in every CheckaTrade Trophy game before losing 2-0 to Bristol City.
Cook finished that campaign with statistics of 39 appearances and five goals, but in his second season, he spent the majority of his time coming off the bench and decided to leave for pastures new when rejecting a new contract and joining Luton.
The 28-year old scored a couple of goals in his two seasons with the club but the Hatters decided not to renew his contract upon their promotion last season, so Cook took the decision to join Grimsby and he’s certainly started on the front foot.
Manager – Michael Jolley
Despite not being everyone’s favourite for the Grimsby Town job when it became available, Michael Jolley has certainly silenced his critics by doing a remarkable job at a club favoured for relegation when he took charge.
He took the hot seat on 2nd March 2018 tasked with keeping the Mariners in the Football League – and it seemed virtually an impossible task with Grimsby failing to win any of their last 16 league matches.
Jolley steadied the ship somewhat when securing a 1-1 draw against Port Vale in his inaugural game, but even he felt the strain as the Mariners went a month without a win.
But they always say that when embroiled in a relegation dogfight, the best thing to do is pick up points from the sides around you, and Jolley certainly had a knack for getting results when he desperately needed them.
Mitch Rose scored late penalties as the Mariners picked up four points from their ties with Barnet and Chesterfield – the sides eventually relegated – and he was at it again from the spot in an unlikely win at Swindon Town.
That saw the Mariners secure their safety with three games remaining and Jolley’s job for the season was complete after four wins, three draws and three defeats from his ten matches in charge.
He’s not the most stereotypical of managers, however. A former fixed-income trader – who worked in London and New York for HSBC – Jolley was Cambridge educated with an MSc in Economics from Downing College and achieved a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Coaching at the University of Stirling.
Whilst working in the world of banking until 2005, Jolley joined Crystal Palace Academy in a coaching capacity and was in charge of players including Victor Moses. From there, he took a similar position with Nottingham Forest, but left after a year for a duel role with Falkirk and Stirling University Football Club.
He left those positions in 2009, and after participating in the inaugural FA Elite Coaches Award, Jolley was appointed Senior Professional Development Coach of the Burnley Under-23 Team on 7 July 2014.
His Development squad won the Third Development League Cup final with a 2–1 victory over Stoke City U23's in the 2015–16 season and his stock continued to rise at the club, with Sean Dyche recommending the 41-year old for the position of manager at AFC Eskilstuna.
That was his first spell in management, but it didn’t exactly go to plan for Jolley as the side were relegated from the Swedish Premier Division, Allsvenskan, at the end of his first season in charge of the club.
He parted ways with the club following the relegation – but only had to spend a couple of months out of the footballing world before being given another chance to reinvigorate his managerial career with Grimsby earlier this year.
Meetings between the two clubs in the 2017/18 Campaign
Newport County AFC were only able to amass six points against five opponents in League Two last season, and Grimsby Town were one of those teams that County beat both home and away.
That maximum haul starts with the first meeting between the two sides on 23rd September 2017, and the Exiles could have won even more comfortably at Rodney Parade if it hadn’t been for a goalkeeping masterclass from James McKeown.
The Mariners shot stopper – who has been with the club since 2011 – produced a whole host of top-notch saves, denying Mark O’Brien’s header with his legs, before getting something in the way of Ben Tozer’s follow-up.
Ex-Mariner Padraig Amond was next to try his luck, but was twice denied by goal-line clearances from defender Ben Davies, whilst Joss Labadie was also denied before half-time by McKeown.
It was only a matter of time before County broke down McKeown’s resistance and Amond came back to haunt his former side on 63 minutes.
Tozer implemented a textbook long-throw tactic to cause havoc inside the Grimsby penalty area, and when Paul Dixon failed to clear, Amond came racing through to stab home from just outside the six-yard area.
That goal was enough for County as Amond became the match-winner in successive games at Rodney Parade, following his decisive intervention against Cheltenham Town last time out in South Wales.
In the reverse fixture at Blundell Park, County were able to capitalise on their confidence from knocking Leeds United out in the Emirates FA Cup to secure another victory against the Mariners.
On 13th January 2018 – six days on from the heroics against Championship opposition – County were out of the traps early doors and Robbie Willmott gave them the lead after 19 minutes.
It was the product of some excellent passing by the whole team, Matty Dolan, Padraig Amond and Frank Nouble all involved, before Scot Bennett laid the ball off to Willmott on the edge-of-the-area, who turned his man before smashing the ball inside the near post.
County weren’t about to rest on their laurels and try and secure another 1-0 victory against the Mariners, and had Joe Day to thank for keeping their lead intact when making a world-class save to deny Scott Vernon’s quick snapshot.
And that save looked even more impressive when the Exiles were able to double their advantage within 30 seconds of Day’s heroics.
The County goalkeeper safely collected the resulting corner before sending Dan Butler on his way. The left-back chipped a neat ball into Nouble’s path out-wide, who cut inside and sent a shot from an acute angle towards goal, that Karleigh Osborne deflected into his own net.
With the result realistically already done, there was still time for now-County striker Jamille Matt to have a great impact on proceedings.
Some intricate play around the centre found Charles Vernam, whose shot fell perfectly into the path of substitute Jamille Matt, who headed into an empty net after seeing the original attempt saved by Day.
That halved the deficit but any fears of an unlikely Grimsby comeback were swiftly put to bed as Matt was dismissed for leading into a challenge with Mickey Demetriou using excessive force – setting the stage for County to hold onto the result and continue their 100% start to 2018.
Referee: Neil Hair
Assistant Referee 1: Matthew Jones
Assistant Referee 2: Abbas Khan
Fourth Official: Robert Merchant
For the third time in the opening five League Two fixtures, Newport County AFC will once again have one of the 12 referees promoted to the Football League this season as the man in charge.
That means he has never before been involved in a Newport County AFC or Grimsby Town fixture in any capacity – whether that be referee, an assistant or the fourth official.
He has, however, refereed three matches so far this season, starting with his debut in the Football League on the opening day of the season as Paul Tisdale made a perfect start to life in the MK Dons hot seat when securing a 2-1 away victory over Oldham Athletic.
Two yellow cards were brandished on that occasion but a total of five were given out in Hair’s next Football League match – that coming as Yeovil Town and Mansfield Town played out a 2-2 draw at Huish Park.
Hair’s most recent game in the middle came on Tuesday night as Colchester United comfortably dispatched of Crewe Alexandra 6-0. Just the two yellow cards were brandished in the game – one to either side.
Before making the jump into the Football League, Hair had a very successful two-year spell in the National League.
His reward for his efforts in the fifth-tier saw him referee at Wembley in the National League play-off final last season, a game Tranmere Rovers won 2-1 against Boreham Wood despite having Liam Ridehalgh sent off after 45 seconds.
That game came as part of the 26 matches he officiated last season, brandishing a total of 81 yellow cards and three red cards in that time, whilst in the 2016/17 campaign, a total of 76 yellows and four reds were awarded from 27 National League fixtures.
Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs)
Cambridge United vs Cheltenham Town
Carlisle United vs Crewe Alexandra
Colchester United vs Northampton Town
Crawley Town vs Bury FC
Forest Green Rovers vs Swindon Town
Lincoln City vs Notts County
Macclesfield Town vs Mansfield Town
MK Dons vs Exeter City
Morecambe vs Oldham Athletic
Tranmere Rovers vs Port Vale
Yeovil Town vs Stevenage
Can’t make the Match?
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 and Richard Shepherd 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.