Newport County AFC will be looking to maintain their impressive form in League Two when they travel to Port Vale on Saturday. The Exiles want to bounce back from their Carabao Cup exit to higher opposition, whilst the home side had a break in midweek and will hope to capitalise on that at Vale Park.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
How they’ve fared so far in League Two
Despite only five matchdays having been played so far in League Two, only four sides have a 100% home record in the division. County are one of those teams and they will have to break the streak of another if they want to continue their impressive recent form.
It’s an interesting scenario as Port Vale have failed to win on the road throughout 2018 – 16 games in total across all competitions – but their home form has certainly counter-acted that, and they are currently two from two at Vale Park.
That starts with a comprehensive opening day victory against Cambridge United. Striker Ricky Miller had a debut to remember when opening the scoring with a free-kick worthy of winning the Daily Mail League Two goal of the weekend, whilst Tom Pope also scored twice – a penalty and a header.
They couldn’t back that result up on their travels, however, as their miserable away record continued with defeat at Colchester United. Courtney Senior broke the deadlock in Essex, and ex-Exile Ryan Jackson also opened his account for the season with goals in the first-half.
Who knows where Port Vale would be without their ability to pick up results at home. They were dangling precariously over the drop zone in March last season, but two wins at Vale Park eased their worries and they were able to finish in 20th position.
Vale have been able to transpire that home form into this campaign and they continued their positive start at home in the 2018/19 campaign by narrowly seeing off Crawley Town – Luke Hannant getting the match-winner.
Since then, the winless run on the road has continued, starting with a 2-1 defeat at Carlisle United. Hannant’s late goal ultimately proved in vain as the Cumbrians had already wrapped up the three points before then, goals from Tom Parkes and a Danny Grainger penalty doing the damage.
In their most recent game, Tranmere Rovers became the next side to secure a home victory over Port Vale. Talisman James Norwood – who has scored five of Tranmere’s six goals so far in League Two – again got the match winner at Prenton Park as the Valiants dropped to 15th place in the League Two table.
After having a break in midweek, the Valiants should have the majority of their side to pick from when they welcome County to Vale Park on Saturday.
Vale's only injury concerns come in the middle of the park with two players in a race against time to be ready for the fixture.
One of those is Manny Oyeleke, who has impressed since his move over the summer from Aldershot. The 25-year old has been hampered with a hamstring injury since his arrival, and his club have said they will not be rushing him back to action unless 100% fit.
The Valiants are also waiting to hear on the availability of Tom Conlon, who picked up a calf injury during the pre-season schedule.
Manager Neil Aspin commented: “I don't want to put Manny under pressure because he has had three injuries. I would say that, as a squad, we could do with having Manny and Tom Conlon both fit to give us other options.
“That is not any blame to the players who are playing now, but of course I want to have a few more options. So, the sooner we have everybody to pick from that can only benefit us. I think Manny has more of a chance of being fit before Tom.”
Port Vale team vs Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Brown, Montano, Legge, Kay, Rawlinson, Hannant, Smith (Quigley 78’), Joyce, Clark, Miller (Worrall 78’), Pope (C)
One to Watch – Ricky Miller
One of the revelations in League Two so far this season, striker Ricky Miller has certainly hit the ground running at his new club Port Vale to start the 2018/19 campaign.
He had a dream debut for the Valiants in their triumph over Cambridge United, scoring a world-class free-kick and winning his side a penalty in the 3-0 success.
Speaking after the match, Miller said: “"If you could write an opening day start, that would be it. As soon as I got brought down, nobody else was going to take it. I've scored a few of them in my time and as soon as it went over the wall I knew it was in.
“The goal set us up perfectly and we took full advantage of that. For the penalty, myself and Popey [Tom Pope] linked up well on the edge of the box and it was a definite penalty - if I hadn't have been brought down, I would've scored.”
This current spell with the Valiants is the latest in the 29-year old’s career that has been spent in a whole host of leagues in the English system.
After failing to make the grade in the Charlton Athletic youth system, Miller played for several clubs before being afforded his first big break with a move to Boston United at the start of the 2013/14 campaign.
That was at National League North level and the striker netted 28 goals in 46 matches as the club finished just outside the play-off places, Miller winning the league’s player of the year award after a stellar season.
Luton Town then came calling for his services in his first Football League opportunity, and after impressing on a short loan spell with Dover Athletic, was reinstalled into the first-team fold.
Coincidentally, Miller opened his Hatters account against County with a goal in an Emirates FA Cup encounter, backing that up with his first Football League goal in the following game against Tranmere Rovers.
The goals dried up from there, however, so he made a permanent move to Dover after his release from Luton. In two seasons, Miller rediscovered his scoring form and in 100 appearances, managed to net an impressive 67 goals.
That saw the 29-year old move to Peterborough United at the start of the 2017/18 campaign. But he never really settled at the club and after failing to score in 13 appearances, was shipped out to Mansfield Town on loan for the remainder of the season.
One goal in eight substitute appearances wasn’t enough to impress his parent club who subsequently transfer-listed the striker, Port Vale stumping up an undisclosed fee to bring him to Stoke-On-Trent in June.
Manager – Neil Aspin
It hasn’t been the easiest of managerial tenures so far for Neil Aspin as he closes in on a year in the hot seat at Vale Park.
When he took over on 4th October 2017, the Valiants were in dire straights and had only won one of their opening 11 League Two fixtures – accumulating just five points in that time and dangling precariously over the drop-zone.
Despite defeat in his opener at home to Grimsby Town, the 53-year old was able to steady the ship somewhat and a run of eight wins from 13 matches saw the Stoke-On-Trent outfit ascend to 16th position in the table just after Christmas following a 4-0 demolition job on Luton Town.
But instead of inspiring the team, that result against the then runaway League Two leaders seemed to derail their season somewhat and they went 14 matches without another League Two success to plunge them back into the relegation dogfight.
The best thing to do in that situation is pick up points from teams around you and a much needed 2-1 victory over bottom side Chesterfield lifted the mood around Vale Park – the Valiants eventually regrouping to finish in 20th position.
As he prepares to welcome County to Vale Park, Aspin has in theory had a full season in charge of the Valiants – managing 46 matches to date – and has a win percentage of 30.4% after records of 14 wins, 13 draws and 19 defeats.
His spell in charge of the Stoke-On-Trent outfit is Aspin’s first in the Football League and comes after some remarkable results in the non-leagues of the English game.
The 53-year old joined Port Vale following two seasons at Gateshead. He led the side to league finishes of 9th and 8th respectively, clearly alerting Port Vale, who worked hard to bring him to the club.
That spell with Gateshead came after winning five honours whilst in charge of Halifax Town FC.
Aspin led them to back-to-back league titles in 2010 and 2011 before securing promotion via the play-offs to the National League in 2013. They also won the Peter Swales Shield in 2011 and the West Riding County Cup in 2013.
From his 332 games at Halifax Town, the side won 178 games and he joined the club from Harrogate Town, which was his first managerial position.
Stadium – Vale Park
Interestingly, County will return to a stadium on Saturday which they helped to open nearly seventy years ago.
On 24th August 1950, the original Newport County side were the inaugural visitors to Vale Park, but they couldn’t spoil the party as the Valiants secured a 2-0 victory. Walter Aveyard secured the accolade of being the first player to score at the new stadium – during a game watched by 30,196 spectators.
That is not the record attendance at the stadium, however, as the Valiants were able to get 49,768 fans into Vale Park during an Emirates FA Cup Fifth-Round defeat to Aston Villa in 1960.
In the present day and after converting Vale Park to an all-seater stadium, the capacity is somewhat lower than those two statistics and currently holds 19,052. That is the third highest in League Two, only trailing behind Stadium MK and Meadow Lane.
Vale Park also houses one of the widest pitches in the Football League. In past times, it has also been used as a multi-purpose stadium. The Stoke Spitfires (American Football) shared the ground for some games in 1985, while concerts including Motorhead have also been held at Vale Park.
Saturday’s game will be only the second time that County have travelled to Stoke-On-Trent since May 1987.
It wasn’t the greatest of spectacles, however, as neither side could find the net despite Shawn McCoulsky and Tom Pope both missing glorious chances to win the game late-on. A total of 288 County supporters travelled on that day, helping to make up an attendance of 4,013 on 24th February 2018.
Meetings between the two sides in the 2017/18 campaign
Two stalemates between Newport County AFC and Port Vale in the 2017/18 campaign as neither side could get the better of each other in League Two.
That starts with the first meeting between the sides for 30 years when County welcomed the Valiants to Rodney Parade for Friday night football on 10th November 2017.
A dramatic second-half followed a relatively low-key opening 45 minutes that only produced one clear-cut opportunity, which saw Shawn McCoulsky see a header cleared off the line by Tyler Denton.
But the game sprung into life in the second-half as Matty Dolan opened his account in County colours with a trademark breakaway goal.
To date, it remains Dolan’s only strike for County that hasn’t been a free-kick and came after 53 minutes. It was the product of a mesmerising run from Robbie Willmott, who perfectly split both the midfield and the defence with ease, before setting the ball up for Dolan, who rifled the ball through the goalkeeper and into the middle of the net from just inside the area.
Port Vale began to grow into the game from there and after Tom Pope and Christian Montano both missed chances, the Valiants got their equaliser with ten minutes remaining through Anton Forrester.
It was exactly what manager Neil Aspin would have been hoping for when sending Forrester on at half-time, as he calmly collected a long-ball into the area unmarked, before blasting through Joe Day and into the far corner.
That was how it stayed at Rodney Parade after a pulsating affair, a draw probably the fair result after both sides took their best chance of the contest.
County and Port Vale met again just under three months later, but they again couldn’t be separated in a draw at Vale Park on 24th February 2018.
Again, it seemed that both sides mustered their best openings in the second-half of the contest, after yet another uninspiring first 45 minutes.
Valiant midfielder Michael Tonge did hit the woodwork in that time with an emphatic strike from distance, but neither goalkeeper was really called into action.
The second-half started much brighter and County came agonisingly close to an opener on 53 minutes, Ryan Boot denying Frank Nouble before Mark O’Brien saw his volleyed rebound cleared off the goal-line by striker Tom Pope.
Padraig Amond also came close twice as County tried to press home the evident advantage, but they had to leave with a point after substitute Shawn McCoulsky passed up a glorious opportunity when put clean through on goal.
Referee: Martin Coy
Assistant Referee 1: Matthew Parry
Assistant Referee 2: Joe Simpson
Fourth Official: James Mainwarin
Coy has officiated four matches so far in the 2018/19 campaign as he embarks on just his second season as a Football League referee.
He refereed for four years at National League level before his promotion in the summer of 2017, and his matches this season start on the opening day.
Danny Collins’ bizarre own-goal helped Forest Green Rovers to a 4-1 away victory at Grimsby Town on 4th August, a match in which Coy distributed two yellow cards.
In the First Round of the Carabao Cup, Coy also presided over the tie between Sheffield United and Hull City at Bramall Lane, the visitors winning following a penalty shootout. Only one yellow brandished.
On 18th August, Coy didn’t award a card of any colour as Barnsley drew at home with AFC Wimbledon, whilst he also oversaw Oldham Athletic’s victory at Morecambe last weekend. Two yellows awarded on that occasion.
Coy was fourth official on Tuesday night as Blackburn Rovers secured a comfortable 4-1 victory against early League Two pace setters Lincoln City.
Those statistics follow on from his debut season in the Football League which reads as 69 yellow cards and three red cards distributed from 34 games. In his final season in the National League, Coy brandished 84 yellows and one red from 25 matches.
Coy has previously officiated one match involving Newport County AFC and Port Vale respectively – although the two sides weren’t facing off against each other.
The match involving County was interestingly Coy’s first ever refereeing performance in the Football League, a match which saw the Exiles share a six-goal thriller with Stevenage on 5th August 2017.
Shawn McCoulsky struck in added time to salvage a point for County, while the game also featured a goal on debut for Frank Nouble and Mickey Demetriou’s thunderbolt that won ‘Goal of the season.’ Watch that strike here.
Stevenage’s goals on that occasion came from Tom Pett, Danny Newton and Dale Gorman – with Coy brandishing no cards of any colour at the Lamex Stadium.
There was one yellow card in the game involving Port Vale, Newport-born Christian Doidge receiving it, as the Valiants were held to a 1-1 draw with Forest Green Rovers on 16th September 2017.
Dan Turner had given Port Vale the lead at Vale Park with a clever finish, but the points were ultimately shared after Omar Bugiel’s late intervention.
Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs)
Bury FC vs Morecambe
Cheltenham Town vs Colchester United
Crewe Alexandra vs Macclesfield Town
Exeter City vs Lincoln City
Grimsby Town vs Yeovil Town
Mansfield Town vs Carlisle United
Northampton Town vs Tranmere Rovers
Notts County vs Forest Green Rovers
Oldham Athletic vs Crawley Town
Stevenage vs Cambridge United
Swindon Town vs MK Dons
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 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.