Newport County AFC will be looking to bounce back into the play-off places when they entertain Forest Green Rovers on Boxing Day. A win against the Nailsworth outfit would guarantee a place in League Two’s top seven, whilst the away side will be hoping to maintain their own spot in the play-offs past just four days having previously been out of them for the past two months.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
Last five results in League Two
It’s certainly been a case of pure ecstasy or pure disaster for Forest Green Rovers of late, as they haven’t drawn a League Two fixture since 20th October during the ‘El Glosico’ stalemate with Cheltenham Town.
Fortunately for Rovers fans, they have won the majority of their matches since that draw with their local rivals at the New Lawn and are slowly but surely climbing back up the table after a mid-season blip.
Forest Green’s form over the last five matches specifically sees them pick up nine of the possible 15 points available, although that run doesn't start well as they suffered their first home league defeat of the campaign against Morecambe 1-0 on 17th November. Aaron Wildig scored a late winner against the run of play to give the Shrimps an unlikely victory.
They made up for that defeat, however, as goals from Ben Morris and Carl Winchester secured a first away victory for a month against Carlisle United. Jamie Devitt scored a late consolation penalty, but Rovers held on for a crucial three points.
Rovers then suffered a 1-0 home defeat against play-off hopefuls Colchester United thanks to a Sammie Szmodics’ winner, but again bounced back with a remarkable 2-1 comeback victory at Yeovil Town. Rovers were behind thanks to a goal from Rhys Browne then went down to 10 men, but scored twice in stoppage time through Reuben Reid and George Williams to complete a remarkable win.
Like County, Forest Green also had their match postponed on 15th December due to adverse weather conditions, but ascended back into the play-off places for the first time since 27th October on Saturday when defeating Crewe Alexandra 1-0. Joseph Mills struck just before half-time to secure all three points – in what was only Rovers’ third home league victory of the campaign.
Forest Green Rovers manager Mark Cooper has a fully fit squad to choose from when they travel to Rodney Parade on Boxing Day.
He will, however, be missing defender Paul Digby as he completes the second match of his three-game suspension for being dismissed away at Yeovil Town earlier this month.
Cooper may choose to tinker with his squad for the match against County – the meeting between the two sides coming as the second game in eleven days for both – Rovers going to Cheltenham Town on 30th December before entertaining Northampton Town on New Year’s Day.
Forest Green Rovers team vs Crewe Alexandra: (3-5-1-1): Montgomery, Rawson, Gunning, McGinley, Shephard, Brown (Archibald 72’), James, Winchester, Mills, Williams (Grubb 64’), Reid (Campbell 82’)
One to Watch – Reece Brown
Described by manager Mark Cooper as a player who “wouldn’t look out of place at Chelsea,” Reece Brown has been instrumental in the Forest Green Rovers midfield this season and has put in a host of stellar performances.
He’s only scored three goals from 27 appearances this term for the Green Devils but has a load more assists to back that up, with the goals coming in successive games in late October / early November against Tranmere Rovers, Exeter City and Lincoln City.
One of Forest Green’s first signings ahead of their inaugural Football League season last year, Brown has already matched his goal scoring exploits from last season and was a mainstay in that campaign as well when making 42 appearances.
Before this spell with the Nailsworth outfit, the 22-year old gained the majority of his football experience at Birmingham City having joined the club from the age of 10.
Afforded his first-team debut on 17th September 2013 in an away defeat to Burnley, Brown went on to make a handful of appearances that season but could never sustain a prolonged spell within the team.
Loan spells at Notts County and Chesterfield also came during his time with the Championship outfit – but he was released in the summer of 2017 having made a total of 16 appearances at second-tier level.
Manager – Mark Cooper
Mark Cooper has done an excellent job since taking to the Forest Green Rovers hotseat and has led the Nailsworth outfit into the play-off positions in time for Christmas 2018.
Joining the club just after their National League play-off final defeat in May 2016, Cooper took them up at the first time of asking, winning at Wembley 3-1 against Tranmere Rovers.
Last season, Cooper bounced back from an awful start to the season - Rovers were in the relegation zone as late as January – and just about managed to preserve Rovers’ stay in the Football League after a 21st placed finish – one point above the drop zone.
This spell at Forest Green is the eighth managerial position for the highly experienced Cooper, who started at a club he once played for in Tamworth in 2004.
Good FA Cup runs couldn’t hide some poor league form at the club, however, so Cooper moved on to Kettering Town in 2007 where he managed to win the Conference North title by a clear 17 points alongside a solid debut Conference season.
An unsuccessful three-month stint with Peterborough United was followed by some time spent in the non-leagues with Darlington - where he won the 2011 FA Trophy - Kettering Town and AFC Telford United, before he returned to the Football League with Swindon Town ahead of the 2013/14 campaign.
The Robins reached the play-off final in his second season, but they were hammered 4-0 by Preston North End, with Cooper dismissed early into the 2015/16 campaign after a poor run of results. A short stint at Notts County soon followed but Cooper elected to leave the Magpies and join Forest Green for the subsequent season.
Last meeting between the two sides
Forest Green Rovers 1 – 1 Newport County AFC
Saturday 6th October 2018
Newport County AFC maintained their place within the League Two automatic promotion spots as they fought back to draw 1-1 away at Forest Green Rovers
Both sides were containing each other well early on with respective high pressing game plans, but Rovers scored with one of their first attacks after 18 minutes of action.
County were caught napping at a quick throw-in on halfway, Liam Shephard quickly getting the ball back into play for Reece Brown who instantly smashed it over to the far side for Dayle Grubb to chase. The midfielder reached it and got past Tyler Forbes, drilling a cross along that floor that bounced off Scot Bennett and into his own net.
County responded well and found their equaliser after 38 minutes when illustrating some intricate passing movements. The Exiles put together a 15-pass move, involving eight different players, and there was 35 touches before Padraig Amond finished off the move with a predatory finish.
Reuben Reid hit the crossbar towards the end of the first-half but the two teams were again happy to contain each other with inspired defending.
There was, however, to be one final chance for County to take all three points and halt Forest Green’s unbeaten streak when Reid was then adjudged to have used his hand on the goal line to divert away an attempt from Jamille Matt.
Mickey Demetriou stepped up but his 100% record as penalty taker since joining the Exiles came to an unfortunate end as he blasted high over the crossbar.
Referee: John Busby
Assistant Referee 1: Andrew Hendley
Assistant Referee 2: Grant Taylor
Fourth Official: Kevin Morris
Busby is currently embarking on his third full season as a Football League referee having officiated his first game in League Two on 13th August 2016 during the 1-1 draw between Mansfield Town and Cheltenham Town.
He has refereed 24 matches so far this season, giving out 54 yellow cards and two red cards, including three yellows in his first game of the season as Peterborough United beat Bristol Rovers 2-1 on the opening day of the campaign.
Three games have passed this season without Busby going to his pocket, two of which came in the CheckaTrade Trophy Group Stages, alongside Southend United’s 2-0 away victory at Gillingham on 13th October.
Busby’s league high number of yellow cards stands at six – a number he has given out on two occasions – Fleetwood Town’s emphatic 4-0 victory at Doncaster Rovers on 6th October and Crawley Town’s draw with Exeter City on 23rd October.
Those statistics follow on from refereeing a total of 43 matches across all competitions in the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Busby gave out 100 yellow cards and ten red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.
John Busby has officiated a match involving Newport County on four previous occasions across League Two and the Conference. The Exiles have a relatively good record in those prior matches, winning one, drawing two and losing just the once.
Last season, Busby only officiated once match involving the Exiles, but it saw Matty Dolan score his first goal for the club in the 1-1 home draw with Port Vale on 10th November 2018. Dolan also received a booking, as did Robbie Willmott.
In the 2016/17 campaign, Busby refereed a further two matches involving County, starting with the 1-0 defeat at home to Wycombe Wanderers on 22nd November 2016. Scot Bennett, Tom Owen-Evans and Josh Sheehan were all cautioned.
The other game that season came on Valentines Day 2017 as the Exiles were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Grimsby Town. Darren Jones received the only booking of the contest.
You then must go back nearly six years to find the other match which Busby took charge of involving the Exiles. The date was 2nd April 2011 and County beat Grimsby Town 2-1 thanks to a late winner from Chris Todd. It was Tim Harris’ final game in caretaker charge of the club before Anthony Hudson took the reins. Steve Lennon was booked.
Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs unless stated)
Cambridge United vs Crawley Town (1pm kick-off)
Exeter City vs Yeovil Town (1pm kick-off)
Carlisle United vs Oldham Athletic
Cheltenham Town vs MK Dons
Colchester United vs Stevenage
Crewe Alexandra vs Lincoln City
Mansfield Town vs Bury FC
Northampton Town vs Swindon Town
Notts County vs Macclesfield Town
Port Vale vs Grimsby Town
Tranmere Rovers vs Morecambe
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 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.