Newport County AFC will be looking to return to winning ways in League Two when they travel to Lincoln City in the final game before Christmas. The Exiles will hope last weekend’s postponement against MK Dons has allowed more players to recover from injury, while the home side will know three points will definitely be enough to see them sit atop of the table on Christmas Day.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
Last five results in League Two
For the second successive League Two matchday, County will play the table toppers after Lincoln City were able to leapfrog MK Dons last weekend.
The Imps’ form over the past 11 matches isn’t quite as imperious as the Dons, Lincoln amassing 19 points compared to 28 for the Buckinghamshire outfit, and they’ve actually taken less points in the last five fixtures as well.
Lincoln are unbeaten in their most recent five league games having recovered from a little mid-season blip, starting with a 2-1 home victory over a Forest Green Rovers side who have been good on the road this season. Kellan Gordon scored late into the contest to give the Imps all three points, after Reece Brown cancelled out John Akinde’s early opener.
Then comes successive 1-1 draws including sharing the spoils with a Mansfield Town team that just don’t know how to lose matches in League Two. This game perfectly highlighted that never say die attitude from the Stags, Jacob Mellis smashing home in injury time to level Gordon’s goal five minutes before the end.
Having dropped two points at the death at Sincil Bank, Lincoln went and fought back from conceding first to salvage a draw at in-form Oldham Athletic. Mohamed Maouche gave the home side an early second-half lead, but Michael O’Connor equalised shortly after to give both sides a point apiece.
John Akinde’s early penalty then gave the Imps an impressive victory away at play-off hopefuls Stevenage, before they ascended to top spot with a 3-1 home success over Morecambe last time out. Goals from Harry Anderson, Akinde and Jason Shackell wrapped up the points for Lincoln before half-time, Kevin Ellison grabbing a late consolation for the Shrimps.
Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley should be able to call upon a fully fit squad for County’s trip up to Sincil Bank.
The only injury doubt is goalkeeper Josh Vickers. He suffered a major tear to his quadricep muscle on New Year’s Day and missed the rest of last season. A recurrence of that problem occurred early last month, but Cowley confirmed Vickers is back training and could make the bench.
Cowley also confirmed that a couple of his players are carrying knocks, but he doesn’t feel any of those affected will be unavailable for selection on Saturday.
Lincoln City team vs Morecambe (4-3-3): Smith, Eardley (Wilson 49’), Bostwick, Shackell, Toffolo, Pett, Frecklington, O’Connor (O’Connor 79’), Anderson, Akinde (Green 73’), McCartan
One to Watch – John Akinde
One of the deadliest strikers at this level, John Akinde has already established himself as the main striker at Lincoln City after the Imps stumped up the cash for his signature in the summer transfer window.
He’s got nine goals from 26 appearances already this season, accruing his side five points, and Akinde has found the target in each of his last three appearances – against Carlisle United, Stevenage and Morecambe.
At the beginning of the season, Akinde beat that tally when scoring in four successive matches – against Swindon Town, Port Vale, Grimsby Town and Bury FC – alongside getting his other goals this campaign against Exeter City and Forest Green Rovers.
Talking generally about his career, Akinde took a little while to find this imperious scoring form and it just never really worked out for him at a host of clubs – Gravesend & Northfleet, Ebbsfleet United, Margate, Whitstable Town, Bristol City, Wycombe Wanderers, Brentford, Bristol Rovers, Dagenham & Redbridge, Crawley Town and Portsmouth.
A stellar season with Alfreton Town in 2013/14 finally put Akinde’s name on the map and for the last four seasons, the 29-year old had been plying his trade to good effect with Barnet.
He scored 90 goals in 177 appearances for the Bees but couldn’t fire them to safety last season, Lincoln stepping in for his signature after it was revealed he had a relegation release clause in his contract.
Manager – Danny Cowley
It’s certainly been a record-breaking tenure for Danny Cowley as he closes in on his 150th competitive match as Lincoln City manager.
Taking to the Imps hotseat on 12th May 2016, Cowley and his team broke numerous long-standing records in his inaugural campaign. They became the first non-league side since QPR in 1914 to reach the Quarter-Finals of the Emirates FA Cup and they twinned that achievement with winning the National League having accumulated 99 points.
In his second season, Cowley led Lincoln City to their first ever visit to Wembley for the CheckaTrade Trophy final, a trophy they won after Elliott Whitehouse’s goal secured a 1-0 victory over League One outfit Shrewsbury Town.
They probably overachieved in terms of League Two position in their first season back after a six-year absence in the Football League, losing in the play-off semi-finals to Exeter City having finished in seventh position.
Lincoln continue to show signs of progression under the 40-year old’s guidance and it would virtually require a miracle for the Imps not to be residing in an automatic promotion spot come the turn of the year into 2019.
Before this spell with Lincoln, Cowley held two other managerial positions. He took the position of Concord Rangers manager in 2007 whilst they were playing in the Essex Senior Football League. Three promotions in six years saw them in the National League South, where they narrowly missed out on a further promotion and made the first-round proper of the Emirates FA Cup.
Braintree Town came calling for his services in 2015/16 and Cowley again saw his stock rise as one of the best up and coming football managers. He guided them to a league-high position of third in the National League but they were knocked out in the semi-finals of the play-offs against Grimsby Town.
Stadium – Sincil Bank
One of the older stadiums in League Two, Sincil Bank has been home to League Two pace setters Lincoln City since way back in 1895. It is only the second stadium the Imps have resided at since their own inception in 1884, having spent some time at the John O'Gaunts ground.
Overlooked by the magnificent city cathedral that dominates Lincoln’s skyline, Sincil Bank has a current capacity of 10,120 inside an all-seater stadium, although higher attendances were observed when there was partial terracing.
The record ever attendance was recorded as 23,196 as the Imps played Derby County in the second-leg of a League Cup tie. However, the majority of the stadium would have headed home disappointed on 15th November 1967 as the Rams eased to a 3-0 victory.
Despite Sincil Bank being reaped in history, it’s not a stadium that County have frequented that often and they’ve only travelled to Lincolnshire on three occasions since the reformation of the club in 1989.
The first two of those meetings came in the Conference, starting with 110 away fans making the trip on 24th March 2012 for a 2-0 defeat. In County’s promotion season of 2012/13, Robbie Willmott scored a double on debut as the Exiles stormed to a 4-2 away victory. 126 fans travelled on 12th January 2013.
Last season, 76 County supporters travelled to Sincil Bank on a Tuesday night as the Exiles suffered a 3-1 defeat on 30th January 2018.
Meetings between the two sides in the 2017/18 campaign
Two tough games for County against Lincoln City last season as they were only able to pick up one point against a side who reached the League Two play-offs in their first season back in the Football League.
The first encounter was again the final game for both sides before Christmas, a day later than this season on 23rd December 2017, where the Exiles had to put together a resilient defensive display to secure a point at Rodney Parade – spending 35 minutes of the contest with 10 men.
Chances were few and far between in an enthralling contest in South Wales, but Joe Day did superbly well to thwart Luke Waterfall just before the game’s deciding moment on 55 minutes, Mark O’Brien hacking down Matt Green when the Imps striker burst clear and leaving the referee no option but to brandish a red card.
The Exiles defence held firm to ensure they would take a point from the first game of the Christmas period as they ended 2017 at Rodney Parade in the same manner as they started, with a well-deserved point.
In the reverse fixture at Sincil Bank, County could be forgiven for having a hangover after exerting all their energy into the valiant draw with Tottenham Hotspur three days earlier and subsequently suffered a 3-1 defeat against the Imps.
The home side were in-front after just 14 minutes when imposing striker Matt Rhead headed home a swift counter-attack, but Padraig Amond replicated his prowess from the Spurs contest and levelled proceedings shortly before half-time.
But the home side duly ensured that they would leapfrog County in the League Two table by making sure of the three points with two well worked second-half goals.
Ex-Exile Matt Green was the benefactor of some intricate Lincoln play to slot into the bottom corner from outside the area on 51 minutes, before Imps substitute Ollie Palmer put the gloss on the result with a late third, smashing a 25-yard effort in off the post after barely being on the pitch for 30 seconds prior to his opportunity.
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Assistant Referee 1: Paul Newhouse
Assistant Referee 2: Wade Smith
Fourth Official: Duncan Street
Bramall is currently embarking on his first full season as a Football League referee having officiated his first game in League Two on 4th August 2018 as Crawley Town started the season with a narrow away victory against Cheltenham Town.
He has refereed 25 games so far this season, giving out 53 yellow cards and two red cards, including just the one yellow card in that first game at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
Four games have passed this season without Bramall going to his pocket – Exeter’s win at Morecambe on 11th August, Bristol Rovers’ win over Coventry on 22nd September, Blackpool’s success against Scunthorpe on 23rd October and Yeovil’s away victory at Carlisle on 27th October.
His league high number of yellow cards stands at six, something he has done twice this season, Bury FC’s victory at Colchester United on 29th September and Sunderland’s home triumph over manager less Bristol Rovers last weekend.
Those statistics follow on from refereeing a total of 18 matches across all competitions in the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Bramall gave out 42 yellow cards and four red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.
Bramall has never before officiated a fixture involving Newport County AFC.
Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs)
Bury FC vs Tranmere Rovers
Crawley Town vs Carlisle United
Forest Green Rovers vs Crewe Alexandra
Grimsby Town vs Notts County
Macclesfield Town vs Port Vale
MK Dons vs Colchester United
Morecambe vs Cambridge United
Oldham Athletic vs Exeter City
Stevenage vs Mansfield Town
Swindon Town vs Cheltenham Town
Yeovil Town vs Northampton 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 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.