Ben White is the best player that Newport County AFC have ever had on loan, according to Exiles midfielder Tom Owen-Evans.
It was White’s 30-yard pass that led to County taking the lead over Cheltenham Town, Padraig Amond connecting to his cross to loop a header over home goalkeeper Scott Flinders in the 55th minute.
But the Robins found a way back into the game at their LCI Rail Stadium, Mo Eisa bagging an equaliser with 13 minutes remaining after a clever curled finish into the bottom corner.
The point means County will end 2017 in 11th place in the League 2 table, just four points off the play-offs, ahead of facing Exeter City on Monday and Leeds United in the Emirates FA Cup next weekend.
Post-match, Owen-Evans spoke exclusively to iFollow Exiles about the draw with the Robins, how good he thinks White could be in the future and looking forward to those two crucial matches next week.
On the Cheltenham game…
“I think we started well.
“I think overall in the game we were the better team and the only time we looked like conceding was if they countered attacked on us.
“In the first-half, I thought we had the best chances in the game and I think you can see from their keeper getting man-of-the-match that we created chances and he had a lot of saves to make.
“It was really good create so many chances really.”
On the physicality of the game at the LCI Rail Stadium…
“It was a tough game obviously because you can see by looking at the pitch that it was a battle.
“There wasn’t much football played which is what I like to do – I like to play football and get on the ball.
“I thought I battled today, held my own and won some free-kicks for the team.
“I think they got booked four times all for challenges on me, so my legs are in a bit of a state.
“And obviously it’s my first 90 minutes that I’ve played all season so for me it’s a massive plus.”
On his own performance individually…
“It’s my third start in the league this season but I haven’t started since Morecambe away.
“I don’t know how long that’s been, but it’s been a while – three or four months, something like that.
“Obviously it’s been a tough few months for me but I just had to get my head down and keep working hard.
“The gaffer has put faith in me today and put me back in there, I can only thank him for that and give my best performance.
“Hopefully I did that today.”
On how he plans to battle his way back into the side…
“It’s tough because you can see where we are in the league and the results that we’ve been getting show the team is playing well.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard, get my head down and keep battling my way back into the side.
“Hopefully I’ve done that today.”
On his general fitness…
“I was training yesterday, and the gaffer asked me if I was ready and I said of course.
“That’s what I mean when I say that I have to keep battling and working hard.
“When my opportunity comes, I have to try and take it and do everything I can to keep my shirt.”
On Ben White’s pass and Padraig Amond’s header for the County goal…
“It was an unbelievable goal.
“Ben White is an unbelievable player. I would go as far to say that he’s the best loan player that we’ve had at Newport since I’ve been here.
“He’ll definitely go to the top and he showed that today with the pass for Podge’s goal.
“And obviously the header, he has sort of steered it over the keeper and because there’s pace on the ball it’s an unbelievable goal.”
On the goal conceded by the Exiles in Gloucestershire…
“The boys are disappointed in there because there was a header missed and it sort of ricocheted back to him.
“It’s a scrappy goal, a good finish in the end to be fair, but the boys are devastated to come here and draw the game.
“I think that shows how far we have come, where we’re coming to places like Cheltenham and being disappointed by drawing the game.
“We believe in ourselves and think we have the quality to go wherever in his league and get three points. We’ve shown that at places like Swindon, Coventry and in the cups against Southend.
“We’re really disappointed to not take the three points today.”
On the 916 County fans who made the trip…
“The stand behind the goal was packed with Newport fans and it obviously helps because you really can hear them when you’re on the pitch.
“They are the 12th man for us. The away support they give anyway is second to none but when they can fill a stand, it really keeps us going to battle through.
“A massive to thank-you to them really is all I can say.”
On facing Exeter City at Rodney Parade on Monday…
“They are a team that likes to get down and play football.
“Exeter are third or fourth now, so they are still up there. We’ve seen everybody before now and when we were at Exeter earlier in the season, we were disappointed to not get anything from the game because we had a lot of chances.
"We’re confident that we can go back to Rodney Parade with the fans behind us and get three points.
On his previous good record against the Grecians…
“I remember last year before we played them there that the gaffer told me that I’d scored there before.
“Obviously, we’ve already played them there this season and unfortunately, I didn’t score.
“Hopefully, it’s a good omen and if I play again on Monday then hopefully I can nick a goal.”
On facing Leeds United next weekend in the Emirates FA Cup…
“The game at Leeds, I know we lost by a big margin, but we created a lot of chances that day.
“I think even Leeds supporters who were there that day will say that the scoreline didn’t deserve to be like that.
“We created a lot of chances against a very good Championship team. If we can earn the right to play then hopefully we'll create as many chances as we did last time and hopefully put them away.
“We’re confident of beating anybody and hopefully we can do that with the fans behind us at Rodney Parade.”
On what 2018 could bring for the team…
“We’re in a good position but also, I think we believe that we could be higher.
“The way we have played this season, we believe we should be pushing automatic promotion or definitely being involved in the play-offs.
“We’ve played every team now and there’s not been anyone that has stood out. I think Luton away is probably the only game this season where you could say that we deserved to lose the game.
“Compared to last year, it’s a massive step forward but I think we can push up the league now. We as a squad believe we are good enough to reach the play-offs.”