Whether you’re looking forward to the first Home game and the roar of the Rodney Parade faithful as they welcome their team back after the summer break; whether you’re focused on gathering the family for the Boxing Day game; or whether you just can’t wait for the first Away Day of the campaign – there are a host of games to look out for in ‘Your Exiles Diary.’
Here, five games have been selected that could hold significance for Exiles supporters.
Mansfield Town (away) – 4th August
Nothing beats the start of a new season.
A total of 91 days will eventually separate last season’s final game at Carlisle United and the new campaign’s curtain raiser against Mansfield Town on 4th August. And whilst we will continue to have the World Cup to occupy us in the intermittent period, it’s just not the same as club football.
Interestingly, a trip to the One Call Stadium will also give County the chance to win away from home on the opening day of the season for the first time since 2012, when the Exiles edged a seven-goal thriller against the Stags on the way to promotion from the Conference.
Since that victory in Nottinghamshire, the Exiles have a relatively successful record on the opening day – picking up four points out of the 15 available.
A crowd of 4,631 packed into Rodney Parade for County’s first Football League match in 25 years on 3rd August 2013 – the Exiles celebrating the occasion in apt fashion when securing a 4-1 victory against James Beattie’s Accrington Stanley thanks to goals from Harry Worley, Christian Jolley and a double from Chris Zebroski.
The 2014/15 campaign didn’t start off in as appropriate a fashion, however, as the Exiles suffered defeat to Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 at Rodney Parade – Peter Murphy and Paris Cowan-Hall scoring in the first-half for the Chairboys.
A double from Barry Corr helped Cambridge United start the 2015/16 season with a 3-0 win at their Abbey Stadium, whilst there has been drama in stoppage time during the past two seasons for the Exiles.
Unfortunately, the first dramatic ending to a game didn’t help County too much as Mansfield Town avenged their 2012 opening day defeat by grabbing a 3-2 victory at Rodney Parade – Kevan Hurst curling an unstoppable shot into the far corner deep into the added extras.
But last season the late goal did benefit County as Shawn McCoulsky marked his debut for the Exiles by scrambling home and salvaging a point in the 3-3 draw at Stevenage.
County haven’t opened a Football League campaign with an away victory since the 1965 success at Chesterfield – can Mike Flynn and his men eradicate that statistic in just under two months’ time?
Morecambe (home) – October 27th
If you are also someone obsessed by statistics concerning Newport County AFC then you may agree that the time is right for the Exiles to finally secure themselves a home victory against Jim Bentley’s Morecambe.
The Shrimps have taken at-least a point on each of their five previous visits to Rodney Parade, but Mike Flynn and his side will have the chance to put that right on 27th October.
That rotten run starts on 14th September 2013 when it was an afternoon to forget for ex-Exile Tom Naylor. The midfielder – who has recently joined another ex-Exile in Danny Rose at Portsmouth – scored two own-goals alongside conceding a penalty which Padraig Amond converted to give the away side a 3-2 victory.
Jack Redshaw was the man to find the target and give the Shrimps a narrow victory at Rodney Parade on 21st February 2015, whilst Paul Mullin’s stoppage time penalty also handed them all three points on 12th September 2015.
Two 1-1 draws have since followed those three successive defeats for the Exiles at Rodney Parade, starting on 21st February 2016 when Michael Rose’s long-range free-kick cancelled out Aaron Williams’ early opener.
Last season, Morecambe again successfully came from behind to salvage a point on 23rd January 2018. County warmed up for the Spurs encounter with an early goal from Ben Tozer, although they couldn’t keep their perfect start to 2018 alive as Michael Rose this time scored from the penalty spot to secure his side a share of the spoils.
At Morecambe’s Globe Arena, the Exiles have performed reasonably well in their five trips to the stadium – picking up six points from the possible 15 available – but now it’s time for a long overdue home win against the Shrimps.
Can County do it? Find out on 27th October.
Notts County (away) – January 26th
The oldest professional football club in the world which arguably boasts – excluding Rodney Parade – the best view of the pitch in League 2 for members of the media in the press box.
Situated opposite the away fans in the ‘Derek Pavis’ stand, the high vantage point at Meadow Lane allows you to work out how each team has setup quite easily alongside being able to predict a pass before it is made – that is, if you are not afraid of heights!
And one recurring theme from County’s trips to Nottinghamshire throughout history has been goals – and lots of them.
If you want to really delve back in history then you can find a host of high scoring contests – including but not limited to - 6-0 in 1961 and 1971, 8-1 also in 1961, 7-0 in 1950 and unfortunately an 11-1 reverse on 15th January 1949. No repeat of that performance please.
In more recent years, County have visited last season’s play-off semi-finalists on three occasions.
The first of those matches came on 12th December 2015 as the home side edged a seven-goal thriller thanks to a stoppage time goal from Liam Noble. The goals on that day from a County perspective came courtesy of Mark Byrne, Alex Rodman and Scott Boden.
Much more positive reading for the Exiles during the 2016/17 campaign, the 3-0 away success on 19th November 2016 arguably Graham Westley’s finest hour as manager. Sean Rigg and Rhys Healey both scored before half-time to put County in control, whilst Josh Sheehan confirmed the points in the second-half with an outrageous finish.
Last season’s encounter also produced a 3-0 scoreline, although this one saw the home side ascend to the top of the table on 28th October 2017 thanks to the comfortable win.
Can County triumph once again at Meadow Lane? Find out on 26th January.
Macclesfield Town (away) – April 22nd
There’s just something about Macclesfield Town and their Moss Rose home that has led me to look out for their results over the past five seasons and hope for a reunion – only this time in the Football League.
Whether it was their hospitable nature when we last went there in October 2012; our relative success at the stadium or Macclesfield’s promotion last season against all odds – the trip to Cheshire is one I’m looking forward to making on 22nd April.
That most recent trip to the Moss Rose on 13th October 2012 came as part of ‘Non-League’ day – an initiative where fans of the non-league could theoretically watch three games in a day by putting staggered kick-off times in place alongside having all the home teams in close proximity to each other.
Alongside the Silkmen, fellow Cheshire/Lancashire clubs in Stockport County and Hyde were also chosen to host matches – with County’s game chosen as the stellar fixture on the day due to the Exiles being three points clear in the table at the time of the game alongside Macclesfield’s high position.
That meant a 12:30 kick-off and more importantly, a 6:30 start to reach the ground. It was worth the early start, however, as across the day all the results went County’s way alongside picking up a 1-1 draw.
Tony James put the Exiles in-front on the day when tapping home following a delivery into the area, a lead they held until the final ten minutes when Silkmen talisman Matthew Barnes-Homer levelled with a well-placed finish.
And for the fellow County anorak’s out there, you will remember the Moss Rose playing host for the FA Trophy Quarter-Final tie with Northwich Victoria on 25th February 2012.
But why did it host the game? The ‘home’ side had recently been evicted from their stadium by their chemical company landlord, meaning they had to ground share at various locations just to fulfil their season.
If anything, however, Northwich didn’t appear to be distracted by the off-the-field upheaval as they raced into a two-goal lead thanks to strikes from captain Ian Kearney and Ryan Wade.
County were in big trouble against a team two divisions lower than them and in danger of being knocked out of the competition.
But the phrase ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ works aptly here as for the third time in a few weeks – Jake Harris appeared from the bench to again save the Exiles.
By the time 85 minutes had elapsed in the match, the striker had levelled proceedings with two clinical finishes – setting the stage for fellow attacker Nat Jarvis to score a diving header in the dying moments and turn the game on its head.
How history could have been so different had it not been for that turnaround. The dream of Wembley was still on.
Morecambe (away) – May 4th
Unless the Exiles find themselves embroiled in a play-off campaign, the season will come to an end regardless of any other league position on 4th May against Morecambe.
Looking specifically at the Football League years, the Exiles have a better record on the final day of the campaign compared to the opening day – picking up seven points from the 15 available.
That starts in the debut season back in League 2 follow a 25-year absence, a game that saw County end Rochdale’s chances of securing the title thanks to goals from Aaron O’Connor and Kevin Feely in a 2-1 success at Rodney Parade.
In 2014/15, County again ended the campaign with a game in South Wales, although this one didn’t yield the same amount of points thanks to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Oxford United. If there’s ever a goal to lose a game by, it’s this one – Kemar Roofe unleashing a thunderbolt into the top corner to give the U’s an away victory.
Another 1-0 defeat then follows when the Exiles completed the 2015/16 season, Toyosi Olusanya scoring just seven minutes into his Football League debut when converting a penalty for eventual play-off winners AFC Wimbledon.
What more needs to be written about County’s final game of the 2016/17 campaign? A sell-out County crowd packed into Rodney Parade knowing victory would definitely be enough to secure survival. And it got off to a flyer as Mickey Demetriou gave County the lead midway through the first-half from the penalty-spot.
All seemed to be going to plan with Doncaster also one-up at half time against Hartlepool United. But when Notts County's Jorge Grant levelled the scoring, it all started to go wrong for The Exiles. News filtered through that Hartlepool were doing what had been deemed impossible and were leading against Doncaster.
A goal was needed, or County would be relegated and the months of hard work to close the gap would come to nothing. When all hope was lost, the much-needed goal came from the unlikeliest of sources; a centre back who'd never previously scored a league goal.
The 89th minute breakthrough came in the form of a clinical Mark O’Brien volley. Cue ecstasy in the terraces as County had done the impossible, ‘The Great Escape’ was complete and safety was secured. The perfect end to the season.
Last season didn’t quite have that much of a dramatic finale as the Exiles – and a host of David Pipe lookalikes in the crowd – secured a 1-1 draw at Carlisle United. Padraig Amond scored that day, cancelling out Mark Ellis’ header early in the contest.
Can County end the campaign with a victory at The Globe Arena? They picked up just one point against the Shrimps last season – find out if they can get three against them on 4th May 2019.
What memories will Newport County AFC create next season to be talked about in 12 months’ time? #OurJourneyContinues in the 2018/19 campaign.