Newport County AFC will be looking for their first win at Rodney Parade since 19th January when they host Crewe Alexandra on Saturday. The Exiles are currently on a run of five matches unbeaten ahead of the game, while the visitors will be looking to strengthen their charge away from the League 2 relegation zone by picking up all three points in South Wales.
Tickets are still available for this fixture at just £5 per person – and here, you can read all the facts and statistics ahead of this League 2 encounter.
Last six league matches
Crewe Alexandra have been on a steady run of form lately, having picked up 10 points out of a possible 18 since 17th February as the Railwaymen continue to battle against a potential relegation to the non-league.
That run starts with one of the three victories in that time, alongside one draw and two defeats, this one a narrow 1-0 success over Colchester United.
It was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man at Gresty Road as Carlisle loanee Shaun Miller scored right on cue to seal all three points, sending Crewe six points clear of the League 2 drop-zone at the time.
Then comes one of the most dramatic finishes to a football match in the history of the game as they were edged out 2-1 by play-off hopefuls Exeter City.
Those fans that had left Gresty Road after 88 minutes were certainly left to rue that decision, as Miller scored again to seemingly give the Railwaymen successive home victories.
But the Grecians scored twice in the five minutes additional time through Jordan Moore-Taylor and Jayden Stockley to turn the game on it’s head, strengthening their charge for the top seven in the process by completing a stunning victory in Cheshire.
Crewe certainly responded to giving up that lead so late in the contest when they played their next match, however, as they secured arguably the most impressive away victory from any side in the division this season with a 4-1 success at play-off hopefuls Lincoln City.
Michael Bostwick actually gave the Imps the lead at Sincil Bank, only for Harry Pickering to equalise with the final kick of the first-half.
The visitors then took command in the second-half to seal an unlikely victory, Jordan Bowery scoring either side of a penalty from Paul Green to confirm all three points in emphatic fashion.
It took a remarkable comeback in their next game to take anything from Stevenage as they played out a 2-2 draw at the Lamex Stadium.
A double from Dean Bowditch seemingly put the home side in complete control of the game, only for Crewe to fight-back and score twice in the final ten minutes to secure a point.
Perry Ng scored to give the Railwaymen something to play for in the contest, while Chris Kirk found the back of the net in the ninth minute of additional time to ensure the points were shared at the Lamex Stadium.
In the past week, Crewe have been home on two occasions, the first of which was a 2-1 defeat to play-off occupying Coventry City.
Bowery scored in the middle of goals from Jonson Clarke-Harris and Tom Bayliss as the home side suffered defeat at Gresty Road, while Coventry kept their slim chances of a top three finish alive by securing the victory.
In their most recent match, Crewe returned to winning ways when they secured a 3-1 victory against fellow strugglers Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday night.
Bowery continued his rich vein of scoring form by scoring twice alongside another goal for Kirk, with Dayle Grubb getting a consolation for the visitors on the night.
That three-point haul lifted the side into 19th position in the League 2 table ahead of their trip to Rodney Parade, nine points clear of Chesterfield in the final relegation place, although the Spireites do have two games in hand.
The Railwaymen have a couple of injury concerns to contend with ahead of their trip to Rodney Parade.
Defender Ross Woodcock has already been ruled out for the season, while talismanic striker Chris Porter and midfielder Ryan Wintle can be considered as long-term absentees through ankle and tibia injuries respectively.
Fellow striker Chris Dagnall may provide a welcome boost for the side on the weekend. The 31-year old has made late cameo appearances in the past two games having worked his way back from a knee injury, so may be risked from the start this time out.
Midfielder James Jones was an unused substitute for that game on Tuesday night following his return from a pelvic injury, with a substitute appearance this weekend a likely possibility.
The Railwaymen have been home twice in the past week. Manager David Artell made three changes in midweek, with defender Zoumana Bakayogo also expected to face a late fitness test ahead of the trip to South Wales after sustaining a calf problem.
Crewe team vs Forest Green (4-4-2): Garratt, Ng, Ray, Nolan, Kirk (Barlaser 90’), Ainley, Pickering, Green, Lowery, McKirdy (Dagnall 77’), Bowery
One to Watch – Jordan Bowery
Bowery has had to deal with the pressure of being Crewe’s main striker in recent months, following the long-term injury suffered by Chris Porter alongside the Railwaymen also missing Chris Dagnall in recent weeks.
He has stood up to that challenge quite well and has 10 goals for the current campaign. Five of those goals have come in the last four matches, following scoring in the defeat to Coventry City and getting two against both Lincoln City and Forest Green Rovers.
A further four goals have been scored in League 2 this season – Bowery scoring the winner against Stevenage alongside additional strikes against Notts County, Stevenage and in the reverse fixture with Forest Green - all that coming alongside a goal in the CheckaTrade Trophy against Newcastle United U23s.
The 26-year old is currently undergoing his first full season as a permanent signing for the Railwaymen, with the striker starting his career on the youth books of both Derby County and Chesterfield.
It was with the Spireites that Bowery made his professional debut, that coming on 30th August 2008 in a 1-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers.
He spent four seasons with Chesterfield, six months of which was whilst on loan at Barrow, leaving the club after scoring 17 goals from 101 appearances.
Aston Villa was his next destination having signed for the club on Deadline Day 2012. That wasn’t the most fruitful spell of his career, however, with the striker leaving the club having failed to score a single goal in the Premier League and also failing to hit the back of the net whilst on loan with Doncaster Rovers.
He joined Rotherham United in 2014 for an undisclosed fee, although it was confirmed as definitely being higher than the £160,000 they paid for Lee Frecklington. That produced a couple of goals from the striker, although he again left the club within two years having only scored on six occasions.
A loan spell at Bradford City was followed by a permanent move to Oxford United, as the 26-year old steered them to promotion to League 1 following seven goals in 17 appearances.
He wasn’t offered an extended deal with the U’s, however, so he returned back into League 2 and signed with Leyton Orient. He joined Crewe halfway through last season on loan until the end of the campaign, signing permanently for them in the summer having activated a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave should Orient get relegated.
All that sees Bowery with statistics of 43 goals from 279 appearances in all competitions.
Last time out
Crewe Alexandra 1 – 1 Newport County AFC
Saturday 12th August 2017
Crewe Alexandra held on for 73 minutes with ten men as Newport County AFC had to settle for a point following a 1-1 draw at Gresty Road.
It was the home side to fashion the opening opportunities in the game, striker Chris Porter heading wide from a Harry Pickering delivery before George Cooper saw his attempt deflected narrowly past the near post by Mark O’Brien.
Those early chances seemed to finally awaken County in Cheshire and they were the side to take the lead on 13 minutes.
It was somewhat harsh on goalkeeper Ben Garratt to concede from Matty Dolan’s corner-kick, the shot stopper denying Joss Labadie and Shawn McCoulsky from point blank range, before Frank Nouble hit the back of the net with the third attempt.
That goal knocked the stuffing somewhat out of the Railwaymen after their positive start and their task was only about to get tougher when they were sent down to ten men just four minutes after the opening goal from County.
Perry Ng was shown his marching orders for a second bookable offence, following two fouls in quick succession on Labadie and then on Ben White.
The home side were determined to not let that further setback affect them too much, however, and they found their equaliser within 60 seconds of the red card.
Cooper, who was by far the standout player from a Crewe perspective early-on, evaded the challenge of Dan Butler before delivering the perfect ball for Chris Dagnall to pass home from the edge of the six-yard area.
Only one further chance could be created in the first-half and the home side really should have taken a lead back with them to the dressing rooms deep into the two minutes of additional time.
Cooper again delivered another inviting cross into the area that Porter looked for all the world like he would convert, only for Ben White to somehow knock the ball away from the goal-line via the post.
County almost made Crewe pay for passing up that opportunity within the first 15 minutes of the second-half, although Garratt did really well to make saves on separate occasions to deny Nouble, O’Brien and Sean Rigg.
The chances kept on falling the way of County as they searched for a winner but again, they found an inspired Garratt in their way.
This time Lamar Reynolds saw his shot narrowly turned around the far post, while the striker also saw a header cleared off the goal-line with eight minutes of the contest remaining.
No winner could be found as both sides searched in vain throughout the four minutes of additional time, meaning County left Gresty Road with their unbeaten record from all competitions still intact.
Mike Flynn said of the second successive league draw: “They showed the right courage and attitude today and that’s all I can ask from them. We played some really good stuff, opened them up on several occasions but was just lacking that final killer instinct in the box at times - but it’s something we can improve on.The boys have been fantastic with the travelling they have had to do but this one against Crewe, I just felt under the circumstances, we should have won the game with the player being sent off so early on.”
Crewe Alexandra manager David Artell added: “I thought we didn't half dig in, deserved the luck that came our way. We weren't shutting up shop by a long stretch, but I'm pleased with a point. They stood up to the test and they left everything out on the pitch for us. I think all the fans have gone home saying 'yep, they aren't half fighting for the football club'. There are areas to improve but it was a hard-earned point.”
Referee: Darren Handley
Assistant Referee 1: Christopher Husband
Assistant Referee 2: Grant Taylor
Fourth Official: Samuel Ogles
Handley is currently embarking on just his fourth season as a Football League referee, having taken charge of his first League 2 match on 8th February 2014 as York and Cheltenham played out a 0-0 draw at Bootham Crescent.
He has officiated 35 games already this season, the last of which came on Tuesday night as Doncaster won the Yorkshire derby against Bradford City 2-0 thanks to a double from talisman John Marquis.
Only one yellow card was brandished during the game at the Keepmoat Stadium, taking his season tally to 105 yellow cards and six red cards from the 35 games. He has given out 11 penalties during that time.
Those statistics follow on from his three previous seasons in the Football League. His stats read as 131 yellow cards and two red cards from 39 games in the 2016/17 campaign, 112 yellow cards and five red cards from 32 games in the season before, while in his debut season it was 83 yellow cards and eight red cards from 26 matches.
Handley has refereed a match involving Newport County AFC on four previous occasions, but this match will be his first at Rodney Parade. He is not the luckiest of omens for the Exiles, however, with the side only winning one of those four previous matches.
Interestingly, it has been over two and a half years since Handley last officiated a County match. That came on 8th August 2015 in what was Terry Butcher’s first match in charge of the Exiles.
A double from Barry Corr and a further goal from Robbie Simpson condemned County to a 3-0 defeat at Cambridge United, a match in which now Cambridge player Medy Elito saw his penalty saved when County were two down.
Three yellow cards were given out during this fixture, two of which to County – Kevin Feely and Aaron Hayden the offenders.
The next game comes on 20th September 2014 as the Exiles hung on with ten men to secure a 0-0 draw at Shrewsbury Town.
Andrew Hughes was the man to be dismissed on that particular occasion from a County perspective, while Andy Sandell and Ryan Jackson were shown two of the five yellow cards brandished by Handley on the day.
Handley only refereed one County game in the 2012/13 promotion season and that was when the Exiles came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory at Nuneaton Town.
Simon Forsdick put the home side in-front as they looked to ease their relegation fears, only for a sublime freekick from Robbie Willmott and an own-goal by James Armson to turn the game on its head.
No bookings were distributed to either side during that match on 1st April 2013.
That just leaves the first County game officiated by Handley which came on 21st February 2012 as the Exiles suffered a 2-1 away defeat to Tamworth.
Sam Foley scored from the spot to give County an early lead, although Tamworth fought back in the final eight minutes of the match. Ex-Exile Scott Barrow scored a free-kick to level proceedings, while Danny Thomas won the game for the home side with two minutes remaining.
Two yellow cards were awarded to County players that afternoon – goalkeeper Glyn Thompson and Ryan Charles the offenders.
Other League 2 fixtures that day (All 3pm Saturday unless stated)
Accrington p-p Yeovil Town (Postponed due to international call-ups for the Glovers)
Carlisle United vs Cambridge United
Coventry City vs Grimsby Town
Crawley Town vs Cheltenham Town
Exeter City vs Swindon Town
Forest Green Rovers vs Mansfield Town
Morecambe vs Lincoln City
Stevenage vs Colchester United
Wycombe Wanderers vs Port Vale
Luton Town vs Barnet (5:15pm – live on Sky Sports Main Event)
Chesterfield vs Notts County (1:30pm Sunday – live on Sky Sports Football)
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.