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2017/18| A Season in Review

12 May 2018

The 2017/18 season may not have finished in as dramatic a way as was observed 12 months ago but it was another stellar season for the Exiles. A top-half finish, a best run in the Emirates FA Cup since 1979 and a trip to Wembley were all achieved by Mike Flynn’s team – alongside many other moments of note.

Here, we look through the journey that Newport County AFC went on during the 56 competitive fixtures in the 2017/18 campaign.

August – Bright beginning sees Exiles end the month in 2nd place

 

The Exiles started the season in the same manner as they had ended the previous ‘Great Escape’ campaign, with another dramatic late goal.

After Frank Nouble had earlier cancelled out Tom Pett’s opener at Stevenage, the home side raced into a 3-1 lead midway through the second-half.

But the spirit of the team shone through once again, and after Mickey Demetriou had fired a 30-yard thunderbolt into the roof of the net on 82 minutes, the stage was set for debutant Shawn McCoulsky to smash home a 95th minute equaliser.

McCoulsky, who had only joined the Exiles that week on loan from Bristol City, had made the perfect start to life in a County shirt and went one better in the next game.

His double secured a stunning 2-0 victory at League 1 outfit Southend United in the Carabao Cup, before the Exiles were held to another league draw, Frank Nouble getting another in the 1-1 draw at Crewe.

The Exiles then secured their first league win of the season with a 1-0 success at Coventry City - another debutant scoring the goal - this time Reece Cole the match-winner with a 25-yard second-half strike.

A fifth successive away game saw County at Championship side Leeds United in the Carabao Cup, although the Exiles couldn’t take advantage of Joss Labadie’s opener, going on to lose the game 5-1.

In the final league game of the month, County were finally at Rodney Parade for the ‘Homecoming Match’ against Chesterfield.

And despite trailing at the break, the side again showed the unity of the team, turning the game on its head to win 4-1.

Frank Nouble got his first professional hat-trick during the game, the first of which was a 30-yard screamer that won County’s goal of the month competition.

And it appeared like it was a month for County debutants as Padraig Amond marked his first appearance since joining from Hartlepool United by scoring the fourth goal.

Remarkably, just 112 days on from being minutes away from being relegated out of League 2, County were suddenly top of the table - albeit briefly - as Exeter City eventually fought back in their game to reclaim top spot.

 

What a difference five months make!

In the final game of the month, County suffered a 2-0 defeat at Forest Green Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy.

After a stunning opening month for the Exiles, Nouble was rewarded for his efforts when winning the League 2 player of the month award - being joint top scorer so far in the division - while Mike Flynn was nominated for the manager of the month award.

 

September – Unbeaten start at Rodney Parade continues

A win in the opening game of the month at pace-setting Exeter City would have seen County themselves ascend into top spot, although a first league defeat instead came, with the home side winning 1-0.

The Exiles weren’t about to let that first league defeat get them down, however, as two fine displays of goalkeeping saw County and Wycombe Wanderers play out a 0-0 draw at Rodney Parade.

Padraig Amond then scored the winner to beat Cheltenham Town amidst difficult wet and windy conditions in South Wales, although when the sun returned in Morecambe, Scot Bennett’s equaliser wasn’t enough as Kevin Ellison’s double gave the home side a 2-1 victory.

County again bounced back to winning ways in their next match, Amond continuing his rich vein of scoring form at Rodney Parade when netting the winner in the 1-0 victory over Grimsby Town.

The Exiles then secured back-to-back victories for the first time in League 2 when travelling to West Sussex, two stunning headers from Mickey Demetriou enough to secure a notable 2-1 away victory.

To end the second month of the campaign, the Exiles suffered a 3-1 defeat at early pace-setters Luton Town. Captain Joss Labadie started a spirited fightback from County in the second-half with a neat finish, although the damage was already done following an imperious first-half display from the Hatters.

 

October – Joe Day breaks a long-standing County record

Yet another goal at Rodney Parade from Padraig Amond and a further strike from Joss Labadie gave County a comfortable 2-0 victory over Yeovil Town to start the month – with a points tally of 21 from the first 12 fixtures the best start to a Football League season since 1982 (Colin Addison’s men picked up 22 points in the same time frame.)

But another statistic that may have gone unnoticed was the fact that Joe Day kept his fourth clean sheet in a row at Rodney Parade. It sounds easy to achieve, but the shot stopper became the first County goalkeeper to keep four successive home clean sheets since 1975 (John Macey kept five in a row back then.)

Just three days following that game, Shawn McCoulsky’s strike wasn’t enough to prevent defeat at the hands of Swansea City U23s in the CheckaTrade Trophy – meaning County suffered their first defeat at Rodney Parade for 206 days.

They certainly responded to that first home defeat, however, as they secured their best away victory of the season with a 4-0 triumph at Forest Green Rovers.

Padraig Amond scored his first goals on the road for County when getting two before half-time, while Scot Bennett and Shawn McCoulsky made it an emphatic scoreline late-on.

That was the first time County had scored four goals away from home since the 4-1 triumph over Bristol Rovers on 24th October 2015 – and it was a scoreline that put County in the play-off positions even at this early stage of the season.

But they were soon to drop out of those top-seven positions, however, as Colchester United became the first team to secure a league victory at Rodney Parade, Shawn McCoulsky’s late consolation not enough to prevent a 2-1 reverse.

More tricky conditions at Rodney Parade in the next game hampered both sides somewhat, although nothing could stop Shawn McCoulsky scoring from the bench for the third successive game as the Exiles drew 1-1 with Mansfield Town.

For the third successive month, County ended on a defeat. This one came at Meadow Lane as Notts County ascended to the top of the League 2 table with a 3-0 victory.

 

November – The Emirates FA Cup Journey begins

Before the start of this season and the incredible run in the Emirates FA Cup, you would have to go back to the 2001/02 season to find the last time County eliminated a higher opposition from the competition (The Exiles were in the Southern League Premier Division when beating Conference outfit Woking 3-1.)

In a season of breaking records, this one can also be added to the list as goals from Frank Nouble and Shawn McCoulsky saw the Exiles to a 2-1 victory against League 1 outfit Walsall in-front of the S4C cameras.

The next match saw County complete their CheckaTrade Trophy exploits with a 2-1 defeat to Cheltenham Town, a game which saw Lamar Reynolds score his first professional goal for the Exiles.

But the main story about that game came as four academy players were given their first-team debuts – Tom Hillman, Evan Press and Lewis Collins all started, while Owen Taylor came off the bench during the match.

Matty Dolan’s first goal for Newport County AFC gave them a 1-1 draw with Port Vale at Rodney Parade, while that soon became back-to-back 1-1 draws as Frank Nouble found the target from a well worked corner tactic at Accrington Stanley.

Brighton loanee Ben White then scored his first ever professional goal when the Exiles returned to Rodney Parade to face Barnet, although the visitors scored twice in added-time to secure their first win in 15 matches.

The Exiles did, however, return to winning ways in the final game of November. Ben Tozer showed no loyalties to his former employers Swindon Town when netting the winner with a bullet header, securing County a first win at the County Ground since 1955 with that goal.

 

December – Positive month of league action and the Emirates FA Cup run continues

For the second month in succession, County started December by securing themselves a spot in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup thanks to Joss Labadie’s double in a 2-0 success over Cambridge United.

A six-goal thriller was then shared with Carlisle United, a game that the Exiles came agonisingly close to winning when Dan Butler almost found the target deep into added time with an emphatic long-range volley.

In the end, a clever lob from Shawn McCoulsky and two stunning free-kicks from Matty Dolan secured the Exiles a point at Rodney Parade, before they again faced Cambridge United – albeit this time it was in the league.

The result – if not the scoreline – was the same as Joss Labadie – or more precisely his right knee – deflected David Forde’s clearance into the net for the most dramatic of late winners after Shawn McCoulsky had earlier scored as part of a 2-1 success.

Mark O’Brien’s second-half red card didn’t hamper the Exiles too much as they played out a 0-0 draw with Lincoln City, although County suffered their first defeat of December on Boxing Day with a 2-0 reverse at Wycombe Wanderers.

Padraig Amond’s looping header at Cheltenham Town saw the Exiles complete 2017 with a point during a 1-1 draw, meaning County headed into 2018 in 11th place in the League 2 table and with a spot in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup.

 

January – The Exiles slay a giant in the Emirates FA Cup

The Exiles had just 48 hours to recover from their exploits in Gloucestershire before welcoming Exeter City to Rodney Parade.

What followed next saw County secure their first win at home against the Grecians since 2nd September 1986 - and produced one of the most bizarre celebrations observed over the course of the season from Robbie Willmott.

Willmott’s winner followed Padraig Amond’s header in a 2-1 success as County started the year with a victory at home – although an altogether tougher task was waiting for them just six days later.

Leeds United came to Rodney Parade looking to complete the cup double over the Exiles, and the Championship outfit looked a sure bet for that when they took an early lead through Gaetano Berardi.

But County embodied the same heart and desire that defined the ‘Great Escape’ and made it through to the fourth round for the first time since 1979 thanks to a Conor Shaughnessy own-goal and a late winner from Shawn McCoulsky.

That winning start to January continued when they secured a 2-1 victory away at Grimsby Town back in League 2, Robbie Willmott and Frank Nouble finding the target at Blundell Park.

The 2-1 scoreline was serving County well … so why not make it four successive victories by that scoreline when Mickey Demetriou and Padraig Amond found the target against Crawley Town.

County’s winning run had to come to an end at some point, however, and that occurred in the next match when Morecambe cancelled out Ben Tozer’s opener in a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade.

The league campaign then had to be put to one side for a week as the Exiles welcomed eight-time winners of the Emirates FA Cup Tottenham Hotspur to Rodney Parade.

Dennis Wise and Rio Ferdinand were the people to thank for setting up that mammoth tie when they conducted the draw live on BT Sport, but could County really cause one of the biggest upsets in cup history?

Well, they were only seven minutes away from doing just that when Padraig Amond’s bullet header gave County a slender advantage at the break in-front of 9,836 fans in South Wales.

Spurs talisman Harry Kane did find the target after 83 minutes – but the Exiles held on from there to secure themselves a lucrative replay at Wembley.

The month ended with a league defeat at play-off chasing Lincoln City, Padraig Amond’s clever finish not enough to stop a 3-1 defeat for the Exiles at Sincil Bank.

 

February – County take 7,200 supporters to Wembley

February didn’t start in the best of fashions for the Exiles, as they suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time under Mike Flynn thanks to a 2-0 reverse at Colchester United.

But the league commitments were again put to one side as County prepared themselves for a third trip to Wembley in just six years for the fourth-round replay against Tottenham Hotspur.

An army of 7,200 supporters followed County to the home of football to see if the Exiles could upset the odds, an away following which is believed to be the highest ever for a Tottenham Hotspur home match.

It wasn’t meant to be for the Exiles on that occasion, however, as a Dan Butler own-goal and another from Erik Lamela saw County miss out on a place in the fifth-round due to a 2-0 defeat.

Back to league action and an Alfie Potter inspired Mansfield Town side secured a 5-0 victory at home, before Newport County AFC ended February with 0-0 draws against Notts County and Port Vale.

 

March – Steady month in League Two for the Exiles

Following the original game being postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, County started March with the rearranged home match against Forest Green Rovers.

It was certainly worth the wait for the two sides to do battle, as Dan Butler and Paul Hayes combined for all of County’s goals in a 3-3 draw against the Nailsworth outfit.

The Exiles then secured their first victory for 10 matches when they saw off Yeovil Town at Huish Park, Josh Sheehan getting his first goal since re-joining the club alongside another for Paul Hayes in the 2-0 triumph.

County then ended the month with three home matches, starting as Josh Sheehan scored again to secure a 1-1 draw with automatic promotion chasing Luton Town.

Mickey Demetriou’s late header wasn’t enough to stop Crewe Alexandra becoming the first side since November to win away at Rodney Parade in a 2-1 success, while County completed the month as Demetriou scored in a 1-1 stalemate with Coventry City.

 

April – Three successive wins to end the home campaign

 

The postponement at Chesterfield on Easter Monday meant County’s run of games at home continued to five matches, although April didn’t start too well for the Exiles as Stevenage secured a 1-0 victory.

But they weren’t going to let that defeat get them down too much, however, as they secured a first home league victory since 19th January with a 2-1 success against Swindon Town.

Ben Tozer scored once again past his former employers alongside a 13th of the season for Padraig Amond, as County gave themselves a faint chance of getting into the League 2 play-offs come the end of the season.

A defeat at Barnet did mathematically end those hopes of a top-seven finish for the Exiles, although a top half finish was still more than achievable for the side.

During last season’s ‘Great Escape,’ one of the key moments came when Ryan Bird ended Accrington’s 15-game unbeaten run with a goal on the hour.

Stanley again came to Rodney Parade having not suffered defeat in that same time frame, while they also knew a point in South Wales would secure them the League 2 title.

That champagne had to put on ice, however, as Padraig Amond and Frank Nouble spoilt that party as the Exiles secured a 2-1 victory and became just the third team in the division to go the whole season without losing to the Lancashire outfit.

County ended the month with another 2-1 scoreline in the final home match of the season to ensure the side won their last three matches at Rodney Parade, goals from Mickey Demetriou and Frank Nouble enough to see off Cambridge United for the third time in the season.

 

May – Top half finish secured for the first time in three years

 

Not as dramatic a month as it was last season, although the Exiles still had aspirations in which to try and achieve with just two fixtures remaining.

That took a slight hit, however, when they suffered a 1-0 defeat at Chesterfield – but finishing the campaign in the top-half was still in their own hands ahead of the final game of the season.    

The long trip to Carlisle United saw Padraig Amond complete the campaign with 15 goals when scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 draw, a result which allowed County to end the campaign with 64 points and in 11th place of the League 2 table.

Don’t miss out on next season’s story as The Journey Continues

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