Newport County AFC will be looking to maintain their spot in the League Two automatic promotion places when they make the relatively short trip to Cheltenham Town on Saturday. The Exiles are unbeaten from previous trips to Gloucestershire, but the Robins have a point to prove as they are the only side in the division without a league victory at home.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter.
Last five results in League Two
After an appalling run of form that saw them in the relegation zone for several weeks, Cheltenham Town have started to pick up some notable results of late and have accumulated five points from the last 15 fifteen available.
They are still yet to win a match in-front of their own supporters this season in League Two, but they head into Saturday's game unbeaten in six matches across all competitions having had success in the Emirates FA Cup during midweek and qualifying from their CheckaTrade Trophy group.
Homing in on their recent League Two form starts on 20th October when they drew 1-1 in the ‘El Glosico’ derby against Gloucestershire rivals Forest Green Rovers. Luke Varney saw his penalty saved but strike-partner Tyrone Barnett was there to follow it up, although Joseph Mills’ second-half header ensured a share of the spoils.
The Robins then suffered back-to-back 2-0 defeats, starting at Oldham as Sam Jones’ red card was punished by goals from Jonathan Benteke and Callum Lang in the second-half from the Latics. In their next fixture, Kurtis Guthrie and Luther James-Wildin both netted in the first half in an away victory for Stevenage.
Cheltenham then almost put an end to this horrible home league record but were cruelly denied in stoppage time by Tyler Walker, son of England International Des, in a 2-2 draw with Mansfield Town. Walker also opened the scoring, but Cheltenham had initially turned things around after goals from ex-Exile Ben Tozer and Will Boyle.
They always say it’s vital to pick up points from teams around you and Cheltenham certainly read that memo as they leapfrogged Notts County out of the relegation zone with a 3-0 away victory against the Magpies. Varney scored either side of half-time to put the Robins in control, with Barnett there late on to add the necessary gloss to a commanding victory against a manager less side.
Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff will put several members of his squad through late fitness tests before deciding his team on Saturday.
Forward Liam McAlinden has been suffering with illness but is likely to return, as are injury concerns Sam Jones and midfielder Jacob Maddox.
Duff said at his pre-match press conference: “Johnny Mullins will hopefully tick all the boxes and be available after his concussion. Jacob Maddox is the other one. He wasn’t available the other night and we are not sure whether he’s going to be available or not.
“We have enough people in the group. Liam McAlinden and Sam Jones will come back in, so we won’t be low on numbers.”
The Cheltenham boss will, however, definitely be missing two members of his squad after he ruled out returns this weekend for defender Sean Long and midfielder Kevin Dawson.
Duff continued: “Longy went in to have a small procedure and he’s rehabilitating from that now. Daws had quite a bad one in the end with his medial ligament so, I am not medic, but I would expect him to be at least another six or seven weeks.”
One to Watch – Luke Varney
Michael Duff’s first signing as Robins boss, Luke Varney was brought into the Gloucestershire outfit to get the goals to fire them away from relegation and he’s currently doing a decent job at that mission.
He has found the net on four occasions from 10 appearances across all competitions, scoring a double on two occasions, with the Robins securing an away victory at Notts County and a home point against Morecambe – a draw that was salvaged by Varney’s heroics in stoppage time.
The 36-year old has played for 10 different league clubs in an 18-year career, including making 30 appearances in the Premier League for Blackpool and scoring the winner at Anfield as part of five goals in the 2010/11 campaign.
If only he was playing for Gloucestershire rivals Forest Green Rovers, however, because his initial pathway into football came through Quorn AFC.
His performances in non-league attracted Crewe Alexandra to make a move for £50,000 in 2003 and although he did experience a relegation with the side, Varney scored 35 goals in 108 appearances across four seasons.
From there, every season excluding now and the Premiership stint with Blackpool, Varney has plied his trade in the Championship but was most potent in the 2009/10 season for Sheffield Wednesday.
Varney has also featured for Charlton Athletic, Derby County, Portsmouth, Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town and Burton Albion in a highly successful career, with the striker looking to reinvigorate his best form alongside good friend Duff at Cheltenham.
Manager – Michael Duff
After an arguably rocky start to life as Cheltenham Town manager, Michael Duff seems to have steadied the ship at the club recently and he will encounter County on the back of six games unbeaten in all competitions and having kept four successive clean sheets.
This has mostly been due to Duff’s brave move to alter the formation implemented by the Robins and County fans will be pleased to hear Ben Tozer has had a massive impact on that when becoming the central figure in the new three at the back system.
He will, however, be hoping it’s sixth time lucky on Saturday as he is yet to taste success in-front of his own supporters in League Two. Duff secured his first league victory away at Notts County last time out – at the 10th time of asking - but now he’ll be hoping for that inaugural home league triumph.
The 40-year old is currently embarking on his first managerial job in the professional game, with Duff’s prior coaching experience coming in the age grades at Burnley.
Having helped the Clarets secure promotion to the Premier League in 2015/16, Duff retired and was instantly put in-charge of the U18s.
A second-place finish in the North-West Youth Alliance saw Duff promoted to the U23s set-up. He also helped with Burnley’s senior team set-up this pre-season, but Duff decided to leave one former club for another to embark on life within professional football management.
Stadium – Jonny Rocks Stadium
One of the closest grounds to Rodney Parade, it is once again expected that County will take a large following to the Jonny Rocks Stadium on Saturday.
Home to one of the narrowest pitches in the Football League, the Gloucestershire venue is also relatively small in stature and has a total capacity of 7,066.
The record attendance is slightly higher than that, however, as 8,326 fans saw Reading defeat the Robins 2-1 in the Emirates FA Cup on 17th November 1956.
On matchday, County supporters will be housed in the Hazlewoods Stand, where up to 1,100 fans can be accommodated behind one of the goals. On occasion, away sides are also given some sections of the Colin Farmer Stand, which runs alongside the pitch.
Saturday’s contest will be the fifth trip to Cheltenham since County’s promotion to the Football League in 2013 and the Exiles will be trying to defend an unbeaten record in Gloucestershire.
On 23rd November 2013, 964 away supporters made the trip for a 0-0 draw, while 1,094 attended on 28th December 2014 as Chris Zebroski’s first-half strike gave County a slender 1-0 victory.
In the ‘Great Escape’ season, 841 County fans were there to witness Janaai Gordon’s dramatic stoppage time equaliser in a 1-1 draw on 4th February 2017, whilst it was another stalemate on 30th December 2017 in-front of 916 away supporters.
Meetings between the two sides in the 2017/18 campaign
County and Cheltenham Town met on three occasions last season and each side was able to pick up a victory alongside a draw.
The Exiles were the first side to get a win and it came in a 1-0 success amidst horrible wet and windy conditions at Rodney Parade on 12th September 2017.
Padraig Amond grabbed County’s match winner in the 35th minute with a trademark finish, the Irishman reacting quickly to Ben White’s goal bound effort to divert it past a helpless Scott Flinders in the away goal.
With County already out of the CheckaTrade Trophy ahead of the final group stage matchday, Mike Flynn elected to hand first team debuts to Evan Press, Tom Hillman, Lewis Collins and Owen Taylor against the Robins on 7th November 2017.
Cheltenham brought a full-strength side to South Wales and that was ultimately enough for them to secure victory – Brian Graham and Harry Pell both scoring inside 11 minutes to put them on their way.
Lamar Reynolds did halve the deficit three minutes after the restart when netting his first ever professional goal with a deft chipped effort, but County couldn’t find an equaliser and ended their group exploits without a single point.
In both clubs’ final game of 2017, the Exiles and Cheltenham played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the LCI Rail Stadium on 30th December 2017.
County took the lead on 55 minutes as Padraig Amond scored for the first time in two months. Mike Flynn described Ben White’s pass as ‘Premier League quality’ and it gave the Irishman the relatively easy task of looping Scott Flinders with a header.
The Exiles couldn’t hold on, however, as Cheltenham striker Mo Eisa continued his fine run of scoring form by smashing into the bottom corner after twisting and turning his way into the penalty area.
Referee: Alan Young
Assistant Referee 1: Hristo Karaivanov
Assistant Referee 2: Simon Shaw
Fourth Official: Abbas Khan
One of the 12 referees promoted to the Football League ahead of this new campaign, Alan Young has presided over 16 matches so far, giving out 60 yellow cards and three red cards, including three on his League Two debut as Crewe dismantled Morecambe on the opening day of the season.
Every game he has refereed this season has included at least one card, with the lowest number coming in as just two yellows on five occasions – including Northampton Town’s victory at Colchester United and Southend’s home success against Walsall.
All three red cards awarded by Young this season have come in League Two, whilst his season high tally of yellow cards sees eight given during Walsall’s away victory at Oxford United.
That follows on from refereeing a total of 26 games during the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Young brandished 90 yellow cards and three red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.
Young has only refereed a match involving Newport County AFC on one previous occasion, but the game was certainly full of drama and suspense.
The date was 21st August 2018 and 2,935 supporters were at Rodney Parade to witness the Exiles secure victory in the most dramatic of circumstances thanks to Jamille Matt’s divine intervention in the 3-2 success over Notts County.
County were made to work for their three points against Kevin Nolan’s side as striker Kane Hemmings initially gave them the lead early on. Fraser Franks’ first goal in an Exiles shirt then another from Mark Harris turned the game on its head, but it looked like the Magpies might steal a point when Kristian Dennis struck with three minutes remaining.
Matt had other ideas, however, and his predatory finish sent Rodney Parade into rapture on a Tuesday night under the lights in South Wales.
During the match, Young awarded 20 fouls and gave out three yellow cards – Tyreeq Bakinson and Josh Sheehan for County alongside Noor Husin for the visitors.
Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs unless stated)
Lincoln City vs Mansfield Town (1pm kick-off)
Cambridge United vs Bury FC
Carlisle United vs Forest Green Rovers
Colchester United vs Exeter City
Crawley Town vs Crewe Alexandra
Macclesfield Town vs Yeovil Town
Morecambe vs Notts County
Northampton Town vs Grimsby Town
Port Vale vs Swindon Town
Stevenage vs MK Dons
Tranmere Rovers vs Oldham Athletic
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.