Newport County AFC will be looking to keep their positive League Two form going when they entertain Stevenage at Rodney Parade on Saturday. The Exiles head into the game hoping to eradicate a poor recent history against the Hertfordshire outfit, while the visitors will head to South Wales intent on closing the gap to the automatic promotion places.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
Last five results in League Two
For the second week in succession, County will face the team occupying 5th position in the League Two table after Stevenage capitalised on Forest Green Rovers’ draw with County to leapfrog them inside the play-off spots.
When looking at their most recent five results in the division, it is clear to see that the side embody lots of characteristics required to eventually push for promotion, none more so than the fighting spirit shown during the 3-3 draw at Notts County.
Stevenage had to come from behind on all three occasions during the game at Meadow Lane – Ben Kennedy, Alex Revell and Danny Newton all netting to ensure the away side took a valiant point back with them to Hertfordshire.
They backed that up by implementing another characteristic required for success when grinding out a 1-0 home victory against Grimsby Town. Steve Seddon scored late on to secure all three points after a dominative display at home.
Stevenage then went out on the road for successive away league fixtures – clocking up over 1,000 miles in the process over just four days. The journey was worth it in the first instance, however, as Kennedy struck in the second-half to secure a 1-0 victory away at Carlisle United.
No such success in the next game for the Hertfordshire outfit as their four-game unbeaten run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat away at Exeter City. Dean Moxey’s first-half goal was enough for the Grecians, whilst Luther James-Wildin was dismissed for the away side towards the end.
In their most recent league fixture, Stevenage returned to winning ways with a decisive 3-1 victory over Colchester United. Sammie Szmodics scored after just 86 seconds to put the visitors in-front, but Kurtis Guthrie scored against his former employers to level proceedings. Kennedy and Emmanuel Sonupe then confirmed the victory late on.
Stevenage manager Dino Maamria will have a fully fit squad to choose from after all his players were able to come through last weekend’s victory against Colchester United unscathed.
Defender Luther James-Wildin is a player to put himself back into contention having missed out on that victory through suspension, but he may struggle to fit straight back in after a comprehensive performance against the U’s.
Unlike County, Stevenage were involved in CheckaTrade Trophy action on Tuesday night when they entertained Charlton Athletic. Maamria made nine changes to the side, although it is expected he will revert back to his last league side after the youthful side were thrashed 8-0.
Stevenage team vs Colchester United (4-3-3): Dieng, VanCooten, Cuthbert, Nugent, Seddon, Timlin, Ball (Sonupe 45’), Byrom, Kennedy (Ferry 90’), Revell (C) (Newton 68’), Guthrie
Stevenage team vs Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Appleyard, Iontton, Wilkinson (C), VanCooten, Hunt, Sonupe (Smyth 57’), Makoma, Ball, McKee, Georgiou (Ferry 28’), Newton (Reid 45’)
One to Watch – Ben Kennedy
Stevenage attacker Ben Kennedy is set for his best ever goal scoring season after a scintillating start to this campaign.
The 21-year old has featured in every League Two fixture except one, the victory at Crawley Town in matchday two, and has five goals already this campaign.
A double in the victory over Swansea U21s in the CheckaTrade Trophy set him on his way to a good goal scoring return and has the other three goals from his last five appearances – netting at Notts County, Carlisle United and against Colchester United.
He is over halfway towards beating his previous record and Stevenage are the only club he has featured for as a professional having been picked up whilst playing for Northern Ireland at youth level.
After then impressing Graham Westley with his exploits in the FA Youth Cup, Kennedy was handed his first-team debut on 31st January 2015 as a second-half substitute in the defeat to Oxford United.
It only took two weeks after that for Kennedy to find the target in League Two, grabbing two in a victory at Hartlepool United on 14th February 2015, eventually finishing his debut campaign with four goals from 17 appearances.
An injury-hit season affected his progress in 2015/16 but he starred in the following campaign and set his best goal tally when finding the net on nine occasions from 39 appearances.
Last season was another consistent campaign for a player who is still only 21-years of age and his form so far this campaign suggests it could be a good one for the attacker.
Manager – Dino Maamria
Dino Maamria has to be highly commended for turning Stevenage from mid-table settlers to promotion contenders in the seven months since his appointment.
Despite his rein not exactly starting on the best footing, a 1-0 defeat to Colchester United four days after his appointment, Stevenage have steadied the ship since then and become a form side in League Two.
In total, the Hertfordshire outfit have won 41.7% of his matches in charge – tasting success on 10 occasions, drawing five times and losing the other nine matches.
It is just his fourth managerial position at any level, following short stints at the three previous clubs he has been in charge at.
Maamria won 29% of his 45 matches while with Northwich Victoria in 2008 as a player-manager, while he returned to the managerial scene in 2015 with Southport.
He managed 22 matches at the club before leaving via mutual consent, winning nine of those games, before going on to manage the same number of matches at Nuneaton Town in the National League North.
Some good performances with the club clearly alerted Stevenage and the temptation to manage in the Football League was too hard to turn down when they came calling earlier this year.
Meetings between the two sides in the 2017/18 campaign
Two games of contrasting emotions – and amount of goals scored – as County were unable to defeat Stevenage either home or away in the 2017/18 campaign.
That starts with the first meeting between the two sides on the opening day of the season, although County may have believed the draw felt like a victory having scored in stoppage time to take a share of the spoils.
A defensive mix-up between Scot Bennett and Joe Day gifted Tom Pett the opener on 12 minutes, before Frank Nouble equalised on his County debut with a real poachers’ finish from a corner-kick.
Dale Gorman restored Stevenage’s advantage with a penalty after Bennett was adjudged to have fouled Luke Wilkinson, and Danny Newton put them in command with a clever finish.
Mickey Demetriou’s 30-yard rocket put County in with a chance eight minutes from time, a goal that eventually won the goal of the season award, while Shawn McCoulsky pounced in the area in stoppage time to give County a point.
In the reverse fixture on 7th April, there was a distinct lack of goals compared to the first meeting – and certainly a lot less drama.
After a dominative display away from home, former County assistant manager Dino Maamria made a winning return to South Wales when Chris Whelpdale scored his first of the season to secure all three points.
Crosses into the area were clearly the best route to goal by Stevenage in South Wales and that was how they eventually found the net. Captain Ronnie Henry did well to provide an overlapping run to right-back Joe Martin, before producing another inch-perfect delivery for Whelpdale to head home from close range.
County put up a spirited fightback in the second-half but could never find an equaliser, suffering the final of their four home League Two defeats in the 2017/18 campaign against Boro.
Referee: Keith Stroud
Assistant Referee 1: Marvin Amphlett
Assistant Referee 2: Christopher Wade
Fourth Official: Savvas Yianni
After initial referee Craig Hicks was forced to pull out of this fixture, there has been a late change and Keith Stroud will now take charge of Newport County AFC vs Stevenage.
A highly experienced referee at this level, Stroud has been on the officiating circuit since 2000 and has refereed in every division in the professional English game.
He has refereed on several occasions in the Premier League, with some of the highlights from those matches being Tottenham Hotspur’s 6-4 victory over Reading and Aston Villa’s 6-0 triumph at Derby County - both in the 2007/08 campaign.
Stroud’s first fixture in the Premier League came on 17th March 2007 when he distributed three yellow cards as Manchester City won 2-0 at Middlesbrough.
His most recent game in the top division of English football came on 31st October 2015 as Watford defeated West Ham 2-0. Four yellow cards and a red card for Welshman James Collins were brandished by Stroud.
For whatever reason, Stroud has only refereed two matches so far this campaign. He gave out two yellow cards as Brentford won away at Southend United in the EFL Cup, while just the one caution was handed out as Birmingham City defeated Rotherham United in the Championship.
Due to his standing in the top tiers of officiating, this will be the first time that Stroud has refereed a match involving Newport County AFC.
Other League Two fixtures that weekend (All 3pm Saturday unless stated)
Tranmere Rovers vs Macclesfield Town (7:45pm – Friday)
Mansfield Town vs Grimsby Town (1pm Saturday)
Northampton Town vs Forest Green Rovers (2pm Saturday)
Cambridge United vs MK Dons
Carlisle United vs Morecambe
Cheltenham Town p-p Yeovil Town (Match postponed due to international call-ups for the Glovers)
Colchester United vs Crawley Town
Crewe Alexandra vs Bury FC
Exeter City vs Swindon Town
Notts County p-p Oldham Athletic (Match postponed due to international call-ups for the Latics)
Port Vale vs Lincoln City
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 – as it's the International Break, you can watch the game live by purchasing a match pass here for £10. Commentary by Charlie Brown and Richard Shepherd is also available.
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.