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PREVIEW | County head North to take on Oldham Athletic

7 September 2018

Newport County AFC will be looking to secure back-to-back away victories in League Two for the first time since December when they travel to Oldham Athletic on Saturday. The Exiles can take confidence from the victory at Vale Park last time out – a result that left them in second place – whilst the home side will be hoping to leapfrog County with a win at Boundary Park.

Here, find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter.

How they’ve fared so far in League Two

Despite being the least fancied of the four teams relegated from League One last season to secure an immediate return, Oldham Athletic are currently defying those betting odds after a solid start to the 2018/19 campaign.

They currently sit in sixth position of the League Two table having accrued 11 points from their opening six fixtures – meaning they have started second best out of the relegated sides and only trail behind MK Dons in that department.

Oldham didn’t have the best of starts to the season in spite of their current league position, however, and suffered a 2-1 defeat on the opening day coincidentally to the Dons. Kieran Agard’s penalty and Ryan Harley’s clever finish ensured Paul Tisdale started his managerial tenure with victory, whilst the Latics got their goal on the day through Daniel Gardner.

The defeat didn’t put off the fans of the Greater Manchester outfit as 844 travelled for the first away game of the season during the 1-1 draw at Forest Green Rovers. Gardner scored again for the Latics, this time from the penalty spot, cancelling out Reuben Reid’s early opener.

A first league victory finally came when they dispatched of newly-promoted Macclesfield Town 3-1 at Boundary Park. Sam Surridge and Johan Branger but the Latics in cruise control, although a tense finale was setup by Michael Rose’s emphatic free-kick. Those fears were put to bed in stoppage time, however, as Ishmael Miller secured all three points.

Oldham failed to score for the first time this season when they travelled to Yeovil Town. They still managed to secure a point at Huish Park after holding the home side, going three unbeaten thanks to the 0-0 draw.

That result put the Latics in 13th position but they have gradually worked their way up the League Two table since then having secured back-to-back victories.

Struggling Morecambe were the next side to be seen off by Oldham, with the Latics securing their first away success in any competition with a comfortable 2-0 victory. Chris O’Grady and Gevaro Nepomuceno both found the target in the first-half.

In their most recent league match, the Latics took advantage of Harry Kewell’s departure from Crawley Town to defeat the manager-less Red Devils 2-1 at Boundary Park. It was certainly a dramatic contest as Sam Surridge headed home in injury time to secure the victory, that coming after Nepomuceno and Dan Bulman had exchanged goals, alongside a missed penalty from Crawley’s Ollie Palmer.

 

Team-News

Oldham Athletic will be missing several key players for County’s trip to Boundary Park through a host of different reasons.

The most notable absentee this weekend will probably be Daniel Iversen, who has been first-choice goalkeeper for the Latics to start the season. The Leicester City loanee has been called up to the Danish U21 side and will likely be replaced by Zeus De La Paz, who started in midweek.

Midfielder Gevaro Nepomuceno has also received an international call up from his national side and will fly out to Curacao to face Grenada in the CONCACAF Nations League.

In terms of injuries, defender Cameron Dummigan is expected to miss the tie with a hamstring injury. The 22-year old is closing in on a return following a prolonged absence but he will be eased back in.

There are still question marks over the availability of Ishmael Miller. The striker has missed the last few games with a hamstring complaint and was not involved in the CheckaTrade Trophy in midweek.

In total, manager Frankie Bunn made seven changes to the side for that clash with Barnsley from the last league game against Crawley. It is therefore expected that the side will revert back to the league line-up, excluding the pair involved on international duty.

Oldham team vs Crawley Town (4-4-2): Iversen, Graham (Haymer 79’), Clarke (C), Edmundson, Hunt, Branger, Gardner, Missilou (Surridge 59’), Nepomuceno, O’Grady (Lang 66’), Baxter

Oldham team vs Barnsley (4-4-2): De La Paz, Haymer, Edmundson, Graham, Taylor (C), Lang (Gardner 74’), Maouche, Missilou (Baxter 58’), Branger, Benteke, Surridge (O’Grady 61’)

 

One to Watch – Dan Gardner

After a relatively below-par debut campaign for the Latics, Dan Gardner has certainly hit the ground running this time around and has been a mainstay in the Oldham team so far in league matches.

The midfielder – who can also play as a striker when required – has found the net on two occasions in League Two, a stunning 20-yard strike on the opening day against MK Dons and a penalty against Forest Green Rovers in the next game.

That is already double the amount of goals he scored last season for the Latics, as he could only find the net at home against Peterborough United from his 49 appearances, suffering his second relegation in the process.

The 28-year old started his career when playing in the academy at college, instantly attracting the attention of Scottish giants Celtic. After impressing in a youth-game against arch-rivals Rangers, Gardner was handed a three-year professional contract.

However, the Scottish hierarchy decided to scrap the reserve league shortly after and that effectively left the midfielder surplus to requirements, so he moved to Flixton in the Vodkat Premier Division.

Trials soon came coincidentally at Oldham then Crewe Alexandra, signing with the latter in 2010 but only making two substitute appearances in League Two before being released later that season.

Gardner spent the next four seasons in the non-league, playing the first two of those at Droylsden, a club where he managed to score 18 goals in the second season.

That saw him move to FC Halifax Town and two glittering seasons at the club saw them promoted from the National League North before a steady season in the top-tier of non-league football.

The midfielder then moved to Chesterfield at the start of the 2013/14 season and in his debut campaign, helped the club achieve promotion into League One. Loan spells with Bury and Tranmere Rovers followed in the subsequent seasons, with Gardner leaving the Spireites after their relegation back to the fourth-tier in 2017.

 

Manager – Frankie Bunn

Entrusted with masterminding an instant return to League One at Oldham Athletic, manager Frankie Bunn has certainly taken to the task at hand and started on the correct footing.

Over the summer, the 55-year old completely rebuilt his playing squad and ventured as far as France when bringing in 12 fresh faces at Boundary Park, replacing the 17 players he allowed to leave the club.

Despite an early exit from the Carabao Cup and defeat in their opening CheckaTrade Trophy group match, the Latics have made a good start to the campaign in League Two. That leaves Bunn with a win percentage of 37.5% at Oldham, following three wins in his opening eight games at the club.

It is realistically his first managerial position of any note, although he did have a temporary stint as caretaker manager of Coventry City in 2008. The Sky Blues failed to win either of his games in charge, with Bunn returning to his role as first-team coach upon the appointment of Chris Coleman.

He has spent the majority of his time within football as a coach after his playing career was cruelly cut short through injury in 1990.

Bunn played for Luton Town, Hull City and Oldham Athletic across those ten years, finding the net on 58 occasions from his 232 competitive appearances.

His most famous moment as a player came on 25th October 1989, when he scored six goals in Oldham's    7–0 victory over Scarborough in the Third Round of the League Cup, which is still the League Cup record for most goals by a player in a single match.

Following his retirement, Bunn began his coaching career at Wigan Athletic before joining Manchester City as reserve team coach in 1998. The spell with Coventry then follows, while Bunn had similar roles with Rochdale and Huddersfield before being afforded a managerial opportunity at Oldham.

 

Stadium – Boundary Park

Probably a new stadium to be ticked off the list for many Newport County AFC supporters, the side have only ventured up to Boundary Park on four previous occasions – and not for 37 years.

It has been an all-seater stadium since the 1994-95 campaign – coinciding with Oldham’s relegation from the Premier League the previous year – and has an official capacity of 13,512.

Before that conversion from terracing, the stadium obviously had a much bigger capacity and it’s record stands at 47,671 on 25th January 1930 during the 4-3 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup.

The highest ever league attendance was also set that same season, although it was another defeat for the Boundary Park faithful to witness – a 2-1 reverse to Blackpool on 21st April 1930 in League Division Two.

Also in past history, Oldham RLFC – a rugby-league side – shared the ground on two occasions. The Roughyeds were tenants between 1997 – 2001 and again from 2003, but ultimately left the stadium for pastures new in 2009. 

Boundary Park also holds acclaim to being one of the highest stadiums in the Football League. It is third for that statistic at 509 feet above sea level, only trailing the Hawthorns at 551 feet and Vale Park at 525 feet.

It is also anecdotally known as the coldest stadium in the Football League, attracting that nickname from former manager Joe Royle.

On matchday, travelling County supporters will be housed behind one of the goals. In theory, around 3,750 fans could be accommodated at Boundary Park.

 

Previous Meetings

Interestingly, the two sides have only previously met on eight previous occasions, with all of them coming prior to the reformation of County in 1989.

It’s fair to say that the Latics hold the advantage over the Ironsides from those previous meetings – winning on five of those occasions, alongside two draws and just one County victory.

The first ever meeting in the Fourth Division ended in a 0-0 draw on 20th August 1962, before Oldham secured back-to-back victories by score lines of 3-2 and 3-0 on 19th August 1962 and 16th August 1969 respectively.

The sole win for the Ironsides came on 6th October 1969 – goals from Albert Derrick Jnr and Ray Mabbutt enough for a 2-1 home victory at Somerton Park.

Since that County victory, the two sides have only met on two other occasions in the Football League – those coming during the 1970/71 season.

It was two comprehensive victories for Oldham, however, as they put four past County on both occasions – 4-1 on 12th September 1970 and 4-0 on 12th December 1970.

That just leaves the time when County and Oldham met in the League Cup back in 1981 – when the competition was a two-legged affair in the early rounds.

Oldham eventually won through to the Third Round by an aggregate scoreline of 1-0 – getting the goal at Boundary Park on 6th October 1981 before a stalemate in South Wales three weeks later.

 

Officials

Referee: Mark Heywood

Assistant Referee 1: Alix Pashley

Assistant Referee 2: Declan Ford

Fourth Official: Ben Toner

Heywood is currently embarking on his 8th full season as a Football League referee having officiated his first game in League 2 on 6th August 2011 as Aldershot started the season off in the perfect manner by securing a 2-1 victory away at Bradford City.

He has refereed five games so far this season, giving out an unprecedented 25 yellow cards and two red cards, including three cautions on the opening day as Joey Barton started his managerial career at Fleetwood Town in defeat against AFC Wimbledon.

Only one League Two game has been presided over by Heywood before County’s trip to Oldham, that coming as Morecambe secured their only victory of the season against Northampton Town.

Last Saturday, he officiated Sunderland’s home draw with Oxford United in League One – with the other two games coming as Wycombe Wanderers won at Bradford City and Blackpool defeated Barnsley in the Carabao Cup.  

That follows on from refereeing a total of 31 games during the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Heywood brandished 123 yellow cards and three red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.

 

County Connection

Heywood has officiated a match involving Newport County AFC on eleven previous occasions. He is certainly not the luckiest of omens for the Exiles, however, as the side have only managed to win one of those previous matches – losing on seven occasions and drawing three times.

He officiated County twice last season, starting with the 3-1 defeat at Luton Town on 30th September 2017. Captain Joss Labadie grabbed a consolation in the second-half, although Luton had already secured the points following a free-kick from Alan Sheehan and a double from Danny Hylton in the opening 45 minutes. Mark O’Brien and Ben White were both booked.

Heywood also officiated the concluding game of the season as Padraig Amond’s header secured a 1-1 draw at Carlisle United. Just the one booking this time around, Robbie Willmott the offender.

Three matches were refereed by Heywood in the 2016/17 season, starting with the comprehensive 4-1 defeat at Blackpool on 26th November 2016. Rhys Healey scored for County at Bloomfield Road, whilst Jack Jebb, Josh Sheehan, Darren Jones and Mark Randall were booked.

Next comes another defeat for the Exiles, this one the 3-2 reverse at Cambridge United on 18th February 2017.

Ryan Bird’s double had seemingly put the Exiles in cruise control at the Abbey Stadium, only for Barry Corr and Leon Legge to level proceedings. George Maris then saw his spot-kick saved in added time, only for Mark Roberts to bundle the ball home and steal the three points.

Mitch Rose was sent off in the build-up to that late penalty, while Bird and Mickey Demetriou were both cautioned by Heywood.

The final County game officiated by Heywood that season came on 22nd April 2017 as the Exiles halted Accrington Stanley’s 15-game unbeaten run with a 1-0 victory at Rodney Parade. Ryan Bird scored to give County another vital three-point haul in the latter stages of the ‘Great Escape,’ while Mark O’Brien, Tom Owen-Evans and Sean Rigg were all booked.

During the 2015/16 campaign, Heywood was the man in the middle for two County matches, starting with the 0-0 stalemate with Yeovil Town on 21st November 2015. No bookings were awarded from that encounter with the Glovers.

The other game that season fell on 20th February 2016 as Scott Boden’s late header cancelled out an earlier effort from Jordan Tillson in the 1-1 draw at Exeter City. Two yellow cards were awarded to County players on that occasion – Dean Morgan and Andrew Hughes the offenders.

In the 2014/15 season, it took until the final day of the season for Heywood to officiate a match involving County – that coming on 2nd May 2015 during the 1-0 home defeat to Oxford United. Interestingly, Mike Flynn was sent off in that game alongside further bookings for Miles Storey and Mark Byrne.

Two County matches were presided over by Heywood in their first season back in the Football League – including the 3-1 defeat to Northampton Town on 10th August 2013. No bookings.

Heywood also covered the 4-2 FA Cup defeat to Kidderminster Harriers on 7th December 2013. Deji Oshilaja was the only player booked as Robbie Willmott scored twice.

That just leaves the only other County match officiated by Heywood – again coming in a clash with Kidderminster Harriers on 8th December 2012. An all-headed hat-trick from Jamille Matt was enough for the Harriers to secure a 3-2 home victory, while the County goals came courtesy of Michael Smith and Lee Evans.

 

Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs unless stated)

Bury FC vs Grimsby Town

Cambridge United vs Carlisle United

Crewe Alexandra p-p Mansfield Town (Match postponed due to Mansfield having three players selected for international duty)

Exeter City vs Notts County

Forest Green Rovers vs Port Vale

Lincoln City vs Crawley Town

Morecambe vs Swindon Town

Northampton Town vs Cheltenham Town

Stevenage vs Macclesfield Town

Tranmere Rovers vs Colchester United

Yeovil Town p-p MK Dons (Match postponed due to Yeovil having three players selected for international duty)

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.

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