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Match Previews

PREVIEW | County travel to Merseyside to take on Tranmere Rovers

21 September 2018

Newport County AFC will be looking to return to winning ways when they travel to Tranmere Rovers on Saturday. The Exiles have won their last two matches on the road in League Two so head to Merseyside with confidence, whilst Rovers will want to leapfrog County and ascend into the play-offs with a victory at Prenton Park.

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

Last five results in League Two

 

On their return to the Football League after a three-year absence, Tranmere Rovers have made themselves a tough opposition to beat and have only suffered one defeat all season.

That defensive resilience is highlighted when looking specifically at their last five league results, an unbeaten spell that starts with a 0-0 stalemate at home to promotion favourites Mansfield Town on 21st August.

Another resolute performance was required to keep out Port Vale at Prenton Park just four days later, although on this occasion they were also able to secure all three points thanks to yet another goal from talisman James Norwood.

Despite having that unity defensively, one slight error creeping into their game recently is their inability to hold onto leads when trying to grind out results.

Of course it was Norwood to again strike both times in successive 1-1 draws away at Northampton Town then against Colchester United, but they only amassed two points across the matches thanks to replies from Junior Morias and Harry Pell respectively.

No such problems in their most recent game as they upset the form book by securing their inaugural away victory at a previously unbeaten at home Carlisle United.

The Cumbrians started proceedings well at Boundary Park but after Scott Davies superbly denied Jamie Devitt from the spot, Tranmere picked up all three points thanks to an own goal from Tom Parkes and a wonderful curled attempt from Paul Mullin.

All that sees Tranmere welcome County to Prenton Park in the position just outside the play-offs, and a victory for the Super White Army would see them leapfrog the Exiles in the League Two table.

 

Team-News

Tranmere Rovers manager Micky Mellon will be without several members of his first-team squad when County venture up to Merseyside on Saturday.

That includes two players who are yet to make an appearance so far this season, namely defender Evan Gumbs who has a knee problem and left-back Liam Ridehalgh – the player sent off after 48 seconds in the play-off final last season – as he is another out with a knee injury.

Fellow defender Ritchie Sutton featured in Tranmere’s opening two fixtures but is now missing through a leg injury, whilst it remains unclear if right-back Adam Buxton can return from the start as the club look to ease him back in gently after a double hernia problem.

Striker Franklyn Akammadu returned to training early last week but could miss out once again with a slight groin strain, leaving Mellon with some selection headaches before the weekend.  

Tranmere Rovers team vs Carlisle United (4-4-2): Davies, Bakayogo, Monthe, McNulty (C), Caprice, Jennings, Banks, McCullough, Mottley-Henry (Smith 73’), Stockton (Mullin 70’), Norwood

  

One to Watch – James Norwood

Where Tranmere Rovers would be without talisman James Norwood is an interesting question, but chances are they wouldn’t be in as good a position as they currently find themselves in.

Some quick statistics to show how important the 28-year old is to the side are he has scored 70% of their League Two goals so far this campaign, and alongside Andy Cook last season contributed 59% of the goals with a combined total of 46 between the pair.

Cook has since departed the club for League One outfit Walsall, but Norwood has remained and made an instant impact to life in the Football League when scooping the League Two player of the month award for August.

He has scored seven goals from eight appearances already this season, netting in all bar two League Two fixtures, following strikes against Cheltenham Town, Swindon Town, Port Vale, Northampton Town, Colchester United and a double at Stevenage.

That means he has been directly responsible for accumulating seven of Tranmere’s 13 points to start the season, and all this follows on from Norwood grabbing the winner in the play-off final last season.

Overall, Norwood welcomes County to Prenton Park having scored 67 goals from 135 appearances since joining the Super White Army in the summer of 2015.

Before making the move to Merseyside, Norwood had a slow start to his career when failing to hold down a starting spot at Exeter City and spending time on loan at Sutton United, Eastbourne Borough and Forest Green Rovers.

He joined Rovers on a permanent deal in 2011 and finally found a rhythm to his game. England ‘C’ capped him on seven occasions during the four years he spent in Nailsworth, grabbing 49 goals in the process.

 

Manager – Micky Mellon

After a couple of years in the wilderness, Tranmere Rovers’ significant upturn in form has been directly linked with the appointment of former player Micky Mellon as manager.

Since joining on 6th October 2016, Mellon has led them to the National League play-off final twice, winning at the second attempt against Boreham Wood, and has put the side on the cusps of the League Two play-offs this time around.

Mellon was mightily unlucky not to take Tranmere back into the Football League at the first time of asking and you can be sure that there won’t be many other times that 95 points isn’t enough to secure automatic promotion.

The statistics don’t lie and the 46-year old has an incredible record since taking charge at Prenton Park – winning 54.72% of his 106 games as manager – after 58 wins, 23 draws and 25 defeats.

This is Mellon’s fourth managerial tenure and he’s been remarkably successful in his previous jobs as well.

He holds the accolade of being the first ever full-time manager at Fleetwood Town and he guided them to promotion from the Conference North during his first season in charge thanks to a play-off final victory over Alfreton Town.

An 8-1 play-off semi-final defeat to AFC Wimbledon was followed by another promotion for Mellon, as he led the Cod Army to the Conference title after accumulating an incredible 103 points.

His departure from the club came in ambiguous circumstances, with Mellon sacked four months into the season despite residing in fourth position in their first season in the Football League.

Alongside now Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft, Mellon was quickly placed in caretaker charge of Barnsley and moved to assistant manager when Flitcroft was favoured for the job.

But it was another vague departure when he left the role in March 2014, taking the role as Shrewsbury Town manager two months later.

Mellon took the side back to League One at the first attempt when finishing as runners-up in the division, and during his time with the club he earnt big cup ties against Chelsea and Manchester United.

The 46-year old left the club on 6th October 2016 to take over at Tranmere Rovers on the same day.

 

Stadium – Prenton Park

Potentially a new stadium to be ticked off the list for many Newport Coutny AFC supporters, the side have only ventured up to Prenton Park once since reformation in 1989 – and even that occasion came on a Tuesday night.

It has been an all-seater stadium since 1995 – in response to the requirements set out by the ‘Taylor Report’ – and has an official capacity of 16,587.

Before that conversion from terracing, the stadium obviously had a much bigger capacity and it’s record stands at 24,424 on 5th February 1972 for the 2-2 draw with Stoke City in the FA Cup, a tie Rovers eventually lost in a replay four days later.

Solely a venue used for football, it’s location within Merseyside means it is shared with Liverpool reserves and the Liverpool Women’s team, and was the stadium chosen by the team to host their recent cup game with Manchester United Women.

Two Women’s FA Cup finals have been hosted at the stadium, Millwall Lionesses winning the trophy in 1991 before Doncaster Belles responded to losing that final when succeeding 12 months later against Red Star Southampton.

On matchday, County fans will be housed in the ‘Cowshed’ which can be found behind one of the goals. In theory, around 2,500 supporters could be housed at Prenton Park.

A total of 87 County fans were there last time on 16th September 2014 for a 0-0 stalemate in midweek.

 

Previous meetings

The two sides have met on 24 previous occasions, although only two of those games come after the reformation of Newport County AFC in 1989.

It’s fair to say Tranmere Rovers hold the superior advantage from the prior encounters – winning on 10 of those occasions, alongside six draws and eight victories for County.

The first ever meeting back in Division Three South ended in a comfortable 3-0 victory for the Ironsides on 9th March 1959, and County only suffered one defeat from the first six meetings with the Super White Army.

After sharing results in the mid-1960s, Tranmere took control of the history books when winning four on the bounce between 1966 and 1976, including a 5-1 away victory at Somerton Park on 3rd January 1976.

County won both meetings by a 2-0 scoreline in the 1979/80 campaign – the last time the side overcame Tranmere Rovers – before another two comfortable score lines for Rovers in 1987/88.

Since the reformation, the two other meetings came in the season 2014/15 which saw Rovers relegated to end their 94-year stay in the Football League, although they did achieve two draws with the Exiles during that season.

A 0-0 draw at Prenton Park on 16th September 2014 was swiftly followed by a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade on 10th February 2015 – Mark Byrne scoring a late equaliser to cancel out Rory Donnelly’s opener in first-half stoppage time.

 

Officials

Referee: Carl Boyeson 

Assistant Referee 1: Mark Griffiths

Assistant Referee 2: Steven Rushton

Fourth Official: Richard Wild

One of the more experienced officials at this level, Carl Boyeson is currently embarking on his 17th season as a Football League referee and has spent most of this previous time as high as Championship level.

He has refereed seven matches already this season, none in the second-tier just yet, and has given out a total of 25 yellow cards and zero red cards. 

Six of those yellows came in Boyeson’s first game of the campaign which resulted in a comprehensive 3-0 victory for Doncaster Rovers over Wycombe Wanderers.

Due to his previous experience, Boyeson was tasked with officiating the Lincolnshire derby last month as Grimsby Town and Lincoln City drew at Blundell Park, with three yellow cards distributed in the process.

He gave out as many cards as there were goals during Fleetwood Town’s emphatic 5-0 victory at Scunthorpe, two in Luton’s narrow success over Shrewsbury Town, and another two in Crewe’s victory over Macclesfield Town.

More recently, a season low one yellow card was given out in the CheckaTrade Trophy tie between Rochdale and Bury, whilst his most recent game as referee came on the 8th September as Accrington Stanley and Burton Albion picked up six yellow cards between them in a 1-1 draw at the Wham Stadium.

Last Saturday, Boyeson was 4th official in the Championship as Barry Bannan struck a late free-kick to salvage a draw for Sheffield Wednesday against Stoke City.

That follows on from refereeing a total of 37 games during the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Boyeson brandished 100 yellow cards and ten red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.

 

County Connection

Boyeson has officiated a Newport County AFC match on four previous occasions with all of them coming in League Two. He can be considered one of the luckier omens for the Exiles, as they are currently unbeaten from those previous matches.

He only refereed County once last season but it was arguably the best result of the League Two campaign as the Exiles scored four on the road against Forest Green Rovers on 14th October 2017.

Padraig Amond scored his first away goals in County colours, grabbing the first two of the afternoon, before Scot Bennett and Shawn McCoulsky wrapped up a comfortable victory at the New Lawn. The Exiles picked up three bookings that day – Bennett, Ben White and Joss Labadie the offenders.

Again it was just the one County game for Boyeson in 2016/17 as the Exiles drew 2-2 at home with Cheltenham Town on 10th September 2016. Paul Bignot was the only man booked from either side, as Jon Parkin scored both of County’s goals that day

A hat-trick from Aaron O’Connor saw the Exiles secure a 3-1 away victory against Bury FC on 22nd November 2014. Boyeson produced two yellows on that occasion, both to County, Chris Zebroski and Darren Jones cautioned.

Boyeson’s first County game came on 16th March 2014 and it required a Lee Minshull strike to cancel out Harry Worley’s early own-goal in the 1-1 draw with Exeter City. No bookings were given out during this fixture.

 

Other League Two fixtures that weekend (All 3pm kick-offs)

Bury FC vs Carlisle United

Cambridge United vs Mansfield Town

Crewe Alexandra vs Port Vale

Exeter City vs Cheltenham Town

Forest Green Rovers vs Crawley Town

Lincoln City vs MK Dons

Morecambe vs Macclesfield Town

Northampton Town vs Notts County

Oldham Athletic vs Colchester United

Stevenage vs Grimsby Town

Yeovil Town vs Swindon Town

 

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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