Newport County AFC will be looking to reignite their push for the League Two play-offs when they travel to Grimsby Town on Saturday. The Exiles head into the game with a bit of confidence having gone the last three matches unbeaten in all competitions, whilst the home side will know a victory will likely see them leapfrog the Exiles in the table.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
Last five matches in League Two
Grimsby Town will hope they have finally stopped the rot after a truly miserable start to League Two football upon the turn of the year in 2019.
The Mariners lost six in a row in August / September during the first of their two blips of this season, and while they arrested the slide this time around after four successive defeats, the concern would have been that they failed to score in any of those matches.
That means Grimsby have only picked up three points from the five matches since moving into 2019, only scoring one league goal in that time, starting on New Year’s Day as Neal Bishop struck early to give Lincolnshire rivals Mansfield Town a slender victory at Blundell Park.
No shame in losing to the high-flyers in League Two but serious questions must surely have been asked when they were compounded to a 2-0 defeat at home against relegation threatened Macclesfield Town. Tyrone Marsh and Scott Wilson both scored in the first-half to give the Silkmen some hope in their battle to avoid the drop.
Two defeats on the road then follow, Harry Toffolo scoring the only goal as Grimsby lost another Lincolnshire derby to Lincoln City, before a heavy 3-0 defeat at play-off hopefuls Forest Green Rovers – the returning Christian Doidge scoring twice alongside Reece Brown.
When County were valiantly securing themselves a replay in the Emirates FA Cup against Middlesbrough, Grimsby were back in League Two action and finally secured a win with a 1-0 victory over MK Dons at Blundell Park. Wes Thomas scored just before the half-hour mark, with the Mariners needing to hold out with ten men following Harry Davis’ red card.
All that leaves Grimsby Town in 15th position – they have been as high as 13th this season – and they trail the play-off positions by 10 points with just 16 matches remaining.
Mariners manager Michael Jolley has several headaches ahead of welcoming County to Blundell Park as he is currently without players through injury and suspension.
Defender Harry Davis starts his three-match suspension having been dismissed last time out against MK Dons, whilst League Two’s player of the month for October, goalkeeper James McKeown, concludes his own suspension for seeing red against rivals Lincoln City.
In terms of injuries, centre-back Danny Collins is a doubt, as is striker Harry Cardwell. Long term absentee – midfielder Elliott Whitehouse – continues to be unavailable with a serious knee injury.
Striker Kristian Dennis – signed on loan on deadline day from Notts County – could come straight in for the Mariners.
Grimsby Town team vs MK Dons (3-5-2): Russell, Davis, Ohman, Grayson (Whitmore 56’), Hendrie, Hessenthaler, Embleton (Wlesh 83’), Woolford, Fox, Cook (Hall-Johnson 67’), Thomas
One to Watch – Elliot Embleton
A highly rated, up and coming teenager, Elliot Embleton is currently undergoing a season long loan deal at the Mariners from League One outfit Sunderland AFC.
The 19-year old has been a mainstay in manager Michael Jolley’s team since penning the loan deal and has four goals from 24 appearances. Those came against Morecambe, MK Dons, Tranmere Rovers and Grimsby Town.
A player who has received rich praise from Sunderland AFC manager Jack Ross since moving to the Lincolnshire outfit, Embleton featured three times last season for the Black Cats as they were relegated from the Championship and has experience of playing in the CheckaTrade Trophy with the U23s.
On an international stage, Embleton has represented England from U17 to U20 level. Most notably, the midfielder starred in the 2017 Toulon Tournament, scoring in the semi-final against Scotland and converting his penalty in the final shootout as the Three Lions defeated Ivory Coast.
In July 2018, Embleton was included in the England U19 squad for the UEFA European U19 Championship and he scored in the inaugural group game against Turkey, but England were eliminated before the knockout stages.
Manager – Michael Jolley
Despite not being everyone’s favourite for the Grimsby Town job when it became available, Michael Jolley has certainly silenced his critics by doing a remarkable job at a club favoured for relegation when he took charge.
He took the hot seat on 2nd March 2018 tasked with keeping the Mariners in the Football League – seemingly an impossible task with Grimsby failing to win any of their last 16 league matches – but Jolley regrouped the players despite some initial poor results to lead them to 18th position.
This season has been an improvement but two spells of significant successive losses in September then again in January see the Mariners languish in 15th position and three points behind County – and the Exiles do have two games in hand.
Overall, Jolley has a 38.3% win-rate as Grimsby Town manager. He has secured 18 wins from his 47 matches in charge, drawing on seven occasions and losing 22 matches.
He’s not the most stereotypical of managers, however. A former fixed-income trader – who worked in London and New York for HSBC – Jolley was Cambridge educated with an MSc in Economics from Downing College and achieved a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Coaching at the University of Stirling.
Whilst working in the world of banking until 2005, Jolley joined Crystal Palace Academy in a coaching capacity and from there, took a similar position with Nottingham Forest, but left after a year for a duel role with Falkirk and Stirling University Football Club.
Jolley joined Burnley in 2014 as Senior Professional Development Coach of the U23 Team, winning the Third Development League Cup final in 2015/16, before first-team manager Sean Dyche recommended him for a stint as manager at Swedish Premier Division side AFC Eskilstuna. Relegation soon followed, however, so he left the club and moved to Grimsby a couple of months later.
Stadium – Blundell Park
One of the oldest stadiums in the Football League, Blundell Park has been the home of Grimsby Town since way back in 1899 and County have certainly made their fair share of visits to the Lincolnshire venue for matches in the past.
Located conveniently just one mile from Cleethorpes train station, Blundell Park has a current capacity of 9,052 inside an all-seater stadium, although higher attendances were observed when there was partial terracing pre-1995.
The record attendance comes in at 31,651 during an FA Cup tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 20 February 1937. All of the ground would have seen their respective sides go into the hat for the next round with a 1-1 draw, although Wolves ultimately went through 6-2 in the replay four days later.
On matchday, County fans will be housed in one corner of the Osmond Stand, behind one of the goals, where 600 of the 2000 seats will be allocated to County fans.
It is a journey Exiles supporters have made on many occasions but only twice in League Two. Robbie Willmott and Frank Nouble scored in a 2-1 victory on 13th January 2018 in-front of 99 away supporters, while 39 went for a midweek fixture on 27th September 2016 where County lost 1-0 thanks to a late Omar Bogle penalty.
In County’s promotion season of 2012/13, there was two trips to Lincolnshire in the space of just four days. 73 away supporters saw a weakened side conclude the Conference season with a 3-0 defeat, although revenge was served in the play-off semi-final thanks to Ismail Yakubu’s late header in-front of 364 travelling supporters.
Last meeting between the two sides
Newport County AFC 1 – 0 Grimsby Town
Saturday 25th August 2018
Newport County AFC maintained their 100% home start to the 2018/19 campaign with a commanding and dominative display in the 1-0 victory over Grimsby Town.
The Exiles controlled proceedings from start to finish – having 20 shots in total – but could only convert one of them into a goal. When it did arrive, however, it was a strike worthy of winning any game in League Two.
Matty Dolan – after ballooning a free-kick over the crossbar just before this one – picked his spot to perfection and curled one over the wall from 25 yards into the far corner that left Grimsby goalkeeper James McKeown motionless in the away goal.
Before that match-winner, McKeown had done well to repel attempts from Dan Butler and Tyler Forbes, whilst Padraig Amond was denied by a last-ditch challenge from Akin Famewo.
In response, Alex Whitmore came closest to anything for Grimsby when seeing a header blocked by Mickey Demetriou on its way through, but the Mariners ended proceedings without registering a shot on Joe Day’s goal.
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Assistant Referee 1: Gary Hilton
Assistant Referee 2: TBC
Fourth Official: Stephen Wade
Backhouse is currently embarking on his second season as a Football League referee having first taken charge of a League Two fixture on the opening day of last season when Jodi Jones scored a hat-trick for Coventry City in their victory over Notts County.
He has refereed 27 games thus far this season, brandishing 78 yellow cards and five red cards, including three yellows on the first day of the season when Gillingham secured an away victory at Accrington Stanley.
Just the one fixture has passed this season without Backhouse needing to go to his pocket and it involved Saturday’s hosts – with the Mariners going down 4-0 at Bury FC on 8th September.
His record number of yellow cards for a single fixture this season stands at seven, a figure he has distributed just once, that coming as Accrington Stanley and Lincoln City played out a 2-2 draw in the CheckaTrade Trophy on 4th December.
That follows on from refereeing a total of 33 games during his debut Football league season of the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Backhouse brandished 102 yellow cards and seven red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.
This is the first time Backhouse has officiated a Newport County AFC fixture.
Other fixtures in League Two that day (All 3pm kick-offs)
Bury FC vs Crawley Town
Cheltenham Town vs Cambridge United
Crewe Alexandra vs Carlisle United
Exeter City vs MK Dons
Mansfield Town vs Macclesfield Town
Northampton Town vs Colchester United
Notts County vs Lincoln City
Oldham Athletic vs Morecambe
Port Vale vs Tranmere Rovers
Stevenage vs Yeovil Town
Swindon Town vs Forest Green Rovers
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 and Damien Footsoy 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.