Newport County AFC will be looking to kickstart their league campaign when they host perennial promotion contenders Exeter City on Saturday. The game marks the start of a run of five out of seven matches coming at Rodney Parade, whilst the away side head to South Wales hoping to move back into the play-off positions.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League Two encounter…
Last five results in League Two
A team still in ‘transition’ according to their manager Matt Taylor, perennial promotion contenders Exeter City – who have lost the last two League Two play-off finals – look like they could contest the showpiece at Wembley again this season if they maintain their form from the festive period.
The Grecians hit a major lull from mid-October – mid-December where they went nearly two months and eight games without a win, picking up just four points in the process, but they have bounced back to accrue ten points from the last 15 available.
One thing that might derail their promotion push is the loss of 16-goal striker Jayden Stockley – who joined Championship side Preston North End earlier in the transfer window for £750,000 – as his hat-trick kick-started this recent revival in a 3-2 away success at Oldham Athletic on 22nd December.
Stockley’s goals have been crucial for Exeter – he accrued them nine points on his own before his departure – and he was at it again on Boxing Day when netting a late winner in a 2-1 home success over Yeovil Town. Glovers defender Tom James had earlier cancelled out Lee Holmes’ opener, but Exeter weren’t to be denied all three points.
They couldn’t make it back-to-back home wins over Christmas, however, as they suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat to Grimsby Town on 29th December. No prizes for guessing Stockley found the net again, but goals from Martyn Woolford and ex-Exile Mitch Rose gave the travelling Mariners victory.
With a move to Preston looming, Stockley was left out of the squad for the away trip to Swindon Town and Exeter proved they could cope without their talisman by securing a 2-0 victory. Jonathan Forte’s penalty and a wonderful strike from Archie Collins ensured the Grecians started 2019 in perfect fashion.
Last Saturday, Exeter were held to a 0-0 draw at St James Park against struggling Morecambe. The point saw the Grecians slip out of the play-offs and down to 8th, but they remain in a strong position because they are out of the top-seven only by goal difference and have a game in hand on some of the teams above them in the League Two table.
After coming through last weekend’s match without any further injuries, Exeter manager Matt Taylor will be hoping to recall some members of his squad for the trip to South Wales.
Defender James Oates has returned to first-team training and should be back in contention for selection, whilst January signing Ryan Bowman is in line for his first start having impressed from the bench last time out.
Exeter will be missing defender Luke Croll who is still a couple of weeks away from fitness after a recurrence of a groin injury, whilst midfielder Hiram Boateng is also out with a hip flexor problem.
Exeter City team vs Morecambe (4-4-2): Pym, Sweeney, O’Shea, Moxey, Woodman, Holmes (Bowman 69’), Taylor (C), Collins, Law, Martin, Forte (Jay 77’)
One to Watch – Jonathan Forte
The man entrusted with carrying the burden of making sure the Grecians don’t miss previous top goal scorer Jayden Stockley, Jonathan Forte had been forming a strong partnership with his fellow attacker but now currently leads the line.
Stockley’s departure means he is now the top scorer at the Devon outfit, scoring eight times from 22 appearances, having netted on debut against Carlisle United, Cambridge United, Cheltenham Town, Swindon Town both home and away, Bristol Rovers and twice against West Ham United U21s.
A summer arrival from fellow League Two outfit Notts County, Forte will forever have his name etched in the history books at St James Park, with his goal against Cheltenham in September coming as Exeter’s 1,000th under fan ownership.
A striker who has scored goals wherever he’s been, the 32-year old has played as high as the Championship for three different clubs – Sheffield United, Scunthorpe United and Southampton – and Forte accrued 10 goals from 114 appearances in the second-tier.
He’s managed to bag double figures for a season twice during his career, his best individual campaign coming in 2014/15 when netting 15 times with Oldham Athletic in League One, whilst he hit 10 for Notts County two years later.
Forte has also spent time on loan at various points with Crawley Town, Preston North End, Doncaster Rovers and Rotherham United.
Manager – Matt Taylor
Tasked with the seemingly impossible job of replacing Paul Tisdale over the summer, ex-Exile Matt Taylor has fitted into management like a hand into a glove and he continues to follow the key beliefs instilled by the club.
Implementing a free-flowing, on the front foot passing style of play, Taylor has reaped the rewards of Tisdale’s longevity in the hotseat in Devon and has the Grecians outside of the play-offs only on goal difference – and they’ve got a game in hand on two of the sides occupying the top seven.
He’s twinned that positive league form with varying success in the cup competitions having been eliminated by higher-tier opposition each time. They fell at the first hurdle in the Emirates FA Cup against Blackpool, whilst they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Fulham then Peterborough United in the CheckaTrade Trophy.
All that means Taylor heads to Rodney Parade with a win percentage of 41.2% from his 34 matches in charge at St James Park. He’s tasted success on 14 occasions, drawn ten times and lost ten matches.
Speaking about a reunion with County, Taylor said: “We go to Newport which will be a different game. They’ll come at us [seeing as they are the home team] which might suit us a little bit more.”
Last meeting between the two sides
Exeter City 1 – 1 Newport County AFC
Saturday 18th August 2018
Newport County AFC secured their first point on the road of the 2018/19 campaign as they fought back to draw 1-1 with promotion favourites Exeter City.
After an encouraging start by the Exiles which saw Jamille Matt denied twice in the opening five minutes, County were initially left to pay for their only mistake in the contest when Exeter talisman Jayden Stockley struck after 21 minutes.
The imposing presence of fellow Grecians attacker Jonathan Forte in the area caused problems for the County defence, allowing Stockley to ghost in behind and guide Jake Taylor’s free-kick into the far corner.
After the restart, the home side had a couple of opportunities to put the result beyond question, but they couldn’t put the Exiles away. Joe Day didn’t know too much about it when Stockley powered a header straight at his face, whilst substitute Nicky Law hit the crossbar with a curling effort.
Day’s heroics again kept County in the contest with ten minutes remaining, the shot stopper seeing a Dean Moxey effort first ricochet off himself and then the post, before he was able to punch clear of the danger zone.
That slender lead was always going to cause nerves in the home side and the Exiles capitalised with seven minutes remaining when grabbing a point. Mark Harris had the desired effect when coming off the bench, getting the better of a collision with Troy Brown before calmly slotting past Christy Pym for his first goal in professional football.
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Assistant Referee 1: Steven Plane
Assistant Referee 2: Joe Clark
Fourth Official: Craig Taylor
Breakspear is currently embarking on his sixth season as a Football League referee having officiated his first match in League Two on the opening day of the 2013/14 campaign when York City started the campaign off in perfect fashion having secured a 1-0 victory over Northampton Town.
He has refereed 30 matches so far this season, giving out 101 yellow cards and ten red cards, including brandishing two yellows and a red in his inaugural fixture as Stevenage and Tranmere Rovers drew 2-2 at the Lamex Stadium.
Two matches have been officiated this season by Breakspear without a single booking being awarded – the EFL Cup draw between Millwall and Gillingham which the Championship side won on penalties, alongside the draw between Portsmouth and Shrewsbury Town in League Two.
Breakspear has given out more than one red card during a fixture just once this season and that match came in League Two. Josh Payne was sent off for Crawley Town, as were James Dunne and Toumani Diagouraga for Swindon Town, when the sides drew 2-2 at Broadfield Stadium.
That follows on from refereeing a total of 47 games during the 2017/18 campaign, a season in which Breakspear brandished 163 yellow cards and 18 red cards throughout the entirety of the campaign.
Breakspear has refereed a match involving Newport County AFC on 14 previous occasions. He is not the luckiest of omens for the Exiles, however, as they have won only three of those previous matches – drawing another five and losing the remaining six.
He has already refereed County on one occasion this season. That came on 20th October 2018 as the Exiles struggled in West Sussex and lost 4-1 at Crawley Town. Fraser Franks was dismissed in the second-half and Dan Butler was cautioned.
Last season, Breakspear refereed three matches involving County, starting with the 1-1 home draw with Mansfield Town on 21st October 2017. Only Dan Butler was cautioned from a County perspective.
There were red cards brandished in the other two games that season, captain Joss Labadie getting dismissed alongside bookings for Mickey Demetriou, Frank Nouble and Shawn McCoulsky in the 2-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers on Boxing Day 2017.
Swindon Town’s Rollin Menayese was then dismissed for a second bookable offence as County beat the Robins 2-1 at Rodney Parade on 14th April 2018.
In the 2016/17 campaign, another three County matches were officiated by Breakspear, the first of which saw Luton Town convert both penalties in their 2-1 victory at Kenilworth Road. The Exiles received six bookings - Dan Butler, Darren Jones, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Mark Randall, Ben Tozer and Jon Parkin the offenders.
He again refereed County on Boxing Day but they again suffered defeat as Portsmouth fought from two goals behind to win 3-2 at Rodney Parade. Bookings for Jazzi Barnum Bobb, Ben Tozer and Rhys Healey.
Breakspear refereed both County games against Luton that season and the teams played out a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade on 21st March 2017. Mark O’Brien was sent off for two bookable offences, whilst Tom Owen-Evans, Joss Labadie, David Pipe and Sean Rigg received yellows.
In the 2015/16 season, Breakspear only refereed one game and it was arguably the biggest of the campaign in the Emirates FA Cup tie with Blackburn Rovers on 18th January 2016. Both sides received a red card, Joe Day for County and Chris Brown for Blackburn, alongside a further booking for Connor Dymond.
Again it was just the one game officiated by Breakspear in 2014/15, but it wasn’t the greatest affair as the Exiles drew 0-0 at Plymouth Argyle. Ismail Yakubu and Andy Sandell were both booked on 21st March 2015.
In County’s first season back in the Football League, Breakspear again refereed one game but it didn’t go to plan as Dagenham & Redbridge won 2-1 at Rodney Parade. David Pipe was sent off, with further bookings for Lee Minshull and Tom Naylor on 19th March 2014.
In County’s non-league days, Breakspear officiated another four fixtures and they all came during the 2012/13 promotion season, starting with the 0-0 draw with Stockport County on 8th September 2012.
Ismail Yakubu was booked as County beat Mansfield Town 2-0 on 12th February 2013, Tony James and Michael Flynn were cautioned in a 1-1 draw at Ebbsfleet Town on 9th March 2013, while no yellows were given as Braintree Town were overcome 1-0 on 9th April 2013.
Other League Two fixtures that day (All 3pm kick-offs unless stated)
Lincoln City vs Grimsby Town
Cambridge United vs Northampton Town
Carlisle United vs Cheltenham Town
Colchester United vs Mansfield Town
Crawley Town vs Port Vale
Forest Green Rovers vs Bury FC
Macclesfield Town vs Oldham Athletic
MK Dons vs Crewe Alexandra
Morecambe vs Stevenage
Tranmere Rovers vs Swindon Town
Yeovil Town vs Notts County
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 – if you reside outside of the UK, you can watch the game live by subscribing to County’s iFollow service. Commentary by Charlie Brown and Richard Shepherd 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 #iFollowExiles.