That Was Utter Sh***!

Match report by ALREET at Rodney Parade

Newport 3 Pools 1 (League 2) Saturday January 28th 2017

Well, if anyone would like a precis and to be spared the gory details, that was utter shite. Having travelled in vain to Newport last season and missing a previous match due to it being switched to a Friday evening because of the rugby, I finally managed to see Pools play at Rodney Parade but would it prove fruitful?

Arriving at the visitor’s entrance, it was heartening to see a trailer selling tickets for the game and that the previously closed metal gate was now open. Approaching, I saw a movement under the gate and caught sight of a very large darkish grey rodent scuttling below it. From my brief glimpse, I initially thought it was probably a squirrel but it’s long, scaly tail identified it as a rat. Allowing for it being a pregnant female, it was still a huge bugger and the first one I have seen in years. The rattus equivalent of “Who ate all the pies”.

I had a chat with the steward at the gate and didn’t see a single Poolie correctly negotiate the ticket reader allowing access to the ground, comforting in no small way as I had spectacularly failed to do so myself. Before I left for my seat, a second, reddish brown rat appeared in front of us before disappearing under the fence. I know creatures can have a variety of colour shades but these two were markedly different from the standard brown rat. I realized the attraction to this particular area as the entrance is situated adjacent to the food outlet.

Chatting to the locals about small clubs and their finances, I was told that Westley had complained about the state of the home pitch. Apparently, it costs County £40,000 p.a. with another £40,000 from a grant and a similar amount due from the rugby clubs although the latter were not vigorously pursued. This reinforced my previously held impression that County very much play second fiddle to rugby.

Taking my seat and staring directly into very bright sunshine, the announcer prior to kick off was giving out various names including one for “six year old ‘x’ who is here today with his twin brother who is six as well”. It brought the only smile of the afternoon.

Newport started proceedings but surprised me by not sporting their traditional amber colours, wearing an all white kit with black trim instead. The pitch looked very boggy and the home team set their stall out early, playing long balls from the back to their eager front men. Needless to say, they won the vast majority of the challenges. They then played a low pass back to their keeper which went out for a Pools corner but it was hit too long and came to nothing.

Bartlett cleared a long pass out for a throw-in before a shot from distance came back for him to catch. Pools put a good move together down their left only for the home keeper to make a save low down. Another attack from the home side was put behind for a corner which was cleared off the line by Hawkins. Harrison missed the ball about twenty yards out but their shot went wide of our right post.

Donnelly was seeing a lot of the ball but it mainly involved him making long, high clearances up the pitch to clear danger down our right. County then had a shot deflected for a corner on our right which was taken by their striker Reid. His long right-footed ball went to our far post where Bird, soaring high as one would expect, outjumped several defenders inside our six yard box before planting a firm header past Bartlett who was stood on his line.
"on reflection, I thought the missing fans were the wise ones"

The County No.2 was playing up against our back four while their keeper was casually roaming around the edge of their box as we were offering nothing. Bird then challenged Donnelly for the ball and elbowed him in the face, directly in front of the ref. but escaped a card. A three man County move ended with a shot deflected out for a corner. Interestingly, when the kick was taken, their attackers all moved away from our goal to be replaced by their large, domineering defenders.

We finally strung a few passes together but the final lobbed shot went harmlessly over their bar. Normal service was resumed but they took too many touches and the ball squirted behind for a goal kick to us. Oates (?) was pulled down and Donnelly took the kick but put too much on it and it sailed harmlessly behind their goal line.

A few spots of rain started to fall accompanied by Pools shouts of “Call it off!”. We got the ball out wide to our left but in keeping with the game, the final shot was well over. The minute of added time passed without incident.

The second half commenced in the same vein with little passing and plenty of aimless high balls. Oates chased a through ball but his effort was blocked. County got in a shot after a turn on the edge of our area but the ball went over. We tried a long ball but their keeper came out of his area to head it away.

Woods, who had hardly got forward all game, was replaced by Smith. They won a corner on our left and once again, it was met by a white shirt around our penalty spot. The ball went on to our six yard line and then on to yet another white shirt who couldn’t miss from just under our bar with hardly a challenge in sight. They continued to win their headers with ease before having a shot saved by Bartlett.

We managed to get the ball up to Alessandra only for him to be challenged by their keeper although he was also flagged offside. At this point, Amond came on for Oates. County forced yet another corner which, for once, we cleared but the ball only dropped to their defender standing outside our box and he cracked a superb left-footed volley on the up which flew past Bartlett and nestled in our net for their third.

The home crowd who probably hadn’t enjoyed such a comfortable lead for ever and a day were now singing, “We want four”. Attempting to satisfy their fans, County chased a long punt down our centre but their snatched right footer from twenty yards cleared the bar. We then had a player blatantly pushed off the ball in the area but the referee allowed play to continue and they won a corner which we fortunately cleared.

Hawkins was replaced by Laurent and the announcer added that there were 103 Poolies among the 2,271 crowd. I thought this a little disappointing considering our impressive win the previous week and the dawn of a new era (???) but on reflection, I thought the missing fans were the wise ones. (I wasn’t aware of any postponement talk until later). Four minutes of added time were announced and the home side survived another penalty appeal for a blatant push.

For once, Pools worked the ball up our left flank and Kavanagh turned inside his man and delivered a teasing right-footed cross behind the home defence to find the lurking Amond who just about managed to get his studs on it to turn it into the net. Well into added time and at last, a nice piece of play by Pools but obviously far too late to affect the outcome.

Bartlett didn’t impress today, being caught on his line for crosses and headers and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Fryer given the nod next Saturday. Both Donnelly and Kavanagh had decent games in the circumstances but although Harrison started quite well, his game fell away while Bates was outmuscled and didn’t play with any authority. In midfield, Woods was very average and was replaced early in the second half as was Hawkins later who, at least, was making an effort but he always seems to get hooked.

Alessandra, who has flitted in and out of games in the past, now doesn’t even flit and has become anonymous. How he or Walker, who was weak and bypassed on a regular basis, stayed on for the full ninety minutes, I haven’t a clue. Featherstone contributed little although the pitch did not suit his style but the word “pedestrian” does not even begin to describe our midfield.

I actually felt sorry for Oates who ran all afternoon without receiving any support whatsoever. That was a dire performance all round. I wouldn’t know whether we were playing hoof ball to instructions due to the state of the pitch but even so, against a team who (politely) specialized in launching the ball and challenging for it, there was only ever going to be one winner. We were weak virtually all over the pitch and were no match for Newport’s direct approach with plenty of elbows.

Pools hardly ventured into the final third of the pitch, treating it instead as if it were Private Property. Man of the Match went to their stocky No.18, Pipe. Reminding me of the actor, Brian Glover, who played the Sports Master in “Kes”, his stocky frame showed us how to provide some strength and effort in midfield although he seemed to be playing wide right of their defence later in the game.

I’m sure that Jones learned a lot today but how much of it was positive, I dread to think. Speaking to a Newport fan on the train back to Paddington, I asked him why they played in white today and he said he had no idea. He mentioned, however, that he thought Westley liked to change things around, adding that they have a decent striker on loan from Swansea but he was only sat on the bench today. He added that Westley never plays the same team twice and next week’s match would see a different set of players at Cheltenham due to their superior pitch.

Apologies for the lack of football content in this report but any football was a scant commodity, I’m afraid.