ewport County produced another hard-working display, in which they created enough chances to win two football matches but their ultimate inefficiency in front of goal meant that a late Chuks Aneke goal would prove to be enough to take all three points back to Milton Keynes. The home side, remarkably, hit the woodowork four times in their losing effort.
Mike Flynn admitted in his programme notes that the Manchester City game is at the back of his mind but wanted the side to push on from Saturday’s well-earned victory against Mansfield Town. There were two changes from that game; Fraser Franks and Ben Kennedy came in for Mark O’Brien and Joss Labadie, who was out of the squad entirely.
The first ten minutes saw little more than half chances for either side; Mickey Demetriou and Alex Gilbey trading low shots from distance in which both goalkeepers got down well to make the saves. Tyreeq Bakinson has found form recently and worked himself into a good position on the corner of the box; his vociferous strike was beaten away strongly by Stuart Moore in the Dons’ goal. Moments later, he looked to turn provider as he recycled the ball brilliantly at the back post, standing up a delicious ball into the centre where he found an unmarked Fraser Franks; the returning centre-half could only head over from point blank range. It was the first real clear-cut opportunity and one that should’ve been taken.
As the first 45 drew to a close, the game began to open up a bit more and saw guilt-edge chances at either end. First up was David Wheeler for the Dons. A defensive line without the extra solidity of Mark O’Brien failed to clear an aerial ball and after some pinball, Wheeler was in on goals. His shot on the turn, however, flew harmlessly wide as the entire crowd wondered how the net wasn’t rippling. A let off for County which should’ve been punished minutes later. A Robbie Willmott delivery from the right was right on the money and found Jamille Matt in the centre of the goal but his glancing header landed harmlessly wide of the target…yet another case of “nearly.”
After an initially scrappy start to the second half, Tyreeq Bakinson found himself in enough space to run 40 yards with the ball unopposed and was invited to shoot from the edge of the box. Unbelievably, the crossbar would deny him. Even more unbelievably, Fraser Franks would find his header at the back post…that’s right, hitting the woodwork from close range. Three times in less than 55 minutes, the upright came to the Dons’ rescue. The fourth time was from a Padraig Amond header after he got on the end of a pinpoint Willmott cross…absolutely unreal.
Bang on the hour-mark, Joe Day proved why he’s one of the best as he tipped a firm low shot from Connor McGrandles round the post. Fairly elementary, you may think; but take into account his weight was moving away from the shot, and it becomes an absolute world class piece of goalkeeping.
Dare it be said, one that the late Gordon Banks would have been proud of.
So the Dons goal certainly led a charmed life. And decision were certainly questionable all over the field. But what was to come with just two minutes of normal time left would prove the most heartbreaking piece of action of the entire game. Out of nothing, the Dons broke down the right hand side and while Joe Day did brilliantly yet again to keep out Agard’s effort, he was powerless to prevent Chuks Aneke tapping in from close range for what would prove to be the winner.
Extremely harsh on County but it has to be said that it’s all well and good creating chances, and you can’t account for the woodwork getting involved as often as it did, but you have to be clinical if you’re going to win matches. Manchester City next; oh if only they can create as much against the Premier League champions…
Man of the Match: Regan Poole
Player Ratings: Day 7, Butler 7, Franks 5 Willmott 7, Amond 6 (Marsh-Brown 5), Matt 6, Bakinson 7, Bennett 6, Kennedy 5 (Dolan 5), Poole 7, Demetriou 7
Attendance: 2,816 (140 away)