critical week of fixtures for Newport County began with a 0-0 stalemate at home to promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers. The result leaves them 13th in the table, still 6 points from the play-off places with the game in hand against Swindon to come on Tuesday night.
Following his brilliant contribution to the effort away at Yeovil last time out, Keanu Marsh-Brown was rewarded with a starting berth, replacing Harry McKirdy while fit-again top scorer Padraig Amond found himself on the bench.
For all the endeavour of the early stages, the game took a little while to properly get going. That was until the quarter-hour mark when a corner from the Tranmere right was whipped in and Mark Ellis’ header rattled the crossbar. Rovers had created very little up to that point but that was very much a warning shot across County’s bow.
While it was never followed up with anything of note in the first period, nor was it answered in kind by County. They worked some good areas down both flanks but a feisty first 45 minutes was brought to a close with very little troubling either goalkeeper.
After an initially poor start to the half, County finally forced a save from Rovers’ captain Scott Davies. Corners have proved a good source of success this season, mostly through well worked routines from the minds of the coaching staff. But on this occasion, it was a straight ball into the box which found Jamille Matt but he couldn’t find sufficient power to beat the visiting goalkeeper.
Joe Day has been incredible for County this season, but he almost gifted Tranmere a goal when his handling let him down and was forced to chase James Norwood out of the box himself. League Two’s top scorer was able to swivel and get a shot over the retreating Day but Mickey Demetriou filled in for him to see the ball out for a corner.
For all the industry on show, it took until the 88th minute for action of any note, and it almost brought the winner. After yet more chaos in the Rovers box, Joss Labadie finally hit the net but the offside flag had been raised, seemingly against Padraig Amond previously in the build-up. The rapturous fans, frustrated by a series of poor refereeing decisions, voiced their displeasure but in truth, the draw was arguably the fairest result.
So the defences were very much on top in this one; Mickey Demetriou will have found James Norwood in his back pocket when he got home on Saturday night, such was his performance. The referee will be on no County fans’ Christmas card list this year after a performance which allowed no flow to the game whatsoever but the home support can be buoyed by the fact that they’ve picked up a point on genuine promotion challengers and haven’t lost any further ground on the top seven. Tuesday night against Swindon is now massive. See you there!
Man of the Match: Jamille Matt
Player Ratings: Day 6, Butler 6, Labadie 6, Willmott 7, Marsh-Brown 6 (Azeez 6), Matt 7, Sheehan 6, Kennedy 6 (Dolan 6) , O’Brien 7, Poole 7, Demetriou 7
Attendance: 3,970 (670 away)