Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Rich Mills
15 February 2017
I kind of like Rodney Parade. I don't love it like I love Kenilworth Road, say or "The BP" but there's a lot to like. I like the walk across the Millennium Bridge from the car parks. I like the way the it seems to have been assembled from other clubs' stadium leftovers; a cricket pavilion here, an open end terrace there. There's a modern-ish stand and what looks like the old green seats from Blundell Park's corners behind a goal.
However, I'm not overly keen on the condition of the pitch but given that the Exiles share the ground with two rugby teams then it's far better than I expected. The pitch itself seems short as the goals are brought in from the ends to allow for the egg-chasers' in goal areas behind the posts.
Before kick off, all talk was of Saturday and what we might do to avoid shipping another hatful of goals and maybe even scoring one or two. The chap behind the bar was cheerful enough and after apologising for the price of a beer showed us a photo of him with his brother – West Ham's James Collins, the "Ginger Pelé." Of course, we'd take a Ginger Pirlo over a Pelé and Marcuses obliged by naming Dizza in his starting XI. He also dropped Osborne, one of the only players to emerge from Saturday's bloodbath with any credit; maybe he'd picked up a knock?
Town began with what might have been a 4–4–2, or maybe 3–5–2/5–3–2 but it was hard to tell, as nobody had the faintest clue what Gunning was meant to be doing, not least the player himself. He may have been playing in the midfield with Jones, Dizza and Bolarinwa but more often than not he seemed to be hanging about in front of Mills, Collins, Pearson and Andrew, marking nobody in particular, challenging for a ball that two of our players had covered already. Asante and Dyson started up front but with no obvious plan for getting the ball to them it could have been anybody.
The match started as it would go on. The ball pinging about like pinball. Nobody had time to put their foot on the ball and nobody looked to make time but as Newport looked truly awful, there looked every chance we might sneak it, once things settled down. When the Exiles failed to score from a free kick in that exact same spot from which every team seems to score against us, I was reminded of the words of a great sage: "If we don't concede in the first two minutes, then Town win away."
Worth the trip, then!
Bolarinwa made a good tackle. I know he did, I was there to see it. Dyson picked up a soft yellow. In fact, apart from Gunning's stupid challenge in the second half, all of our cards were soft or just plain wrong. Yussuf in particular would be right to wonder what he did to deserve his. Maybe ref Busby just needed an excuse to wield his white spray?
Bolarinwa crossed the ball. Maybe we would get something from the game?
We came close as damnit towards the end of the half when Andrew's free kick bounced off the post and was snaffled by keeper Day. A few minutes later a chance from distance, again by Andrew was charged down.
Half time and still all square. We've got this, right?
The biggest surprise of the night came with the restart and Gunning still being on the pitch. With players like Comley and Osborne on the bench it beggars belief to be carrying a passenger and whether that's down to him, his attitude, or being played out of position, it makes no sense to continue if all that's offered is the danger of a free kick conceded in our own half. As he poked a shot corner-flagwards on the hour, Marcuses shuffled his pack .. and subbed Asante and Dyson for Vernon and Yussuf. They were ineffectual, for sure, but that was down to us spraying the ball from deep rather than anything they were doing or not doing. Vernon found himself offside in almost Ross Hannah-esque fashion while Yussuf didn't do much more than pick up a card.
The Town fans yelled, "shit pipe" at Exiles defender David Pipe. He used to be at Forest Green, don't you know? It seemed to fit and kept us all entertained for a good 20 minutes. There wasn't much else happening, bar Gunning's obligatory foul in a dangerous position.
The game petered out with both teams and the officials running down the clock. Maybe there was some agreement to minimise playing time and protect the pitch for the rugby lads? Whatever. It ended and we shrugged. The players huddled and Marcuses beamed with pride.
Okay, the great sage was proved wrong, but we didn't concede. We didn't look like scoring either, but in retrospect a point is a point. But are we settling for mid–table obscurity? Are we happy that the magnificent performance away at Luton in September seems like a lifetime ago?
We need a system and we need a shape and once we have it, we need to keep it. God knows what's happening in the dressing room or on the training pitch but there's summat not quite right.