Fan’s View 18/19 – no.8 – Carabao Cup Rd 2

Article by Paul Beasley

CARABAO CUP SECOND ROUND

The forgotten game and the game that never existed

With so much focus on the long trek to the North East this coming weekend, this trip to Wales had been rather overlooked. For me it had a great deal of importance. It’s not good for morale to lose to an outfit from a lower division at the best of times and we’re in real need of putting a decent run together, irrespective of what competition the games are in, to help repair the damage done in those opening four league games.

Whenever a team wins a cup game I’ve always said its pointless fans posting who they would like to draw in the next round. Que sera sera. In similar fashion I’m not inclined to make much comment at the time a draw is made on the opponents we have actually been allocated. It is what it is and we have no choice in the matter. This is just as well really because I would have looked a right tit if I had done so on this occasion. I listened to the draw on Talksport. That is what it says on the label, talking. A couple of presenters / pundits were chuntering away and I got thrown off track. When Newport were announced I thought they’d been drawn away to the previous name shouted out, Palace. Which meant next up would be at home.  That was us. Followed by Bournemouth. Not a bad draw at all I thought.

Hours later I discovered the grim reality. I’ve recently posted that it is possible to make the most of any away trip with a few beers and good company. I do have to admit that Newport is a challenge in this regard.

They were also going to be a challenge on the pitch. Fourth in L2 putting them only seven league positions behind us, if you believe in that sort of thing. They’d won all three home games although the quality of the opposition has been questionable.

Trip to Wales

I’ve got nothing against Wales but as a matter of principle don’t think anyone should have to pay to enter the country. Hence our route into Newport took nearly three bloody hours but we were still parked up not far from the ground just before six o’clock. That left nearly an hour and a half for pubbing it.

Previous visits here have been disappointing beer wise but the 2018 Good Beer Guide lists three pubs within 100 yards of each other on the High Street. They were better than nothing but emphasise the fact that in some areas the standard required to get into the GBG is quite a bit lower than others. The first two establishments were decent enough but the beer could have been better. McCann’s Rock ‘n’ Ale Bar only had two real ales on but obviously has live and loud stuff going on from time to time. By contrast the Olde Murenger House, a Sam Smith’s pub is not set up for obtrusive noise. Prices were cheap in both so that was a bonus. The Tiny Rebel was much more expensive but beer choice and quality way better than the first two. It was done out in a style not dissimilar to a Brew Dog bar. That’s the one I’d probably head for if we return any time soon.

In one of these bars we got talking about end of season awards at a particular walking football team’s Christmas meal. I expressed the view that I can’t get too excited about such things as football in all guises is a team game. We then got talking about clubman of the year. I then said yes, awarded to the bloke who is pretty crap but will turn up week in week out. Only gets a game if no-one else is available or if his side is 10-0 up with five minutes to go and they can afford to bring him on without risk to the result. The guy who will mark the pitch out. Take the nets down. Bring the corner flags. All for the love of the game. I was also thinking about the lad carrying a bit more weight than the others, but tries hard to little effect, who gets a bit of game time for a boys team because it’s not right to upset anyone.

My mate then pipes up, “I’ll go home and burn my trophy then”. “What you’ve won a club man of the year award?” “Yes, Bicester United 1973/74” (I think I’ve got the year right).

Whoops, no offence meant to any clubmen of the year anywhere. You, dear friends, are the backbone of grass roots football. I salute you.

Former clubman of the year

Game won with a lightning start (and class) – Newport County 0 Oxford United 3

If we’ve ever gone two up in four minutes before it has faded from my memory banks.

We don’t usually go at teams from the very first whistle at home let alone on enemy territory.  I’m guessing the home side were as astonished by what happened in the initial four minutes as we were sat in the stand.

Shandon Baptiste had a marvellous game, full of confidence and excellent ball control. For goal number one he instinctively fed the overlapping Luke Garbutt without needing to look up. To date Garbutt has been a huge disappointment – we can only go on what we’ve seen. This was a vastly improved performance and it would be wrong to write him off so soon particularly when it has been pointed out to me that he had been out injured for a very long time. In the 2016/17 season he didn’t play after December and last season he only played three times, once in August and twice in October. Match rustiness is bound to be there. I assume he called for the Baptiste pass and his run had created ample space to get the centre in. That centre was a teasing one that asked questions of the defence. Mickey Demetriou answered in L2 style by slicing past his own keeper.

Two minutes later we struck again from down the left hand side. Garbutt played a ball to Baptiste who took it on his chest whilst turning into space and leaving two defenders behind. He beat a third by knocking the ball from right foot to left which left him just outside the D from where he unleashed an effort that the diving Nick Townsend was unable to do anything about.

If we had conceded at any stage it could have been a very different outcome such was the spirit of the home side but as we didn’t, that was basically game over before it had really begun.

From then on I felt Newport had most of the possession which was confirmed by looking at the stats (61%). They were big and powerful in midfield and from time to time made strong forward runs looking for balls played ahead of them. But for all that they never created a clear cut chance. They did have chances but they were shots from distance and most of those were wayward in the extreme. Again the stats back up what we witnessed. They had 14 shots none of which were on target.

The way they played I could see why Newport are 5th in their league. I can also see why that is L2 because that shooting probably wasn’t even Conference standard.

When we attacked we looked slicker and quicker than they did and the gap in class was evident which is very satisfying. We had 15 shots and seven of those were on target. The counter attack with the speedy Gavin Whyte in our line-up was very effective.

Jamie Hanson’s dismissal with 12 minutes of the 90 to go made no difference to the outcome whatsoever, thankfully. The incident happened not far from where we were located and I thought it could go either way. Free-kick to us or them. Yellow or red card for Hanson or Antoine Semenyo. I found it strange that Semenyo spent a bit of time holding his head and then when not moving for ages was able to walk off despite the stretcher being placed by his side. I really would be interested to know exactly what injury he has / had. There must have been one because he didn’t re-enter the field of play and as they had already used all their subs it was 10 v 10.

It was one I really needed so see again and having seen the replay in slow motion think the decision was very harsh. Qualified, and up to date, referees will probably have more valid input than me though. Semenyo appeared to have knocked the ball a little too far ahead. There was a jump of sorts by Hanson but his left leg was back on the ground and he played the ball with his right before Semenyo arrived. He’d played the ball away before the two made contact. I wouldn’t interpret that as excessive force or likely to endanger an opponent although in real time, encouraged by orange shirts, I can see why referee Scott Duncan did what he did.

There were two things that he didn’t do that I thought he should have done. We had a player laid out by an elbow in the face and got a free-kick for it. To me it looked totally deliberate but not even a yellow was shown. And towards the end with the score still 2-0, a Garbutt pull back that prevented a Newport player being left with just Jon Mitchell to face surely merited more than a yellow.

We’d just entered the six minutes of stoppage time when the victory was rubber stamped. James Henry fed Garbutt whose cross was touched past Duncan by Whyte in leaping kung-fu style.

Two satisfying and good performances in a row give greater belief than seemed possible after our shambolic start and this was achieved without some key players. No-one let us down here and there were some top performances.

Compared with Sam Slocombe, Simon Eastwood commands his box well but Mitchell has taken that up a level the way he comes and collects high balls. Cameron Norman did what he’s been doing the last couple of games and Garbutt was still going strong at the end. The centre-half partnership of John Mousinho and Rob Dickie worked well with the latter no longer looking positionally all over the place.

Although there were times when the Exiles had claim to the midfield area, we never let them dictate play from there so credit to our midfield battlers. Baptiste I’ve already praised and the same should be heaped on Whyte. He was full of running right through to the final blast of the whistle. We really do seem to have an asset there.

This leaves KR with plenty of selection conundrums. Nice ones to have but it’s still the forward question that is the biggest challenge to get right. One or two, as here? And who? I’d almost certainly go one and that would be SS.

So now I can begin to get my head round the visit to the Stadium of Light.