Muddy Hell Awaits at Newport

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Sometimes it’s a good thing that your opponents let in five goals at home three days ago: it shows that they’re useless and ripe for the picking. That’s definitely not the case tonight though.

Andy Morrell’s right to anticipate Newport being like “a wounded animal” tonight. They got thumped 5-0 by Forest Green at Rodney Parade on New Year’s Day, and will have been hurting ever since. Justin Edinburgh will have made sure of that.

Edinburgh’s an impressive figure to have at the head of your club. He’s shrewd and has put together a succession of well-organised sides over the years, characterised by a high work rate and defensive solidity. Clearly, those were characteristics which deserted them last Tuesday, but don’t get too excited. This will clearly be a temporary blow-out: normal service is sure to be resumed tonight.

The conditions are likely to suit the hme team of course. They’ve swapped the dismal sports centre we triumphed at last season for Rodney Parade, a much better stadium, but one which suffers from also being a rugby ground. By all accounts the pitch was awful against Forest Green, and there’s no obvious reason to assume the early January Newport climate’s about to prompt a dramatic improvement in its condition. We’re going to be up against a fired-up team, roared on by their customarily vociferous support on a gluepot. It’ll be crucial that we ride out the early pressure, show the defensive rigour which has become our trademark over the last three seasons and shed the bad habit we’ve cultivated recently of failing to keep clean sheets.

Incredibly, the shut-out at Telford on Tuesday was our first in the league since September. You wouldn’t say there’s been an obvious drop-off in the quality of our defending; we generally look as solid as we always have been. However, there always seems to be one slip-up, one lapse of concentration, and we’ve constantly been punished for it.

It’s begun to feel a little inevitable: everyone with me watching the Grimsby game in my front room felt happy at 0-0: I was the pessimist, grumbling that if we didn’t pick our game up and grab a goal we’d soon suffer our regular defensive stumble and be behind. Lo and behold, the Cassandra turned out to be right! We need to make sure the Telford clean sheet was the start something, not an isolated moment of hope.

We’re looking a little thin tonight, with Andy Morrell out, the rejuvenated Brett Ormerod doubtful and Glen Little unlikely to be able to play much more than a brief cameo in the conditions. Kev Thornley has been drafted in and has been heavily trailed in the Post for a debut, but this feels like it’s a bit of a tricky fixture for a player with so little game time under his belt. Having said that, Morrell has been very keen to have the grounds to sign him, so hopefully he’ll be a Lee Fowler style discovery!

We could do with having Danny Devine back for this scrap, but that’s not going to happen: the story of his departure was rather unedifying, and doesn’t seem to cover Fleetwood Town with glory, Maybe I’ll go into it some time!

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