Tuesday 23rd October 2012 ko 19.45
FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round Replay
NEWPORT COUNTY 1 (O’Connor 43) Pipe sent off 66 (2nd booking)
YATE TOWN 3 (Knighton 72p Thomas 109 Groves 115)
Large Hot Dog £3
The City of Newport, has an undeserved reputation for being bereft of anything cultural. I have never found a port town that didn’t have something of interest and the city on the confluence of the River Usk, and Severn estuary has much to recommend it. Whether its the Peter Fink sculpture, “The Wave,” situated on the harbour, or the Newport Transporter Bridge, built in 1906 there’s something to catch the eye wherever you look. More recently, in 2007 the Newport City footbridge opened, and that provides a backdrop to proceedings at the local football club.
The travails of Newport County are an article in itself! I remember in the late 1970’s the bottom of the Football League always seeming to consist of Crewe Alexandra, Workington, and Newport County. Workington failed to get re-elected, Crewe found salvation with Dario Gradi and a vaunted youth system, and Newport found two lethal strikers in Tommy Tynan and John Aldridge. A renaissance followed and Newport as Welsh Cup winners went on a run in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1980-1 eventually losing in the quarter final over two legs to Carl Zeiss Jena. Thereafter it was a gradual decline in fortunes for the club, and they were relegated out of the league in 1988, and were bankrupt before completing their first season in the Conference.
You could argue that this was ony the start of the club’s problems. The club was quickly revived, but as a new club in Wales the Welsh FA wanted them to play in the Welsh pyramid, but the embryonic club’s sole aim was a return to the League- in England. It meant that the club started based over the border in Moreton-in-Marsh, and periods of exile followed in Gloucester, until the High Court found against the Welsh FA and County moved into Spytty Park, a multi-sport stadium, but crucially, in Newport.
The trouble is that the sight-lines across a running track were poor, and the pitch, shared with Llanwern worse. So for the next 3 years the club have agreed a groundshare of Rodney Parade with Rugby Union outfit Newport Gwent Dragons.
The ground has a unique flavour, being not just for rugby, but also being the base for the local bowls club. There’s two stands, the modern all seated “Bisley” stand, and the classic Hazell stand which only runs for around 3/4 of the pitch length. For football only the terrace in front is used. There’s an open terrace behind one goal, but the other has only the changing rooms, and a multi-storey hospitality block there. For football the capacity is 5,511.
With Newport being back in the Conference, there’s no lack of league experience in the playing ranks. Top goalscorer Aaron O’Connor has tasted League football with Rushden & Diamonds, but fellow striker Jefferson Louis takes well-travelled to extremes, this is his 25th club, and he’s still only 33!
With a lower than average crowd it made for a poor atmosphere, and County’s player did little to raise spirits. They’d had a real scare on Saturday with Yate, 3 relegations and bottom of the Southern League’s South and West Division, coming within seconds of a famous victory, Tony James header giving the Exiles, currently top of the Conference a barely deserved replay.
That final score never looked like being replicated, Newport continued to underestimate their part-time opponents, and may well have got away with it, Aaron O’Connor did give them the lead, but two bookings for pointless fouls saw Newport captain David Pipe take an early bath. Within 5 minutes goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley had flattened Mitchell Page; Pidgeley collected a booking and Tom Knighton levelled the game from the penalty spot. With a first round tie with Cheltenham Town the reward, the incentive was obvious but only Yate showed the requisite urgency.
In extra time it was Yate who looked the fitter, and the inevitable happened. A corner was swung in, the ball bounced back off the bar, and there was centre half Scott Thomas to head in from close range. As Newport finally began to push forward, more out of shock than belief, they were hit with a real sucker punch. Matt Groves exploited the gap where right back Pipe used to be to turn and fire home, in front of a band of delirious travelling fans. The Newport faithful turned, and silently made for the dark wet exits.