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FOCUS ON NEWPORT

24 January 2014

A look at tomorrow's opponents

Since Bristol Rovers lost at Rodney Parade to Newport County in August the fortunes of both teams have gone in opposite directions and the Gas are looking to exact revenge.

An Andy Sandell penalty just before half-time was the only goal in a game dominated by the home team. Rovers struggled to find any sort of rhythm in front of a massive away support and despite a second half improvement rarely threatened the Exiles goal.

One piece of great news to fans of both clubs is that the double fracture to both the tibia and fibula, suffered by Byron Anthony in a sickening tackle at Brighton has now healed and he will resume full training. As a former Gas hero there is no doubt that many at the Mem will be sad not to see him make an appearance but will wish him well.

Meanwhile County will beware of former Spytty Park striker Kaid Mohamed, who has joined Rovers on loan until May from Port Vale. Mohamed was with County briefly in the 2008/9 campaign.

With their game last week washed out County are going through something of a lean spell, having lost 1-0 at Burton, they went down 2-1 at home to bottom club Northampton before picking up their first point of 2014 with a 3-3 draw at Accrington.

It took an injury time goal by midfielder Lee Minshull to rescue the point. Things were looking good for the Monmouthshire team when they took an early lead with Robbie Willmott's free-kick.

Then on 23 minutes Peter Murphy struck for the Lancashire team. Things went from bad to worse for County when a minute before half-time Kal Naismith's header then put Stanley in front.

Ryan Burge's fine strike with 20 minutes remaining levelled the match but Stanley were not to be thwarted in the 88th minute Murphy headed his second. County’s Lee Minshull wasn’t to be outdone as he finished smartly from Willmott's cross to grab a point for County.

Speaking after the game County Boss Justin Edinburgh said, "Credit to the players because they continued to press for the equaliser and we deserved to come away with a point at least. We are disappointed with the goals we conceded because we started the game ever so well and took the game to Accrington. 

"But we conceded two bad goals and a third and it looked like we were going home empty handed. Getting three goals you would normally expect to get three points, but if you collect a point away from home, you have to be very happy."

Reflecting on his team’s performance so far Edinburgh continued, “We’re at the halfway stage and we’re certainly in and around the promotion hunt.  If anyone had told me we’d be here at this stage I’d have taken it. But once you get into a position you become greedy and we’ve got an ambitious squad that thrives on being successful. 

“It’s in touching distance and, like last year when we were chasing the title, until it becomes mathematically impossible that is what our ambition has got to be.

"I think if you settle for anything else you’re undervaluing yourself. We want to win every game. That is our philosophy at this football club. Unfortunately we haven’t won as many as we would have liked over the last couple and we want to put that right.

 “The big thing now is that the majority of our remaining games are at home so if we can continue to make Rodney Parade a fortress then we’re going to be in with a shout of the top three or the play-offs.

“Our home record is the second best in the league and we’ve got 13 more home games to come so if we do well in them we’ll be up there, without a doubt.” 

Looking back at County’s history it reached a zenith when Len Ashurst was appointed manager in 1978 and he led the club to a promotion and Welsh Cup double two years later.

It was followed by a memorable run to the Quarter-Final of the European Cup-Winners' Cup where they suffered an unlucky 3-2 aggregate defeat to East Germany's Carl Zeiss Jena.   

Under Ashurst's successor Colin Addison, in his second spell in charge, County came close to promotion in 1982-83.  However, a multi-talented team boasting the striking skills of John Aldridge and Tommy Tynan along with home-grown Welsh internationals Nigel Vaughan and Steve Lowndes soon broke up.

In 1987 County were relegated back to the Fourth Division and the following year they were the second victim of automatic relegation to the Conference. 

American Jerry Sherman took over but failed to live up to his promises of funding and, when they were locked out of Somerton Park for failing to meet payments to the council, County were expelled by the Conference in February 1989 and their sorry playing record was expunged.

Rovers and County have a long history dating back to the inception of Division 3 in 1920. Rovers won the first game 3-2 at Eastville on 1 September 1920 with goals by Joe Norton, Steve Sims and Ellis Compton for Rovers and an Andrew Walker penalty and Arthur Wolstenholme for County.

Eight days later goals by George Chance and Sid Leigh gave the away team a 2-0 victory.

The following season County gained revenge with a 4-3 win at Eastville on 21 January 1922. Harry Dobson (2), Charlie Brittain and John Lythgoe scored for the Welsh team with James Liddell, David Steele and Joe Walter netting for Rovers.

The highest aggregate score came on 16 March 1936 as George McNestry, Stan Prout and a Bert Taylor hat-trick for Rovers overcame goals by Billy Burgess, Fred Calarke and Henry Perks to give a 5-3 home win.

The last season the teams met was 1986-87, they tied 2-2 at Twerton Park on 14 December 1986 with Wayne Noble and Gary Smart scoring for the Gas and a Roger Gibbins double for County.

Probably the most important result was Rovers’ 1-0 victory at Somerton Park on 9 May 1987 in the return fixture, where a Phil Purnell strike secured all three points and Third Division survival for Rovers. 

The history is remarkably even with 61 games played, 23 victories to County, 21 to Rovers and 17 drawn. In Bristol and Bath in the 30 games played there are 17 Rovers victories, 7 draws and 6 County wins.

County will bring their biggest away following of the season for a league match for this game. The figure of around 1,230 travelling fans surpasses the current best figure of 964 fans who saw County's 0-0 draw at Cheltenham Town in November. 

Meanwhile there has been a degree of unsettlement at Rodney Parade this week after Edinburgh revealed he was approached illegally to take the vacant Northampton Town job. "There's been no approach to the football club [Newport]; there has been an approach to myself," 

Meanwhile, Peterborough United have bid for striker Conor Washington.  "We have received an offer from Peterborough United," said Edinburgh, "But as we stand now the deal isn't progressing. 

Written by Gerry Prewett

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