Fan’s View – Newport and Fleetwood

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, December 2nd, 2013  


Another home game not won should provide plenty of ammunition to have a go. But on this occasion I am not going to.
For all this not doing it at home we are now about 40% of the way through the season and we’re still top. It doesn’t make sense to be despondent. Maybe, just maybe we could get by continuing to do what we’re doing currently.

Furthermore our rivals are not, at this point in time, doing anything to suggest they are superior. At one stage we thought Chesterfield were. It turns out they weren’t but like many others their breath is on the back of our necks. Rochdale were almost level pegging too but they came a nasty 4-0 cropper at Spotland.

It’s the finest of fine lines and unless there is massive investment by any club in the January transfer window I suspect there will be a rather large pack with no front runner as we turn into the new year and head for the finishing line in May. So in these circumstances best to all pull together?

In this game we tried to play football but there was so much that didn’t quite come off.

Newport were more about stopping us playing than playing themselves and, as so often seen, persistent fouling wasn’t punished as it should be. There was evidence of thuggery too but it was debatable whether it was deliberate or just a natural consequence of being done for skill.

Darren Sheldrake was another referee of alarmingly low quality. Callum O’Dowda had not been on the pitch long before he had received a yellow card. The Exile was on his way to the ground before COD had got within kicking distance, not that he kicked him anyway. But that was good enough for Sheldrake who did what referees do in these circumstances, he pointed and pointed and pointed some more to different areas of the pitch. Do these referees honestly remember who did what and where? Of course not. Like much else, Sheldrake got this wrong. COD had probably not been on long enough to have got that far around the pitch.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Fisher

But for all that we weren’t really good enough to overcome the joint challenge of anti-football opponents and a referee who had little idea of how to turn this into a proper football match. Or perhaps he just didn’t care.

We did have one or two chances but so did they. They hit the bar, we didn’t. Beano should have done better in the first half when he had the opportunity to have a good strike at goal but never got his feet right to be able to do so. Don’t want to be negative about anyone but Beano didn’t shine or come close. I’m trying to work out if the fault lies with a lack of support for him up top or whether he should shoulder the blame through lack of movement and ability to make things happen when the odds are against him. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Fisher

This was a shame though because I didn’t think the Newport back line were that great, it was just that they did most of their defending, legal or otherwise, in other areas of the pitch and we never really got in amongst them.

They were undoubtedly harder opposition than Morecambe but our threat was less with Sean Rigg out. We really could have done with him to help stretch their back line. Consequently it was mainly down to Ryan Williams this time out as Josh Ruffels never really got in the game and anyway he is much more of a defensive player than Rigg. O’Dowda was marginally more threatening but nothing to shout about.

But we have that solid defence which we probably don’t praise enough and apart from a couple of scares they didn’t look like conceding.


We come back to this time and again but with a threadbare squad and the loan window now closed this has to be a worry. Alfie Potter, Andy Whing and Jon Meades are out until February. We are told it will be about four weeks before Deane Smalley, Jake Wright and Riggy will be back. Williams and Hall are only loan signings and anyway Asa has not got permission to play in the FA Cup. And as we are not fireproof against additional losses through injury and suspensions it could get pretty grim pretty soon.

So I’m not having “hindsight is a fine thing” thrown at me. I’ll do a quick non scientific risk assessment and on a scale of 0 -10 I’d say we’re at about a 6.5.

This tells me we should go out and strengthen before that window shut. I’ve never been one to think chucking money at it is the solution but for the sake of a few (tens of) thousands of pounds we could be throwing away the good position we’ve got ourselves into and perhaps a few exciting loanees could bring a few more through the turnstiles. That’s another massive concern too of course.

But it’s never that easy. What position should we be strengthening in? We don’t know who we are going to lose next. A full back? A centre half? A winger? A striker? A utility player who can do all those jobs but where do you get a modern day Paul Madeley from? (Showing my age there)

It’s on to Blackpool and beyond with a certain amount of trepidation.


The Cod Army have been described as a League Two “powerhouse” owing to the financial backing they receive.

They have a narrow pitch and a certain way of playing. They are direct and quick and get the ball into their opponents box as quickly aspossible at every opportunity. Their dead balls are something they must have spent hours on in training. The short corners they whipped in from the left wing took some keeping out.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Fisher

Oh, I forgot the diving. Nathan Tyson was most skilled at this art. On 12 minutes as he carried the ball towards our penalty area Johnny Mullins came out to cover. Tyson deliberately steps into Mullins at speed and goes to ground. Free kick 1-0. No team really should concede directly from there should they but the way it went in had me scratching my head and wondering how any keeper was supposed to keep it out. I didn’t think there was any blatantly obvious position Ryan Clarke should have taken up. Maybe it was just a very good piece of skill.

We never let this set back get to us and played reasonably ok in the first period with Ruffels becoming much more attuned to the pace of the game than he was a few days earlier. Nevertheless it had to be acknowledged that the home team were the better side and there was a feeling that this as much as any so far this season was to be the day when our proud unbeaten away run was to come to an end.

Our second half performance told me that no way was that record going to be surrendered lightly. I cannot remember when we battered a team in such a fashion in their own backyard. It was pressure, pressure, pressure. Beano missed one of those sitters that all he had to do was let the ball hit him and it would have gone in. Even after the penalty (possibly bought by Kitson; but hey, they started it) miss our heads remained high and we kept on until that deserved equaliser came. Having been thwarted once by a fantastic Scott Davies save, Kitson was not to be denied a second time and with minutes to go we got our just deserts. It came from another quality Hunt cross. He was my man of the match.

We really deserved to have won that game and for me it was one of the most satisfying performances in a long time. I left feeling proud to be an Oxford fan not least because of the team spirit that was so evident in the get together on the pitch after the game when they were joined by Chris Wilder. I also liked the way Williams ran across and gave his Mum a hug.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Fisher


Typically though we weren’t allowed to wallow in that warm glow for very long. Wilder to Pompey? If our league position was mid table or the approach had come after another sleepy home draw or defeat I might have felt a different reaction but right now it is one of concern. There will of course be a fair few who want him to depart.

On the plus side the south coast is even further from the steel city than the great county of Oxfordshire so these concerns may well be nothing of the sort.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Fisher

So I’ll stay positive (yes, me) and hang on to the memories of another good away day where we even managed a bit of minor celebrity spotting. Sid Little in the Strawberry Gardens is a known but I hadn’t realised that “the old bloke who looked a bit pissed” in the toilets on the motorway services on our return journey was in fact none other than John Prescott until my two companions told me so.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2013 at 11:42 pm and appears under 2013, Comment. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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