Wrexham v Newport (Sat 1st – 1pm)

August 31, 2012 by  

Tomorrow we have a welsh derby against Newport. Carrying on the tradition this season RPer BillTheRed spoke with Steve from http://amberarmy.blogspot.co.uk/ and conducted a mammoth interview…


1. You’ve made a cracking start to the season, why do you think that is?

There are a number of different theories as to why Newport have started so well this season.  Players such as club captain David Pipe and left back Andy Sandell have attributed the success, at home at least, to the increased numbers and passion of the crowd, which feels much closer to the pitch at Rodney Parade than it did at Spytty Park, where an athletics track somewhat isolated the crowd from proceedings on the pitch.  The fans and the move have undoubtedly played their part, with Rodney Parade allowing Newport to play the kind of pass and move game that Justin Edinburgh wanted to play last season.  However, the state of the pitch at Spytty made this impossible.  The most significant factor in the dramatic improvement though are the new signings.  Aaron O’Connell has already six times and looks full of quality, whilst much is expected of Lee Evans who made his home debut when Wrexham visited Spytty back in April and is now breaking into the first team on a regular basis.  Former Hereford player Tony James has also forged a strong partnership with Ishmael Yakubu at the heart of defence, which has meant that we are no longer giving away preventable goals, as we were last season.  In summary then, there are a whole range of factors why Newport are doing so well.  Whilst we may be surprised with how well they have started, many fans were expecting us to push for the play offs this season. 

2. Have you been to the Racecourse before? What do you make of the town as a whole?

I have been to a whole host of football grounds but have not yet been to the Racecourse Ground, though this is not through a lack of trying.  Had planned and expected to make it last season but it didn’t work out.  As County have only played Wrexham twice at the Racecourse in the last 20+ years though, there have been few opportunities to visit for this fixture – and County’s record against Wrexham, whether home or away, is pretty lousy. Saturday probably represents Newport’s best shot at getting three points since we returned to the Conference Premier.  However, although I support Newport County I also want to see all of the other Welsh teams doing well.  I therefore joined the Wrexham fans for the 3-1 victory at Grimsby Town last season, which I believe was Andy Morrell’s first match in charge as manager.  Whisper it quietly, but I also have a Wrexham shirt here in South Africa, as well as my County one!!  As for Wrexham itself and its surroundings, I personally love the area – but then again it’s in Wales and my family should probably be paid by the Welsh tourist board such is the profile we give the country here in South Africa.

3. What is your favourite memory following your club?

I think most  Newport fans would consider the Wembley trip in May this year as being the pinnacle, though for older supporters the European Cup Winners Cup quarter final against the East German side Carl Zeiss Jena would run it pretty close.  For me personally, given that I live in South Africa and am somewhat starved of live football, I would list every single game I get to as among my favourite memories, even if Newport get hammered (as happened with the 5-0 defeat at Mansfield Town last season in the pouring rain!!)

4. What would you say is your club’s aim this season and do you think you can achieve it? Has the recent good form raised expectations?

Before the start of the season, most fans were expecting and demanded a considerable improvement from last season, which came as something as a shock to the club after their good showing the season before.  A top half finish was perhaps expected with the hope that the club might push for a play off place if things went well.  However, you make an excellent point about expectations, which often get raised out of all proportion in football after a run of decent form.  Clearly, we would now expect a top half finish but, even though the season has barely begun, people are starting to consider the possibility that County can stay the course and win promotion.  Part of the reason for this is that it is not just a case of Newport having won a few games but, apart from Braintree, they have played very good football and have outplayed the opposition.  There are a number of good teams in this league though, including Wrexham, and winning promotion is spectacularly difficult for any side.  You yourselves know that better than anyone after the heartache of last season.

5. Do you think Newport can get their first win against Wrexham in the BSBP today?

I think they can and have predicted a win on my blog but that might have been inspired by the fact that I predicted they would only get a draw against Hereford.  County are constantly surprising me, so I am opting for another surprise today.  In order to get three points though, we will have to be at our very best and hope for a bit of luck.  Wrexham are strong at home and we are under no illusion as to how tough today will be.

6. Who do you think will be your key player(s) this season?

Striker Aaron O’Connor has already marked himself out as a key player.  Since Newport reformed as a club back in 1989, only three strikers had managed to score more than four goals before the end of August and only one striker, Carl Dale in 1999, had managed to score six.  In scoring six so far this season, Aaron O’Connor has therefore already equalled a County record and I fully expect him to continue scoring.  I have already mentioned the importance of James and Yakubu at the back, but perhaps the most exciting thing this season has been the willingness of Pipe and Sandell to get forward from their full back positions.  This has created all manner of difficulties for opposing defences and will test even a strong Wrexham defence.  However, it can leave us open at the back if opponents can use the ball well when breaking up a County attack.  Hereford tried but were unsuccessful in exploiting this on Tuesday and it will be interesting to see if Wrexham take the same approach.

7. If you could have any player from another team, who would it be? 

We’ve already dipped into the Luton reserves of talent in buying Aaron O’Connor and Danny Crow.  If I could have another player I’d go back there again and pick up striker Andre Gray.  Goals win games and every time I have seen this guy play he has terrorised defences.  I notice that he has been called into the England C squad again this week and he thoroughly deserves his place.  It might seem odd wanting to take another forward given the goals we are scoring, but my concern is that, with a small squad, Newport might struggle if they pick up a couple of injuries.

8. Who do you think will be promoted this year? And if you don’t think Wrexham, how do you reckon we will fare?

This league is extremely tough and early season results can disguise the potential and quality of clubs, as it did last season with Fleetwood.  If I speak with my heart, then my ideal scenario would be Newport County to win the Championship and Wrexham to go up via the play offs.  Realistically though, I think Luton are the strongest team and will probably win the league.  I can quite easily foresee a scenario where Newport and Wrexham meet each other in the play offs though.  If that has to happen, I hope it is at Wembley so that, whatever the outcome, at least one Welsh team gets promoted.