The time had flown by, but it will be three weeks tomorrow since we clinched promotion and still the celebrations go on! Yesterday saw an open top bus parade by the players and staff from the City centre to Cardiff Bay which was topped off by a fireworks display. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 as to numbers who witnessed at least some of the parade, but it seems that around 10,000 were there at the Bay to watch proceedings come to a close.
I’ve got to admit that the last twenty days have been something of a blur for this blogger who, in the nineties, had given up hope of ever seeing us play in the second tier again in his lifetime, let alone watching us perform at the top level for the first time – I’m still half expecting to wake up and have to start “looking forward to” our Play Off matches this week, but, being serious, I’d say that it will really sink in when the fixtures for the new season are announced in about six weeks time.
Anyway, although the Championship season is over for City, there is still some football to be played. The Under 21 Development side have a Play Off procedure of their own to go through yet – tomorrow evening they face Northern Section winners Leicester in a one off game at the King Power Stadium. Leicester won their league at something of a canter and have made a habit of including first team squad members like Vardy, Waghorn and Marshall in recent Development side matches, so City will travel as underdogs I reckon, but they may benefit from Leicester’s involvement in the Championship Play Off’s as Nigel Pearson could need players who would have otherwise played for the Under 21′s. It also has to be said that City’s Development side have been beating all comers in recent months and so there’s no need for them to travel with any sort of inferiority complex – if Kevin Cooper’s side can come out on top, then there will be one last match at Cardiff City Stadium for supporters to enjoy in this great season because the winners of our game will be at home to whoever comes out on top out of Charlton and Huddersfield tomorrow lunchtime in the Final.
Finally, ours will not be the only open top bus parade this week because Newport County will also be holding one after regaining their Football League status yesterday by beating Wrexham 2-0 at Wembley in the Conference Play Off Final. Although it’s great to see County back in the League after an absence of twenty five years, I must admit to feeling very sorry for Wrexham who were the better side for long periods of yesterday’s match – they do have the consolation of the FA Trophy in this great season for Welsh club football I suppose, but I doubt it if that counts for anything for them this morning, I just hope that they can join Newport in the Football League this time next year.
Congratulations to County though and I’m already looking forward to be able to see some League Two football next season at Rodney Parade – I’m sure there will be plenty of changes to their squad overt the summer months, but I get the feeling that players such as Christian Jolley, Aaron O’Connor, Andy Sandell, Lee Minshull, David Pipe and Byron Anthony will be able to cope with the step up, let’s just hope now that the people of Newport will support them in greater numbers than they used to do when they were last in the Football League.by The other Bob Wilson
I used to get along to Rodney Parade Newport to watch rugby matches fairly regularly back in the 80′s and 90′s, but, with my attendance of matches featuring “Wales national sport” having fallen away to virtually nil over the past fifteen years or so, I’d thought I’d seen my last ever game there until this summer’s announcement that Newport County would be leaving the mud heap and wind tunnel that was Spytty Park to ground share with the Gwent Dragons and Newport rugby clubs.
With County having made a good start to their Conference season with fifteen points to show from their first seven matches and no City games (at youth as well as first team level) to watch over the weekend, yesterday seemed the ideal opportunity to watch my first Newport game of the season, while also paying my first visit to Rodney Parade in what must be nearly twenty years.
My first impression on going through the entrance gates at County’s new home was that not much had changed – you still had to walk past the clubhouse that overlooked the area of grass which had been used to host the Welsh Open tennis tournament (which used to be held just after Wimbledon) that I went to watch with a group of schoolfriends after we had completed (and, in my case, made a right mess of!) our A levels back in 1974, but as I got closer to the football/rugby ground it became clearer that there had been very big alterations made to one side of the stadium at least. The ramshackle old wooden terracing with the metal roof where the television cameras were situated had been demolished to be replaced about a year ago by an impressive new structure called the Bisley Stand which would certainly gain Football League approval if County were to go up, but, if this was the impressive side to their change of venue, the frustrating part was that they have embraced modern football in that actually getting in to watch the game has become far more of a complicated process than it used to.
One of the appealing things about going to watch matches at Spytty Park was that it was a bit like entering a time warp in some respects because, just as you used to be able to do at Ninian Park for the first thirty five years or so I supported City, you were able to turn up at the ground. hand over your cash to a turnstile operator and wander in just as the match was kicking off. Unfortunately, those days are long gone for Cardiff City fans now and they’ve disappeared from this season for County supporters as well because you now have to queue up at the ticket office first to get the bar coded piece of card without which you won’t get through the turnstile.
So it was that I missed the first ten minutes of yesterday’s match. Based on what I saw for the next thirty five minutes mind, I probably didn’t miss too much – County dominated for about ten of them during which their target man Jefferson Louis hit the post, but the rest of the first half saw Stockport, a young team made up mainly of players signed from lower league clubs, shade things as home keeper Pidgeley was forced into some good saves.
On the train journey to the game I’d be accused of being a “Jonah” to the Welsh football team after I”d seen my third defeat on Friday night in the last four internationals I’d watched – I’d denied that by pointing out that I’d seen Wales beat Montenegro in a qualifying game as well as big friendly wins over Scotland and Norway in recent years, but as I watched County(who had scored eight times in winning their three previous home matches this season) labour away in the early stages of the second half, I couldn’t help thinking that this description could be applied to my recent relationship with Newport. After a spell where County just couldn’t stop winning when I first started watching them again three seasons ago after a long absence, my recent visits to Newport have seen the team struggle to get any goal attempts on target let alone score – they’d picked up one point and no goals in the three matches I watched them play last season and, until yesterday’s match entered it’s final quarter, there was little sign of them ending that goal drought against Stockport.
To their credit though, County stepped up the pressure a great deal in the last twenty minutes and, with Stockport getting their chances on the break as well as their opponents threw players forward (they hit the crossbar themselves in the dying minutes), the entertainment levels increased. Stockport’s teenage keeper Ormson (who has had trials with Spurs) was increasingly called into action and Aaron O’Connor, who was averaging a goal a game this season until yesterday, got the ball in the net only to be denied by an offside flag. There was also a big shout for a penalty as the match went into added time and from my view (admittedly at the other end of the pitch), it certainly looked like a visiting defender was climbing all over County striker Danny Crow, but nothing was given and so my Newport goal drought now stands at four games and counting – the bad news for County is that I’ll probably be back for the next home game with Southport in a fortnight!
On a day when other sides at the top dropped points, Country’s draw only saw them drop one place to fourth, but it’s just one point out a possible nine now for them. On this evidence, while they never looked as poor a team as the one I saw last season, they also didn’t suggest that they were capable of maintaining their current lofty position. Maybe yesterday was a bad day for them, it’s a completely new team after all and I suppose it was inevitable that things would level out after such a fine start – hopefully they can cash in on a couple of matches which, on paper at least, don’t look too testing in the next two weeks.
* courtesy of http://www.newport-county.co.uk/by The other Bob Wilson