Non League Day – a great idea, but you have to choose the right match to watch!

Yesterday was Non League Day and so I decided to take advantage of an offer of an admission fee of £5 on production of my City season ticket for Newport County’s home match with Cambridge United. I set off for Spytty Park still on a high after Wales’ win the previous night and, although my previous trip to watch County this season had been for a 0-0 boreathon against Grimsby, I was hopeful of watching a decent game. However, by the time the match kicked off, I was wondering if I should have tried to find a better way of spending my afternoon for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the preview of the match on Radio Wales mentioned that Cambridge had played a Craig Levein style 4-6-0 in one of their away matches recently, while the “forward” in the 4-5-1 they played for the 0-0 draw at Kettering in midweek was actually a midfield player who had been press ganged into action as a lone striker. The second thing was that, although there had been no more than a gentle breeze blowing when I set off from Cardiff, it had developed into a strong wind blowing right down the pitch at Spytty Park (whoever sited those wind turbines behind one of the goals certainly knew what they were doing because it always seems to be strong at County’s ground!).

Under the circumstances, it seemed pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to see a classic and it certainly worked out that way. I’ll not bother going into too much detail of the game because there’s not much to tell – Cambridge did a job on County and bored people rigid in the process. The visitors got a routine goal from a left wing cross after a quarter of an hour and then set out to ensure that they didn’t lose their lead – they didn’t attack often, but, when they did, they carried more of a threat than a poor County side could muster. I mentioned during the second half that Cambridge had every player back to defend a County throw in about thirty five yards from their goal at one stage, but, against a team as feeble in front of goal as Newport have looked in the two matches I’ve seen this season, that really was overkill. County did rally a bit towards the end and were unlucky when a well struck shot was deflected up onto the crossbar by a defender covering on the line and they did blow a great chance when they had a two on one right at the death, but the final move of the match as the County right back and keeper somehow managed to put a free kick on the half way line into touch five yards further upfield really did sum up a woeful afternoon for the home team.

It’s now one win in seven for County and only their relatively good goal difference is keeping them from being last but one in the Conference. The Newport team are now full time professionals, but, on the, admittedly, limited evidence of the two matches I’ve watched, they are not a patch on the part time Dean Holdsworth sides of the past two seasons. Holdsworth’s teams played good quality, passing football and won matches by pulling sides out of shape and exploiting the resultant gaps – his replacement Anthony Hudson keeps on saying things will come right soon, but I’m not sure how this will happen. Hudson’s County team have barely looked like scoring in the 180 minutes I’ve seen them play and the neat interplay of seven or eight months ago has been replaced by a hit and hope approach that doesn’t look suited to the players they have – from the high of Montenegro to the rock bottom of Newport v Cambridge in less than twenty four hours, football certainly is a game of contrasts!

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