Lewes 0-3 Newport County (28:11:09)
- click on photos to enlarge image -
They came to Sussex in their hundreds with a spring very much in their step. These are giddy times for the long suffering fans of Newport County. At last their team are playing the football on the park which is worthy of the fanatical (over 2,000 at home to Bromley thanks very much) support they attract off it.
The Exiles have only existed - in their current guise - since 1989. Debate still rages amongst their own support as to whether this is the same club who in the 80's competed in the European Cup Winners Cup. Bankrupt and out of business in February of 1989, the club reformed just four months later and have since worked their way up through the very basement of the football pyramid to the summit of the Conference South.
So just seven days before County make a splash in Bath - where they are expected to take up to a thousand fans - they found themselves up against EFW faves Lewes for a top versus bottom encounter (bottom encounter eh!? Fnar Fnar - Ed). Before the beer kicked in, we caught up with the Vice Chairman (check us out) of the Newport County AFC Supporters Trust - Tony Pring. Pring filled us in on all things Newport related and we discovered amongst other things that it's not just Swansea City who have the monopoly on a rivalry with Cardiff City:
Somerton Park was to my mind a great old ground. How do you cope in the new place "Spytty" being so far away from the action? A lot of people do moan and complain that we are too far away from the pitch, but a lot of us older supporters remember that we did have a speedway track around Somerton Parks pitch.
Seeing as you were reformed in 1989, are today's Newport County the same one who played in the ECWC in the 80's or do you view yourselves as a completely new club? Yes we are a completely new club. As the years go by though, you forget that it's a new club and we all remember the old days. There are still some supporters who won't come and watch the 'new' club.
What impact does Newport RFC (the rugby club) have on the County support, do fans support both codes? There has always been an impact on crowds when both clubs play at home and we do have supporters who follow both. My personal view is that you can't worry about it, if we keep going the way we are at the moment, then why worry about it?
Who are your rivals? In this league; Weston, Bath and I would say Worcester. From the old days our local rivals Cardiff City will always be number 1.
What is your away support like these days in terms of numbers and noise? You would only have to look at other teams top attendances. We can take anything from 250 to whatever numbers we take to Bath next week...lol *we all laughed at this point* Cheers Pringers.
People of Wales, could you forgive me for a second whilst I briefly wax lyrical about what has been some week for Lewes Football Club? Go on, I'll be your best friend. Firstly, they survived a another winding up order from the HMRC - hip. Then, manager Ibbo deservedly cleaned up in the Lewes personality of the year awards - hip. And finally, a victory over Eastleigh in the FA Trophy meant that - before this match - they'd gone 6 (six!) games unbeaten at the "fortress" Dripping Pan -horayyyy!.
Ok Newportonians, you can look back now. This was always going to be a tricky assignment for Lewes. Stand back now as I wave my stats lightsaber at you. County had played 17 league matches before this one losing just the once - Staines away on a Tuesday night late in October since you asked. This had sent them 8 (eight!) points clear of Dover at the top (top!) of the table AND with a game in hand - show offs.
The current County gaffer is celebrity Dean Holdsworth. Thankfully, he's removed himself from the front pages of the papers (Lindsey Dawn, reality shows etc) and found a niche on the back pages. He now has a cupboard full of BSS manager of the month awards and is loving life at Newport so much, he's moved there to show his loyalty to the club, well, nearly, to nearby Worcester which isn't too far is it!?
Onto the match (hooray - Ed) and would you believe it was Lewes who dominated proceedings early on. Twenty-three minutes into to match, I trumpeted loud and proud "What could possibly go wrong!?". Less than a minute later, Newport helped themselves to the opening goal of the game. 0-1. Oh. Can I claim an assist?
On the stroke of half time it all happened. Newport were awarded a spot kick when Ryan Timms brought down the last man inside the penalty area - just after he'd come on as sub for the injured Ross Sutton. Red card (tick), penalty (tick), no complaints (tick), Reid - their best player to take (tick), sends pen goalwards (tick), Banks saves to his right (tick), players troop off for half time (tick).
Stand back again folks, as I wave my stats lightsaber towards you in a figure of eight motion. Rikki Banks (of young eagle of the month fame) has now saved three out of the four penalties that Lewes have conceded this season. That is a 75% penalty save ratio - I did that in my head. In conclusion, Rikki Banks still is the owner of 1x 'safest hand in soccer' motif. Hats at a jaunty angle Rikki lad.
During the half time period, the decision to keep the Rooks Inn Bar open was fully justified. There had been a bit of pre-match scepticism in which certain folks had deemed the Newport County fans as being somewhat troublesome. Nothing - I repeat nothing - could have been further from the truth. Aside from one lad who insisted singing 'Millwall songs' throughout his stay (a bit Ken Dodd - Ed) they were - to a man (and woman) a credit to their club. They came in good numbers, sang and backed their team throughout the day and contributed some considerable funds behind the Lewes FC clubhouse bar - good luck to them I say.
Into the second half and Newport began to take control. The Rooks didn't disgrace themselves and pushed forwards at every opportunity but it was the league leaders who ran out worthy winners in the end. Goals from Morgan and Henry (note not hand ball) sealed their win and they returned home to Wales happier than Stacey wooing Gavin back to her hometown.
It would be remiss of me at this juncture not to mention Newport striker Craig Reid. He missed a pen granted but Jesus H Christ, he is good. There aren't many times I clap an opposition player off the park but that lad deserved it. Hats at a jaunty angle to you Reido. Different gravy lad.