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Review - Game 17: Staines Town 1-0 Newport County
Once again a club exceeded all my expectations and were more than happy for me to come along, meet a player and get my t-shirt signed. I also got a mention and a photo in the Staines Town program! A big thank you to all at Staines, especially Angie and Leroy who made it possible.
All almost didn`t go to plan however after my driver for the day was kidnapped by Somalian pirates or abducted by aliens. Either way he didn`t materialise and I persuaded my father to burn rubber and somehow we managed to get to the ground early enough to meet Angie and Leroy Griffiths. Firstly though, Wheatsheaf Park is a curious place. As you approach it it is a modern gym whilst round the side you enter through a small turnstile and see that the back of the gym building has been made into a stand with plenty of seating. As I strode in I met Angie and she asked whether I would like a PA announcement as I walked onto the pitch, I quickly declined as I am sure I would have gotten some strange looks back amongst the crowd. We walked onto the pitch and met Leroy Griffiths who used to play for QPR in the early Noughties. He seemed surprised and happy that I knew this and gladly signed my shirt and posed for a photo, a really nice guy.
After this I bid farewell to Angie and met Mac who had arrived yet again to offer staunch support. We settled down into the stand where I noticed that ex-QPR player Marcus Bignot was in attendance, before I could try and nab him for a photo opportunity he had wandered off and looking in the program it appeared he was here to watch on his brother who plays for Newport. There was a fairly large Welsh contingent in the crowd, and unsurprisingly they were very vocal during the first half. Newport, managed by Dean Holdsworth(!), got off to a blistering start. Finesse, pace, accurate passing and with skill in abundance I was worried that Staines may be on the end of a pasting but to their credit they managed to scramble and deflect every Newport attack. Staines` keeper Louis Wells was acrobatic and kept out a pile-driving volley from thirty odd yards, pushing it over the bar, as well as denying Newport`s number 10, Sam Foley. Staines then cleared an effort from a corner off the line and it was easy to see how Newport were unbeaten in the league this season.
Gradually as the first half wore on Staines became more prominent participants, although the referee was helping neither side, giving out yellow cards like Halloween chocolates and getting many decisions wrong. At half time though Staines hadn`t tested Newport keeper Glyn Thompson half as much as they would have liked I`m sure they were more than happy to go in at nil nil considering the amount of pressure and opportunities Newport had created for themselves.
For the second half we wandered round to the opposite side of the ground, taking in the impressive gym-come-football club. Staines continued where they had finished the second half with solid play and a grinding out a win mentality. Thompson was called on to make a few goal saving saves and tackles and Newport had started looking very shaky, the inevitable goal for Staines came near the hour mark. Striker Ali Chaaban followed up a shot that was only pushed away by Thompson and stuck in the rebound, it was a well deserved goal as Staines had weathered the storm and had been building up pressure on their beleaguered visitors.
As Newport looked to get back into the game the referee was busy dishing out yellow cards to anyone who made eye contact. Me and Mac meanwhile had started chatting to one of the Newport substitutes, goalkeeper Kieron Blackburn. A veritable motor-mouth we all had a discussion on whether Carragher was lucky to escape with a yellow in the previous Liverpool/Man Utd match. We disagreed but he seemed keen to chat so we carried on. Back on the pitch and County were getting closer to an equaliser, one chance missing by a matter of centimetres. The drama played out right until the end when a terrible tackle by Staines defender Marien Ifura took out a County attacker. Somehow Ifura avoided a red and County were left with ten men after using all three substitutions. From the resulting free kick Newport keeper, Glyn Thompson, rose majestically, but his powerful header hit the base of the post and Newport`s unbeaten league run came to an end.
Newport will be disappointed they didn`t capitalise on their early dominance but look to have a good team who play good football and are still probably favourites for the title. Staines will be happy that they have weathered a storm and come out with all three points. Despite this being their first year in the Conference South they will have no trouble staying up and will give League Two Shrewsbury Town a run for their money in the Fa Cup first round in November.