Jags come back from 2 down to record a 3rd straight league win…
By Kierran Groom
...and all still to play for in the title chase
With no game last weekend, the Jags returned to league action, home to Linslade Galaxy. A somewhat familiar theme, the match was played out on a very poor home pitch and in difficult conditions with a strong and cold wind.
In their new yellow “2nd kit”, the boys started brightly and could have been one up in the first couple of minutes. Dylan slipping a ball through to Theo, but it just ran ahead of the Newport striker. Then Seo with a through ball to Dylan, who put in a fine cross, but Theo not quite able to connect.
Against the run of play then, when a wind-assisted high ball from the visitors was chased down by a Galaxy striker and decisively driven home past Tom at full-stretch.
Billy, starting the game in a more midfield role, was certainly putting some nice balls forward, but overall too many Jags passes were going astray. It also became clear that the set-up of the opponents meant the Newport midfield was outnumbered, with the coaches needing to make some early changes.
The match was very soon end-to-end. Harry with a quick thinking short corner, but which unfortunately didn’t quite work for the boys. Then Tom sharply off his line to gather in a ball at the edge of the box. Back in the Linslade half, Dylan picked up a long ball, but was ruled offside. Harry then with a fine run up the left, but (on the blind side of the ref) forced off the ball as he was pulled back. Next another very good through ball from Billy, but again running just ahead of Dylan who couldn’t quite catch it before the Galaxy keeper gathered in.
As the visitors seemed to exploit the strong wind behind them, with more kick and rush, they secured a second goal. Once again chasing down a long high ball and, although Tom did very well indeed to make a low diving finger-tip save, an alert Galaxy player picked up the loose ball and tapped home. The touchline appeal for offside was over-ruled.
While not vintage Jags, 0-2 seemed a harsh reflection of the play.
With the ball continuing to swirl and spin in the air, Jags remained under pressure and escaped two goal mouth scrambles. Seo then slipped the ball past two Galaxy players to Dylan, who cut in from the left, but found his rising shot picked up by the wind and blown away from the net. Minutes later Seo and Dylan linking up again, this time Dylan keeping his strike on the ground and forcing a corner from a defender who intercepted the goal-bound ball. Dylan picked up the incoming corner, but could not apply enough power to trouble the keeper.
Henry joined the fray and made a quality pass to Theo, who was crowded out by Galaxy defenders before being able to get a shot way. As Jags increasingly began to dominate play, Charlie D was venturing further forward, with good instinctive defensive cover from Sam and Billy.
The Jags pressure finally paid off as Dylan cut back an excellent cross from the left, which Sonny met running into the box and, with a perfect first time strike, opened the Newport account.
Joining the midfield, Leo began to make his strong presence felt and a great ball to Henry, but just too much on it and safely gathered by the keeper. Then another Leo ball, this time through to Dylan who, running at full tilt, forcefully held off chasing defenders on both sides to slot the ball home past the advancing goalkeeper. 2-2 and Jags very much back in the game.
It was almost a quick 3rd, when Henry found Dylan in space, but his cleanly struck shot sailed over the bar. Then a dangerous Jags corner floated into the box, just plucked out of the air by the keeper. The quality of play seemed to get better as the wind temporarily dropped - with Newport supporters seeing the ball increasingly on the ground, much better passing - and the visitors finding the improved home side increasingly difficult to handle.
From an outstanding move, involving uninterrupted passes between Harry, Henry, Seo and Theo, the ball was slotted through to put Dylan clear on goal. What looked like a fine opportunity was stalled when the flag went up for offside - this time an incorrect decision, as Dylan was well onside when the ball was played.
From a Dylan pass, Harry put in a well struck cross, but Theo’s shot just wide. Dylan was then fouled on the left, which gave Seo an opportunity to drop the resulting free kick right on the penalty spot. The ball was immediately picked up by Theo, but surrounded by defenders before he could push the ball goalward. Minutes later, another good move, the ball brought quickly out from defence by Roman, then Seo in midfield through to Dylan, but the shot just wide.
A Galaxy break-out caused momentary alarm, as a long-range shot was picked up by the wind, but watched carefully by Tom and pushed safely wide for a corner. From the corner, a goal-mouth scramble, a frantic clearance and, the final attempt of the half, another long ball from the visitors collected by Tom at the edge of the box ahead of the Galaxy strikers.
The defence looked very solid though. Charlie D continuing to perform strongly, good tackles and helping out by taking a good number of the goal-kicks into the strong wind. Billy remaining composed as ever when under pressure, pushing the ball up the line and, when needed, putting in some hard but always clean tackles.
With the whistle going for half-time, the Jags had recovered well form the early setbacks - and some confidence now that they could now build further.
Into the second half, Henry launched a curling shot, safely secured by the keeper. Roman then with more of his great footwork, releasing the ball towards Theo, but the tail-wind carrying it jnto the keeper’s hands.
Another run from Dylan saw the Jags striker go over just inside the area. The referee waved away the penalty appeal and, in fairness it would have been a soft pen, but the Jags clearly continuing to cause huge problems for the Galaxy defence. Leo finding himself in a good position, was just relieved of the ball before releasing a shot. Theo taking the ball off a Galaxy midfielder, passing to Dylan, but with a defender just getting a foot in and diverting the ball away for a corner. Then a great mazy run from Theo, weaving his way past the Linslade defenders, with his shot just into the side netting. Henry then twisting and turning in the box, but just could not find a way through the swarm of defenders.
Suddenly though, Newport on the defensive. A Galaxy corner, with Josh gathering up the loose ball. Then Luca, last man, with a brave and brilliant saving tackle as a Galaxy striker looked absolutely certain to be through on goal.
Returning the attack, Leo tried a long range short, which drifted wide. Seo then picked up the ball in midfield and, beating two Galaxy players, looked up to make a pass forward. Dylan was in space, but offside, with the well placed Newport supporters urgently shouting the warning to get back onside. Just as Dylan stepped back, Seo released the ball to Dylan’s feet, who ran it into the area and finished clinically to put the Jags in front.
Although 3-2, the game was not over and Galaxy continued to have their opportunities. The Jags forced back to the edge of their own area, Newport had to put up a blockade, Charlie and Sam battling fiercely, with Seo and Billy making successive blocks as Galaxy strikers tried to get their shots away on goal.
Henry was continuing to show his skill, dancing round players - and he set Dylan up on the left who then playing it back to Henry, cut the ball into Leo. Just inside the area and unmarked, Leo blasted the ball goalward and little doubt that his powerful strike was going into the net. 4-2.
A surge by Galaxy saw them test Josh, first with a shot just under the bar, which the Newport keeper tipped over for a corner. Then punching out a high ball from that corner, before another good two handed punch away from the 2nd corner. A short time later, Galaxy put in a low and fast moving cross which was somehow missed by every player, both strikers and defenders.
The scare seemingly over, Dylan ran down the left, now securing a corner for the Jags. The incoming ball reached Henry, but a cruel bounce made it impossible to control, the ball eventually falling to Roman, whose thoughtfully placed shot went only inches wide.
As the clock ran down into the final minutes, Newport were caught out with a lofted ball that led to another very well struck shot, the visitors grabbing an unwelcome 3rd goal.
After dominating the 2nd half, a nervous final few minutes then. Thankfully though, largely in the Galaxy half. After two Jags corners, a free-kick which Seo put into the area and, after a scramble, was picked up by Luca who was unlucky to see his firmly struck rising shot skim just over the bar.
At the final whistle, deserved celebrations at collecting another 3 points and applause for pulling back a game that at one stage might just have got out of reach.
Coaches awarded Man of the Match to Seo, remarking that he’d covered every blade of grass and continued to demonstrate the right attitude, work-rate and competitiveness.
Then, the Player of the Month award going to Sam - reliable, adaptable, committed and always unselfish in his support of the whole team
The Jags stay 4th in the table but, with games in hand, another win that preserves their title chances.