Saturday 23 July 2011

Over the border

After an interesting and exciting week, including an encouraging performance against Bristol City and the arrival of two strikers, it was off to Wales for pre-season outing number five.

Newport Stadium, just before the start of the 100 metres..
oh no, wrong sport. The building behind the terrace is
the National Velodrome of Wales.

But unfortunately we were unable to end our look for a pre-season win, as Ismail Yakubu's 58th minute header gave Newport a 1-0 win, and Mark Yates was left disappointed with the performance, especially in the second half.
Having negotiated a Newport club official who has already secured the award as Jobsworth of the Season, the performance was not as bad as Stourbridge and I felt we passed the ball well at times, but gave it away a bit too often and seemed to be lacking a little in urgency.
Despite the debuts of James Spencer and Darryl Duffy, paired together in the first half, the most worrying part of the display was the lack of goal threat - but it's a bit harsh to blame Spencer, who only arrived from Huddersfield on Friday, and Duffy, who only arrived the day before.
As well as our new strike force, we saw the return of Sido Jombati after injury, playing at right back, and Steve Elliott came in to the heart of the defence for his first pre-season outing.
In goal there was nother game for Mike Green, while Kyle Haynes moved to left back with Andy Gallinagh alongside Elliott, while Junior Smikle and Bagasan Graham took up the wide roles and Dave Bird was partnered in central midfield by Luke Summerfield.
Summerfield is another triallist, recently released by Plymouth (where he still lives) and who has had trial spells this summer with Doncaster and Shrewsbury.
He has been down in Wales with the squad for the past few days and may also be training with us on Monday and could be back against Walsall on Tuesday.
He showed a few neat touches in mdfield and also showed he likes a tackle with one particularly heavy challenge in the second half which was probably borne out of tiredness - as he did fade out of the game after the break.
In the first half, we were neat and tidy, and I felt Dave Bird was probably the pick for us, while Bagasan Graham was a threat down the left, showing not only some good trickery but also a healthy appetite for tracking back on occasions.
Steve Elliott looked fit enough, winning his usual share of headers, while Sido Jombati looked to get forward and linked up quite well with Junior Smikle down the right hand side.
Of the front pair, James Spencer was busy, showing good mobility and strength, while Duffy looked to get down the channels and at times displayed good touch and hold-up play.
But we didn't get to see the pair of them where it matters most, in the box,and we failed to get sufficient service into them where it matters most, but that will come with time and as they settle in and get used to the players around them.

From left: Darryl Duffy, Steve Elliott and
Dave Bird have a stretch after being
replaced at half-time.

Half-time saw three changes, with Elliott, Bird and Duffy being withdrawn in favour of Harry Hooman, Theo Lewis and Jeff Goulding, but we never really got going after the break.
Mike Green - who could be playing himself into Mark Yates' thoughts as Scott Brown's competition - made a great save from his own player Sido Jombati's header.
Jombati made a great block before Yakubu's goal, a header from Danny Rose's cross, which had been coming as Newport started the second half better.
James Spencer went off in the hour as Kaid Mohamed came on, while Josh Low replaced Junior Smikle, before Danny Andrew and Keith Lowe replaced Kyle Haynes and Sido Jombati.
We then suffered a blow when Jeff Goulding collided with Andy Gallinagh, and after trying to play on, limped off with knee injury to be replaced by Marlon Pack.
So that left us with Kaid Mohamed and Theo Lewis up front, but we never looked like getting back into the game. The closest we came in the second half was a Goulding cross which Lewis nearly got on the end of just before Newport's goal.
But it was a third defeat in five pre-season games, and we did not see Alan Bennett or Scott Brown - while Michael Pook was not in the squad at all, and it is my understanding that he did not travel to Wales last week.
After the game, while again stating that he is not worried by pre-season results, Mark Yates said that the second half display especially was a disappointment.
He was, however, pleased with Spencer and Duffy's first appearances and confirmed that he hopes to complete deals to sign both Bagasan Graham and Harry Hooman on Monday.
Bagasan was once again a threat down the keft-hand side, and Hooman did little wrong and after the game Steve Elliott said he rates the youngster as a good prospect with all the attributes of a good centre-half and believes he will only get better.

The Newport mascot's first-half
comedy routine involved
pretending to have a
traffic cone stuck on his paw.
Oh how we all laughed. Not.

The manager also said that he is within his budget - but conceded that he may have to do some wheeling and dealing which could mean some players who find themselves on the fringe of the squad when the season starts leaving on loan.
So that was why it was a surprise to see Luke Summerfield in the side, and Mark said he may not be able to do anything for the player at the moment but clearly rates him as a player, while Summerfield after the game said he has enjoyed his time with the Robins and would like to stay.
Obviously he would - as he is currently an unemployed player. Some have stated that we are well stocked for central midfield players - but are we?
Marlon Pack and Russ Penn (again absent yesterday but doing lots of running before the game - he might be back against Walsall on Tuesday) are seen as the first choice pair, then we have Dave Bird and probably Theo Lewis after that, so maybe we do need another...
I also asked Mark about the back-up goalkeeping question, and he stated that Mike Green had come into his thoughts and may change the original plan to bring in a young Premier League goalkeeper on loan.
Green played again today and did nothing wrong, with secure handling from crosses and adequate kicking, and he could well emerge as good competition for Scott.
So Tuesday will bring a good test against a Walsall side which nearly joined us in League Two.
A win would be nice...

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