Stevenage nick a point in South Wales with late goal following strong first half display against the County
- Credit: Archant
It finished honours even in South Wales this afternoon between Newport County and visitors Stevenage after a game that swung wildly.
The 2-2 draw between the two sides led by former England players saw such fluctuating fortunes for both teams, as the visitors were pinned back in the second 45 minutes – after a very impressive opening half.
With two defeats in two games Stevenage boss Teddy Sheringham was determined his side would not suffer a third defeat on the bounce, in the principality – and his team ensured that would be the case – even if it was by the skin of their teeth.
Stevenage kicked off in their blue away kit with black sleeves in the South Wales sun.
Dean Wells made an early slip which came to nothing before Dipo Akinyemi found himself out wide playing the ball inside for Charlie Lee who was in involved in a tussle in the box – a tussle that could have resulted in a penalty – instead of the ensuing corner that was given, which ultimately came to nothing.
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Sheringham was rightly furious with his defensive lapses on Tuesday night at Portman Road, and assured his squad they would be working on their defensive drills this week – the outcome of which was represented by a solid back line which worked well together in the first period.
After a scrappy start in which neither side found a rhythm Lee worked the ball well through the massed ranks of the County defence before the ball rolled to Jerome Okimo – who momentarily thought he was legendary Brazil full back Josimar who tried his luck with an audacious shot from the outside of his foot on the quarter hour mark that flew over.
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As the game settled down Chris Day showed all his experience with his trademark calmness as he gathered the ball well from a powerful shot by a Newport forward.
Akimyemi then showed evidence of what was to come by firing an early shot at the near post, which Joe Day did well to keep out, before the ball rolled to Williams, who hit a tame shot when he should have done better.
A hard fought first half saw both managers give instruction to their players. One wag called it a Euro 96 vintage versus an Italia 90 vintage, However the younger England legend was to see his team grab the initiative as Butcher’s bold gamble on youth appeared to backfire.
Firstly, Tom Pett was unlucky with a powerful shot which Newport’s Day palmed out around the hour mark. The ball then fell to Charlie Lee who curled a right footed shot which Joe Day blocked. The momentum was very much with the visitors after that.
The positive intent Boro took to the game was finally rewarded with an uncharacteristic long ball through the middle to Akinyemi.
It wasn’t so much an indication of a change to a more direct style as a move which was designed to capitalise on the defensive rawness of the two young lads in the centre of the Welsh defence.
Akinyemi showed great power and pace to hold off the two teenage centre halves, 17 year-old Regan Poole and 18 year-old Kieran Parselle to power through and slot the ball past Joe Day with a calm finish. His strike sent the travelling fans into raptures at seeing the first goal scored by a Stevenage player under Sheringham’s reign on 40 minutes, and team and travelling fans celebrated as much with relief as happiness.
Akinyemi was proving to be a real handful for the young Newport central defenders, With seconds remaining Akinyemi again used his strength and athleticism to rush past the young lads to find himself one-one-on with Day. With the hard work arguably achieved he raised his head slightly – and unfortunately for Stevenage fired high over the bar. Yet it was further proof of his growing confidence and undoubted potential. Potential which his manager has backed throughout pre-season and the start of this campaign by starting him in every game so far.
Tom Pett was booked early in the second half for a challenge on defender Scott Barrow but the County left back recovered after a lengthy interruption to play on.
A spell of sustained pressure from the home side saw the Boro defence under the cosh, but Hughes was equal to the challenge with an excellent block – yet it was a lesson the Boro team didn’t heed. The young forward Aaron Collins found himself with the ball at his feet yards out, but he couldn’t direct towards the net to the disappointment of the home crowd.
However, the youngster showed his character by winning a header in a crowded box to arrow the ball past Day on 58 minutes. Yet again a good defensive display by Boro was marred by a defensive lapse by a previously stout back line.
With the crowd fired up and increasingly vocal, Newport looked a completely different side in the second period. The dangerous Medy Elito fired a powerful shot at Day’s goal which flew just over.
A series of hard-fought skirmishes in the heat of the battle saw the home side incensed – yet to many observers the majority of tackles seemed tough but fair challenges.
With just over ten minutes left Collins went on another run which saw Hughes hook the ball off his foot. It would be harsh to say the Boro defence thought danger had abated but questions can be asked why, when the ball fell to Scott Boden, he wasn’t closed down before he slotted a low shot past Day’s despairing dive to make it 2-1 on 79 minutes.
Yet Stevenage showed great character and resilience by refusing to give up. On 87 minutes Williams fired a gilt-edged chance wide with a left footed volley when he should have at least hit the target.
With the game nearing 90 minutes the ball was flicked into the Newport box, and Hughes – who had picked up the captain’s armband when Schumacher went off – arrived into the box and bravely met the ball with a thudding header which the home keeper had no chance with.
The celebration’s were joyful and prolonged as the Boro players knew they had got out of jail with a late equaliser. Yet there was more drama to come as Boro sub young Gorman made a last ditch challenge on Byrne when he was powering through. The ball fell to Elito who failed to capitalise, as a desperate Boro defence held on.
So, a point each for the two former England men. Both will be happy at not losing but will each have their own concerns to address with such differing halves of football.
For Boro, and Teddy Sheringham it will be a case of more defensive work to do – but once again a lot of positives to be taken from a very encouraging first half display, which ultimately netted them a hard-won point.
Day, Holmes, Parselle, Poole, Barrow (Hayden 77), Elito, Byrne, Klukowski, Ofori-Twumasi, Boden (Owen-Evans 93), Collins
Day, Franks, Hughes, Wells, Okimo, Schumacher (Conlon 82), Parrett, Lee (Gorman 82), Pett (bkd), Williams (bkd), Akinyemi (Hitchcock 75)
(Away support 102)