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Newport State of Mind

newport2014For once, the weather didn’t send us back prematurely back down the M4. For once, we found the net not only once but twice. And for once, we actually did what we’re supposed to.

Make no mistake, Goldie Looking Chain 1 Mumford and Sons 2 is a genuinely massive result. A solitary win it may be, but don’t underestimate how important it is.

We had to get something out of last night, because five losses on the spin would have then become very hard to stop. We were in real danger of freefalling into the relegation zone and to be blunt, we wouldn’t have got out of it.

But, when the chips are against the wall, and our backs are down, or whatever the cliches are, we got our arses in gear and got what we deserved in a good way this time.

Don’t get me wrong here – we went behind yetafuckinggain. Worner’s ballsup (which he thought was a foul on him), we still can’t score after 30 minutes, etc etc.

And yes, a lot of the game was crap. Typical L2 fayre, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Some of it was less Football League Show, more Scrum V. There is no truth to the rumour that Newport Gwent-Dragons and Harlequins are battling it out for Antwi, following some of his touchline clearances…

But let’s at least try and enjoy this win this week, shall we? After we beat Exeter and Hartlepool, it really did feel that some people were genuinely disappointed that we’d done so, giving the bleating afterwards.

No, we’re not nearly as good as we can be, but right now it’s a results based season. And yesterday was a decent one.

Funnily enough, all we needed last night was that one goal. Bearing in mind that this was my first game since we beat the Grecians, and to my untrained eye we looked short on confidence up front but at least getting in there.

If Midson (or was it Hylton?) had buried his one-on-one then we might have been writing about how comfortable it turned out. As it transpired, we were still five minutes away from this morning reaching DEFCON 2 status.

As I was typing this section out, the goals came on SSN, and the presenter hit the nail on the head when he said that we showed the good and the bad of ourselves. Although Worner’s mistake (where it basically went through his hands) managed to look worse on second viewing…

Plenty will rave about KSL’s solo effort, and if it’s not a Goal Of The Week contender I don’t know what would be. Apart from the same goal from a Barcelona or Citeh player, of course.

I won’t eulogise much about it, simply because you have to see it for yourself to fully appreciate it. And hopefully it will shut up our occasionally purile Twatter feed about getting the 1000th league goal of the AFCW era…

But Sheringham took his strike well, and it was described last night as something his old man would have done. So at least he’s now aping him on the field as well.

Oddly enough, and this is going to sound a bit smug and know-it-all this morning, when we got that first goal I had a feeling we would win that. I guess it was because when we went behind, our heads didn’t drop and we went looking to get back into the game.

And I think that’s all we ask for a lot of the time. Last night proved something to us – if we HAVE A FUCKING SHOT ON GOAL then sometimes we score. It’s quite simple, really.

Most of us have seen enough football to know that sometimes you have to fight back. If we could do this from the off, then we will finally score a goal before 28 minutes. And maybe even score a couple of others which means we can play more comfortably, which means the confidence will return more, which means we’ll start winning games…

NA is back to being NA again this morning, rather than the dismissive “Ardley”. At the end, the whole team looked relieved more than jubilant, and our boss more so than most. Deep down, they know they have to produce more of these kind of results.

But we can do it. That’s why I think the recent shit form has genuinely pissed people off – look at where other teams are in the table and it shows this division isn’t all that.

Christ, we’re 11th after being sixteenth at 1944 yesterday.

I hope on the coach back to South London last night NA realised something. His success or failure as a manager will come to how much of an instinct he has. That means not managing by what the manual says, but managing by what happens on the field of play.

He made instinctive substitutions last night, and it worked. As in life itself, academic approaches never properly work when the Real World gets its nasty little claws into it.

It was an awful pitch yesterday, but we learned to play it. Those sort of things win you games, not a dogmatic adherence to believing you play the product of our shirt sponsors.

Still, the rot of losing games is over, even if it’s only temporary. Our next opponents got gubbed 4-0 by Plymouth last night, so a bit of killer instinct on our part and………

Plus points: We won. Coming from behind (again). Heads never dropping. KSL’s goal. Sheringham finally finding the net. Actually having the odd FUCKING SHOT ON GOAL.

Minus points: Their goal.

The referee’s a…: Honestly didn’t notice him that much. OK, he gave a foul or two that maybe he shouldn’t have done, but nobody is making a voodoo doll of him right now.

Them: I guess we could thank ourselves that Newport were also on a lousy run of form. And to be honest, if they’re ninth in the table then so can we be.

The Revenge Of The Ex-Wombles never materialised. Jolley got subbed, Max Porter and Yak weren’t really noticed and Mishull and Jackson were just meh. And I never bought this notion that we were wrong to get rid of any of them – some fans still believe that releasing Jolley was a mistake, but I remember the lightweight Jolley that got knocked off the ball easily…

Have to admit, I always enjoy my trips into Cymru,  although Newport itself is a bit odd. I suppose without its local youth population we wouldn’t have Jeremy Kyle. Rodney Parade has one nice stand, but the other three look like, well, a rugby ground.

At least it didn’t rain.

One other thing – I know our rise from the CCL to L2 is the stuff of legends, but Newport’s fall and rise back to Football League status was just as dramatic in its own way. Especially as I once covered their game at Basingstoke in the Conference South and there were about 700 people there…

Point to ponder: Whither Charlie Sheringham? I know the guy is as popular as the guy who releases his guts in a crowded area, but the genuine stunned silence – and pockets of booing – when he came on still spoke volumes.

Plenty had points to prove last night, and Teddy’s son did go a little way to do that. Even if his first two contributions were to a) get in the way of a goalbound effort, and b) hit weakly at the keeper when admittedly getting in a good position.

But he scored, a strikers instinct type one at that, and that’s what you want from anyone right now. Least of all your strikers, most of whom are lucky they’re not getting sued under the Trade Descriptions Act.

We have to be realistic here – NA clearly rates him, he’s stuck by him, and he’s going to play more games than many (most?) want him to. It’s therefore in our interests that he does.

And if he does get a few more runs like last night and poaches the odd goal (or more), then so what? I’ve become sick at our lack of firepower, and arguably he helped us win last night. Whether he can be resurrected in both terms of scoring and of being “accepted” remains to be seen, but he can’t say he won’t have had a good chance.

While we’re on strike forces, Midson and Hylton started, and both seemed a little off the pace. This was my first time of seeing the latter, and to be honest I’m a bit non-plussed by him. Midson may need an extended run in the team, but can we really wait for him to find his scoring boots in the meantime?

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) When was the last time a goalkeeper got “awarded” an own goal? 2) The supporters coach broke down before it left Newport at Junction 18, and eventually got home at 0335 0245.  Your editor drove, got home at 0030, listened to three Black Sabbath albums en route and had a couple of beers upon getting home. No wonder I never use the coach.

Anything else? Five points between ninth place and 22nd tells its own story in this division, which is why we really need to snap out of the losing habit.

The stat boffins have worked out that if we’d lost last night, we would have been 19th. Instead, we are currently 11th. We are also four points off eighth.

The most important stat of course is that we have a nine-point gap over the bottom two. True, they have a game in hand on us, but it’s not just AFCW they can catch up on. And as we know ourselves, having games in hand means nothing if you don’t get anything from them.

While setting a points target is all well and good, we effectively only need a couple of good weekends with us winning and those below us losing to ensure a far more comfortable run-in.

Make no mistake, this has been an absolutely fucking awful February. You’d hope that we’ve finally twigged what to do, and even after Pompey and Bury there were still a few “we got away with that” comments from the opposition.

A better run of form now, and Accrington can be the traditional end-of-season party. I think if we did find ourselves looking to avoid the trap door, it will be entirely self-inflicted and we would have to repeat the results of this month.

NA himself seems mindful of this, though of course talking about it is one thing. Even so, when you have so many teams close together in the table, it can make life a bit easier.

From now until the end of the season, we have to play seven teams currently below us (York, Cheltenham, Northampton, Mansfield, Brizzle Rovers, Morecambe and t’Stanley). We could afford to lose a couple of them, and in all likelyhood that’s what we’ll do. Especially Northampton, who will get their easiest three points of the season.

But providing you don’t lose all of them – and yes, I know we’re perfectly capable of doing that – you’re cancelling out the advantage other teams around you have.

And that’s what’s likely to happen for the next two months elsewhere – with fourteen teams separated by a five point gap, that will be (in theory) seven teams each weekend/midweeker who don’t take maximum points.

It doesn’t work entirely like that, needless to say. But it just shows the importance of getting out of the losing habit. If we repeat the form of January (W3 L2 D1) for next month we’ll be fine. Hell, if we repeat the run from beating Pompey to beating Wycombe, it would still be more draws than defeats.

I am making a very dangerous assumption that we’ll kick on and get a couple more wins under our belt from last night. We’ve had so many opportunities this season and last to do exactly that after a good win and we’ve usually ballsed that up.

Unfortunately, I expect normal service to resume again and we’ll be (un-necessarily) looking over our shoulders again. But for once, can we start walking the walk…?

So, was it worth it? Absolutely. Milk the win for all it is worth.

In a nutshell: More of the same, please. Please?