By Rob Carbon
Newport County have shown they can deal with the top teams in League Two, but now it is time to get down and dirty with one of the teams around them in the bottom half of the table as troubled Crawley Town head to Rodney Parade on Monday.
The fact Crawley have sacked three managers this season, sold their best player and recently had one of their directors in the dug-out tells you all you need to know about their current state. They also haven’t won a game away from home this season.
In contrast, Newport’s 0-0 draw against runaway leaders Leyton Orient provided further confirmation that Graham Coughlan has got his side fighting and functioning, but with only three wins in their last 10 league outings a victory is surely due.
Back to back draws with AFC Wimbledon and Orient have been respectable enough, but avenging their 2-1 defeat at Crawley earlier in the season is a must if they are to start climbing the table. They currently sit in 18th place and, according to Orient boss Richie Wellens, that is a false position.
“I think Newport are in a false position. They are a very similar team to last year, if you take away Finn Azaz and Dom Telford, when they finished in and around the play-offs,” said Wellens.
“I think they are a good team and they have had a reaction since the new manager has come in. I like Graham, he’s a good manager.
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“But I think the way they play, with a back three, they’re wide open to play through and we should have been better at capitalising on that.”
A wonder save from Joe Day prevented Orient from taking the spoils and Coughlan still believes Declan Drysdale forced the ball over the line from a corner. That could have earned County all three points.
“The players went up against the best team in the league and looked really good. I’m really proud of the group and we are one or two players off being a really, really good team,” said Coughlan.
“I thought we were outstanding in what should have been a really entertaining 1-0 win but ended as a 0-0 draw.
“We didn’t hold the League Two leaders, they held us and I thought we won – the ball was over the line. It is a clear goal if you look back at the video, it’s clearly over the line and I can’t make any mitigating circumstances for the officials.
“We looked at it again and again, the linesman had a clear view and the ball was clearly over the line. It wasn’t borderline.”
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January will be a difficult month for County as after today’s game they have three road trips to Rochdale, Carlisle and Grimsby. It is also the month when the transfer window opens and Coughlan wants to do some business.
He has already cut short the loans for Thierry Nevers, Chanka Zimba and Hayden Lindley, sending them back to their parent clubs and is actively looking for quality players to boost his squad.
“Bits and pieces tend to fall into place as you move along in January, and I would like to bring one or two in,” admitted Coughlan.
“I’ve looked at three players to bring in but all three have since found themselves back in their first teams, one in the Championship and two in League One. They are now out of the equation but that sets a bar for the standard of player we are looking to bring in.
If the ones that I want to bring in are not available for whatever reason then I will wait, no problem. I’m more than happy with the group that I have got.
“There is so much more to come from them because I look at four or five of the squad and their progression and development has been unbelievable over the last few months.
“If I was told now that I couldn’t bring anybody in this January and I had to go with what I have got, then I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that.”