Paynes Player Ratings Newport County

By Luke Payne, Feature Writer

After a controversial Wrexham game on Tuesday, Welsh week continued with another home fixture, this time against Newport County. They came into the game as one of the most in-form teams in the league. Unfortunately for them, they came up against a Dons side with a point to make and Mike Williamson’s men secured a comfortable 3-0 win. Here’s how I rated the players after the action concluded at Stadium MK:

Formation: 5-4-1/5-2-2-1 (Two holding midfielders and two attacking midfielders)

GK – Michael Kelly – 8: Had an extremely quiet afternoon, only having to make a couple of really basic saves. He looked comfortable on the ball to the point that the crowd weren’t even that anxious when was playing the ball about from on his six yard line. Kelly did play two very poor midrange passes but the team recovered quickly to prevent Newport from creating anything from them.

RWB – Kyran Lofthouse – 9: This is the first game where he’s matched Joe Tomlinson for his creativity and he had total dominance of that right wing. Lofthouse bombed forward at every opportunity and was a real driving force, playing dangerous balls across the box and moving the ball quickly with the likes of Dan Kemp, Stephen Wearne, Jack Payne and later in the game, Emre Tezgel. The best example of this was a brilliant through ball he played for Dan Kemp, splitting open the entire defence with one incisive pass. The only downside to his performance was his lack of accuracy when going for goal.

RCB – Cameron Norman – 9: Probably his best performance at centre-back since he started playing there and what better game for it than against his old team? Norman looked more comfortable on the ball than usual and Dons had so much control over the game that he was playing deep in the Newport half. He did this without neglecting his defensive duties and he showed good physicality to ensure that Newport had no way through. Crucially Norman played the ball over the top for Wearne in the build-up to the third goal.

CB – Warren O’Hora – 8.5: Was more of a playmaker than a defender with Newport providing such little threat. O’Hora looked assured on the ball and he started countless moves with his accurate passes, including an increased amount of long balls that he weighted wonderfully most of the time. On the few occasions Newport did start to threaten The Dons’ box, O’Hora was ready and waiting to make a tackle or head the ball away. He was one dribble into the opposition half away from completing the full ‘Harry Darling ball-playing defender’ bingo card.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 8.5: Had one job and that was to torment Newport’s top scorer Will Evans. Harvie pocketed the danger man without too much trouble but he also won the mind games as well, which eventually resulted in Evans earning himself a yellow card for what must’ve been his fourth or fifth foul on the Dons defender. Harvie did misplace a couple of easy passes but these were far outweighed by the amount of quality passes he played in the opposition half. Even when he was passing backwards he did it at a decent tempo that left Newport chasing shadows.

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 8.5: Had the licence to attack and he used it to full effect, spending large parts of the game as more winger than wingback. Tomlinson has a clear understanding with Lewis Bate and Alex Gilbey so there’s always one player covering the defensive role but it doesn’t matter who does it. One sits back and the other two join the attack, a fluid system that gave Dons a certain unpredictability when attacking down the left. Similarly to Lofthouse he tested Newport’s defence with plenty of balls into the box. He did test keeper Nick Townsend a couple of times but he stood out more for his role in helping to create chances for others. Tomlinson’s other stand-out quality was his success rate in aerial duels, coming out on top seemingly every time.

CM – Jack Payne – 9: The midfield technician was back to his best and he was part of a midfield that understood the assignment to a tee. He played the incisive pass into the box for the first goal, playing it into Wearne who would go on to set up the goal. Then in the 23rd minute, Payne orchestrated a short free-kick routine that ended with him shooting across goal from the left side of the box. His effort hit the post before finding the net, doubling The Dons’ lead. Between the midfield four, they created so many chances and moved the ball about so quickly that Newport didn’t know what to do. Payne rode a lot of challenges and did get caught out a couple of times but that’s just nit-picking. He made way for Ethan Robson after 79 minutes.

CM – Lewis Bate – 9.5 (TOP DON): Top Don could’ve been almost any starting player in the team and I’ve changed my mind about five times whilst writing but in the end I had to go with Bate. It was simply another stellar performance from the loanee. Bate popped up everywhere, whether it was protecting the defence, covering a teammate or joining the attack. His presence enabled so much more creativity throughout the team and his selflessness elevated the team to another level. The way he reads the game is outstanding. Sometimes he would only make one pass in an attacking move but the pass he played was the perfect one to advance the move further. Bate’s darting runs forward were great to watch and this was helped even more by Ellis Harrison’s introduction which allowed Bate to play quick one-two’s with the forward, breaking through two of Newport’s defensive lines in the space of a few seconds. He made way for MJ Williams after 78 minutes.

RAM – Dan Kemp – 9: This is what Swindon and Hartlepool fans see when they watch Dan Kemp. He played with so much freedom and showed up everywhere across the final third. With Dons missing an obvious focal point, there was a lot more rotation in midfield and attack with particular reference to the three most advanced roles occupied by Kemp, Alex Gilbey and Stephen Wearne. He took his goal really well, running across from the left side of the box to get into a shooting position on the right side of Wearne who was located in the middle of the box. From there Wearne flicked the ball to Kemp and he made no mistake with the finish, finding the bottom corner easily. This made it 1-0 after 12 minutes. Kemp was heavily involved in the second goal as well, playing numerous one-two’s with Payne during a free-kick routine they’d clearly planned in advance. Eventually Kemp would play Payne into a shooting position and the lead was doubled. He had a small role to play in the third goal as well, contributing to a fast attacking move that saw Dons go from back to front in the space of a few passes. In addition to all of this, Kemp technically scored again but he was offside and he definitely should’ve doubled his total for the day when Lofthouse played a beautiful through ball for him but Kemp could only hit it straight at Nick Townsend. He made way for Emre Tezgel after 61 minutes.

LAM – Alex Gilbey (C) – 9: Gilbey played an important role in two of the goals. For the first goal he received the ball from Payne, held off his man and then let Payne carry on through with the ball taking a man out of the game and unlocking a route through Newport’s midfield. Then for the third goal, he moved quickly up the pitch to support Stephen Wearne, who cut the ball back for Gilbey to fire into a keeper-less goal, though he did still have to avoid hitting two Newport defenders. This made it 3-0 after 29 minutes. Goals aside, Gilbey’s grit and determination made it hard for Newport to play out from the back, with the captain closing down rapidly and forcing them to play long balls or rotate the ball back to their keeper. He came off for Matt Dennis after 86 minutes.

ST – Stephen Wearne – 9: Wearne was pivotal in two of the goals. For the first goal he held off his man in the box before flicking the ball into the path of Kemp who would quickly fire in the first. Then for the third goal, Wearne collected an over the top through ball from Norman whilst again holding off his man. From there he cut the ball back to Gilbey who would calmly finish the move. Wearne had a couple of chances to score as well but only won corners for his efforts. His hold-up play was fantastic and he caused problems for Newport’s defence despite not being a target man. Wearne was involved in the creation of plenty of other chances but was the first to make way as Mike Williamson looks to rest some of his attacking players. Ellis Harrison came on for Wearne after 61 minutes.

SUB (RAM) – Emre Tezgel – 8: Deserved a goal and was unfortunate not to get one with his best effort getting blocked behind for a corner after some fantastic link-up play between Tezgel and Lofthouse. This was a common occurrence in the second half with the pair constantly causing problems for Newport with one-two plays. He had a couple of other opportunities denied but he moved the ball about just as well as the starting advanced players. Tezgel did sometimes need the confidence to drive at the opposition with the ball but he had an eye for a pass and looked more comfortable in the advanced midfield role than he had when operating in the striker role previously.

SUB (ST) – Ellis Harrison – 7.5: Impressed with his usual hold-up play and helped create plenty of chances with his clever progressive flick-ons. However, he didn’t seem as aware of his surroundings as usual and did sometimes offload the ball too early without realising he could’ve easily turned on the ball and made a run of his own.

SUB (CM) – MJ Williams – 7: Kept things ticking along nicely as Dons cruised to the finish line. Williams protected the defence well but was lacking in the creative department in comparison to the man he replaced.

SUB (CM) – Ethan Robson – 7: Similarly to Williams, Robson protected the defence well and added some more physicality to the midfield but it came at a cost of creating less at the other end of the pitch.

SUB (LAM) – Matt Dennis – 4.5: The only Dons player to struggle in this game. He had one chance to shoot but rushed his effort badly and totally missed the target from close range. Poor ball control kept him from doing much in his cameo appearance.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 9: This was a brilliant performance throughout and there was no point where Dons ever looked like losing or even drawing this game. Newport let themselves down with their performance but the way Dons played gave the opposition no chance to recover after going behind. Every single player that started the game for Dons understood their role and everything just clicked into place. At times it was like watching a training exercise with how well the midfield were moving the ball about, making difficult moves look simple. You could make a claim for almost any player to be Top Don and have plenty of evidence to back it up. It was a professional performance throughout.

Moving onto the negatives, though this is me being very picky! It’s a little disappointing that Dons didn’t kick on and put a few more in the back of the net. Goal difference could be crucial and though there’s a very low chance of catching Manfield and Stockport’s goal difference, Dons are only a few goals behind Wrexham and Crewe. A couple of goals could easily become the difference between automatic promotion and play-offs come the final day of the season. It also would’ve sent out a statement to the rest of the league, though a performance of this standard may do that anyway. The other minor concern is bookings. Dons picked up two yellow cards for Alex Gilbey and Joe Tomlinson respectively. Both of these bookings were for dissent which has been a common theme across the course of the season with Max Dean and Daniel Harvie being the usual suspects. On top of that Dean Lewington’s straight red against Wrexham was for language he used talking to a referee. This leads into the point that Dons have to be careful as the last thing the squad needs is for any of these players to get suspended for mouthing off at the officials, especially at this crucial time of the season. Emotions are running high but you would prefer a few decisions not going your way to playing a couple of games without a key player purely due to things they’ve said.

However, aside from talking to officials the group looks in a fantastic position from a mentality point of view. They’re all playing for each other and there’s a real sense of comradery throughout the squad. A fantastic example was when Emre Tezgel’s best chance to score was denied by a block from a Newport player. Alex Gilbey and Ellis Harrison both walked over to him immediately and picked him up off the ground and gave him some words of encouragement. These players look out for each other and though things like that may seem like nothing to someone on the outside looking in, they’re crucial for team togetherness and confidence. This team is starting to feel like a group that could really pull off that promotion charge. Perhaps the best test of this team’s character is the next game. Next Saturday it’s an away trip to our friends from South London…No not Sutton, the other ones! A full six point haul against them would really set the tone for a promotion push!

If you’ve read this far then thank you! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game in the comments below and I hope you enjoyed the read!

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