Newport County 1 Wimbledon 2

photo (14)What a difference a Wembley winner makes.

An eventful week has seen Wrexham part company with Andy Morrell eight months after his side – arguably the better team last May in the Conference play-off – lost out to Newport County.

And the Black and Ambers are now lumbering in the mud and playing every three or four days for two months with the star that day, Christian Jolley, barely able to get a shot on target.

Since the heady day in north London, County have lost the vim and vibrancy that made them such great entertainment last season. The 46-game season, on this evidence, looks like a long haul.

This was the third of five home games on the trot (five in 14 days) and, frankly, you’d be a mug to make the next two.

Wimbledon

Wimbledon Mark II bear no resemblance to the bunch of monsters of the 80s who, quite simply, would be lucky to get on the pitch these days.

As a regular watcher of them playing Luton back then, the games were always eventful and full of incident and while you had a sneaking regard for their style, tales of Vinnie Jones telling Kenny Dalglish: “‘I’m going to rip your head off and crap in the hole,” meant their underdog cachet soon lost its lustre.

The current side, of course, are a much nicer proposition

The programme

Always a bad sign when the programme is more interesting than the match.

County have always had a good read. Possibly the best.

Back when they were fast disappearing down the Football League plughole in 1987 the gallows humour in the programme, for visitors as unglamorous as Darlington and Rochdale, made it one of the best reads of the 80s.

There was also no hint of self-pity at the laughing stock status County reluctantly held as the club lurched from crisis to disaster to fiasco.

Yesterday’s programme featured an earthy eight pages with a ‘Hall of Famer’. Not even a player, but groundsman and all-round gopher Tony Gilbert.

Tales of John Aldridge, Jimmy Scoular, Len Ashurst spilling out of his ears.

Not sure you’d read this one anywhere else but Newport: “At Everton, Ollie come in the dressing room at half time and said’ ‘I’ve twisted my ankle.’ Colin Addison said to me, ‘See if there’s something you can do.’

But Ollie said: “I need a shit.”

We said: “What’s more important – a shit or strapping?”

He said: “Both!”

“So that’s how I strapped it up – with him sat doing what he needed to do and me kneeling down doing what I needed to do. I thought: “What the fuck am I doing here.”

Programmes have certainly changed since the bland old 80s, that’s for sure. Let’s hear more from the Tony Gilberts of this world.

The match

The omens were good – a fiver was floating in a car park puddle so it was picked up.

The pitch was in a surprisingly good condition given recent bad weather and its chequered history over the last 15 months when it has been a consistent cause for concern.

Newport County v Wimbledon
Subs take a stroll as they try to stay awake at Rodney Parade

But, cor, this game was dismal. A raging nothingness, a footballing void of people scurrying around and not in control of the ball. 

What’s happened to the County? They don’t look a decent bet for the play-offs. Up to Christmas they seemed on a roll.

I’m not even sure there were any shots on goal until a ball was walloped up to Wimbledon’s Ross Worner who became entangled with one of his own centre halves and fisted the ball into his own net after 65 minutes. The crowd were shocked to the core and celebrations were strangely muted.

Then Teddy Sheringham’s lad Charlie – what else would he have been called by his big-time-roller pop? – pounced dad-like to net from inches and the familiar County gloom, known to anyone who has mates who are Newport fans, descended on the terrace.

That was five minutes from time. Worse was to follow.

Within three minutes Kevin Sainte-Luce feinted and swerved down the left to beat his full-back and the Yak to net an excellent winner.

Almost as good as finding that fiver!

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