amille Matt cemented his place as a County hero again on Tuesday night as his 96th-minute header rescued a point against League Two basement boys Macclesfield Town. The 3-3 result has seen them slip to 3rd in the table but remain four points clear of 4th and only a couple of points off Lincoln in the top spot.
The first half had a big sense of deja vu about it as, yet again, County were made to pay for a slow start to proceedings. After an initially cagey start from both sides, David Fitzpatrick swung in a left-footed corner from the right-hand side and towering above everyone was Fiacre Kelleher to nod into the corner of the net.
It was clear that County were trying to get a solid base established in defence and building from there but the pressing from Macclesfield just wouldn’t allow for it and as such, they paid the penalty...literally.
A long ball forward from a free kick ended up in the Exiles’ penalty area and in the resultant melee, Dan Butler was adjudged to have fouled the lively Tyrone Marsh. It looked like a soft one to give from referee Trevor Kettle but nevertheless, Fitzpatrick went from provider to scorer, coolly slotting past Joe Day for 2-0.
Similarly to Saturday against Cambridge, the home side grew into the game, but not with the immediacy or gusto of that victory. Jamille Matt, having justified his place in the starting XI after his four goals in the previous two outings, was being used primarily as a target man in a three-pronged attack. This subsequently made County a lot easier to defend against.
Once Antoine Semenyo dropped back a touch, more football began to be played on the floor and to feet and from that, the corner came which led to the response. It was rolled into the feet of Padraig Amond who chipped it backwards – cue a multitude of groans from supporters – to an onrushing Dan Butler who exploded into the box and rifled low into the centre of the net. It was clear the penalty decision against him got him fired up as he was, from then on, half a yard sharper and instrumental to everything positive County had to offer.
Mike Flynn’s men were the better team by far in the second half; almost complete domination ensued and the majority of the play was in Macclesfield's third of the pitch. Padraig Amond was the first to pull a save from Kieran O'Brien, doing so with a good header from a Dan Butler cross.
The Irishman played a hand in the equalising goal, nodding the ball through for Jamille Matt who rounded the onrushing goalkeeper but was then cynically pulled to the ground; the referee could only give a penalty. For the second time in four days, captain Mickey Demetriou made no mistake from the spot.
The game went into somewhat of a lull period for around 15 minutes; both sides seemed to go back to sussing each other out as to how they would approach the game from then on in. Antoine Semenyo worked the ball well onto his left foot before firing off a shot to which O'Brien got down well.
With a little under ten minutes to go, the 2024 in attendance were subjected to a penalty decision which can only be described, in mediums such as these, as ‘poor’ but this does not do justice to the severity of Trevor Kettles crime against refereeing (the fans’ reaction certainly did though!).
In a complete bolt from the blue, Macclesfield won a corner which was drilled to the far post and from less than a yard away from his man, using his arms as leverage to compete for the ball, Mickey Demetriou was penalised for handball. It was one of those that as a fan, you shout for, knowing full well it’s not going to be given but you still go up anyway. The sting in the tail was completed when David Fitzpatrick stepped up for a second time to score, this time over the dive of Joe Day.
?️ EXCLUSIVE| "The last two games at home the fans have been brilliant and pulled us through, so hopefully a lot of them will travel to Forest Green." @Danielbutler26 thanks the fans for their support in exclusive iFollow interview.— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) October 3, 2018
? https://t.co/Dxf7LD4kzg pic.twitter.com/puwHGiizES
From then, it was a complete onslaught from the Exiles. Corner after corner came and went, the last few for which Joe Day went forward to give some extra height and physicality to proceedings and Fraser Franks was immediately promoted to the role centre-forward. It was Franks who had one of the better opportunities for the home side as his acrobatic attempt looked to be going in before it was blocked, en route, by a dogged Macclesfield defence.
It looked like it was going to be all puff, no house blown down for County when the clock struck the 96th minute. But the latest in a wave of crosses found the head of Jamille Matt who, while off balance, planted the ball in the corner of the net, sparking wild celebrations both on and off the field. His 5th header in three games already has him on the lips of an abundance of fans as a sure-fire first XI player.
Another truly ridiculous game of football, in which County have dropped two points at home to the bottom side in the table, fall to third place in the table on goal difference and now face a tricky trip to Forest Green who have now climbed into 5th place. However, if the past few days have told us anything, it‘s that this County side is made of tougher stock than previous sides; it’s got guts, more goals in it and it will not give in no matter what. Let’s just hope they can start coming out of the blocks a bit quicker from now on!
Man of the Match: Dan Butler
Attendance: 2024 (52 Macclesfield)