ewport County may require as little as a single point from their trip to Morecambe on Saturday to qualify for the League Two playoffs as they ended their home fixture list for the 2018-19 season with a 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic. The result puts them in 7th position in the table as they head North for the final game of the season.
County made just one change to their starting line-up; Jamille Matt overcame his dead leg to take his place alongside Padraig Amond at the expense of the injured Ben Kennedy. With that change, the formation changed from Saturday’s 4-3-3 to the more familiar 3-5-2 we've come to know in recent times.
This match was a dead rubber for the Latics as their playoff hopes were dashed at the weekend and an initially slow start saw both teams struggling to maintain possession but burst into life when a ball from the right hand side was met first time by the advancing Matt Dolan. The former Middlesbrough man connected with it cleanly but Zeus De La Paz produced a stunning save at his near post. Straight up the other end, confusion in the County back line saw Oladapo Afolayan given a clear path to goal but could only drag his left footed shot wide. A huge let-off for Mike Flynn’s men…
Clear-cut chances were largely at a premium thought the first half. The ever-industrious Robbie Willmott was presented with an opportunity from a well-worked corner routine but his effort was well blocked.
While County enjoyed the better of the build-up play, 10 minutes from half time, they received another wake-up call. Callum Lang was anonymous for much of the first 45 but he was allowed to wriggle through multiple challenges on his way to setting up Johan Branger-Engone for a fizzing ow shot on goal but Joe Day was equal to it and County scrambled it away.
It would take just three minutes of the second half for the deadlock to be broken…
Mark O’Brien last scored nearly two years ago in THAT game but after some pinball on the edge of the box, the ball found its way to the Irishman, whose right-footed shot rocketed into the bottom corner past the impressive De La Paz. Cue raptures in the stands as County began to inch their way into the play-off places.
The game became quite scrappy after the goal but 15 minutes from time, the teams traded golden opportunities. First off, Oldham worked the ball well out to the right and the cross into the box was almost impossible to defend. Fortunately, Branger-Engone’s header bounced just wide of the upright. Up the other end, Matt Dolan played a brilliant one-two with Dan Butler to get into the penalty area and the ball fell invitingly for a volley but Curaçao International De La Paz was behind it again.
But just minutes later, County put the game to bed as, from a free kick on half way, the ball fell at the feet of the non-stop Robbie Willmott who unleashed a left-footed drive low into the corner of the net. It was going to take a piece of magic to beat De La Paz for a second time and via a small deflection – possibly off Mark O’Brien – County’s assist King duly obliged. Padraig Amond almost added a third before the end but his drive was well saved at the near post.
Another deserved victory for County; now uneaten in nine, seven of which with clean sheets. They’ve come good at the perfect time, now just to get over the line at the seaside at the weekend. A point might be enough to get it done, but they'll look to keep it in their own hands and sign off with another victory. Just one more, boys...
Man of the Match: Mark O’Brien
Player Ratings: Day 7, Butler 6, Willmott 7, Dolan 7 (Pipe 6), Amond 6 (McKirdy 5), Matt 6 (Azeez 6), Sheehan 7, Bennett 6, O’Brien (c) 7, Poole 6, Demetriou 6
Attendance: 4,642 (160 away)