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Newport County return to new Rodney Parade pitch in style

Tuesday 29th August 2017
When Newport County hosted matches at Rodney Parade last season, the pitch often resembled a ploughed field. Not anymore.

Upon returning to a newly laid surface, County extended their unbeaten League Two start with a flourish.

Playing possession football at Rodney Parade last season was a difficult task. Bald patches and divots were the default condition.  Newport perhaps became accustomed to the poor quality, winning its final four matches at home.

Those victories helped the Exiles to avoid relegation into the National League by a two-point margin. The team had been eleven points adrift in mid-March.

Cynics would argue County gradually gained an unfair advantage as their opponents struggled to compete on that pitch. Yet, manager Mike Flynn must also be allowed some credit. As caretaker boss, he rallied the side after Graham Westley's dismissal.
Flynn played for Newport on four separate occasions during an 18-year career. Before assuming the hot seat, he had been Westley's assistant. Four home wins followed, all by a single goal margin. The last was a 2-1 triumph against Notts County. Defender Mark O'Brien scored the winning goal in the 89th minute.

While Newport was the last team assured safety for a second successive season, it was clear the playing surface was becoming an embarrassment. Relaying the pitch was a summer priority. The Football League graciously afforded the club extra time by scheduling their first three matches away.

With Rugby teams Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC also playing at the Parade, a new Desso GrassMaster pitch was installed to hopefully cope with all three team's demands.

County began its extended road trip by avoiding defeat in all three league games, including a 1-0 win at Coventry. It ended in disappointment, Leeds claiming their scalp 5-1 in an EFL Cup tie.

However, the green, green grass of home awaited County, as did Chesterfield, at the weekend. On firm footing, the Exiles did not disappoint the home support.
Chesterfield had found its first league win, 2-0, against Port Vale the previous weekend. Riding that high, the Spireites were leading 1-0 at the interval at Rodney Parade. Yet, County players responded to Mike Flynn's half-time chat with four unanswered goals. Summer signing Frank Nouble, from Southend, claimed a hat-trick.

More than 4,000 spectators celebrated the win. They will be hoping the pristine pitch brings a similar record, avoiding any repeat of the two previous campaign's relegation battles. There will be further tests in the weeks and months ahead. Still, Mike Flynn won't be waiting until November for a first Newport County victory at Rodney Parade.
John Welsh
I am a freelance sports writer specialising in football covering Premier League, EFL and English non-leagues plus top leagues in France, Germany and Italy. I have written for Inside Futbol, Football Weekends plus football previews for Hong Kong Jockey Club, and I’m also the author of book First Touch, a novel covering the exploitation of young African footballers and their experiences in Europe.

Total articles: 31

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