City’s 2-1 win over Stevenage last week was perhaps more comfortable than the scoreline suggested, and the nerves a single goal lead can produce led to Cameron Dawson producing a fine save late on to preserve the lead. That win helped to build a gap between City in 2nd place and the teams below the automatic promotion line heading into the home straight. Five points is now the gap, but with everyone down to Salford in 11th still within reach of automatic promotion it’s important that Matt Taylor’s side continues the form that has seen City lose just twice in 2022 so far. All eight of City’s fixtures are against sides either in the top seven or the bottom seven currently, so Taylor will be aware that every match will be against an opponent fighting desperately for the points themselves. In terms of selection, Pierce Sweeney returned to the side against Stevenage while Tim Dieng made the bench, Callum Rowe impressing in his place in the centre of the pitch. Assuming Dieng is fit enough to start he’s likely to return as he has been integral to City’s fortunes this season, even though it would be harsh on Rowe. Elsewhere Taylor will look to choose between Offrande Zanzala and Kieran Phillips to lead the line, while he will be without Padraig Amond against his parent club.
Newport managed to ride out the shock departure of Michael Flynn, James Rowberry coming in and continuing Flynn’s great work at a club that has perhaps overachieved in recent seasons. As a result, the Exiles have been very much in the promotion hunt ever since Rowberry came in, and go into Saturday’s match one of several clubs five points behind City and in the playoff zone. Newport’s form has been a little inconsistent of late – a run of one win in six then three straight wins and more recently a defeat and draw in their last two matches. With finances fairly tight there wasn’t much transfer action in January, but with the side performing so well continuity was probably a good thing. The standout performer has undoubtedly been Dom Telford – arguably this season’s Paul Mullin in that he had a modest scoring record prior to this season but has been on fire this term, scoring 25 in all competitions (24 in the league) to lead the division charts. He was for a time scoring at greater than a goal a game, but a failure to score in six matches in March will no doubt be a worry. Hoping to line up against his first club will be Scot Bennett, who is now closing in on 200 league appearances for Newport, while one perhaps surprising signing in the summer was Alex Fisher – a bit part player at City, he has featured in 21 league games for Newport this season, albeit 14 of those off the bench. Robbie Willmott, who had a successful loan spell at City last season, will also hope to feature.
Last season’s match at Rodney Parade will live long in the memory – after Alex Hartridge was harshly sent off in the 8th minute, City took the lead through a stunner from Ryan Bowman, who himself saw red just before half time. The second half was “attack v defence” as City’s nine men held on gamely before Telford equalised in the dying minutes. The reverse fixture this season saw Newport twice take the lead through Willmott and Baker-Richardson only to be pegged back by Jay and Nombe. Those draws meant it’s now three in a row in this fixture and means City are unbeaten in six matches in all competitions between the sides dating back to January 2019. The league head to head record is level at 4-4, but Pools players (is there still such a thing?) would do well to put their X in this fixture’s box as nine matches have finished level.
The referee for this game will be:-
Referee: Chris Sarginson
Assistant Referees: Ollie Williams and James Vallance
Fourth Official : Andrew Hendley
Chris Sarginson has refereed 21 Exeter games, details at https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=chris+sarginson&paged=3