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Now you’re in Newport, concrete jungle where dreams are made of…

Words and pictures by Professor James Reade.

Today is another break from the league, with an FA Cup 1st Round match at Newport County. It’s practically European football. It’ll be a miserable journey for those setting off from the Oldham area, although a reasonably easy one for the OASIS contingent, the club’s most dedicated fans. I can’t make it for family reasons (we’re the most dedicated fans except for when something else is happening), but I was there the last time we were at Rodney Parade, when Mike Fondop came off the bench to score a brace. We nearly won that mad game, which featured 50 attempts on goal between the teams. Back then, our performance offered us some hope that we might yet avoid relegation from the Football League. We all know how that turned out. Those two goals were Fondop’s last contribution that season because he picked up an injury that required surgery. And down we went.

They’re at the bottom end of League Two, so we have hope of catching a really, really big fish in the 2ndRound draw, such as Cheltenham or Leyton Orient.

The result last Saturday against Altrincham in Micky Mellon’s first home game was not out of the ordinary or unexpected – we drew three of our previous four matches, including our last two at Boundary Park – but the style was noticeably different from what it was under Unsworth, or indeed under the brief tenure of Steve Thompson and Neil Redfearn. We were less willing to let the opposition waltz through our midfield and attack at will, which was genuine progress given Altrincham’s penchant for good football and their position in the league.

Ominous signs as Altrincham bring their huddle A game.

We had 61% possession last Saturday compared with 42% at their place two weeks previously. We showed patience, even if it felt like a bit too much patience when Kitching or Freeman checked back again when they might have bombed down the wing. It’s fair to say that we were pedestrian at times, and Norwood and Nuttall up front clearly felt their service was lacking. Norwood’s spectacular track back and belt-the-ball-out-for-a-throw on the far side whilst trying to find Freeman seemed like a statement, as does his continued reluctance to celebrate goals. It is an elite mindset, and it does invite a response from the opposition – like Chesterfield fans reminding us all the time that he said “let’s go win the league” back in August – but why shouldn’t we be that good?

Midway through the second half, we were slow and lacked inspiration such that the tannoy announcements – and some poor car craft – provided the entertainment. An Audi A5 driver had left his (or indeed her) engine running. Keyless cars aren’t for everyone. Audi drivers have a reputation, and A5s come in at about £40,000 new right? So it’s okay to have a little laugh at the driver yes?

The announcement that a Peugeot 307 driver had left his (he confessed on Twitter) headlights on felt retro.

Meanwhile on the football pitch, our change in style will take a little getting used to. We’ll never know whether Unsworth simply told the players to pelt it forward and lose possession cheaply after a few passes along the backline. Perhaps he just didn’t give the players any sense of what to do (or indeed confidence). Josh Lundstram told us in his post-match interview that Mellon is working on the team shape both in and out of possession. If the style is different, do we need different personnel to make it more effective? We didn’t seem able to move the ball sufficiently quickly much of the time to exert pressure on Altrincham and threaten them. Does that come with practice or new players?

We created chances and were well worth our point. James Norwood and Nathan Sheron both hit thunderbastards into the roof of the net – according to the club’s official Twitter feed, Norwood’s finish was “nonchalantly slammed”.

Norwood’s strike followed some decent hassling by Nuttall that meant we regained possession in an advanced position. That was different from anything we’ve seen in at least three or four managerial cycles now: hints of a high press, and at times an effective one. In the second half it contributed to Altrincham sitting deeper and deeper, although we were unable to capitalise.

Hudson made only one save for the cameras (from a free kick just before the break), and Latics asked most of the questions. The Halloween horror moments involved returning hero Hallam Hope. Within the first few minutes he managed to put it over an open goal when it was easier to score, and not long after we’d levelled, he gave away a penalty, much to the surprise of literally everyone in the stadium, including the players. It’s not even clear how much of a view the referee had. Hope slid in and the ball made contact at some point with his hand. It would not have been a penalty in the first 159 years of association football.

Now we're in Newport, concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Beating them will be an upset – a giant killing! – which is painful. Positive signs at Spotland. Grim defeat to Fylde. Positive signs against Alty. What’s our Newport State of Mind going to be?

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