Newport City endured a difficult evening in their final pre-season game as they fell to a heavy 6-3 defeat against STM Sports at Llanrumney University Fields, Cardiff. With the new season just four days away, City Manager Sam Houldsworth took the opportunity to select an experimental line-up and build up the squad fitness ahead of a testing campaign.
STM started the game very strongly and dominated the opening stages as they constantly laid siege to the City goal, and they eventually took the lead in the 14th minute through a calmly taken bottom right corner finish from the centre of the penalty area.
City responded to the setback in positive fashion as they levelled the score immediately from the restart courtesy of a superb curling effort from the edge of area from Aaron Carew as he sent the ball into the top left hand corner of the net.
The visitors fell behind again in the 24th minute when STM were awarded a free kick five yards out from the left hand side of the area which they struck into the bottom right hand corner of the net to reclaim the lead. The Steelmen experienced a sense of déjà vu when they immediately equalised from the restart as Carew once again came to rescue with a smart chipped finish inside the area after beating the offside trap.
However the remainder of the first half was a highly forgettable occasion for City as STM notched up several gears to take full control by scoring a further three goals without reply. Similar to last Friday night’s game against Cirencester, the Steelmen entered the interval with an uphill task to drag themselves back into the game.
City boss Sam Houldsworth responded to a difficult opening half by ringing the changes to the side throughout the second half as he introduced key players such as Jake Buckley, Dean Palmer and Benardin Fetahi on to the field.
City managed to weather the storm during the opening stages of the second half and managed to pull a goal back in the 62nd minute following a well taken lobbed effort from near the edge of the the area by Jake Buckley. City grew in confidence and almost added another goal two minutes later when Dean Palmer saw his strike from just outside the area deflected wide.
STM responded by creating a host of chances which they failed to convert, and they were almost punished when Jordan Chubb saw his goal bound strike blocked inside the six yard box following a great left sided cross by Fetahi in the 75th minute. The hosts did however eventually seal the game in the 79th minute after a strike deflected off Nathan Thompson which sent the ball rolling past the helpless City ‘keeper Tsvetan Pittev. The Steelmen did have one final opportunity to score a consolation in the 81st minute, but Fetahi saw his threatening close range strike blocked following a left sided cross by Chubb.
There was to be no more drama as City were left to reflect on a second successive pre-season defeat on the eve of the new season.
While Newport City will be disappointed with the results of their final two pre-season games, the squad can feel pleased with their overall performances during the Summer. Faced with the task of re-building the squad, Sam Houldsworth can feel pleased with his recruitments and the way the team have gelled during pre-season. The squad will ultimately be judged by how they perform during this season as they side look forward to their season opener away at Treowen Stars this Saturday.