FAW Trophy Second Round
Having already suffered two early cup exits this season, it was third time lucky for Newport City as they managed to secure progress in the FAW Trophy following a second round penalty shootout victory against Merthyr Saints.
The game proved to be a scrappy, yet pulsating affair as City attempted to adjust themselves on a difficult surface at the ICI Rifle Fields. Despite the difficult conditions, the Steelmen started the game brightly and went ahead in the 12th minute after the Saints failed to clear a corner. Failing to clear led to Richard Yarr delivering a cross from the edge of the right hand area into the path of Andrew Muscat who headed into the bottom left hand corner of net. Things got even better for City five minutes later when Jordan Francombe was sent through clear on goal and saw his strike saved by Saints ‘keeper Daniel John, before Ben Fetahi fired in the rebound from close range to double the visitors’ lead. The hosts responded well as they applied the pressure by winning a succession of corners. During this period City ‘keeper Tsvetan Peteev produced a fine save after a strike from Matthew Saunders, whilst Sam Graves was forced into a goal line clearance. City eventually weathered the storm and managed to set up a counter attack as Francombe broke into the opposition penalty area and set up Fetahi who struck an effort from the edge of the area into the bottom right hand corner. This was his second goal of the game and it trebled the visitors’ lead in the 30th minute. However the Saints did manage to pull one back two minutes before the interval when Saunders managed to beat the offside trap following a through ball by Richard Harris and sent a low shot past Peteev and into the back of the net.
Having been boosted by their goal at the end of the first half, the hosts re-started the game confidently and found themselves right back in the game through unusual circumstances after Peteev was penalised for allegedly time wasting. A free kick was awarded inside the penalty area and was quickly fed to the unmarked Craig James who fired into the back of the net from close range in the 51st minute. Things soon got worse for City as the hosts found themselves level just after the hour mark when Saunders found himself unmarked at the far post and had the simple task of tapping low into the bottom hand corner following relentless pressure from the Saints.
Shell shocked from the hosts’ comeback, City managed to respond positively and came close to re-taking the lead through Francombe who forced a good save from John, whilst Coleman and Fetahi also had decent opportunities to score. The hosts also came close to winning the game in the final ten minutes as Peteev smartly saved an effort from James whilst Saunders and Correy Jones also came close to getting the winner. City came extremely close to winning the game in stoppage time when Francombe was sent through clear on goal but saw his chipped effort agonisingly tipped over the bar by John.
FT (90mins) 3-3
With both sides tiring from a hectic 90 minutes, extra time proved to be a fairly even affair but not without its chances. There was a scare for City in the 96th minute when a spill by Peteev presented a chance to Jones who smashed the loose ball from the edge of the area over the bar. City substitute Gareth Taylor made an impression by forcing John into a couple of good saves, while the Saints had two goals disallowed as the game went to penalties.
City managed to hold their nerves during the penalty shootout as Graves, Bridgeman, Dunford, Fetahi and Yarr all converted their spot kicks. Jones, Saunders, Reynolds and James all scored their spot kicks for the Saints but lost the shootout after Christian Davies saw his effort saved by Peteev as City progressed into the next round.
After a superb first half performance, City once again found it difficult to maintain the tempo in the second half. However the side will take satisfaction from showing enough character to withstand the relentless pressure applied by the Saints and will ultimately be pleased to progress to the next round of the FAW Trophy.