Newport County 1 Blackburn Rovers 2
Byrne (30) Marshall (8, pen), Rhodes (75)
FACup 3rd Round
5,083 (Backburn 559)
Despite being full of cold and probalby too ill to tavel this was too good an opportunity to miss. Newport County's home 3rd round FA Cup tie with Blackburn Rovers had been postponed and had been rescheduled for Monday 18th January, partly thanks to Welsh language TV channel S4C now covering the game live. I was surprised I was even able to get a ticket but in the event it was nowhere near sold out despite this being arguably the biggest FAC game for the Amber Army since they lost 2 - 0 at the old Roker Park, to Sunderland around 30 year ago. This wasn't the first time I'd been to a Newport home game either, back in 1978 I was at their old Somerton Park ground for an FA Cup 2nd round game with Worcester City (0-0 and then City lost 1 - 2 in the replay). Somerton Park was a monster of a ground that included a greyhound track and speedway track but its long since been demolished and is now the site of a housing estate.
So drove into Shrewsbury, parked up in the station car park and paid my £4.80 for 24 hours fee and then stepped aboard the 13:40 to Milford Haven calling at Newport and about a thousand other stations either side of the Welsh border. For £36 return though it was a decet enough journey. Shortly after leaving Shrewsbury station we passed the Shrews' New Meadow Stadium and then the next station was Church Stretton whose "Magpies" junior football team were once regulat opposition for my lads who played for Market Drayton junior Tigers. In fact the whole trip was full of memories; another stop was Hereford and just before the station, over to my right I could see the floodlights and the top of the stands of Hereford United' Edgar Street where my first love, Worcester City regularly played back in the old Southern League.
Arriving at the space age looking station at Newport, I first of all took the wrong exit and ended up in the car park with no obvious way out to the streets of Newport! Eventually,retracing my steps and going back through the station I eventually exited correctly onto the Queensway Road and made my way straight to Rodney Parade in the hope of getting some photos in the daylight. There has been quite a lot of development in and around the city centre in recent years and it looks every bit the thrird largest city in Wales after Cardiff and Swansea. I wandered over the impressive looking Newport City Footbridge that spans the River Usk linking the the east bank of the river in the vicinity of Rodney Parade stadium to the University Plaza on the west bank . As to getting any photographs, the only one was that shown below of the main gateway. The rest of the stadium is protected by a high black corrugated fence or the rear walls of the stands and you can see very little of the inside of the ground. There was still lots of construction work going on all around the ground but it was hard to ascertain exactly what they were building!
I made my way back into town where I 'd arranged to meet @PCOX74 a Leeds fan born and bred in Newport. We enjoyed a chat and couple of beers in a Wetherspoon in Bridge Street, the Queens Hotel before setting off for the game.
Although the ground would be nowhere near full, everyone seemed to have arrived at th last minute and we had quite a queue to get into the Hazell Stand not helped by the bloke in front of me not understanding that the bar code reader needed to see the bar code end of ticket not the blank end!
Rodney Parade is a strange looking stadium. It is primarily a rugby ground of course with both Gwent Dragons and Newport Rugby also playing there and hence the pitch was thread bare. On our right, as we sat at the front of the Hazell Stand were the travelling Rovers fans on a little open terrace that only went part way across that end o fthe ground. The players entered the field from the corner we were nearest to on our right out of a buiding not disimmilar to that strange little building in the corner of Portman Road, Ipswich. The opposite end was also a completely open terrace of what looked to be ten or twelve steps. The Bisley Stand opposite us is quite new, shiny even and dates from 2011. It has rows of seats below a flat wall of hospitality boxes and the seats are multi coloured giving a sort of chequer board effect. Finally, the Hazell stand where we sat is a traditional structure with terracing to the front and several rows of seating to the rear. Annoyingly, there were some very thick posts supporting the roof which do get in your eyeline.
The game got off to a cracking start with referee Charles Breakspear giving Rovers a very soft penalty after just 8 minutes when Ben Marshall was adjudged to have been pushed by Scott Barrow. Marshall fired the penalty home without drama. Everyone thought it would be now be an uphill struggle for the Ambers but within 2 minutes a wild tackle by Rovers' Chris Brown on Medy Elito saw the Blackburn man sent off! Game on!
Half an hour into the game and Newport's Mark Byrne brought everyone to their feet with a magnificent 25 yard strike that curled into the top corner down at the far end , our left. ! - 1 at half time and the only bad news, apart from the huge queues for the bogs, was that Jordan Rhodes was stripped and ready to come on for the second half. Having seen him regularly score against Leeds I feared for the home side.
Sure enough, with 75 minutes on the clock, Rhodes rose majestically to head home and seal a place in round 4 for Rovers. Newport had one glorious chance in the 80th minute but with all the goall to aim at Scott Boden headed well over the bar. Shame.