You wait five years for a Welsh derby, and then two come around at once. Four weeks after our victory at the STōK Cae Ras, we face Newport County again.
THE WREXHAM ANGLE
The return of Ollie Palmer at the end of another impressive home win was a bonus for Phil Parkinson last Saturday. He fielded an unchanged team for a third consecutive match, and only had 4 players unavailable through injury - goalkeeper Rob Lainton and centre backs Aaron Hayden, Eoghan O'Connell and Jordan Tunnicliffe.
Jacob Mendy remains unavailable as he is in Cote d'Ivoire at AFCON. The group stage ends on Tuesday for The Gambia, so he could be available by next weekend, but hopefully he'll continue to follow his dream into the knock-out stages of the competition.
THE OPPOSING VIEW
County came into last month's match at the STōK Cae Ras in good form, and it has continued since. In fact, since that loss they're unbeaten, having won 3 and drawn 3. That could easily have been 5 wins too, as Sutton scored a last minute equaliser at Gander Green Lane and 10-man Eastleigh managed to take them to a replay in the FA Cup with a late, contentious penalty. They made amends by seeing the National League team off comfortably at The Silverlake Stadium.
A couple of results stand out during that run. Forest Green Rovers came to Rodney Parade and took a surprise 2-0 lead into the break, but Callum Jones' dismissal was a turning point as County roared back to score 4, with top scorer Will Evans chipping in with a couple. They also enjoyed an impressive draw against promotion-chasers Crewe Alexandra.
The victory over Eastleigh earned Newport a home FA Cup tie against Manchester United, and the attendance for that match will be boosted by two temporary stands erected to cope with the influx of Wrexham fans on Saturday!
HEAD TO HEAD
Our last game at Newport, in December 2018, ended in our heaviest defeat in this fixture. However, the context of the 4-0 defeat ought to be considered. Graham Barrow’s team were defied by an inspired performance from Joe Day at the STōK Cae Ras, despite County being two divisions higher than us. The replay started disastrously when Luke Young picked up an early red card, but Wrexham put in a stubborn performance to go into the break level. However, that resistance was broken in the second half as County racked up 4 goals. That result matched one in April 1983, as we lost on the way to relegation to Division Four.
We did well at Rodney Parade during the three years County spent in the National League – a period which ended, of course, with their victory over us in the 2013 play-off final at Wembley. In our first clash since Newport rose back to the same level as us, Andy Morrell struck in the first half, but The Exiles earned a draw thanks to an 89th minute equaliser.
The following season we won there thanks to an Adrian Cieslewicz goal, despite the fact that we rotated the squad in preparation for the play-offs, and in January 2013 we struck first again, through Danny Wright, but had to settle for a draw.
Newport went out of business 37 years ago, and while they fought their way back up the divisions as a reformed club we didn’t face them in the league between 1987 and 2010. However, since the resumption of this Welsh derby we’ve been unbeaten in the league, winning 4 games and drawing 3. Furthermore, we’ve only conceded one goal in our last 6 league matches.
We’ve won 10 of our last 15 league matches against County, losing just twice, so predictably our recent record at Newport is pretty good.
We’ve played a few cup ties at Rodney Parade in recent years, with rather more mixed results. We won a Welsh Premier Cup quarter final in January 2006, a 2-0 win coming through two goals by Jon Walters. However, at the same stage of the competition a year later things went horribly wrong. It was Brian Carey’s tenth game in charge and he was still looking for a win; surely it would come against lower division opposition we’d seen off comfortably a year earlier? It looked that way when Mike Carvill gave us a 51st minute lead, but five catastrophic minutes later we were behind and went on to lose 2-1.
Our best result at Newport came in April 1969 when Ian Moir and Arfon Griffiths scored in a 2-0 win, starting a sequence of five consecutive wins over County.
Griffiths, Ray Smith and Ollie Kearns are our top scorers in this fixture, each with three goals. Kearns got all his in a hat trick in a 4-1 Welsh Cup win in March 1988.
TODAY’S OTHER FIXTURES
AFC Wimbledon v Crawley Town
Barrow v Crewe Alexandra
Bradford City v Doncaster Rovers
Gillingham v Forest Green Rovers
Harrogate Town v Grimsby Town
Mansfield Town v Sutton United
MK Dons v Morecambe
Newport County v Wrexham
Notts County v Stockport County
Swindon Town v Tranmere Rovers
Walsall v Accrington Stanley
There are a number of matches in this round which could make a case for being "six-pointers". Barrow entertain Crewe knowing defeat would see their visitors replace them in fourth place. Leaders Stockport travel to Notts County, whose focus is suddenly on the teams which are thundering up behind them.
A number of those teams are facing each other: AFC Wimbledon and Crawley are 3 points off the play-offs, while Accrington Stanley face resurgent Walsall.
Tough away matches for the bottom two, who are both starting to detach from the rest of the table, mean the clubs above them have a chance to put real distance between them and the danger zone.
Andy Cannon's 275th career appearance.