On Tuesday, City travel to South Wales to play the rearranged fixture against Newport County.
Ahead of the match, Sam Moakes has the lowdown on the key men in the Exiles’ squad keen to cause trouble for the Grecians.
After a long run of tight matches and slender leads, Newport’s defence have looked capable even when the goalscoring hasn’t been consistent. Matthew Dolan, playing at the heart of a back three, is a major reason for this. Having conceded just 41 goals in as many matches this year, only three sides have a better defensive record: second-placed Cheltenham and mid-table Salford and Stevenage.
Newport’s number eight, who has filled in at the base defence this year, has been the club’s top performer in this area. Dolan has excelled at the back, but he is usually found in midfield in South Wales; such is the versatility of the former Bradford City and Yeovil Town man. With 35 starts this year, Dolan has made himself un-droppable even when playing out of position, averaging a higher SofaScore rating than anyone else for the side. He has even scored six goals for Newport this campaign, including a brace in a 2-1 win against Bradford City, and is therefore the fourth highest scorer.
With the sad announcement in June of last year that captain Mark O’Brien will be retiring from football due to a necessary heart operation, Joss Labadie has picked up the armband for the Exiles. Having made over a century of appearances for Newport he has certainly earnt the right to captain the side, but it looked like Labadie might have made it at the higher level at one stage.
His career started out at West Brom as a trainee, enjoying a few short loans at Shrewsbury and Cheltenham to gain experience. His Premier League hopes were dashed by 2010, however, as the midfielder joined Tranmere Rovers in League One. Just two seasons later, and with just 15 starts under his belt, Labadie joined Notts County in another move that only saw him start a handful of games. A decent time at Dagenham and Redbridge earnt Labadie a deal at Newport County. A tackling beast, Labadie has started 30 games so far this campaign.
In the absence of a goalscorer with a tally higher than eight, I’ve got to go for a midfielder as Newport’s second key man. And no, despite the name, it’s not Joel Ledley. Josh Sheehan has undoubtedly been one of Newport’s most consistent performers this season with his ability to play as an advanced or defensive midfielder.
38 starts have seen the midfielder net three times and register two assists, but Sheehan succeeds more by being the team’s ball-winner and box-to-box passing option. His heat map, with red spots all the way across the pitch, tell a better story of the midfielder’s season. His five years and counting with Newport has seen the Welshman earn two caps for his country as he continues to be Mr. Stability for boss Michael Flynn.