|Newport County 2 v 1 Leeds United|
Sunday, 7th January 2018 Kick-off 12:00
Match Preview: Newport County v Leeds United - Alterations afoot as Whites face Exiles
Sunday, 7th Jan 2018 10:27 by @LucasMonk_
After labouring to a goalless draw at home to managerless Nottingham Forest in their first match of 2018, today’s fixture sees Leeds United seek progression into the fourth round of the FA Cup away to Newport County - as United head coach Thomas Christiansen takes charge of the Whites in the competition for the first time.
Monday’s match saw Leeds United produce an insipid and impotent performance, with their flagrant profligacy in front of goal precluding victory over a Nottingham Forest team bereft of confidence and a permanent manager. However, notwithstanding Monday’s mundanity, there remains much about which United supporters can feel sanguine. The club remain within the play-off places - presently occupying sixth position - having won precisely half of their Championship fixtures this season and the painstaking pursuit of reinforcements has already commenced. 21-year-old Japanese midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi and 19-year-old Finnish central defender Aapo Halme have both acceded to contracts with Leeds this month and United’s signing of the pair encapsulates the desire of the management to construct a squad fit for the future. Furthermore, this FA Cup tie away to Newport County - a side Leeds have already comprehensively conquered in the Carabao Cup this season - is one rather opportune. Though United’s recording of an eventual 5-1 scoreline over the Exiles in August somewhat secreted a dogged performance on the Welsh side’s part, the stronger opponents Leeds could have been drawn against were multifarious.
As was the case prior to Carabao Cup match between the two sides at Elland Road earlier in the season, wholesale alterations to the United lineup are expected of head coach Thomas Christiansen. Youthful fledglings such as Oriol Rey, Liam Kitching, Tom Pearce and Jack Clarke may thus be afforded their first professional appearances this afternoon. With United scheduled to travel to Portman Road to face Ipswich Town in a momentous Championship match next Saturday, it is highly probable that Christiansen will elect to omit his most salient first-team stars from today’s encounter.
Welsh opponents Newport, meanwhile, possess several seasoned professionals - such as midfielders Joss Labadie and Ben Tozer in addition to defender David Pipe - and are indubitably capable of felling their rather more illustrious counterparts today. In particular, Leeds must be conscious of the potent attacking threat posed by forwards Shawn McCoulsky (a loanee from Bristol City), Pádraig Amond (formerly of Paços de Ferreira and Shamrock Rovers) and Frank Nouble (formerly of West Ham United and Coventry City). The triumvirate have scored a combined 24 goals for the Exiles this season, and have played an integral role in aiding County’s unprecedented success in 2017-18. Under the tutelage of a former player in Michael Flynn, Newport presently occupy 11th place in the League Two table and are in no danger of becoming embroiled in a forlorn relegation dogfight as they were last season. With United universally anticipated to make a multitude of changes to their starting lineup, the Welsh minnows will be hopeful of precipitating a famous FA Cup shock.
Exiles boss Michael Flynn is likely to recall Irish defender Mark O’Brien to the starting lineup after the erstwhile Derby County, Luton Town and Southport player completed a three-match suspension recently.
Furthermore, Flynn could confer a first Newport appearance upon 34-year-old Paul Hayes, a nomadic forward who joined County on a free transfer in October but was rendered ineligible until this week owing to registration complexities.
Finally, Irish forward Pádraig Amond, who scored against Exeter City in Newport’s most recent fixture, is likely to partner the hefty Frank Nouble, formerly of West Ham United, Ipswich Town and Coventry City, in attack with Flynn employing a 4-4-2 formation.
Following his team’s disenchanting goalless draw at home to managerless Nottingham Forest on Monday, United head coach Thomas Christiansen made plain to the local media his intention to make several alterations to his starting lineup for today’s match. Fledgling defenders Tom Pearce, Liam Kitching and Oriol Rey - in addition to 17-year-old forward Jack Clarke - have all been selected in Leeds’ matchday squad following their omission from the Under-23’s 2-1 victory against Burnley at Thorp Arch on Friday.
Moreover, 19-year-old Dutch forward Jay-Roy Grot, who has been the recipient of much vituperative criticism from his own supporters of late and who has not yet scored a goal for United, will start the match as Leeds’ lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Finally, 19-year-old Aapo Halme, a towering defender recently signed from Finland’s HJK Helsinki, could make his United debut, as could 24-year-old midfielder Ouasim Bouy, who was recently recalled from his loan spell at Spanish Segunda División side Cultural Leonesa owing to a lack of playing time. Defender Tyler Denton and striker Mallik Wilks, who have also returned to Elland Road from Port Vale and Accrington Stanley respectively, are cup-tied and will thus not be available for selection.
Venue: Rodney Parade, Newport (capacity of 7,850).
Coverage: As is always the case, live match commentary will be available on BBC Radio Leeds. Additionally, the match is to be televised on BBC One Wales.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral) shall officiate this match after attracting odium from Arsenal supporters following his awarding of a penalty to West Bromwich Albion in a recent Premier League fixture between the two.
Memorable Match: Leeds United 5-1 Newport County
This frenetic Carabao Cup meeting of the two sides in August last year was only the second ever contest between the two clubs. United emerged victorious owing to goals from Kemar Roofe (x3), Samuel Sáiz and Ronaldo Vieira, after Newport had taken the lead through Joss Labadie’s first half strike.
Following what must be regarded as a deeply dispiriting goalless draw at home to a managerless and vulnerable Nottingham Forest side, today’s FA Cup third round tie away to League Two outfit Newport County presents ample opportunity to Leeds United.
The FA Cup is no longer possessed of prestige in plenitude. This has much to do with the resting of star players on the part of Premier League clubs, and the direct consequence of this thoroughly contemptible practice has led to a diminution of the competition’s stature. United are not, in any way, responsible for this, but contesting an FA Cup third round tie has become, for many clubs, merely no more than a vexatious chore - and an opportunity to afford sporadic first-team players and fledgling youngsters crucial minutes. Tom Pearce, Liam Kitching, Oriol Rey and Jack Clarke have all travelled with the squad and this experience will doubtless stand them in good stead for the remainder of their Leeds careers.
Moreover, a comfortable victory against the Exiles this afternoon will serve to ameliorate morale in the squad after an execrable defeat to Birmingham City and Monday’s dour draw at home to Forest.
Notwithstanding a deluge of changes to their starting lineup, United, under the management of Garry Monk, were able to negotiate a difficult tie away to Cambridge at this stage of the competition last season and I consider that the Whites will again secure progression into the fourth round.
Prediction: Newport County 1-2 Leeds United
Newport are a workmanlike outfit and boast many seasoned professionals, and will thus make this tie a difficult one for their more illustrious counterparts, but this is a match that Thomas Christiansen will expect to win and United will be left bitterly disappointed if they spurn what is a gilt-edged opportunity to progress into the fourth round of the competition.
Photo: Action Images
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