ewport County missed the opportunity to go 10th in the League Two table as they recorded another 0-0 draw, the latest of which at home to Swindon Town on Tuesday night. However, with Exeter getting beaten at Macclesfield Town, the result sees them still in the race for the play-offs five points off the top seven with a single game in hand to come.
There was somewhat of a familiar look to the side as just the single change was made from Saturday’s stalemate as Irish forward Padraig Amond took his place in the XI, replacing Keanu Marsh-Brown. Jamille Matt lined up for his 50th appearance for the Exiles. As expected, both Scot Bennett and back-up ‘keeper Nick Townsend missed out through injuries.
County made all the running in the opening 15 minutes but were limited to half chances for both Matt and Amond, the former being denied by a very good last-ditch tackle and the latter ballooned his into the stand.
Mike Flynn highlighted in his programme notes the importance of keeping clean sheets if his side are to make a serious push at the play-offs. And when Swindon began to get their foot on the ball, they played some good stuff; on three separate occasions, County had Joe Day to thank for keeping parity. Firstly, he beat away a thundersome drive from Kyle Bennett and was grateful to see Theo Robinson balloon the rebound and secondly, from a swirling long-range free kick from Keshi Anderson.
Joe Day picked up his award for being named in the League Two team of the season earlier this week and he proved every inch why he was awarded such an honour when he did brilliantly to deny Anderson a second time. The forward, slight of stature though he may be, danced his way through multiple County defenders and got a low, hard shot away which was arrowing for the net but Day got down quickly to be its equal.
Up the other end, Robbie Willmott did well to tip the ball beyond his man and get his shot away on goal. He did so from near the edge of the box where others may have elected to take another touch closer to goal; Swindon ‘keeper Luke McCormick did well nonetheless to beat the ball out.
When half time came, County were grateful as they were largely being forced to play in their own half and their best outfield player, Joss Labadie, was stretchered off on the stroke of the whistle. He joined early casualty Jamille Matt on the treatment table as the crowd began to believe the season was fizzing out before the second half had begun.
The second period began as the first had ended; with Swindon on top. However, the first real chance of the half fell to Regan Poole who, from a corner on the left, channeled his inner Paul Scholes but his volley was well blocked. From it, Swindon were able to break and got in behind the County rearguard but Kaiyne Woolery’s square ball just evaded everyone.
It took until 20 minutes from time for the next meaningful action but it was Joe Day once more in the thick of it. After a free kick was swung in from Swindon’s right, the header was cleared off the line brilliantly by Dan Butler but the snap shot follow-up was brilliantly tipped over by the ever-impenetrable Day. He is a huge reason why County are still in the play-off hunt this deep into the season, and he wasn’t going to let it end without a fight.
As a result of so many injuries and medical treatments, there were seven minutes added on at the end…and it almost brought a County winner. EFL Player in the Community Award winner Dan Butler was teed up on his left foot by Keanu Marsh-Brown just outside the box but his fizzing shot whistled just wide of the post. It was close enough to have some fans up on their feet ready to celebrate.
Josh Sheehan also had a shot blocked late on but in truth, a draw was probably a fair result given Joe Day’s heroics and County’s overall lack of creativity. They certainly missed Joss Labadie linking the play up after he went off injured; let’s hope he’s not out for Saturday’s trip to Cambridge.
Man of the Match: Joe Day
Player Ratings: Day 9, Butler 6, Labadie 7 (Crofts 6), Wilmott 5, Amond 6, Matt 5 (Azeez 6), Sheehan 6, Kennedy 6 (Marsh-Brown 6), O’brien (C) 7, Poole 6, Demetriou 7
Attendance: 3,314 (704 away)