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Graham Coughlan: Change in formation pivotal moment in comeback win

26 Dec 2023 3 minute read
Newport manager Graham Coughlan. Photo Simon Galloway PA Images

Newport County staged a remarkable comeback from losing 2-0 to win 4-2 at home against Forest Green Rovers.

County boss Graham Coughlan felt his switch from 3-5-2 to match the visitors’ 4-3-3 just before half-time was more important than the sending-off that saw Forest Green’s Callum Jones sent off.

“We were in the ascendency before the red card so I’m not 100 per cent sure that was the gamechanger,” said the Irishman.

“I think the turnaround was when we changed shape and got to grips with them.

“They were brave, they played three front men and they bullied us for the first half an hour.

“It caught us by surprise how direct they were. We didn’t deal with it. But we changed shape, and the game was probably won and lost in that moment.

“The crowd let us hear what they thought at half-time, which I thought was fair. But they got behind us in the second half and pushed us on.

“We’ll take the positives, we’ll take the three points and the character and resilience we showed what excellent.”

New Forest Green manager Troy Deeney was in no doubt that the red card shown to Jones six minutes after half-time was the key moment as his side let a 2-0 lead slip.

A second-minute own goal from County captain Ryan Delaney – diverting in Kyle McAllister’s free-kick – and a Matty Stevens strike put Rovers in charge at the break.

But Jones’ second yellow, for chopping down Lewis Payne, allowed the hosts back into the contest and they took full advantage with three goals in nine minutes.

Will Evans scored a quickfire double to level before Payne volleyed in a superb third to complete the turnaround after 69 minutes.

Delaney then scored at the right end five minutes from time to make sure of the victory for the Welsh side.

“We’ve got to be a bit more street-smart,” said Deeney.

“Callum’s one he gets sent off for is our first one for a tackle – the rest are for kicking the ball away and being mouthy.

“I don’t want this to sound like a negative. I’d defy anyone to tell me a game where we’ve played better for 55 minutes.

“Then we let ourselves down and we’re the ones who made the problems, so we need to fix it.

“When we get 2-0 up we panic. Callum was running with him and we’re shouting to him ‘don’t slide in’ but he did, and you know he’s off.

“We were flustered after that. At 2-2 you think ‘right, let’s take a point’ and the guy shanks it into the top corner.

“It showed me a lot about the character of the players – the ones you can rely on and the ones that go hiding.”

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