Newport v Wycombe: promotion talk premature?

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Graham Westley

Less than a month ago, these two clubs were in very different places. Wycombe Wanderers were two points above the drop zone having just lost 2-0 to Barnet – a draw against the same opposition meant Newport County were rock bottom, seven points adrift of safety.

It is indicative of the topsy-turvy nature of League Two this season that, within the following 26 days, new manager Graham Westley has dared let the ‘P’ word leave his lips. One cannot blame Westley for cultivating a sense of excitement and belief, but promotion talk seems premature for a team that has just won its fourth league game in November.

Added to that, three of the key players at Rodney Parade are currently on loan. Striker Rhys Healey and midfielder Josh Sheehan have been excellent for Newport since Westley’s arrival. The loan deals for both expire in the New Year and, given that Cardiff and Swansea are battling relegation in their respective leagues, Neil Warnock and Bob Bradley may have decisions to make. Given Newcastle United’s form and ambitions, it may be difficult to see impressive defender Kyle Cameron featuring for them but again, his loan spell ends in the New Year and his future is not in Newport’s hands.

Wycombe Wanderers are looking upwards themselves after a credible 2-2 draw at Doncaster and FA Cup triumph at Portsmouth preceded back-to-back league wins.

The Chairboys were a touch lucky at Cambridge on Saturday, relying on Jamaal Blackman’s impressive goalkeeping and Aaron Pierre’s powerful defending. The latter’s very late winner sparked jubilant scenes from Wycombe fans, who had not seen their team win away since the trip to Dagenham on 9th February.

The Buckinghamshire side are two points off the play-offs but this blog does not think they are strong enough to get there. According to Experimental 361, they have the 6th worst record for expected goals against and the 8th worst on expected goals for.

A team can get a decent run through combative tactics – which they should not be demonized for – and grabbing results on the back foot at times. However, it will hard for Wycombe to elevate themselves into the division’s elite without more pace and creativity. Other teams in the play-off picture that have more tools in their arsenal.

It is a sign of recent progress for both clubs that promotion is now considered a possibility – unlikely though it remains.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-1

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