WE got back to winning ways in the league on Saturday and it was a very important victory for us.
We stopped the mini slump we have endured in the league and kept ourselves in touching distance of the play-offs in the process. We pretty much dominated the game and we won 1-0 but the score-line didn’t really reflect our performance.
Exeter had two shots on target in the game and their goalkeeper made a couple of decent saves. Defensively we were excellent, and it was important that we bounced back from conceding three goals away from home last week. To be fair to the lads, we worked really hard on our defensive shape during the week, so it was very pleasing not only to get the win, but to get it with a clean sheet too.
I was close to missing the game as I pulled up injured in training on Friday, feeling my groin. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I had a very late fitness test before the game on Saturday morning and just about passed it, although I was very close to declaring myself unfit because I could still feel it a bit.
Thankfully once I got warm and kept moving, I was okay. Between that and the painkillers kicking in I got through the game in one piece, so I can relax for a couple of days now and make sure it is right for next week’s game.
Our home form has been excellent whereas our away form has been really poor. I think if we can get to the bottom of why that is, we have a big chance of reaching the play-offs.
We have a lot of home games coming up in the next month, so it is important we continue our good record at home and get as many wins on the table as possible.
The games that were postponed because of our FA Cup exploits have all been rearranged too and the schedule is more favourable than after last year’s Cup run.
In one week last season we had to travel long distances to three away games in the space of seven days and it felt like we were living in a hotel. Thankfully the club has learned from that and hopefully we can take advantage.
We are back into the swing of things with the FA Cup this week and it is going to be a busy week for us with a lot of media attention. But I don’t think that will be a problem and we can just enjoy the week.
Nobody expects us to beat Middlesbrough away from home, just as nobody fancied us to beat Leicester City, so we can try to prove some people wrong again. We believe we can get a result and all week we will work on our game plan to give us the best chance possible.
Because Middlesbrough is a long distance from Newport, we are travelling half way on Thursday evening and we will have a full training session on Friday at St George’s Park: the home of the English FA.
Usually for away games a long distance away like this we would train first on the Friday and then travel but we have had instances of hitting a lot of Friday traffic and not getting to the hotel until late.
So the club is doing the right thing by breaking it up. It is a great game for us to look forward to. Their stadium is excellent, as is their pitch, so it will be good to have another opportunity for a bit of giant killing in the cup.
One of our lads, Matty Dolan, is the player who was happiest with the draw as he played for Boro from the age of 10 up to the first team. He was born there too so all his family and friends have been badgering him for tickets since the draw. He will be hoping to put in a good performance and show the Boro fans why he was so highly rated there for so long.