Tranmere Rovers face Newport County at Prenton Park on Saturday afternoon as Nigel Adkins’ side look to continue their unbeaten run of form.
The Whites have picked up points in their last four games, beating both relegation competition Forest Green and play-off chasing Gillingham at Prenton Park.
Adkins has got the team playing some great football and this was reflected in his manager of the month nomination for the league in November.
Forward Rob Apter was nominated for player of the month, he will again excite fans on Saturday.
Newport, positioned 16th, have won two of their last league games and will thus also be looking to carry on their form.
I spoke to the 1912 Exiles podcast ahead of the game.
Hi, when did you start supporting Newport County? What was your first game?
My first was an FA Cup replay in late 2004 against North Leigh of the Southern Div 1, in the pissing rain, watched by about 600 spectators at our old Spytty Park ground, which was basically a municipal athletics stadium with a football pitch in the middle. From such humble beginnings, my Exiles odyssey began…
What have been some of your best and worst footballing experiences since then?
It’s been pretty sensational – promoted twice, including by beating Wrexham at Wembley to regain our Football League status, countless great cup runs (beating yer Leicesters, yer Middlesbroughs, yer Leedses) and two play-off finals. Hard to pick a favourite, but seeing us take Spurs to a cup replay after being unlucky not to beat them at Rodney Parade was quite something. The disappointment of losing to Morecambe in the 2021 playoff final despite being the better team was a blow, even if we’d have struggled in the Third Division.
The 1912 Exiles is an original Newport County podcast that won a nomination in the FSA Club Pod of the year awards this year. Could you tell us all about the content you put out and what receiving that nomination was like?
We were obviously thrilled to be nominated. I’m writing this on the day of the awards, and although we’re not expecting to win, it’s fantastic for a Fourth Division podcast to be rubbing shoulders with the big boys doing pods for top-flight clubs who can treat it as a full-time job. We have a pool of five main contributors, plus an army of loyal and hilarious listeners, so manage to do an episode most weeks plus summer and Christmas specials. We like to think we offer balanced, calm analysis of County, with the odd bit of humour and niche cultural references.
Newport are, at the time of writing, positioned 15th in the Fourth Division and are only six points off the play-offs. What are your thoughts on The Exiles’ start to the season?
We knew this season would be a challenge. We had financial problems over the summer (more on that later), the smallest budget of any Football League club, and have also since had an injury crisis which has seen the majority of our defenders suffering long layoffs. To be clear of the drop zone, and already halfway to the 50pt target having only played 22 league games, is astonishing. It’s a real testament to Graham Coughlan (more on him later too) and the squad he’s assembled.
In the summer, players such as goalkeeper Jonny Maxted, from Northampton Town, and right-back Shane McLoughlin, from Salford City, were signed. What are your thoughts on the transfers that were completed and when you look towards the January transfer window, what more needs to be done?
We have a small squad of honest, functional pros, many of whom can play two or three different positions, offering maximum flexibility and value for money. We’re that sort of club. No-one can question the players’ work ethic or commitment to the cause, even if we sometimes lack a bit of quality and finesse. In January, and potentially with a little bit more money to spend, we might be able to add that x-factor, particularly in our midfield which has lacked a creative spark at times. A centre-half not made of Weetabix would be good as well.
Centre half Kyle Jameson also joined Newport, from Tranmere, in the summer. Has he had much action?
See above! He looked very good for the first few games, but has been one of our (many) crooked defenders so hasn’t played since August. We should have him back after Christmas but you won’t see him on Saturday.
Dublin-born 49-year-old Graham Coughlan is the boss at Rodney Parade. He was appointed in 2022, following a spell with Sheffield United U23’s, and has a 35.48 win percentage after 62 games. What are your thoughts on him and his relationship with fans?
We love Cocko! He gets the club’s DNA, speaks frankly and honestly without ever hanging his players out to dry, and has worked wonders on limited resources. Personally, I’d give him the freedom of the city.
What do you believe will be Coughlan’s starting eleven on the weekend? What can you see being his preferred formation and game plan?
I’d expect us to stick with the same XI of recent weeks: Townsend (GK), McLoughlin, Delaney (c), Clarke, Baker, Payne, Morris, Bennett, Evans, Palmer-Holden, Bogle. As for shape, your guess is as good as ours – we’re very fluid in games, so what can look like a back five can easily shift into a back three with wing-backs marauding forwards, whilst our front line might be Evans and Palmer-Holden with Bogle in the hole behind them, or might be Bogle holding the ball up with the other two out wide.
The club is owned by its supporters’ trust. What are your thoughts on that and what has been happening recently? Are there any plans to keep an eye on?
We’re in the process of shifting the ownership so that the Trust has a minority stake, with former Swansea City chairman Huw Jenkins taking majority control, pending Football League approval. It should be confirmed this side of the transfer window, potentially giving Cocko a few quid to spend. Whilst many of us would have liked the club to have remained fan-run in perpetuity, the reality is that we simply couldn’t sustain it financially without more people joining the Trust or people paying more. The new owner seems to be a good egg, but there’s a nagging doubt that fans have now permanently lost the ability to veto who might run our club in the future.
Wales C international forward Will Evans has netted 12 goals in 22 games whilst also picking up an assist. How good has he been this season? Could you give us a quick scout report on him?
Ah, Will Evans – the Llangedwyn Eusébio! Two years ago, he was playing in the Cymru Prem and helping out on his parents’ dairy farm. Now he’s our top scorer, is the heartbeat of the team and may well get poached by a side higher up the leagues. What a journey. He deserves every second of it – works his socks off, a good finisher, and a thoroughly likeable guy too.
What is your score prediction for the game on The Wirral? The last time the two clubs met was in mid March at Prenton Park as the visitors won 3-1. The goalscorers that day were: Aaron Wildig, Charlie McNeill and Calum Kavanagh.
We’ve just beaten Stockport and Morecambe in the league, but last Saturday’s sub-par performance when drawing with Barnet in the cup showed just how tired our squad can be. Plus your improved form means it’s a bad time to play you. Our main priority will be to not lose, so let’s say 1-1.
Finally, what are your thoughts on Tranmere? Recently appointed boss Nigel Adkins, formerly of Southampton, has turned the Whites’ form around as they’re unbeaten in their last four.
I’ve got a lot of time for Tranmere. Not many Newport fans will agree, but I thought you deserved to beat us at Wembley in the playoffs in 2019, and your fans were good eggs that day. You’ve clearly had a shocking start to this season, but ought to pull yourself clear given recent form. The tricky thing this year is that there are a lot of very strong and well-off clubs, but no obvious basket-cases at the bottom. Even so, I expect Tranmere and Newport to finish clear of trouble.