New signing Chris Long scores stunning solo goal as Cobblers beat Newport
The Cobblers concluded their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 against Newport County at Sixfields.
New signing Chris Long was on the scoresheet with a fine solo goal, as Justin Edinburgh enjoyed a win against his old side thanks to Leon Barnett heading home a late winner.
It rounded off a positive few weeks of preparation ahead of the league opener against Shrewsbury Town next Saturday.
And while this was far from a vintage performance, the result will no doubt provide a boost knowing that Town can still pick up wins while not at their best.
In his last chance to look at his side in action before the league campaign begins, Edinburgh again opted for his preferred 3-5-2 formation.
George Smith was given a chance to stake his claim at left wing-back, while Regan Poole was given a starting berth in the back three against his old side - with Ash Taylor given a rest after playing plenty of minutes already this pre-season.
New loan signing Long began on a bench filled with attacking options, with young striker Joe Iaciofano also back in the squad.
The Cobblers were looking more familiar with their new-look formation which saw Matt Taylor, named skipper for the match, acting as the holding midfielder with Yaser Kasim and Matt Crooks given licence for a more advanced role.
The first 45 minutes were limited to just a few chances, but Edinburgh will have been pleased with how solid his side looked defensively, even if they were creating relatively few chances.
Smith, who looks like giving David Buchanan some serious competition, did well to get a cross in from the left and find Revell lurking in the area, but the striker couldn’t quite control the ball and County managed to clear.
Revell was winning his fair share of headers up front with the lively Billy Waters picking most of them up, but the good link-up play didn’t translate to efforts on Joe Day’s goal.
The visitor’s main threat was Frank Nouble, a big unit who caused constant problems for the Town back three and who had a good tussle with Barnett.
Nouble had Newport’s first chance when he headed just past the post from a tantalising cross by Robbie Willmott, and he volleyed over again a few minutes later after some penalty-area pinball.
The Cobblers’ best chance of the half came when Kasim capitalised on an error and centred the ball for Waters, who managed to find space but sky his shot.
While Town had looked solid, if not spectacular, in the first-half, the second half was a different affair.
With a raft of half-time changes made, the hosts started sloppily, with Cornell having to be alert to deny Newport from a corner.
The visitors then introduced Jamar Reynolds, and he proved to be a thorn in the side for the rest of the game.
Other than a stinging free-kick from Matt Taylor that was well palmed away by Joe Day, it was all County in the second half, with Reynolds having two excellent chances to open the scoring.
He soon tucked one away though to deservedly give County the lead 20 minutes from the end, with the striker twisting the Cobblers defence inside out in the area and drilling it under Cornell.
With disgruntled fans commenting on what had been a poor second half up until that point, the groans took roughly 60 seconds to turn to cheers when Long equalised almost immediately with a fine goal.
With no pass on into the area, the on-loan Burnley youngster dwelled on the ball and drew about five County players out to the edge of the box before curling in a stunner that slammed in off the post.
If this was a sign of what Long can do just a few hours after signing for the side, it could be exciting to watch him play when he’s had time to bed in.
Town settled back into the game after Long’s strike, although Newport still had chances to retake the lead when Tom Owen-Evans blasted over the bar from the edge of the area.
But if pre-season is about preparation for a long campaign, then performances are secondary to results.
And a thundering header from Barnett five minutes from the end after Taylor’s corner gave the Cobblers the lead, and secured a positive result to end pre-season on.
Cobblers: Cornell, Barnett, Poole, Pierre (A. Taylor, 62), Powell (Phillips, 66), Smith (Buchanan, 45), Crooks (Bowditch, 45), Kasim, M. Taylor, Waters (Long, 45), Revell (Richards, 62)
Subs not used: Goff, Lobjoit, Iaciofano
Newport County: Day, Pipe, Butler, Demetriou, O’Brien, Bennett, Dolan, Labadie, Rigg, Nouble, Willmott
Substitutes: Bittner, Williams, Turley, Barnum-Bobb, Owen-Evans, Reynolds, Trialist
Referee: Darren England
Newport County fans: 80