Saturday 15th December 2018
Newport Pagnell Town v Rugby Town
United Counties League Premier Division
Newport Pagnell Town face second place Rugby Town on Saturday at Willen Road as they return to league action after last weekend’s success in the FA Vase at Hullbridge Sports, as they try and get their United Counties League Premier Division campaign back on track after a disappointing start to the season. Currently sitting in fifteenth place Town will be looking to avenge the four goals without reply defeat they suffered at the hands of their guests in the return fixture back in October, and will need to put any thoughts of FA competition to the back of their minds if they are to take anything from the side who have not lost in the league since the middle of September. Despite the Vase victory, the Swans have lost their last two league fixtures, and will be looking to build upon last week’s superb result as they head into a busy Christmas and New Year period.
Mark Osborn (image courtesy of NPTFC)
This week Sports Shots caught up with defender Yaw Ofosu and goalkeeper Mark Osborn, and asked the shot stopper when & how he joined the club, and for his opinion of the club in general:
I’ve had two spells here, the first under Terry Shrieves for nearly one season before I left to join Hemel Hempstead in 2011, then I retired but (Darren) Lynchy has been a friend of mine for a long time and he talked me into playing again three seasons ago, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. There is a lot of effort that goes on that as players & supporters you don’t always get to see to keep a club like ours going, there’s a limited budget and we rely a lot on volunteers who do a great job. On the playing side the staff also give up so much of their own time to try and improve the team & equipment that we have, and Lynchy goes as far as roping his mum in to clean the kit after every game so we are probably the best smelling team in the UCL! The facilities are very limited at the club, but I know they are always trying to improve them with regards to ground grading and things like that, but our training facilities are not the kind that get you excited when you come in to training on a cold winter night!
Youngster Yaw also has a history at the club:
This is my second season with the first team, I played for the under eighteen’s for a year and then the reserves for two, becoming captain in the final year before leaving for university. Last pre-season I came down to train for the reserves after having a break, the gaffer (Darren Lynch) and Maff Childs who was my manager at the time when I was playing for the reserves, brought me in and gave me a chance, at that time the team didn’t have that many centre-backs so I was playing regularly which was great. The staff and the players have a real family relationship with each other that helps, we always have a laugh whether we win, lose or draw
How good a season does Yaw feel he is having?
Personally I haven’t reached my levels consistently this season because of some injuries, although the last two games we have been good performance wise, being unlucky against Oadby was hard to take but as a group we put that right at Hullbridge in the FA Vase
Mark has also suffered from injury this campaign:
I feel my personal performances have probably matched that of the team in being inconsistent, I’ve had some injuries and bits but have still had some good games like Cogenhoe away. I like to think that Darren knows when I play he is getting one hundred percent from me
With the inconsistent start to the league season, and the Vase run in full flight, what is Mark’s priority?
It’s been very frustrating this season when you look at the start, we have the same squad as last year so people expect you to do the same if not better, but football doesn’t always work like you want it to, so we have ended up at the wrong end of the table. Some personnel changes now, we will work our hardest to make sure we finish at the right end of the table, and with the Vase we can still make it a successful season. I think the league is still really important but for me I would love another Vase run, at my age I can still dream of playing at Wembley and we have a squad that can beat anyone our day so why not dream and make that our target now, something that we would never forget
Yaw Ofosu (image courtesy of NPTFC)
Yaw still views the league table as the priority:
Simply put, we haven’t been good enough defensively or offensively as a team, a Vase run is great for the club and the supporters but a strong finish in the league is still our priority
We asked Yaw how good he feels the current crop of players are, and which players have impressed so far:
I feel our squad has quality all over and when key players are fit, we are a really exciting team with a good mix of youth & experience. For me, we have some really good young players at Newport, Harry Stratton being one of them and also Adam Moussa who has recently come in and made a real impact. From the experienced players we have a strong core of six or seven who are important for us, for me I think Ozzy (Mark Osborn), Liam Smyth, Josh Winters & Dom Lawless stand-out
Mark also named three of those players in his list:
We have a good squad, I’m not going to say it’s the best but I think we are more of a team than we were at the start of the season, and like I said we have shown on our day we can beat any team at this level. Players that have stood out for me are the younger players coming through like Harry Stratton, but the one who has been consistent and is pretty much every season is Liam Smyth. Dom (Lawless) is starting to regain his sharpness and if we are to achieve things then he will be really important to us
Which sides does Mark see as being title contenders?
Rugby have been the team that are head and shoulders above everyone in terms of ability, they play good football and have players that can win games, and I think they will go on to win the title
Yaw hasn’t faced this week ends opponents as yet:
I wasn’t available against Rugby in the reverse fixture so this will be my first time facing them. Daventry are top and knocked us out of the cup so I’d have to say they’ve been the strongest team I’ve faced this season
How did Yaw see last week’s win in the Vase?
Last weekend was a great day for everyone involved and also for the club, together we defended as a unit and played some very good football on a difficult pitch. They are top of their league so to get a clean sheet was a real bonus
Mark again discusses the ability in the squad shown last week:
It was a good win but we went into the game knowing that if we played as well as we can then we could win the fixture. We were well organised and played the conditions well, and when we had our chances we took them and that’s what we haven’t been doing consistently in our league games
What is Mark expecting from Rugby on Saturday?
I only know what they are like from the game against them earlier in the season, and that they now have Fazel (Koriya) playing for them so we will have to be at our best again if we are to get the result we want. It will be interesting to see if they can play the conditions like we can, we’ve upset Pinchbeck at home when they were second so I see no reason why we can’t beat Rugby on Saturday
Yaw also believes his side are capable of pulling a result:
I feel to get a result against Rugby we have to play as we have been over the past couple of weeks, defend well as a team and be clinical in attack. They’re one of the top teams in our league so it will be a competitive match but I believe that suits a team like us
Rounding up, we asked Yaw if he’s always played in defence during his career:
Yes, always defence or centre midfield, I’m comfortable in both positions. I feel naturally I can play central midfield given my skill set and size, playing there for Kingston University last year was great fun and I was able to express myself, as you see the ball more often and learn the position more. For now I am happy with my role at centre-half, Dave Baker & I have built a good understanding together
And does Mark fancy anywhere else on the pitch?
Yes I have always played in goal, but if I could play anywhere then I’d play up front, they take all the glory and it can’t be that hard. I would take Dom’s place in our team just to give him the chance to moan at me when I miss a chance because we always seem to think we can do better!
Sports Shots would like to thank both Mark & Yaw for their time this week.