If you’ve read any of my other set-piece articles, you’ll have noticed they mostly follow the top-flight in the big leagues, however, I also keep statistics on some of the lower leagues, and one team, in particular, has piqued my interest – Newport County in League 2. So far this season Newport County have scored an incredible 9 goals from 109 corners (an 8.26% conversion rate!) – the highest amount in any of the 11 leagues I’m keeping data on.
Below I look at the goals they’ve scored and see how they’ve managed to achieve that, and how teams could potentially line-up to counter their obvious goal-threat.
Stevenage – 5/8/17
Lamar Reynolds (#11) stands on the goalkeeper, with Frank Nouble (#10) standing just behind the Stevenage player zonally marking the near 6-yard box zone. The players on the edge of the box make pretty generic runs with Sean Rigg (#27) keeping his position just outside the box. The ball is played deep and Joss Labadie (#4) is the first to react and peels off, heading the ball towards the goal with Nouble in position at the post to tap the ball home from close range. Stevenage are operating a classic lower league defensive set-up, in an almost pure man-marking scheme, with one man zonally marking the front post area.
Stevenage – 5/8/17
A very oddly set-up corner. Reynolds (#11) and Nouble (#10) both take the same positions as before, but the rest of the players are spaced very far apart which is pretty rare. As Stevenage are implementing a primarily man-marking system this leaves large areas in several key zones pretty vulnerable – whether this was planned or not I’m undecided. The result is a goalmouth scramble as nobody makes contact with the initial ball in, with the ball ending up in the back of the net. Not the most convincing of corners but a unique and different (and potentially effective) use of players – provided it was intended!
Cheltenham Town – 12/9/17
With Reynolds on the bench, Padraig Amond (#9) has the role of putting pressure on the keeper, with Nouble resuming his usual role in the usual area. The rest of the players make their runs forward (again in no particular direction). Delivery is poor and into a bad area but it falls to Ben White (#6) who hits it towards goal, for Amond to poke home from close range. Cheltenham operate the same man-marking scheme as Stevenage and is one so common in lower-league football, which makes it ripe for exploitation which is a current edge pretty much every team is missing out on.
Due to poor camera angles, we can’t really see too much of how the teams are laid out, but it looks as if a different approach was taken with no player put on the keeper. The ball is slightly over-hit and it finds it’s way to the back-post landing at the feet of Mickey Demetrious (#28) who manages to get a shot off, with the ball taking a touch off of Scott Bennett (#17) first.
Crawley Town 26/9/17
Sadly, poor camera work is again at play so we can’t see the entirety of the box. What we can see is the usual set-up, Amond (#9) on the keeper, Nouble (#10) in that front area. What we can see however is that Demetriou (#28) is completely unmarked for a free header.
Crawley Town 26/9/17
Amond (#9) again takes the role of putting the keeper under pressure. The first thing that instantly flags up is how defensively weak that crucial zone on the edge of the 6-yard box is, and I think might be the reason why Nouble doesn’t take up his usual role in that area – to keep it clear for runners to attack. The advantage lies purely with the attackers in this scenario and it’s hardly a surprise that they get a free header that’s converted. Crawley again operate the same defensive scheme as most of the previous teams, showing that it’s weaknesses if teams don’t crowd that vital area in front of the goalkeeper.
The camera angle again cuts off the starting positions, so the above picture is of when we can see what’s happening and it’s similar to the Crawley goal above – plenty of players attacking that danger area right in front of the goalkeeper, with Amond getting ahead of the defenders to power the header home. Sadly due to the camera angle, we can’t really dissect this in much detail, but the end aim is clear – attack that danger area with height, power and what looks like a good run-up.
Again the camera angle is poor, but the movement seems poor from this one, with players seemingly static as the ball is played in. The ball looks over-hit (compared to where Newport’s delivery is usually aimed at), but they still have a player to head home.
Forest Green Rovers 14/10/17
An interesting one this one! The usual set-up is maintained, with players on the keeper and in that front near post area. Interestingly fewer players than usual are attacking the central area, but keep an eye on the number 17, he times his run to near perfection – getting a good header away in the process, for Amond to deflect into the net.
Overall I’m not entirely sure that Newport County are doing anything too special or putting in extra time in training on set-pieces. The things they are doing are pretty generic but they are doing them well – such as good long run-ups from players attacking the ball, players in different key positions maximising the chance of getting a Newport head to the ball and players holding their position – for instance Amond staying by the post/keeper when the ball has been played in, allowing for an easy tap-in. Despite being seemingly generic, Newport are still drastically over-achieving from corners and teams must take the threat they pose seriously – so how would I set-up a team to defend against the danger that Newport obviously pose?
If we deconstruct the corners above, they largely follow the same criteria – a player on the keeper, with a player towards the near side of the 6-yard box to where the corner is being taken (most likely for a flick-on in case the delivery is short). The ball is aimed into the central area just on the edge of the 6-yard box, where a group of 4 or 5 players make their runs. The player on the keeper often lingers after the first ball and as a result, Newport have scored 3 goals from easy tap-ins in this area.
I would set my team-up something like this:
As Newport have been deemed a large threat from set-pieces, it would make sense to have as many players back as possible (in this case I’ve used 10 including the goalkeeper). 2 players are tasked with taking that front zone where Nouble often runs to – one player marking zonally and the other man-marking him.
Only one other player is set to man-mark, and he’d be man-marking the person deemed the biggest aerial threat. The rest of the players would be zonal marking the central area that Newport often aim their corners towards and where the main bulk of their players try to attack. As you can see, I’ve set the team up to defend in 2 lines of 3 players – this is to limit the amount of space the Newport players making those runs can attack, which should give us the advantage and the odds back in our favour. Somewhat controversially I’ve also decided not to put a player on the player that stands on the goalkeeper, the reasons for this are that I believe the player that would normally mark him would be better utilised elsewhere – and if he manages to deflect the ball in which has happened a few times above, he’d be instantly offside.
So there we have it, an analysis of Newport Countys amazing record from set-pieces so far this season – the big question is: can they maintain it?