City put Saturday’s FA Cup date with Torquay United out of their minds for 90 minutes to beat Newport County 3-2 and return to winning ways in the Blue Square South after two successive one goal defeats. It was City’s 2nd victory at Spytty Park in less than two weeks, but the home side can feel somewhat unfortunate to have not got at least a point out of the game, having dominated it for long periods and finally succumbed to a controversial penalty five minutes from time.
With keeper Paul Evans (ankle) and Chris Holland (back) both missing City were forced to shuffle the backline that had served them so well this season so far. Steve Perrin was drafted in between the posts and Matt Coupe came in for Holland. One further change from Saturday’s defeat against Basingstoke Town saw Sekani Simpson return – Paul Keddle dropping to the bench. The substitute line-up also included the name of Scott Partridge – back after eight months sidelined with a neck injury – although he would not feature in the game. City began the game well, creating an opening as early as the 8th minute. A beautiful pass from Darren Edwards dropped just beyond Davies to give Lewis Hogg a clear sight of goal, only for keeper Thompson to block the shot with his legs. City then won a free-kick thirty yards from goal, but Mark McKeever failed to repeat his stunning FA Cup strike, his quickly taken effort dropping a couple of yards wide of the goal. In the 16th minute Hogg – although it seemed to be Adie Harris that was mainly involved - and Newport’s Evans were cautioned after a bout of pushing and showing between the sides. Scott Rogers’ name also went into the book nine minutes later and he was lucky to remain on the pitch shortly afterwards when he handled the ball deliberately. During this scrappy spell the closest either side had come to scoring was when a mix-up between Coupe and Gethin Jones allowed Hughes to race clear only for Perrin to react smartly and save at his feet. On 35 minutes the home side took the lead. Hogg fouled Bowen near the corner flag and he pulled the ball back to Evans on the corner of the 18-yard box to fire in a low shot that beat an apparently unsighted Perrin. This was no more than the Welsh side deserved and they should have gone two goals up a few minutes later when a spell of head tennis ended with Bowen running on to a flick and bringing a fine low stop out of Perrin - Griffin lifting the rebound over the bar. Jim Rollo’s last ditch block then denied Evans and from the resultant corner Hughes headed over. City also suffered a further setback when Gethin Jones limped from the action to be replaced by Keddle. Rollo switched into the middle to join Coupe, leaving City’s back four with an even more unfamiliar look. Newport were clearly in the ascendancy now but three minutes before the break City conjured up an equaliser from nowhere. Edwards was tripped deep in the Newport half, McKeever squared the ball to Rogers who smashed home an unstoppable shot from 25 yards out. That was the last goal action in the half, although Newport were lucky to reach half-time with eleven men (as, already, had City been) when Searle appeared to head-butt Edwards.
Newport started the second half well – Fowler hooking a shot just wide with Perrin stationary and then Hughes forcing a full-stretch stop out of the stand-in keeper. Keddle then failed to deal with a long clearance from Thompson, which ended with another shot flashing inches wide of Perrin’s goal by Fowler. On the hour Perrin again was called into action to block a Hughes shot and it only looked a matter of time before Newport regained their lead. However, as in the FA Cup meeting twelve days earlier, the introduction of Phil Walsh – in place of the ineffectual Dave Gilroy – turned the game on its head. It had taken him only a couple of minutes to stamp his mark in the previous game, but this time he’d been on the pitch eleven minutes before he struck. McKeever swung a corner toward the far post where Walsh’s downward header beat Thompson. Three minutes Walsh almost grabbed a second – just failing to get enough on Edwards’s deep cross – but from this miss Newport levelled. Thompson quickly threw the ball out to Evans and he was allowed to carry it into the City half before cutting inside Simpson and Rogers to unleash a shot that flew past a stunned Perrin. Looking for a winner Newport introduced striker Alsop but, once again, it was City who stunned the home fans by grabbed the decisive goal with five minutes left. Walsh flicked on a long ball forward toward Edwards who knocked it on before going down under Searle’s challenge. It looked clumsy more than malicious but the referee viewed it as a foul and pointed to the spot where Hogg maintained his 100% record. Newport’s last effort in stoppage time saw Alsop head over before City could celebrate the victory.
Given the close proximity to Saturday’s FA Cup game with Torquay United it would have been understandable if City had had one eye on that game, however they produced a battling performance that must have surprised the home side. On the balance of play and chances created Newport should have won the game comfortably but failure to take these openings cost them dear, even if it then took a disputed penalty decision to decide the game.