A late Grimsby Town fightback proved to be in vain as a confident Newport County won at Blundell Park.
Match Reaction | Newport
13 January 2018
After disappointment in their previous three games, the Mariners started brightly and played some good football in an entertaining opening 15 minutes.
But after grabbing the opening goal through Robbie Willmott, the visitors never looked back and were unlucky to only be one up at the break.
Town had an opportunity to get back on level terms after half-time but Scott Vernon was denied by a brilliant save from visiting keeper Joe Day and seconds later, Frank Nouble put the game beyond them with a second Newport goal.
Town pulled one back through substitute Jamille Matt to give the home supporters hope with 10 minutes to go and the Mariners piled forward after that in search of what had seemed an unlikely point.
But they were forced to play the closing stages with 10 men after Matt was sent off for an elbow on Mickey Demetriou and despite pushing forward for much of the eight added minutes, they were unable to secure a share of the spoils.
Town boss Russsell Slade made four changes to his starting XI after last week’s home defeat by Morecambe had made it three league losses in a row.
New loan signing Charles Vernam came straight into the line-up after completing a temporary switch from Derby County earlier in the week, while Karleigh Osborne, James Berrett and Scott Vernon also came in as Danny Collins, Mitch Rose, Sam Jones and Jamille Matt all dropped out.
Jake Kean began in goal, with Osborne joining Nathan Clarke in the centre of defence as Zak Mills started at right-back and Ben Davies at left-back.
Siriki Dembele, Berrett, Luke Summerfield and Martyn Woolford were the midfielders, with Vernam and Vernon forming a new-look strike partnership.
Collins, Rose, Jones and Matt were all named among the substitutes, along with Ben Killip, Diallang Jaiyesimi and Paul Dixon.
Newport made the long journey from south Wales on a high after dumping Championship Leeds United out of the FA Cup last week and securing a home tie against Tottenham Hotspur in the next round.
Mike Flynn’s side included a familiar face in the shape of former Grimsby striker and fans’ favourite Padraig Amond.
And further firepower could be called on from the bench if needed, with veteran forward Paul Hayes and Bristol City loanee Shawn McCoulsky, who scored the winner against Leeds, both kept in reserve.
An early foul by Berrett on Newport captain Joss Labadie gave the visitors a free kick inside the Town half but Matt Dolan’s ball into the box was parried away by Kean.
Vernam was looking lively in his first few minutes in a Mariners shirt, setting off on an encouraging run down the right but seeing his pass intercepted by David Pipe.
Vernon looked to have taken advantage of a slip in the Newport defence on seven minutes but as his shot was blocked by Day, the offside flag went up.
Vernam sent a shot over the bar from 20 yards, before a free kick at the other end given for a foul on Amond was headed clear.
A free kick sent into the Newport box by Davies on 14 minutes was flicked on by Osborne but Clarke could not get to the ball before keeper Day.
Soon afterwards, Vernam let fly with a low effort from 20 yards that went just wide as the Mariners continued their encouraging start to the game.
But when the opening goal came on 19 minutes, it was the away side who took the lead. Amond made progress down the right before crossing and when the hosts failed to get it clear, the ball was picked up by WILLMOTT and he fired a superb shot past Kean from 25 yards.
Town’s response saw Woolford win a free kick for a foul by Pipe on the left edge of the penalty area. Summerfield’s powerful delivery took a deflection which could have taken the ball anywhere but in the end, it ricocheted away for a goal kick.
A foul by Clarke midway between the corner flag and the penalty area gave Newport another opportunity to cause probems but it ended similarly, with a low, powerful delivery from Dolan being diverted away for a goal kick.
Another Clarke foul, this time on Labadie, earned the Mariners captain the first yellow card of the game on 34 minutes. Dolan’s free kick was headed over the bar by Amond.
The long throw of Demetriou was causing problems for the Town defence and it almot led to a second goal on 37 minutes when the ball bounced over Kean, only for the hosts to scramble it clear for a corner.
That flagkick swiftly turned into another and this time, a header had to be cleared off the line by Davies before the ball bounced around the box and Davies was forced into another goal-line clearance, although somehow, it stayed out and Town survived again.
Newport had been on top since the goal but Town had an opportunity to get the ball into the box with a free kick for a foul on Dembele. It was cleared though and within a flash Newport almost made it 2-0 when a long ball forward found Amond and he lifted it over the outrushing Kean. After what seemed like an age, the ball finally came down and this time, it was Mills who was in the right place to hook it off the line.
As one minute of added time was signalled, another Newport fee kick came into the Town box, this time from Willmott on the left. His delivery was headed clear.
That proved to be the last chance of the half and after Town had started well, it ended with Newport perhaps wondering how they went into the dressing rooms only one goal ahead at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and the first shot of the second half came from Vernam, who saw his low effort blocked for a corner. Woolford’s ball from the flag was headed clear, as was his follow-up cross.
Labadie was booked for bringing Dembele down on the touchline near the away dugout on 52 minutes, although the resulting free kick was comfortably dealt with by the Newport defence.
Town were almost back on level terms when a ball into the box found Vernon and his header looked destined for the bottom corner of the net until keeper Day got fingertips to the ball to turn it around the post for a corner.
Instead, within a minute, they fell further behind in cruel fashion when a quick break down the left saw NOUBLE cut in from the left, beat Mills and hit a shot that took a heavy deflection off Osborne which wrong-footed Kean and took the ball into the net.
Powerful striker Nouble won a free kick in a dangerous position on 63 minutes but Willmott’s shot from it took a deflection and was cleared.
Newport almost had a thir goal soon afterwards when Amond beat Woolford on the left and cut inside. His shot from a narrow angle was pushed up into the air by Kean and after spinning towards the net at the far post, the ball was eventually cleared before it could cross the line.
Town made a double substitution on 66 minutes, with Matt and Jaiyesimi replacing Vernon and Woolford.
And the changes looked to have had an effect over the next few minutes as the Mariners started to create better chances, with a shot from Dembele deflected out for a corner and a header from Matt going over the bar.
A string of Town corners kept the pressure up but they were unable to make any count as Newport held firm at the back.
The away side’s first substitution came with 11 minutes remaining and saw Ben Tozer replace Dolan.
The Mariners then finally grabbed their lifeline on 80 minutes when they halved the deficit by scoring their first goal since Boxing Day. An attempted shot bounced into the path of MATT and when his initial shot was blocked by Day, the striker headed the rebound into the net to give the home fans some hope.
Tyler Reid replaced Labadie for the away side on 84 minutes but it was now all Town as they pressed for an equaliser.
That vital goal almost came when Dembele went for goal from the edge of the box but his effort did not dip enough and instead, landed on the roof of the net.
Town’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when Matt was shown a straight red card for leading with his arm as he caught Demetriou in an aerial challenge.
But they were given some more hope with the signal of eight additional minutes to be played at the end of the game.
Jones was sent on in place of Davies as Town looked for extra attacking threat but a foul on McCoulsky, who had come on for Willmott, gave Newport an opportunity to keep the Mariners pinned in their own half.
Town kept pushing forward but Newport held firm, with a shot from Jaiyesimi clearing the bar in what proved to be the last acton of the game.
Town are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Colchester United.
33 Jake Kean
12 Zak Mills
2 Ben Davies
5 Nathan Clarke (C)
14 Karleigh Osborne
19 Luke Summerfield
27 Siriki Dembele
7 James Berrett
25 Martyn Woolford
34 Charles Vernam
21 Scott Vernon
30 Ben Killip
6 Danny Collins
3 Paul Dixon
20 Diallang Jaiyesimi
10 Sam Jones
8 Mitch Rose
29 Jamille Matt
1 Joe Day
2 David Pipe
3 Dan Butler
28 Mickey Demetriou
6 Ben White
4 Joss Labadie (C)
8 Matthew Dolan
17 Scot Bennett
9 Padraig Amond
10 Frank Nouble
7 Robbie Willmott
19 Tyler Reid
15 Shawn McCoulsky
31 Josh Sheehan
12 Ben Tozer
45 Aaron Collins
39 Paul Hayes
Attendance: 3,397 (99)
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Next Up: Colchester United (A)