BAD news continued to come in threes for Newport County AFC as their unbeaten home record was sent tumbling at Rodney Parade.
County probably wouldn’t have marked down newly promoted Woking as the side who would finally end the Exiles’ fabulous home form, but they’d probably have expected to concede fewer than six against Yate Town.
The Exiles never recovered from a nightmare start in which they conceded twice early and were always chasing the game subsequently, a deficit too far even for Justin Edinburgh’s comeback kids.
County were emphasising all week the importance of bouncing back from the humiliation against Yate Town, the despair at the manner of their FA Cup exit, but they started the game like a group suffering a Stag Do-sized hangover.
The Exiles were completely and utterly torn to shreds in the opening 20 minutes, the visitors attacking with pace, width and gusto, and they made Newport look leaden-footed and predictable.
Predictable at least in attack, because at the back County were as predictable and easy to read as David Blaine, though the mystery was what chasm-sized gap would they leave free next?
After only six minutes they went behind, Kevin Betsy taking advantage of some dreadful defending from stand-in right back Max Porter, who exposed Lenny Pidgeley who couldn’t recover, Besty drilling past him from close range.
It might’ve served as a wake-up call but the reality was it was just a precursor to wave after wave of Woking attack, Gavin McCallum twice firing over as the visitors simply waited for County to, in rugby parlance, turn over the ball, which they did time and again.
They paid for it on 16 minutes, flat defending and needlessly conceded possession allowing the excellent ex-Chelsea man Lee Sawyer to slide the ball through to Betsy, who cut inside and fired low and away from Pidgeley into the bottom right- hand corner.
It was no less than Woking deserved but thankfully finally breathed life into the Exiles, who came close from Aaron O’Connor and Danny Crow efforts on the turn as Rodney Parade slowly came to life on the first bitterly cold afternoon of the campaign.
On 35 minutes a fine chance arrived, Thomson’s corner met by Andrew Hughes, only for Aaron Howe to save brilliantly, a combination of defender and post denying Crow on the follow-up.
The Exiles desperately needed a spark and just before the interval they got one, a soft free kick conceded 30 yards out, dispatched wonderfully by Andy Sandell, who curled expertly around the wall.
It lifted the gloom at Rodney Parade on what was a special day as part of the club’s centenary celebrations, a parade of ex-County greats presented at half-time. Sadly, this was as much celebrating as the home fans would do for the remainder of the afternoon.
The contest shifted hugely after the interval with Newport starting as dominantly as the visitors did in the first period, but simply put, the visiting defence performed better than County’s in the first half and held firm.
Indeed, the pivotal moment of the contest came just before the hour when Newport should’ve levelled matters, a pinball scenario in the box concluding with O’Connor being presented with a tap-in, but he rolled the ball wide, a huge miss.
It seemed imperative that Newport put the ball in the net while they were so on top, and they did do so, but Crow’s fine finish was ruled out for offside with 25 minutes remaining and within two minutes it was 3-1.
Pidgeley denied Canadian international McCallum but only delayed the inevitable, some poor defending and an indecisive punch culminating in substitute Bradley Bubb firing home unmarked.
The goal utterly took the sting out of Newport, who despite a slew of attacking substitutions struggled to make any inroads.
Not until the 88th minute did they fashion a clear opening, and when they did they set up a grandstand finish, Sandell’s corner headed home by sub Mike Flynn, only to take a further touch in off the returning Danny Crow.
However, County’s disjointed display was summed up by their inability to fashion anything in stoppage time, hopeful long balls ultimately amounting to little, County’s horror week well and truly complete ahead of Hallowe’en.
County (4-4-2): Pidgeley, Porter, Sandell, James, Hughes, Thomson (Louis 70), Minshull, Evans (Flynn 82), Swallow (Washington 80), O’Connor, Crow.
Subs not used: Harris, Perry.
Woking: Howe, Newton, Cestor, Ricketts, McNerney, Pires (Bubb 66), Parkinson, Betsy, Sawyer, Johnson, McCallum (Doyle 90).
Subs not used: Williams, Sinclair, Beasant.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.
Argus star man: Lee Sawyer (Woking).