NEWPORT County once again endured a TV nightmare in the Midlands tonight, deservedly beaten by lowly Alfreton at the Impact Arena.
County were hammered at Mansfield and beaten by Shrewsbury in their live appearances last term and never recovered from a nightmare start that allowed Alfreton a precious three points in Sherwood Forest territory.
The brilliant Nathan Arnold led his merry men with a fantastic performance as Newport saw the points and their Goldie Lookin’ Chains plundered by the plucky hosts.
Boss Edinburgh doesn’t usually find himself averse to a little tinkering, even after victory, but the result 72-hours prior against Cambridge, a whopping 6-2 win, obviously convinced him not to make alterations.
The hosts were also in action on Tuesday, defeated 2-0 at Gateshead, but it’s at home where the Reds have struggled; only beating Luton at the Impact Arena so far this term.
However, with the lure of the TV cameras and the pressure really all on Newport who were the massive favourites, it was the hosts who made a fast start and they took the lead within the opening ten minutes.
The goal was well-worked and brilliantly finished as the hosts attacked with purpose for the first time, Paul Clayton and Ben Tomlinson combining cleverly, freeing the impressive Nathan Arnold who drilled home low and hard beyond Lenny Pidgeley.
It brought to mind the start of County’s last televised disaster in this part of the world when Anthony Hudson’s side were smashed 5-0 by a rampant Mansfield in the dying embers of his reign.
Those negative thoughts were hardly banished when the hosts doubled their advantage on 19 minutes, a corner headed back across goal allowing Paul Clayton to steal a march on his marker and poke home from close range.
The Exiles were two behind before they’d had a chance to work out what was happening, failing to put Alfreton under any real pressure as the Reds broke at pace time and again.
Not until midway through the half did Newport so much as mount an attack, Andy Sandell’s punt flicked on by the defender allowing Aaron O’Connor a run at goal, but he flashed wide.
County at least settled into a spell of possession, Ben Swallow collecting and firing right across goal, the subsequent corner almost headed home by Tony James, who ended up missing contact by a whisker as Newport huffed and puffed.
The Exiles needed a repost before half-time and it did arrive in unusual circumstances.
It came from a mistake by goalkeeper Jon Stewart whose kick was charged down by Smith, the ball catching the wind and drifting across the goal.
The keeper tried to make amends but couldn’t collect and Smith kept possession, dragged the ball back from the byline and curled home from an acute angle to give us a contest again.
The Exiles could even have achieved parity on the stroke of half time when Smith’s super cross arrived on a silver platter for Lee Minshull but he fired over from eight yards for a miss that would be fully punished.
Less than 30 seconds passed until the hosts won a penalty when Sandell slipped and fouled Ben Tomlinson (the suspicion being it was outside the area), Dan Bradley stroking home from 12 yards.
The Exiles needed a vastly different second half and to that end Edinburgh waited just ten minutes before introducing Lee Evans and Jake Thomson, looking to add some badly needed flair in the centre of the pitch and switching to a 4-4-2.
The switch yielded a reward immediately, Sandell’s corner clipping the crossbar after decent work by Thomson, O’Connor on hand to poke home the rebound.
Suddenly it was the hosts who could barely string three passes together, the second half possession stats something akin to Celtic versus Barcelona as the Exiles looked to turn the screw.
However, just like with the Hoops it was a set-piece that undid the away side, Pidgeley failing to claim amid a clustered penalty area as Clayton was allowed to scramble the ball home.
The goal settled the hosts as County again resorted to pumping the ball long as they chased a miraculous fightback, O’Connor forcing Stewart to save as the Exiles at least showed fight and desire, Evans fluffing his lines with an excellent chance as the seconds ticked away.
The Exiles’ spirit was admirable, Stewart saving brilliantly from Ismail Yakubu as they attempted another great escape.
County don’t know when they are beaten and with a minute remaining O’Connor brilliantly volleyed home goal number 16 for the season, setting up a pulsating period of injury time, but Louis could only head at Stewart in the dying embers as the Reds held on.
Alfreton: Stewart, Law, Franklin (Brown 83), Clayton, Bradley, Arnold, Franks, Meadows, Streete, Tomlinson, Killock
Subs not used: Barnes, Quinn, Russell, Worsfield
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, James, Yakubu, Sandell, Porter, Flynn (Thomson 56), Minshull (Evans 56), O’Connor, Swallow (Louis 70), Smith
Subs not used: Louis, Perry, Washington
Booked: Pipe (53), O’Connor (68)
Referee: Wayne Barratt Attendance: 663
Argus star man: Arnold (Alfreton)