Crawley 2 County 3
HISTORY repeated itself at Crawley Town as Newport County AFC fought back to win 3-2 at the Broadfield Stadium.
Just like their last trip to play the Reds three years ago, County were down and out but somehow battled to a morale-boosting victory.
This time Justin Edinburgh’s men were 2-0 down and looked to be heading out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against their League One opponents.
But a remarkable turnaround saw the visitors triumph 3-2 against ten men in an entertaining game that had more than a hint of an old variety show about it.
A game that neither team seemed that bothered about turned out to be hugely entertaining with a goal from more than 50 yards out, a penalty, a sending off and a referee limping off injured.
Both managers had made the maximum amount of changes permitted by the competition rules with Edinburgh also changing formation to 4-1-2-3.
Out went the suspended Harry Worley as well as Lenny Pidgeley, David Pipe, Adam Chapman and Conor Washington.
And in came Jamie Stephens in goal, Ryan Jackson at right-back, Tom Naylor into a defensive midfield role and Robbie Willmott and Chris Zebroski up front.
It was a big chance for Stephens, whose last competitive action for the Exiles was a disappointing afternoon at Northampton, but he was let down by his back four for the opener after 13 minutes.
The 20-year-old made a superb close range save from Nicky Adams but the defence failed to clear the ball properly, James Hurst turned it back into the area and it was scrambled in on the line by Emile Sinclair.
But he had nobody to blame but himself for the second nine minutes later.
Stephens hacked a clearance straight at Mike Jones and the Crawley midfielder picked his spot and whacked the ball into the empty net from just inside his own half.
The comedy of errors was completed with first Ismail Yakubu and then referee Rob Lewis being forced off with injuries.
But all was not lost and County had some good chances of their own before the break, notably when skipper Tony James failed to stick out a boot and divert the ball home from a yard out at 1-0.
And Mike Flynn created a great opportunity for Danny Crow after half an hour but the striker fired inches wide of Paul Jones’ left-hand post.
Flynn and Chapman, who came on for Yakubu, were beginning to influence matters in the middle of the pitch and it was the former who made County’s first goal.
He did superbly to take the ball round Mark Connolly on the right and hold off the defender before crossing for Zebroski to tap in from close range two minutes before the interval.
And two minutes after the restart the match was all square on the score sheet and the Exiles had a one-man advantage.
James Hurst saw red after his header back to the ‘keeper was too weak and he pulled back the on-rushing Crow in the box.
Chapman sent Jones the wrong way from the spot and Edinburgh’s men were suddenly favourites to go through.
The hosts responded well with Adams and Jamie Proctor going close but the Exiles were growing in confidence with every passing minute.
And the comeback was complete when Willmott’s cross was put through his own net by Connor Essam just after the hour mark.
Willmott almost added a fourth moments later but he opted for power instead of precision and his blasted effort was saved by Jones’ legs.
Stephens then redeemed himself for his first half error as he gathered a cross driven hard and low into the box by Mat Sadler as Proctor was ready to pounce in the six-yard box.
And the former Liverpool youngster showed his shot-stopping prowess again as he got down well to deny first Connolly and then Proctor.
Naylor also blocked superbly from Gary Alexander as County just about held on against the ten men.
And the entertainment didn’t stop there as Willmott tangled with home substitute Luke Rooney late on and was then mercilessly booed by the home fans.
It truly was the game that had everything.
Crawley: P.Jones, Hurst, Sadler, Connolly, Essam, Torres (Bulman, 62) Simpson, Proctor, Adams, Sinclair (Drury, 62) M.Jones (Alexander, 68)
Subs not used: Rooney, Maddison
Red card: Hurst
County: Stephens, Hughes, James, Yakubu (Chapman, 14), Jackson, Naylor, Flynn (Pipe, 84), Minshull, Willmott (Washington, 87), Crow, Zebroski
Subs not used: Pidgeley
Referee: Rob Lewis (Andy Laver, 20)
Attendance: 1,350 (81 County)
Argus star man: Mike Flynn
Comments are closed on this article.