NEWPORT COUNTY 1
AFC WIMBLEDON 2
IT WAS Groundhog Day at Rodney Parade as mid-table strugglers defeated Newport County AFC once again to seriously damage their fading promotion hopes.
Just as Cheltenham did on Saturday, AFC Wimbledon came, they saw and they conquered.
A fortuitous own goal on 65 minutes looked to have handed County a vital three points.
But Justin Edinburgh’s men crumbled in the last ten minutes, conceding two goals to substitutes Charlie Sheringham and Kevin Sainte-Luce to lose in heartbreaking fashion.
Edinburgh had resisted the temptation to make major changes following Saturday’s defeat to the Robins and he may be regretting that right now.
Harry Worley returned from suspension to replace Andrew Hughes at the back.
In midfield Max Porter came in for Lee Minshull and up front Christian Jolley came in for Rene Howe.
Both Porter and Jolley were up against their former club, as was Ismail Yakubu, with two more ex-Dons on the bench in Ryan Jackson and Minshull.
But he kept Robbie Willmott at right wing-back with both David Pipe and Jackson amongst the substitutes and got away without naming a sub ‘keeper.
Before this game the Dons had lost four out of four in February and scored just one goal but neither side really looked like scoring in a dour first 45 minutes.
Jolley was clearly fired up to prove a point against the side that deemed him not good enough for League Two last season and he was in the thick of things early on.
He combined well with Chris Zebroksi up front and Ryan Burge and Adam Chapman breaking through from midfield, as well as Willmott and Sandell down the flanks.
But the first shot on target came from the visitors midway through the first half when Luke Moore stabbed goalwards following Sammy Moore’s free-kick but Elliot Parish gathered comfortably.
The closest County came to grabbing a much-needed goal before the break came in the 39th minute when Chapman’s long range volley whizzed a yard wide of Ross Worner’s far post.
The second half was an improvement on the uneventful first 45 minutes, although it would have had to be pretty poor not to be.
Wimbledon captain Alan Bennett almost made the Exiles the history boys but he headed just wide and the Londoners could easily have had a penalty shortly afterwards.
Burge got away with a risky tackle from behind as referee Tim Robinson firmly quashed any hopes the visitors had of a spot-kick.
And at the other end Jolley, still without a goal since the opening day of the season, hit the side netting with a snap shot inside the box.
That brought the crowd to life and it was soon end to end stuff as Jack Midson raced through on goal only to be excellently robbed of possession by a combination of Burge and Yakubu.
Then came the bit of luck that County needed with a howler from Worner in the Wombles goal.
Howe went up for a high ball with the ‘keeper who fumbled it over the line under pressure.
Neal Ardley’s side responded superbly to the setback, however, as Midson and Danny Hylton forced Parish into a fine double save before Midson fired into the net only to be denied by an offside flag.
Sub Sheringham, son of former England hero Teddy, then spurned two glorious opportunities as the Exiles continued to live dangerously.
But he made no mistake with his third chance on 84 minutes as he poked home from close range.
And Sainte-Luce ripped open a gaping wound and poured a gallon of salt in as he hammered home three minutes later to condemn County to defeat and leave their play-off hopes hanging by a thread.
County: Parish, Sandell, Yakubu, Worley, Anthony, Willmott, Porter (Minshull, 87), Burge, Chapman, Zebroski (Jeffers, 62), Jolley (Howe, 62)
Subs not used: Pipe, Crow, Jackson, Naylor
Wimbledon: Worner, Fuller, Fenlon (Sainte-Luce, 75), S.Moore, Jones, Bennett, L.Moore, Antwi, Hylton (Wyke, 68), Midson (Sheringham, 68) Collins
Subs not used: Brown, Pell, Nicholson, Arthur
Referee: Tim Robinson
Argus star man: Parish