Dartford 2 County 1
NEWPORT County AFC went down to a second successive defeat on their travels as Dartford sealed victory with an injury-time winner.
The Darts pierced County hearts with a fantastic 92nd minute strike from left-back Richard Rose.
To compound their misery, Justin Edinburgh’s men surrendered top spot in the table on a night when big spending Forest Green Rovers hammered Ebbsfleet.
County are down to third, two points behind Rovers and a point adrift of Luton Town after this defeat.
It was no less than the in-form hosts deserved on a night when County failed to fire and sloppy defending cost them dear in the end after Aaron O’Connor had cancelled out Harry Crawford’s opener with his seventh goal in seven games.
Edinburgh resisted the temptation to indulge in a reshuffle after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Wrexham and he might be wishing he’d wielded the axe after a frustrating day at the office.
Striker Danny Crow passed a morning fitness test on his knee injury to replace Ryan Charles, who dropped out of the squad along with Lee Minshull.
Ben Swallow took Minshull’s place on the bench and made a brief cameo in the second half.
The hosts were unchanged after their 5-1 victory over Alfreton on Saturday and sealed their fourth win in a row.
County began brightly with Jefferson Louis having two early chances with his head and O’Connor just failing to control David Pipe’s cross at the far post.
Crow, who looked fully fit and gave the Exiles an extra dimension up front, also went close from long distance.
But the best chance of the opening exchanges came for the home side as Crawford, who scored a hat-trick against Alfreton at the weekend, found himself in space in the area.
Thankfully for County the Darts striker missed the target, hooking his shot just wide of Lenny Pidgeley’s near post.
Max Porter should have done better after a lightning quick break involving O’Connor and Louis but his sidefoot finish was well wide.
At the other end Pidgeley carried on where he left off at The Racecourse with another impressive display.
The ex-Chelsea goalkeeper tipped a Ryan Hayes free-kick over the bar and did brilliantly to block a header from Mark Arber on the stroke of half-time before Jacob Erskine headed the rebound over the top.
That was another big let-off for the Exiles but they didn’t heed the warning and Dartford were ahead within four minutes of the restart.
Pidgeley again did well to save from Hayes but the ball popped up and Erskine hit the bar with a header. Crawford made no mistake with the rebound to nod his side into a 1-0 lead.
But the goal sparked the visitors into life and it was all square less than five minutes later.
Louis showed good strength to hold the ball up and Thomson put O’Connor through on goal.
The striker just nicked the ball before Dartford ‘keeper Marcus Bettinelli could get to it and he did superbly to keep his balance and poke it into the bottom corner of the net.
O’Connor and Louis both had chances to put County ahead in the aftermath and Mike Flynn tested Bettinelli from distance as the momentum shifted in their direction.
Edinburgh brought on Swallow for the tiring Louis for the last 20 minutes and the ex-Bristol Rovers man impressed in his first brief appearance for the club.
But as time ran out and County pushed for a winner it was the hosts who looked most likely to steal all three points on the break.
Flynn did very well to rob sub Danny Harris as he raced in on goal with seven minutes remaining but in injury time Crow lost the ball in attack and Rose got away from Pipe before firing in to break County’s resistance.
After the game Edinburgh said: "I think we were naïve, really. We dominated the game and, certainly if we'd left with a point, it would have been the least we'd have deserved.
"But we've left here with nothing and probably of our own doing. I am really so disappointed with that.
"But again, we're learning all the time about the group and how they haven't been able to see a game out, which is disappointing."
Dartford: Bettinelli, Rose, Champion, Bonner, Hayes (Noble, 81), Erskine, Bradbrook, Rogers, Arber, Burns, Crawford (Harris, 74, Wallis, 84)
Subs not used: Collier, Ibrahim
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Sandell, James, Yakubu, Flynn (Harris, 90), Porter, Thomson, Crow, Louis (Swallow, 68), O’Connor
Subs not used: Hughes, Evans, Perry
Referee: Michael Bull
Argus star man: O’Connor