Exiles brought down to earth as luck deserts them
NORTHAMPTON 3 COUNTY 1
THREE games in and Newport County AFC have their first hard luck story of the campaign.
Ten corners to one; 17 shots to eight; opposition goalkeeper man of the match; all the ingredients were there for a County win.
But a combination of poor finishing, an inspired performance from veteran stopper Matt Duke and some poor defending saw Northampton Town seal their first victory of the campaign and condemned the Exiles to their first defeat.
Just like Kidderminster last season and, to a lesser extent, Wrexham, Dartford and Woking, Justin Edinburgh’s men dominated for long stretches of the match but ended up pointless.
As we know from 2012-13, Edinburgh’s County have proved themselves time and again to be experts at bouncing back and a home clash – an injury-hit Bristol Rovers provided the perfect opportunity.
And they can certainly take plenty of positives from this loss against a side that won 18 of 24 matches at Sixfields last season and were only denied a place in League One by Bradford City in the play-off final at Wembley.
Given the pedigree of Aidy Boothroyd’s side this was always going to be a big test of County’s ability to progress in League Two and, even though they lost, most objective observers would conclude that they passed with flying colours.
Boothroyd himself said afterwards that the visitors would finish in the top 10 this season and he should know.
If nothing else they will have learned the old lesson that you have to take your chances at this level.
County flew out of the blocks and could have been 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes.
Duke made his first superb save after just three minutes when he somehow palmed a deflected clearance from his own defender Lee Collins over the bar.
From the resulting corner he tipped Chris Zebroski’s point blank header over the net.
Max Porter then sent a curler just wide from the edge of the box before Zebroski missed the best chance of the lot when he skewed his shot wide from close range after being perfectly picked out by David Pipe.
The striker, who scored twice in the demolition of Accrington Stanley seven days before, also glanced a header over at the far post from Andy Sandell’s centre before the Cobblers took a shock lead on 25 minutes.
Young Exiles goalkeeper Jamie Stephens has to take most of the blame as he came out to claim Ian Morris’ cross from the left but could only watch as Jacob Blyth got there first and powered a header into his net.
It was very much against the run of play and the hosts soon doubled their lead and doubled the sense of injustice in the County ranks as Morris slipped in Roy O’Donovan, who brilliantly slotted past Stephens from an acute angle.
Defender Harry Worley was the next to be denied by ex-Hull City stopper Duke just before the break when his header was brilliantly tipped over and Pipe then blasted just over a minute into the second half.
Zebroski screwed another chance wide as County continued to pile on the pressure and Danny Crow came on for Max Porter.
It was a big ask for the super sub to repeat his heroics from the Capital One Cup victory at Brighton and it was Ismail Yakubu who came closest to getting the visitors back into the game with a header that Duke scrambled round the post.
Conor Washington and Robbie Willmott replaced Zebroski and Adam Chapman as Edinburgh went for broke but Northampton caught County napping at the back on 84 minutes.
Yakubu and Andrew Hughes failed to clear and Gary Deegan fired past Stephens from distance to seal the win for his side.
Washington provided a moment to savour on an afternoon of frustration for the 544 travelling fans as he ran at the Cobblers’ defence and beat Duke at the second time of asking with three minutes remaining.
It was a classic consolation goal and County can console themselves that they will play far worse than this and pick up points this season.
Northampton: Duke, Widdowson, Carter, Collins, Morris, O’Donovan, Tozer, Deegan, Emerton (Demontagnac, 77), Amankwaah, Blyth (Toney, 74).
Subs not used: Snedker, Hooper, Moyo, Dias
County: Stephens, Pipe, Hughes, Yakubu, Worley, Sandell, Chapman (Willmott, 72), Minshull, Porter (Crow, 62), Zebroski (Washington, 79), Jolley.
Subs not used: Flynn, Jackson, Bittner.
Referee: Mark Heywood
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