NEWPORT County’s horrible 2014 continued last night as a highly contentious penalty and red card saw Morecambe complete a comeback victory at the Globe Arena.
It was unlucky number 13 for County, who have won just once since the turn of the year as a hugely contentious penalty and red card for poor Tom Naylor completely transformed a contest County had been dominating.
The reverse fixture at Rodney Parade was defined by Naylor, who scored two own goals and conceded a penalty in a shock 3-2 defeat, and last night he scored and was then sent off in a contest that probably means he’s hoping he’ll never face Morecambe again.
The Exiles came into this clash with the fewest points of any League Two side in 2014, but boss Edinburgh largely kept faith with those players who have featured regularly in the past few weeks.
That meant sticking with strikers Chris Zebroski and Rene Howe, continuing with Adam Chapman providing the impetus in midfield and his changes were largely kept to a minimum.
Harry Worley replaced the rested Byron Anthony and Max Porter came in to stiffen the midfield and both rewarded their managers faith with excellent displays, though Edinburgh did select his fourth goalkeeper of the season with Ian McLoughlin joining on an emergency loan from MK Dons.
There was a pretty much universally accepted belief before this game that from a Newport perspective, any sort of result would do with the performance secondary and in the opening exchanges, Newport’s lack of confidence was there for all to see.
They were hesitant and almost straight away on the back foot, but the hosts simply didn’t have the quality to capitalise. They forced a succession of corners, but only Jamie Devitt looked like he had the imagination to create something and he twice failed to hit the target from the edge of the box.
Devitt did have the craft to slice the Exiles open, but Ryan Jackson made a fabulous block to deny Kevin Ellison as Newport’s evening and possibly season took a major turn.
The Exiles had already conceded four corners when they won their first, but a quality ball in can change everything and when the hosts failed to clear, Tom Naylor, of all people was on hand to bundle the ball home from inside the six yard box.
It was joy unconfined for Naylor, hardly a shock considering the reverse clash will forever be remembered as ‘The Tom Naylor game.’
The Exiles were composed and confident after they scored and goalkeeper Ian McLoughlin barely had a save to make, the Exiles robust and strong with several last-ditch blocks saving the day, though they did get a helping hand when Jack Sampson completely missed his kick with the goal gaping.
However, it was a highly satisfactory half for the Exiles and there was a massive whiff of controversy about the way things changed so dramatically after the interval.
First the equaliser, unquestionably the pivotal moment in the game.
County were surprisingly caught cold by a long ball but at 35-years old, Kevin Ellison didn’t have the legs to shake off defender Naylor, but he did have the know-how to run directly across him and win a penalty.
Without the benefit of a replay it looked as soft a decision as you’ll ever see, but Naylor was the last man and his red card compounded County’s misery much to the utter incredulity of the player who came off inconsolable and emphatic in his view he never touched the player.
The impressive Devitt converted from the spot and within three minutes County went behind, Devitt finding Ellison who twisted the knife in even further with a smart finish.
The Exiles were practically on their knees after being the better side until the contentious leveller, but Morecambe’s third was unforgivable, sub Jack Redshaw, the smallest man on the pitch, heading home from a freekick with his first touch, and he added his second four minutes later, totally unmarked as Newport fell to pieces in the dying exchanges.
Morecambe: Roche, Beeley (McCready 44), Threlfall, Kenyon, Hughes, Sampson (Redshaw 70), Ellison, Devitt (Amond 70), Drummond, Fleming, Parrish
Subs not used: Arestidou, Wright, Williams, Marshall
Newport County: McLoughlin, Jackson, Naylor, Worley, Hughes, Willmott (Holloway 65), Porter (c), Minshull, Chapman (Flynn 82), Zebroski, Howe (Pipe 58)
Subs not used: Crow, Jeffers, Flynn, Anthony, Jolley
Referee: Mr R Clark (Northumberland)
Attendance: 1300 (43 away)
Argus star man: Max Porter