IN TEAM sports, it is never really beneficial to play the blame game.
The collective, the notion that you win and lose as a team and no individual can do everything, or be blamed for everything, is a pretty central part of every successful sporting ideology, from Moneyball to Fergie Time.
But sometimes, it’s very difficult to adhere to the policy so strictly. After Newport’s narrow loss to Portsmouth, when ten men for so long, tried so valiantly, to produce a terrific comeback, would be a case in point. It really was hard not to point that accusing finger wasn’t it?
Or at the very least, beg the question, Adam Chapman, what on earth were you thinking?
His 26th minute dismissal for a horror tackle on Danny Hollands – he lunged with both feet off the ground and caught Hollands almost knee high - was as frustrating as it was shocking. It came as a result of Chapman controlling a ball magnificently and drawing a foul from Hollands who was made to seem positively hapless in the incident. But instead of merely leaving him with egg on his face, Chapman might easily have broken his leg.
It was an awful moment in an up and down season for Chapman who actually began the game brightly enough, pinging a 30-yarder just past the post with a swift movement that emphasised just how much natural talent he possesses for a League Two player. However, his temperament is becoming more and more questionable, especially following an unnecessarily high 11 yellow cards this season.
It meant that Newport’s situation, trailing 1-0 to a team clearly boosted by a managerial change, but nevertheless brittle and lacking in confidence, suddenly became almost impossible.
Including added on time Portsmouth played for 70 minutes with a numerical advantage and the dismissal meant a very good second half display from County counted for nothing.
The Exiles will also point to inconsistencies in terms of their second red card, Darcy Blake seeing red for two yellow cards, but Portsmouth striker Ryan Taylor was given a reprieve in almost identical circumstances, 10 seconds before he was substituted for his own good.
By then he had done his part, Taylor at the fulcrum of Portsmouth edging in front, winning and scoring a penalty on 21 minutes after Kevin Feely mistakenly tried to run a ball out of play instead of clearing. When Taylor retrieved Feely couldn’t recover having got the wrong side and the young striker was hauled back, though he made a real meal of his tumble to the floor.
The goal sent the large away contingent into raptures and also served to diffuse a situation that threatened to become concerning, a minority of away fans behind the goal spilling to the front of the stand and moving towards a minority of Newport supporters from the Bisley who had in turn moved closer to taunt the visitors, with the Police forced to intervene.
However, we will also do well to remember over time - with fingers no doubt pointed at Chapman and the referee - that another reason Portsmouth were able to secure this most vital of victories in their battle to avoid a third successive relegation and a fourth in five seasons was an absolutely top notch second goal.
Ricky Holmes was the architect – and in truth he terrorised Tom Naylor – weaving his way into a crossing position and picking out a perfect cross for Jed Wallace who headed home with a precise and composed effort that looped away from the despairing Ian McLoughlin.
It was surely a decisive blow but Newport showed great fight in the second half, they defended on the edge – Pompey had chances to bury the hosts and didn’t take them – and committed to attack despite their arrears.
The introduction of Shaun Jeffers made the Exiles more threatening and they began to get joy for an aerial bombardment, corners, throw-ins and second balls won raised the hopes and the vigour of the Amber Army and with the intensity increased inside the stadium, doubts began to creep in for the visitors.
Eventually, with 15 minutes remaining Ismail Yakubu – who replaced Kevin Feely who had a torrid afternoon – nodded home a Robbie Willmott corner and the decibel level in Rodney Parade reached maybe a season high.
Jeffers came close and Lee Minshull suddenly seemed to be everywhere, but County couldn’t make the breakthrough and when Naylor was caught out of position and Blake couldn’t cover in time, his lunge earned him a second yellow and another seat in the bath was occupied before 4.30pm.
That killed off the Newport revival and Portsmouth held out for a vital victory, but there is little doubt this contest will be remembered, like many a Monty Python sketch, for a moment of madness from Chapman.
Newport: (4-3-3): McLoughlin, Naylor (Sandell 86) Hughes, Blake Feely (Yakubu 54) Minshull, Chapman, Flynn, Zebroski, Crow (Jeffers 56)
Subs not used: Porter, Jolley, Holloway, Howe
Booked: Blake, Zebroski
Sent off: Chapman, Blake
Portsmouth: (4-4-2): Carson, Alfei, Shorey, N’Gala, Whatmough (Bradley 62) Ertl (Agyemang 80), Holmes, Hollands, Wallace, Fogden, Taylor (Jervis 53)
Subs not used: Smith, Devera, Racon, McCabe
Booked: Fogden, Wallace, Taylor
Referee: Steve Bratt