TEN-MAN Newport County AFC were dumped out of the FA Cup by lowly Yate Town on a miserable night for the hosts at Rodney Parade.
Justin Edinburgh’s men looked to be heading for a tie with League Two high-fliers Cheltenham Town on Saturday week thanks to Aaron O’Connor’s first half strike.
But they were reduced to 10 men for the last 25 minutes of normal time when returning captain David Pipe picked up two cheap yellow cards and were forced into extra time after conceding a controversial penalty with 20 minutes remaining.
Tom Knighton scored from the spot and Scott Thomas and Jake Groves sealed a memorable win for the Southern League South & West’s bottom side in extra time as County finally ran out of fight.
The visitors are 90 places below County in the non-league pyramid but, just like in the 3-3 draw on Saturday, they played way above themselves and deservedly earned a big scalp in football’s oldest cup competition.
Despite the defensive deficiencies last weekend, Edinburgh resisted the temptation to rush back Ismail Yakubu and Andrew Hughes from injury.
The Exiles boss made just one change to his starting XI with captain David Pipe fit to return in place of Mike Flynn, which allowed Max Porter to revert back to his natural midfield berth.
That meant that Lee Minshull once again partnered Saturday’s goal hero Tony James in central defence and this was another uncomfortable game for the man known as the Tank.
On a less than raucous night at Rodney Parade there was a quiet start to the action as well as both sides took a while to settle.
Ben Swallow was the most lively individual in the early stages and he set up Jake Thomson for the first attempt on goal after 15 minutes.
The Trinidadian midfielder dragged his attempt well wide from 20 yards out but Swallow went much closer minutes later as he drifted in from the left wing and let fly with a vicious drive that only cleared the bar by a matter of inches.
Jefferson Louis got on the end of Andy Sandell’s free-kick after half an hour but his header at the far post was easily held by Josh Dempsey in the Yate goal.
The hosts were on top but the longer the game went on the more confident Yate became and they had a good spell of pressure just before the break as Tom Knighton, Mitchell Page and James Harmer all had chances to break the deadlock.
County were looking vulnerable to the long ball over the top but that man O’Connor banished any nerves that may have been creeping in as he scored his 12th goal of the season on 43 minutes.
Louis claimed an assist as he nodded a corner into O’Connor’s path and the ex-Luton striker had the simple task of tapping in from a few yards out to claim a priceless half-time lead.
After his goal O’Connnor revealed a T-shirt in tribute to his former Rushden & Diamonds teammate Dale Roberts who committed suicide in 2010 and would have been 26 on Monday.
The Exiles failed to build on their lead but everything seemed to be going to plan until Pipe picked up his second booking on 65 minutes.
That woke the crowd up and put a spring in the step of the Yate players. Five minutes later they were level.
Lenny Pidgeley was booked for barging Page over in the box and up stepped Knighton to level the scores and put the match on course for extra time.
Yate were counting down the clock and were almost punished when County substitute Ryan Charles nearly won it in injury time as he pounced on the rebound from a Minshull drive but Dempsey denied him with a point-blank save and earned his side another half hour.
As is so often the case, extra-time was a cagey affair and, with County understandably tiring, it was Yate who looked most dangerous.
Pidgeley saved superbly from Groves and punched the ball away from under his own bar twice in the first period.
Lee Evans tested Dempsey with an angled drive at the other end but in the second period the part-timer’s extra man proved decisive.
Edinburgh was not happy with the referee’s performance but must now focus on lifting his team for the visit of Woking on Saturday.
Yes, County will be concentrating on the league this season.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Sandell, James, Minshull, Porter, Evans, Thomson (Hughes, 75), Swallow (Harris, 116), Louis (Charles, 81), O’Connor Subs not used: Charles, Harris, Flynn, Fielden, Perry, Patten Booked: Pipe (x2), Pidgeley, Evans Sent off: Pipe
Yate: Dempsey, Warren, Barnes, Purnell (Bryant, 112), Thomas, Wring, Groves, Vahid, Page (Hiroli, 90), Knighton, Harmer (Cox) Subs not used: Meaker, Price, Sarr, Freeman Booked: Page, Wring Referee: Paul Rees
Argus star man: Swallow