Cruel heartbreak for wasteful Exiles as Kiddy go top: match report – County 1 Kidderminster 2
NEWPORT County suffered a big blow to their title hopes after going down to a last gasp defeat to promotion rivals Kiddermin-ster Harriers.
Chey Dunkley bundled the ball home deep into stoppage time to seal a fortunate 2-1 for the visitors after County had dominated for much of the match.
The Exiles will feel they should have won but they paid a heavy price for their profligacy in front of goal.
Justin Edinburgh’s men stay in fourth position in the Blue Square Bet Premier, eight points behind new leaders Kiddy with four games in hand.
County will look to bounce back quickly against Gateshead at York on Thursday, before trips to Stockport County on Saturday and Southport next Tuesday.
It is without a doubt the most hectic run of fixtures for the club since April 2007 when Peter Beadle’s side just missed out on the Conference South play-offs.
On that occasion they lost at Eastbourne on the final Tuesday of the season, won a seven-goal thriller at Weston-super-Mare on the Thursday before suffering a 2-1 defeat at home to Cambridge City on the Saturday.
Edinburgh enjoys much greater backing in the transfer market of course and after the match last night the Friends of Newport County presented the club with a cheque for £6,000 to support the manager’s squad development plans and an additional £1,000 for the academy.
The recruitment drive started before the game, however, as County announced the signing of defender Michael Boateng from Sutton United.
Well rested after ten days without a game, the hosts started at a high tempo and Scott Donnelly was close to giving them an early lead only for his goal-bound effort to be well blocked after just two minutes.
Aaron O’Connor replaced Rhys Griffiths up front in the only change from the 1-1 draw at Ebbsfleet on March 9. And the top scorer, who hadn’t started since tearing a thigh muscle against Barrow in January, darted around like a tiger finally released from his cage.
He played in Donnelly after five minutes but the midfielder curled his effort just wide. He then set up Christian Jolley, who shot wide, before Lee Minshull was twice denied by heroic defending inside the six-yard box.
As the heavens opened and the pitch began to resemble Omaha Beach in the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan there were genuine fears that referee Nicholas Kinseley could be forced to abandon the contest.
If not exactly D-Day for either side, it felt like a must-win against title rivals and the players battled on through the mud with several wild challenges going in and some excellent football being played considering the conditions.
Visiting captain Keith Briggs was fortunate to receive merely a yellow card for a lunge at Mike Flynn, who was forced off shortly afterwards to be replaced by Jake Thomson.
Kidderminster’s opener after 27 minutes came against the run of play and Michael Gash, a County transfer target in January, looked suspiciously like he was offside as he rolled in his 18th goal of the season from a yard out.
Andy Sandell’s leveller three minutes later was the least that the Exiles deserved.
His shot from the edge of the area was deflected beyond Danny Lewis after the Kidderminster ‘keeper had palmed Jolley’s drive behind for a corner moments earlier.
The heavy rain soon eased but there was no let up in the intensity of the game with both sides really going for it.
Donnelly was denied again by a fabulous full-stretch save by Lewis on the stroke of half-time and the entertainment continued after the break.
Jolley hit the inside of the post after great work from O’Connor and captain David Pipe and the superb Minshull saw another goal-bound effort blocked.
Lewis, who was Kiddy’s best performer, did well to tip a Sandell free-kick round the post before O’Connor made way for Robbie Willmott.
Josh Gowling produced a brilliant block to deflect another Donnelly chance over the bar and Lewis was again the hero as he saved from Jolley with just over ten minutes to go.
A great match deserved a winner but sadly for County they again fell victim to a late smash and grab from Kidderminster.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Sandell, James, Anthony, Yakubu, Flynn (Thomson, 19), Minshull, Donnelly, O’Connor (Willmott, 67) Jolley
Subs not used: Julian, Hughes, Griffiths
Booked: Flynn, Pipe, Minshull
Kidderminster: Lewis, L.Vaughan, Demetriou, Vincent, Malbon, Pilkington (Gittings, 65), Jackman, Gash, Briggs (Johnson, 46), Dunkley, Gowling
Subs not used: Williams, Rowe, N.Vaughan Booked: Lewis, Briggs, Malbon, Dunkley, L.Vaughan
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley
Argus star man: Minshull