With Newport County AFC out of action after EFL fixtures were suspended until at least April 3 due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’re dipping into the Argus archives to relive the club’s miraculous Great Escape from relegation three years on. Follow the action day-by-day as Michael Flynn’s men battle to beat the drop against all the odds…

First published on Saturday, March 18, 2017

UGLY scenes marred the end of Newport County AFC’s first defeat under caretaker boss Michael Flynn, as promotion hopefuls Blackpool struck late to wrap up the three points at Rodney Parade.

Trailing 2-1 deep in second-half injury-time, the hosts were caught on the counter-attack and Bright Osayi-Samuel netted his second goal of the League Two clash.

While Blackpool celebrated a 3-1 win, County fans let their frustration boil over, with objects including sweets being launched in the direction of the visiting dugout.

Speaking after the game, Seasiders chief Gary Bowyer said he had been struck on the mouth by a hard-boiled sweet, while he was adamant that the FA and Exiles needed to investigate the incident.

Back to the start and County’s matchday squad of 18 was unchanged from the 1-0 win at Morecambe, with Tom Owen-Evans enjoying a third successive start on his 20th birthday.

Not only was it a big day for Owen-Evans, who coincidentally wears the number 20 shirt, but also for Flynn.

After two matches in charge on the road, this was his first at the helm in front of the Exiles supporters.

Going with five at the back and Sean Rigg at the head of a midfield triangle, County were unlucky not to get the chance to open the scoring on nine minutes.

Blackpool defender Tom Aldred went down very easily under pressure from Ryan Bird on the edge of his own box. Referee Brett Huxtable gave the free-kick to the visitors.

Just two minutes later and the Seasiders probably should have gone in front.

Colin Daniel swung over a cross from the left and Mark Cullen, unmarked six yards out, managed to head over, although the ball in might have got a slight touch off a County player.

County didn’t heed the warning and they were made to pay by Osayi-Samuel.

A long diagonal ball found the speedy Osayi-Samuel in space on the left flank and when he cut inside there was only one thing he was going to do.

Letting fly, his shot appeared to take a nick off David Pipe’s outstretched boot and then go into the net via Joe Day’s fingertips and the crossbar.

County responded with Rigg heading meekly at Dean Lyness, before a corner routine between Pipe and Bird saw the latter’s shot blocked.

The reaction from Flynn’s men was positive with Rigg and then Bird having half-chances to level, while the first yellow card of the afternoon went to Scot Bennett.

When they were under pressure, Blackpool always had the luxury of knowing that one accurate ball to Cullen, Osayi-Samuel or Nathan Delfouneso could immediately switch defence into attack.

That was exactly the case in the 39th minute when Cullen was afforded too much time and space, cut in onto his left foot and clipped the crossbar with an effort from 25 yards.

County were then dealt a big blow when skipper Joss Labadie had to leave the field through injury to be replaced by Mickey Demetriou.

The home side were certainly living dangerously, as just minutes after he first struck the woodwork, Cullen strode forward again and his left-foot effort hit the base of the post – he could easily have had a first-half hat-trick.

Nevertheless, the Exiles were still only 1-0 behind, and they might have equalised before the interval if Bird hadn’t fired just over.

South Wales Argus:

Flynn had to reshuffle his pack again at the break. Sid Nelson was replaced by Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and the latter, normally a right-back, went into the midfield.

Just about the only incident of note in the opening 15 minutes of the second period was a harsh yellow card for Pipe.

Sadly for the fans, the game was lacking any real quality whatsoever. Yes, we all know about the Rodney Parade pitch, but it really was poor fare.

For the neutral, it needed a goal. Unfortunately for the Exiles it went the way of the visitors – and it was another penalty.

The referee initially seemed as though he wasn’t going to give a spot-kick when Osayi-Samuel went down under a challenge from Demetriou on the edge of the box.

There looked to be contact but it was very soft from the hosts’ point of view.

The impressive Cullen comfortably dispatched the penalty past Day to make it 2-0 on 69 minutes.

That was Cullen’s last impact on proceedings, but 60 seconds after he was substituted, Blackpool boss Bowyer was probably rueing the decision to replace his striker.

County halved the deficit when Alex Samuel latched onto a long ball into the Blackpool box.

The Swansea loanee was outnumbered two to one by visiting defenders, however, he used his strength to hold them off and shoot past Lyness. Game on.

With their tails up, County went in search of an equaliser.

Excellent footwork from Owen-Evans on the by-line was followed by a cross from Pipe which Bird headed over.

Into the last 10 minutes and it was clear to see who was on top.

The home fans were willing their team to find a leveller and they nearly had it when Barnum-Bobb got in front of his man, laid the ball back to Dan Butler and the left-back’s fierce effort was palmed away by Lyness.

But there was still time for County to launch another attack.

Samuel found himself in space in the Blackpool area, headed goalwards, but Lyness was there again to tip the ball over.

Day came up for the resulting corner, however, when Blackpool cleared he was left to charge back towards his own goal.

Osayi-Samuel knocked the ball past Butler, beat the left-back for pace, and calmly slotted past Day to wrap it up.

Another great effort from County but they will move on to Luton on Tuesday – should be another quiet affair that one.

County: Day, Pipe, Bird, Labadie (capt) (Demetriou 41), Butler, Samuel, O'Brien, Rigg, Nelson (Barnum-Bobb 46), Bennett, Owen-Evans (Gordon 77).

Subs not used: Bittner, Jackson, Randall, Williams.

Booked: Bennett (foul, 23), Pipe (deliberate handball, 59), Butler (90+2, foul)

Blackpool: Lyness, Mellor, Aldred, Robertson, Daniel, Payne, Flores (Aimson 90+1), Osayi-Samuel, Danns (Black 80), Delfouneso, Cullen (Matt 73).

Subs not used: Slocombe, Correia, Odelusi, Philliskirk.

Referee: Brett Huxtable

Attendance: 2,427 (including 269 away fans)

Argus star man: Alex Samuel