NEWPORT County AFC really can concentrate on the league now after exiting a second cup competition in four days with a 1-0 defeat at League Two rivals Swindon Town.

Bowing out of the Papa John’s Trophy will not be lamented anything like as much as Saturday’s FA Cup first-round defeat at Morecambe.

And new manager James Rowberry may even see it as a blessing in disguise, despite the opportunity the competition offers for him to give minutes to those on the fringes of the squad.

Rowberry made 11 changes from Saturday, selecting the nine players who started on the bench at the Mazuma Stadium and drafting in Jermaine Hylton and academy defender Harrison Bright.

The 17-year-old from Monmouth impressed in his first start for the senior team, looking assured on the right of a back four alongside Christopher Missilou, captain Matty Dolan and Ryan Haynes.

Ed Upson anchored an attacking midfield three with Kevin Ellison and Lewis Collins, while Hylton supported Timmy Abraham and Alex Fisher up front.

Swindon made 10 changes from their FA Cup win at Crewe Alexandra with youngsters Harrison Minturn and Callum Winchcombe making their debuts in defence.

But it was the one man who retained his place – former County loan striker Harry McKirdy – who pulled the strings for the hosts in the first half.

After Jayden Mitchell-Lawson’s shot from the edge of the area was deflected wide and Dolan picked out Ellison from a corner only for the veteran’s shot to be well blocked from 12 yards out, Swindon thought they had a penalty in the 17th minute.

McKirdy’s clever throughball split the County defence and puts captain Jordan Lyden through on goal but Exiles goalkeeper Nick Townsend did brilliantly to snatch the ball off his toes.

Referee James Oldham then baffled everyone by blowing his whistle and seemingly pointing to the spot only to change his mind after protests from the County defence.

Rowberry’s men responded well to that incident and enjoyed a period of supremacy in what was an even first 45 minutes overall.

Abraham raced down the left flank and crossed for Ellison but his shot was blocked before Abraham fired into the side netting.

Ellison then lashed a shot high and wide from 20 yards before seeing two more efforts blocked in quick succession.

And Hylton crossed for Abraham in the final minute of the half but the striker’s powerful close-range header was tipped over by Lewis Ward in the Swindon goal.

The hosts also had chances of their own before the interval with Alex Gilbert going close from distance and Mitchell-Lawson taking advantage of some hesitant defending from Missilou only to hook his shot wide.


County started the second half on top with Ellison heading just wide and Hylton forcing a fine save from Ward with a fierce drive.

But it was Swindon who broke the deadlock against the run of play in the 57th minute when Mitchell-Lawson’s shot was palmed away by Townsend but only as far as Lyden, who fired in from near the penalty spot.

The Exiles had to push forward in search of the point they needed but they never looked like getting back into the contest and they inevitably left a few gaps at the back, especially after Dolan was withdrawn.

Missilou, who struggled a little in an unfamiliar role in central defence, was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he appeared to haul down the lively Mitchell-Lawson.

Joe Woodiwiss, on for Dolan, produced an excellent recovery tackle to deny McKirdy a shot on goal.

And Townsend did brilliantly to prevent Mitchell-Lawson from killing off the tie.

But one goal was all the hosts needed in the end and Rowberry and his players can now focus on climbing the league table, starting at Hartlepool United on Friday night.


Swindon Town (3-5-2): Ward; Minturn, Hunt, Winchcombe; Mitchell-Lawson, Parsons, East, Lyden, Dabre; Gilbert, McKirdy

Subs not used: Afenyo, Dworzak, Fox, Francis, Gordon, Mildenhall, Wynn-Davis

Booked: Minturn

County (4-3-3): Townsend; Haynes, Missilou, Dolan (Woodiwiss, 61), Bright; Ellison, Upson, Collins; Fisher, Hylton (Hall, 74), Abraham (Greenidge, 58)

Subs not used: Ovendale, Twamley, Ryan-Phillips, Livermore

Booked: Missiolou, Hylton, Upson

Referee: James Oldham

Attendance: 2,125 (57 County)

Argus star man: Bright