Newport County 3 Portsmouth 0

TEN-MAN Newport County powered through to the semi-finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with a comfortable win over a poor Portsmouth.

The Exiles showed a clinical touch to score three unanswered goals on a night where even the sending off of skipper David Pipe couldn’t dampen the celebrations.

The Exiles are now just three games from a third appearance at Wembley in as many seasons, a remarkable state of affairs for a club that went 99-years without visiting the national stadium even once.

Despite a thin squad and mounting injuries, Justin Edinburgh made only four changes from the side that drew at Braintree on Saturday, a minor miracle considering that the treatment room at Rodney Parade is ironically now standing room only.

With three attacking players selected from the start and the return of Robbie Willmott from suspension, one sensed that goals weren’t going to be the issue, and so it proved.

The Exiles might field a settled team less often than a military side, but that hasn’t stopped Rodney Parade becoming something of a fortress this term.

Newport have been exceedingly hard to beat on their own patch all season, but rarely since the switch to Rodney Parade have they started a contest in such blistering fashion as they did last night.

The Exiles positively roared out of the blocks, totally controlling proceedings after an even five minutes.

However, when County did make the early breakthrough, it was very much a case of the visitors being the architects of their own downfall.

And it was spectacular stuff, the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot equivalent of designing the Taj Mahal.

Portsmouth created panic and danger from a serene scene, defender Bondz N’Gala heading hopelessly towards his own goal, utterly taking goalkeeper Trevor Carson out of play.

That gave Conor Washington the simplest of finishes and as we’ve seen time and again this term, he only needs one sniff to usually find the net.

However, while Newport were comfortable they weren’t relentless and it was from another bit of poor defending that County were able to double their advantage.

Christian Jolley’s fine run saw him scythed down by Romain Padovani and that was all the invitation needed, Robbie Willmott lashing a freekick that Carson could merely parry, Cardiff loanee Deji Oshilaja showing fine composure to send his firm header back into the open net.

At 2-0 you sensed Pompey faced an unbelievably tough task to restore parity, the body language of the visitors surely alarming for their supporters, the travelling army from the South Coast putting their team to shame with their passion and endeavour.

Only a couple of long distance efforts threatened the Newport goal and from the best of them, a Shaun Cooper drive on the stroke of half time, Jamie Stephens was able to make an eye-catching save.

It was a big night for the former Liverpool youngster and he didn’t disappoint, producing a stunning double-stop after the interval as first Padovani and then sub David Connolly were denied by adroit movement and quick thinking from the ‘keeper.

Portsmouth were producing a Jekyll and Hyde showing, menacing and unpredictable – in a good way – in attack and pedestrian and unpredictable – in a bad way – at the back.

They totally switched off on the hour to allow Ismail Yakubu an unmarked header from a Willmott corner, but he uncharacteristically missed the target by inches.

That would’ve put this game to bed and it was potentially a costly moment, because with twenty minutes remaining the Exiles were reduced to ten men.

They could have few complaints; skipper David Pipe crashing through Ricky Holmes right in front of the mass Pompey fans, the referee having little hesitation in producing a straight red card.

Christian Jolley was sacrificed for Ryan Jackson as the Exiles prepared to dig-in and protect their advantage, but Washington should’ve made it three on the break, shooting straight at Carson when he should’ve squared for Tom Naylor.

However, it didn’t take Washington long to atone, he showed splendid composure just moments later, collecting, controlling and stroking the ball home to add a real gloss to the scoreline for the Exiles.

County: Stephens, Pipe, Willmott, Worley, Oshilaja, Yakubu, Naylor, Flynn (Minshull 61), Crow, Jolley, Washington

Subs not used: Pidgeley, James, Jones

Booked: Pipe, Crow, Jackson

Sent off: Pipe (straight red)

Portsmouth: Carson, N’Gala, Devera, Bradley, Holmes, Cooper, Barcham, Padovani, Craddock (Connolly 57), Bird, Last

Subs not used: Smith, Marquis, Painter, Ertl

Booked: Padovani, Bradley

Referee: Graham Scott

Attendance: 2851

Argus star man: Deji Oshilaja