Michael Flynn made two changes to the side that drew with Luton Town earlier in the week. Mark O’Brien was serving his one game ban after seeing red on Tuesday and whilst Mickey Demetriou came in ahead of Sid Nelson in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Whilst Portsmouth dominated possession from the start, they failed to create any chances of note and just before the 20th minute, the Exiles changed their formation altered to a 442 with Samuel joining Bird up front and Rigg and Owen-Evans dropping into the midfield four. Whilst the formation didn’t change the wave of one-way traffic, it did sure up the Exiles' defence.
County’s best chance of the half came just before the half-hour mark, when a well worked move saw the ball fall to Samuel in front of an open net. The challenge came in and Samuel fell to the floor. The Amber Army wanted a penalty; referee, Tim Robinson, wasn’t interested.
Portsmouth’s domination finally payed off in the 41st minute when a neat through ball found striker Kyle Bennett 1 v 1 with Joe Day. The ‘keeper came off his line well but the striker held his nerve to slot the ball under Day and put the home side 1-0 up.
Things didn’t look for the Exiles as they went into the break trailing by a goal to nil.
County made two changes at half time Ryan Bird and Tom Owen-Evans making way for Marlon Jackson and Jennison Myrie-Williams.
The changes seemed to make a difference with a big chance falling County’s way within a minute of the restart. The Portsmouth defence scrabbled to clear the danger and The Exiles' chance was gone. The second half followed the pattern of the first. Portsmouth dominated possession whilst County tried hard but were unable to hurt Portsmouth.
If Gareth Evans wicked cross flashing across the face of goals on the 56th minute was a warning, it was unheeded by the County team and a minute later a cross found Kal Naismith unmarked in the center of the Exiles' box which he guided easily towards goals. Two goals behind, thirty minutes left on the clock and The Exiles faced an impossible challenge against a very good Portsmouth Team.
The final substitution for County came in the 71st minute as Mark Randall took the place of Darren Jones with Scot Bennett slotting into centre back alongside Mickey Demetriou.
A corner on the 76th minute found Randall on the edge of the penalty box, quick feet from the midfielder saw him evade three defenders to find Rigg in space to the left hand side of the box. The ball was bent perfectly into the penalty box for a glancing header from Samuel to find the back of the net. 2-1 with 15 minutes to go and as the Portsmouth fans began to demand more of their promotion-pushing team.
With just less than ten minutes to go, Jackson through 1v1 but couldn’t find the composure to beat the keeper. Just minutes later, a ball lobbed into the box by Randall found Jackson who nodded into the path of Samuel who was denied by a brilliant save from Pompey ‘keeper David Forde
Samuel would have one final half chance for County in injury time as David Pipe's cross picked him out. He got his head on it but was unable to find the back of the net.
County finished the game well and results elsewhere in the league mean that County remain 6 points from safety. Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be payed to the County team is that injury time was played to the tune of several thousand Pompey fans whistling for the end of the game.
A good, dogged performance from the Exiles but they came up against an excellent Portsmouth team who looked destined for League 1 football next season.
Next up, Crawley Town FC at home.
NEWPORT COUNTY AFC - STARTING XI: Day (GK), Butler, Jones, Labadie ©, Samuel, Bennett, Pipe, Owen-Evans, Rigg, Demetriou, Bird
SUBS: Bittner (GK), Barnum-Bobb, Randall, Myrie-Williams, Jackson, Nelson, Gordon.
PORTSMOUTH FC - STARTING XI: Forde (GK), Davies, Stevens, Rose, Clarke, Baker, Doyle ©, Doyle, Naismith, Bennett, Evans
SUBS: O’Brien (GK), Whatmough, Lowe, Chaplin, Hunt, Linganzi, Talbot
ATTENDANCE: 17,364, (322 Away)