County came away from Sixfields wondering just how they had conspired to lose a game in which they were dominating. Indeed the match stats alone told a very different story to that of the final score; hopefully harsh lessons will be quickly learned in what is undoubtedly a most unforgiving league. Hosts Northampton boasted the division’s best home record last season, yet it was the Welshmen who flew out of the traps early doors and could have been three-up inside twenty minutes, but for the brilliance of home custodian Matt Duke.
Roared on in their first league away game by a horde of passionate supporters, Newport began with real menace whilst using the flanks to devastating effect. Duke produced his first super save on three minutes; somehow tipping what would have been a spectacular own-goal over his bar. He followed that up by acrobatically denying Chris Zebroski from the first of what would eventually be ten Newport corners.
Max Porter and Zebroski then missed the target when ideally placed; before Duke produced another stunning stop to tip a Zebroski header around the post. From there the Cobblers broke on 25 minutes and promptly took the lead; would you Adam & Eve it! Young County keeper Jamie Stephens completely misjudged a cross from Morris and the imposing Jacob Blyth powered home a fine header. If that was a kick in the proverbials, worse soon followed; Roy O’Donovan scoring a cracking second within two minutes.
The excellent Duke was now becoming a major irritant; his save from Harry Worley as we headed to the break bordered on the astonishing; somehow flying low to his right to brilliantly flip a downward-header around a post. The second period didn’t fair much better for County either; skipper Pipe blasted over whilst the lively Zebroski fired wide of the upright. Definitive proof that it certainly wasn’t going to be Newport’s day arrived on 74 minutes when Ismail Yakubu’s header clipped the outside of a post.
Six minutes from time, the Exiles were three-down, when Gary Deegan rattled a low shot into the corner of the net from 25-yards, after Andrew Hughes had failed to clear. ‘Tis a cruel old game for sure. The defiant Duke was finally beaten when an 89th minute consolation from substitute Conor Washington provided his second fine goal within a week; alas it was all too little too late by that point for beleaguered County.