REPORT| Newport County AFC vs Blackpool
Newport County AFC remain 7 points away from safety after an agonising 3-1 defeat to Blackpool.
Alex Samuel scored County’s goal after Blackpool had gone two-up through Bright Osayi- Samuel and Mark Cullen. Osayi- Samuel then completed proceedings with a late sealer as the visitors took all 3 points.
The result also means Mike Flynn’s 100% record since taking over from Graham Westley is over.
For County, Caretaker Manager Mike Flynn named an unchanged xi from the side that battled to two victories on the road against Crewe and Morecambe over the past week.
For the visitors, who are on the cusps of the play-offs, they made one change to the side that beat fellow promotion hopefuls Stevenage. Captain Andy Taylor made way for Bright Osayi-Samuel, with Tom Aldred taking over with the captaincy.
Exiles gaffer Flynn said in his weekly press conference that he wanted to inflict a 10th league defeat on the Tangerines, and his hopes were duly answered.
Both sides set their stalls out early on, with both needing the three points; albeit for different reasons.
Blackpool were gifted the chance to create the first chance of note when on 3 minutes, Joss Labadie fouled Jack Payne in the middle of the County half. The resultant free-kick from Payne was poor and eluded everybody to go out for a County goal-kick.
County responded a few minutes later when a quick David Pipe throw found Sean Rigg in space on the right. He was tackled into touch with Scott Bennett’s long-throw just evading Ryan Bird in the middle.
Bird was almost found again seconds later when Swansea loanee Alex Samuel found space on the right but his cross was just too high and Dean Lyness came to collect.
Bird was almost in again moments later but was adjudged to have fouled Blackpool’s Tom Aldred – much to the annoyance of the County faithful.
The visitors came the closest to taking the lead in the opening 10 minutes when they mustered their first attempt. After finding space on the County left, Colin Daniel found the time to cross for an unmarked Mark Cullen, who somehow headed clear of Joe Day’s bar.
Then came the first shot on target – and goal of the game.
Bright Osayi Samuel found space on the right; and after cutting inside, unleashed a top draw strike that even a hand from Joe Day could not stop nestling in the top corner. The visitors were ahead on 16 minutes.
A mix up at the back then almost gifted County an immediate response. It was a case of miscommunication from keeper Lyness and Payne at the back which started a run of two County throws. Bennett took both throws but neither were met with any real vigour and Blackpool cleared.
On 22 minutes, the game saw its first yellow-card. Scott Bennett was adjudged to have pulled down Mark Cullen wide left with the referee viewing that the situation warranted a card. Joe Day came out confidently to gather the resulting free-kick.
The card seemed to inspire County who went straight up the other end to register their first shot on target. Samuel crossed to an unmarked Rigg whose tame effort forced a comfortable save from Lyness.
A clever County corner routine then nearly caught the visitors off-guard. Pipe played the ball low to the penalty spot for Bird, only for Clark Robertson to react quickly to block the goal-bound attempt.
And Bird was in thick of it again on the half-hour when after being found in space through the middle, his lobbed effort evaded Lyness; only for Robertson to scramble back and clear.
The visitors then tried to stop the multitude of County chances when Kelvin Mellor decided to try his luck for the visitors on 35 minutes. However, his 25-yard effort went sailing past the post.
Mark Cullen then came inches away from a second for the visitors. A quick counter attack following a County free-kick found Cullen who instinctively remained on-side to send a 25-yard rocket off the bar of a relieved Joe Day – and 2000+ County fans.
County were forced into their first substitution of the afternoon on 40 minutes. Captain Joss Labadie was forced off to what seemed to be an injury to be replaced by Mickey Demetriou.
Cullen then came inches away again from grabbing his 4th goal in 5 matches. Another quick counter-attack caught County off guard, with Cullen’s 20-yard drive clipping off the post and out for a goal-kick.
In the second minute of 3 added on, County came close with their best attempt of the half. Ryan Bird found space 20 yards out and after cutting inside, his effort narrowly went over and hit the stanchion.
That brought proceedings to a close for a first-half that had glimpses of what County had shown on the road in the previous two games.
The second half produced much of the same with both sides wanting the 3 points.
Flynn decided to make a change at the back during the break with Jazzi Barnum-Bobb replacing Sid Nelson.
It was the visitors who created the first opportunity of the second half. Nathan Delfounso was found on the edge of the area but his volley ballooned over the County bar.
County were then denied a dubious penalty when Alex Samuel went down in the area, only for referee Brett Huxtable to wave play on.
Another dubious decision followed minutes later when David Pipe was booked for a handball – despite his hand being down by his side.
This incensed the home support who made their feelings known about the two decisions.
Tom Owen-Evans, who was celebrating his 20th birthday then decided to have County’s first real attempt of the half. However, his strike evaded the cross-bar.
The crowd were angered again on 68 minutes when the referee decided to award a penalty this time – to the visitors. Mickey Demetriou was adjudged to have fouled Osayi- Samuel.
Mark Cullen coolly dispatched the spot-kick to double the Tangerines advantage.
The goal did seem to spark a comeback from County with Sean Rigg breaking clear on the right, only for his cross-shot to evade every County player in the box.
The first goal for County then came just moments later in the 74th minute.
Alex Samuel showed great composure through the middle and after holding off two defenders, dispatched a low drive past the helpless Lyness.
Ryan Bird then came close to an equaliser – but his headed effort was too high.
Sensing a comeback, Flynn then decided to throw on an extra striker with Jaanai Gordon replacing Owen-Evans.
And Sean Rigg almost forced an equaliser with 5 minutes to go when his shot almost crept in at the near post.
However, despite having 4 additional minutes, County could not force an equaliser.
And to make matters worse Blackpool countered late on to seal the game. Osayi-Samuel scored his second after out-sprinting Dan Butler and with Joe Day up for the corner – the result was inevitable.
Butler was booked late on as Blackpool secured the 3 points – leaving County 7 adrift with 9 to play.
The performance however did not warrant the result – with the performance a great improvement from the last home game.
The mood around the ground was definitely one that said – the great escape is still on!!
County: Day, Pipe, O’Brien, Bennett, Nelson (Barnum Bobb 45) Butler, Rigg, Owen-Evans (Gordon 76), Samuel, Labadie (c) (Demetriou 40), Bird
Subs not used: Bittner, Randall, Jackson, Williams,
Blackpool: Lyness, Mellor, Aldred, Robertson, Daniel, Payne, Flores (Aimson 90), Osayi-Samuel, Danns (Black 80), Delfounso, Cullen (Matt 73)
Subs not used: Slocombe, Philiskirk, Odelusi, Correia
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Attendance: 2427 (Away: 269 )