A 10-man Newport County AFC side suffered another away defeat in SKY BET League 2, with a 3-0 loss to Notts County.
After a finely poised opening half-hour, the game’s match deciding moment came on 33 minutes.
It all came from a coming together between Dan Butler and Matt Tootle that left the Notts County defender on the floor, with Butler receiving a straight red card for allegedly leading into the challenge with his elbow.
And from there, the stage was set for Jorge Grant to send the Magpies top of the table with a scintillating display.
He opened the scoring just two minutes after Butler’s dismissal, with a calmly placed finish from just outside the area after being played in by Jon Stead following a quick counter-attack.
The winger then turned provider for Stead’s strike-partner Shola Ameobi on 53 minutes, who fired past a helpless Joe Day from Grant’s pinpoint delivery on the penalty spot.
And in the 55th minute Grant swiftly moved onto double figures for the campaign, poking home after Day had originally made a point-blank save to keep out his header.
Mike Flynn elected to make two changes to the side that started the 1-1 draw with Mansfield Town last weekend – with both changes enforced through injury.
That saw Mark O’Brien miss out with a suspected toe problem as David Pipe also failed to make the trip to Nottingham.
Robbie Willmott and Sean Rigg came back into the team in their place as the Exiles continued in the familiar 3-5-2 formation.
Notts County manager Kevin Nolan made ten changes from the side that lost 2-1 to Mansfield Town on Tuesday in the CheckaTrade Trophy.
It was, however, the same team that started their last league game when they drew at Carlisle.
That meant the Magpies possessed vast Premier League experience up-front, with Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi the forward two for the home side.
A defensive mix-up almost gifted County a goal on five minutes from the game’s opening opportunity. A Mickey Demetriou cross had caused confusion between goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons and Richard Duffy, although the ball wouldn’t present itself to an awaiting Matty Dolan in the area.
Fitzsimons was required to make a solid save to deny Frank Nouble just after that incident, as County were intent on utilising the dangerous Ben Tozer long throw.
It took until the 11th minute for the home side to create their opening chance of the afternoon. And had it not been for a perfectly timed challenge from Ben White, Stead may have managed to get a shot away.
Instead, the ex-Sheffield United man had to tee up Elliott Hewitt on the edge of the area, who somewhat scuffed his shot well wide.
That was all for the entertainment in the opening 20 minutes, Stead heading inches wide shortly after for the first real scare to Day’s goal.
The ascendency was slowly shifting to the home side as the game approached the half-hour mark, an injury to Hewitt causing a temporary delay to proceedings after being felled by Matty Dolan.
But the game was finely balanced at this point, both sides having their moments of dominance, but that would change with the match-deciding moment.
A coming together between Matt Tootle and Dan Butler in the 34th minute left the Notts County defender on the floor, with referee Craig Hicks brandishing a red card to Butler to the dismay of the travelling support.
And the Magpies made the man advantage count within two minutes of the sending off, Jorge Grant completing a swift counter-attacking move to side-foot past Day after being played in by Stead for his ninth of the campaign.
A stunning save from Day denied Hewitt on 41 minutes as the Magpies were intent on making their numerical advantage count, their captain Richard Duffy calling for a penalty that wasn’t given in the ensuing melee from Day’s save.
The indication of three additional minutes time couldn’t inspire either side to produce any further opportunities as the Magpies went in with a slender advantage.
Up until the dismissal, County were more than holding their own in the game, Nouble his usual presence up-front and stand-in captain Demetriou controlling things in the defence.
Flynn decided to make a double substitution at half-time to try to get the Exiles back into things at Meadow Lane.
Jazzi Barnum-Bobb came on for his first minutes of the league campaign, while Shawn McCoulsky also entered the proceedings in place of Sean Rigg and Padraig Amond.
But the Magpies really pressed home their advantage when they extended their lead on 53 minutes.
Grant turned provider this time, as his low drilled cross was smashed in by ex-Newcastle United star Shola Ameobi.
And that would swiftly be three as Grant moved onto double-figures for the season with his second of the afternoon on 55 minutes.
It was so unfair on Day who had produced a point-blank save to originally deny the winger’s header, who made no mistake with the rebound to poke the ball over the goal-line.
Nouble headed over for the Exiles as the game approached the hour-mark, a flurry of yellow cards being brandished by Hicks in the opening quarter-of-an-hour of the second half.
Day was then required to make another three stunning saves by the time the game had reached the 70th minute mark.
Stead, Hewitt and Tootle were all denied inside the area as the Magpies went in search of additional goals in the game, the tide truly swinging in their favour throughout the second half.
Lamar Reynolds came on for Nouble on 73 minutes, who left the field to a standing ovation from the County faithful for his tireless display in difficult circumstances.
Grant came within a whisker of his hat-trick on 77 minutes, rattling the top of Day’s crossbar when it looked impossible to get it up and over the wall, Stead hitting the base of the post with the rebound.
Ameobi fired wide as three additional minutes were again added by the fourth official, McCoulsky unlucky not to nip ahead of his marker to break clear.
Notts County substitute Liam Walker fired narrowly wide as the game was coming to a close, Day again denying Ameobi shortly after.
No further chances were created by either side as the game came to a close at Meadow Lane, although County could feel slightly aggrieved to suffer defeat in Nottingham.
County: Day, Butler, White, Demetriou (C), Bennett, Willmott, Dolan, Tozer, Rigg (Barnum-Bobb 45’), Amond (McCoulsky 45’), Nouble (Reynolds 73’)
Subs not used: Bittner, Jackson, Owen-Evans, Quigley
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle (Hunt 79’), Duffy (C) (Walker 79’), Brisley, Dickinson, Hawkridge, Hewitt, Yates, Grant, Ameobi, Stead (Forte 84’)
Subs not used: Pindroch, Alessandra, Smith, Jones
Referee: Craig Hicks
Attendance: 6,019 (341 AWAY)
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