Newport County AFC’s search for a place in the Third Round of the Carabao Cup continues as they suffered a 3-0 defeat to League One outfit Oxford United at Rodney Parade.
The game was realistically over and done with inside four minutes as the U’s grabbed two of their goals within that time frame.
After just 120 seconds, Oxford had their opener after intelligent work down the left-side by Luke Garbutt and Shandon Baptiste. Baptiste skipped two challenges before feeding it inside for Garbutt, the left back’s delivery across the face of goal bouncing off Mickey Demetriou and over Nick Townsend.
That lead was doubled in the fourth minute as Baptiste continued his excellent start to proceedings. The midfielder – trying to work his way back into the side after only making two appearances so far – turned his man before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner from 20 yards.
County did get themselves back into the contest following that sluggish start, but away goalkeeper Johnathan Mitchell and his defensive unit stood firm to book Oxford’s place in the next round.
Their lead was also extended during the period in which County searched for a route back into the contest, midfielder Gavin Whyte capping a fine individual performance with a looping volley over Townsend after a perfect delivery into the area.
That means County’s quest for a spot in the Third Round since 1962 continues – as the Exiles suffered their first defeat in all competitions at Rodney Parade since April against their League One counterparts.
Mike Flynn elected to make five changes to the side that picked up their third successive league victory at Rodney Parade on Saturday with a hard-fought success over Grimsby Town.
That saw two County players make their inaugural competitive starts – Charlie Cooper and Antoine Semenyo – who came in for Matty Dolan and Padraig Amond respectively.
Nick Townsend continued in goal after his impressive display in the comprehensive First-Round victory over Cambridge United, whilst captain Andrew Crofts made a welcome return after missing the last four matches with a toe injury and took the place of Josh Sheehan.
Jamille Matt was the final returnee for the Exiles when coming in for Mark Harris, with the players keeping their place including Tyreeq Bakinson – who caused Grimsby all manner of problems on Saturday – alongside the usual back five system.
Oxford United manager Karl Robinson made four changes to his starting line-up that secured their first victory in League One at the weekend against Burton Albion.
That saw Luke Garbutt and Rob Dickie return to the defence of a 4-2-3-1 system, whilst John Obika and Shandon Baptiste also returned in attacking positions – all for captain Curtis Nelson, Cameron Brannagan, Marcus Browne and James Henry respectively.
Oxford came flying out of the traps and within four minutes had already shown their superior league advantage by racing into a two-goal lead.
In just the second minute, the U’s made clever work of the ball down the left-hand side. Shandon Baptiste worked the line well before cutting it back inside for Luke Garbutt, his delivery taking a wicked deflection off Mickey Demetriou and looping over Nick Townsend in the County goal.
The Exiles hadn’t even had time to adjust before they were staring a two-goal deficit right down the barrel.
Baptiste, who had started like a house on fire when trying to persuade his manager to reinstate him to the starting league side, drifted past three challenges with ease before smashing an emphatic shot into the top-left corner from 20 yards.
That was Baptiste’s first senior goal and the League One side were good money for their superior advantage, but County managed to gather some momentum from there and Jamille Matt was unlucky to see a header drift past the post.
In the 14th minute, both sets of supporters joined together in a minute’s applause, remembering great County supporter Kieran Sanges.
The game appeared to settle down to a steadier pace from there as both defences seemed much more solidified units. Oxford were still the sharpest force in the contest if any, particularly the front four, although few other chances could be created before half-time.
On the half-hour, Antoine Semenyo showed his lightning pace to advantageous effect, drifting through two challenges on the left-side, before drilling a delivery across the face of goal which Matt was unlucky to divert straight at Jonathan Mitchell from four yards.
Mickey Demetriou also sent a header narrowly wide from Charlie Cooper’s free-kick, but that was about it despite four minutes additional time as the League One outfit took a superior lead into half-time.
After the sluggish start, the Exiles had begun to match up to their opponents and started to look like they could force a way back into the contest.
But Oxford always looked a menacing force on the counter-attack and a couple of saves from Townsend towards the end of the first-half kept the visitors at bay.
The visitors again started on the front-foot after the restart and it required a smart save from Townsend to keep Johnathan Obika at bay after his charging run into the area.
County had to try and do something to force the issue, Forbes and Matt both seeing efforts go wide, but Oxford were still a force on the counter-attack and quite comfortable with their position.
Keanu Marsh-Brown became the first County substitution to take the field when replacing Cooper on the hour, and that certainly signified that the Exiles were going to go for broke in an attacking formation.
Flynn decided to throw another dice when bringing on top scorer Padraig Amond, replacing Matt up-front, and the Irishman’s cross almost found Tyreeq Bakinson unmarked in the area.
Mitchell’s acrobatics denied Amond getting on the end of a cross-field delivery from Dan Butler as County did at-least have the ascendency, but chances were still few and far between as Oxford looked to see out the game.
County’s cause was helped by Jamie Hanson’s instant dismissal for a lunging challenge on Semenyo with 12 minutes remaining. But the Bristol City loanee also had to come off through injury, so both sides played with 10 each for the final ten minutes.
Gavin Whyte – Oxford’s talismanic midfielder throughout the contest – almost got a goal his performance deserved, but Townsend got down to save the attempt after a mesmerising 50-yard run.
The Oxford midfielder was truly outstanding from start to finish and he finally got his just rewards when looping a volleyed attempt over Townsend following a swift counter-attack in the first of the six additional minutes.
That was how it stayed at Rodney Parade as Oxford United showed their superior league advantage with a composed victory against the Exiles.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Townsend, Butler, Franks, Demetriou, Bennett, Forbes, Crofts (C) (Sheehan 75’), Cooper (Marsh-Brown 61’), Bakinson, Matt (Amond 68’), Semenyo
Subs not used: Day, Pipe, Foulston, O’Brien
Oxford United (4-2-3-1): Mitchell, Garbutt, Mousinho (C), Dickie, Norman, Ruffels (Brannagan 75’), Hanson, Whyte, Obika (Henry 61’), Baptiste, Smith (Long 82’)
Subs not used: Raglan, Dai, Stevens, Lopes
Referee: Scott Duncan
Attendance: 2,228 (282 AWAY)
Next up for County: Port Vale (1st September 2018) AWAY