Newport County AFC have been eliminated from the CheckaTrade Trophy after a 7-6 defeat on penalties to fellow League Two outfit Cheltenham Town after an initial 1-1 draw at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
Padraig Amond moved into double figures for the season with a neat finish in the first-half, but the two sides couldn't be seperated over 90 minutes as Alex Addai equalised after the restart following a goalmouth scramble.
Mike Flynn made seven changes to his starting side in Gloucestershire as the games refused to ease up and that wasn’t helped by needing a replay after Saturday’s scoreless draw against Wrexham AFC.
Padraig Amond, Josh Sheehan, Dan Butler and stand-in captain Fraser Franks continued from the weekend, as the Exiles fielded a 3-5-2 formation at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
Nick Townsend returned in goal, Tyler Forbes returned from injury and Jay Foulston, Cameron Pring, Charlie Cooper, Antoine Semenyo and Mark Harris came back in.
Joss Labadie made a welcome return to the bench after a nightmare nine-month injury layoff after damaging his cruciate ligament. Academy scholars Lewis Collins, Owen Taylor and Tom Hillman also composed the seven substitutes.
Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff also made a host of changes and it was six from the Emirates FA Cup defeat to Accrington Stanley on Saturday.
Ex-Exile Ben Tozer kept his place in the starting side, and goal scorers from the last meeting between the two sides 10 days ago – Will Boyle and Tyrone Barnett – both started.
Despite those 13 changes between the two sides for the fixture, you couldn’t argue on the competitiveness of first-half proceedings and a host of chances were created by both sides.
Cheltenham Town started proceedings on the front foot and right throughout the opening 45 minutes, all the chances seemed to fall the way of Sam Jones, and he forced Townsend into two good saves within 10 minutes.
County’s opening chance came just a minute later and again highlighted how well the Exiles can string passes together. Josh Sheehan eventually fed it through to Mark Harris, but home goalkeeper Scott Flinders narrowed the angles well and made a smart save.
The pressure continued to come from the away side and it finally told when Padraig Amond opened the scoring after 17 minutes. Former Cheltenham development player Cameron Pring started off the move and when his cross was left intentionally by Fraser Franks, the Irishman swept in to reach double figures for the season.
Back to Jones creating chances for Cheltenham and he again forced Townsend into a smart save – although this time he probably should have scored after initial smart play from Nigel Atangana and Conor Thomas.
Antoine Semenyo curled narrowly over the crossbar after 20 minutes as County began to again control the ascendency in the middle part of the first-half, but that could have all been wiped out when Franks and Townsend collided and they both missed the ball.
Fortunately, no-one was there to tap into an empty net, but Jones again found himself missing a decent opportunity when he blazed over from underneath the crossbar following a corner-kick.
An injury to County’s goal scorer halted play for a minute, fortunately Amond was fine to continue after treatment, and when he returned to the field, he set up Harris, but the shot drifted over the crossbar.
The Exiles did have the ball in the net again before half-time, but it was ruled out for a foul in the build-up, Charlie Cooper cruelly denied his inaugural County goal after a more than emphatic volley from 12 yards.
Alongside having the goal advantage at half-time, the Exiles definitely controlled the majority of the play and that continued into the second-half as Craig Alcock just about deflected a Tyler Forbes attempt wide of the near post.
It cannot be underestimated how much County work on corner-kick tactics – both for and against – Butler is usually involved somewhere, and this particular idea did find the left-back, but the attempt was then blocked.
Forbes and Cooper both tested the palms of Flinders as the Exiles looked comfortable with their advantage but still looking for more when able to keep possession for sustained periods.
But Cheltenham were always going to eventually create chances and when they finally woke up in the second-half, they found their equaliser after 66 minutes. County will look back and think they should have dealt with the danger in the area, but they didn’t, and Addai smashed into the roof of the net.
Then arguably the best news of the night came with twenty minutes to go as Joss Labadie made his long-awaited return from injury after a horror nine-month lay-off – replacing Cooper who could have been pleased with his evening’s contributions.
Jones’ individual shot tally must have reached 10 when he sent a speculative effort towards goal, Townsend just about getting it to it but fortunate that substitute Kelsey Mooney couldn’t follow it up.
Nothing else could really be mustered despite the three minutes of added time – meaning County went to penalties for the first time in over three years when they lost 7-6 to Swindon Town at Rodney Parade on 1st September 2015.
Ultimately, Cheltenham had more penalty shootout experience - winning earlier this season against Colchester United in the Carabao Cup - and that meant they didn't miss and progressed with a 7-6 victory.
✔️ Conor Thomas scores to the bottom left corner.
✔️ Padraig Amond scores to the middle left corner.
✔️ Jordan Forster scores to the top left corner.
✔️ Dan Butler scores to the bottom left corner.
✔️ Ben Tozer scores to the bottom right corner.
✔️ Joss Labadie scores straight down the middle.
✔️ Chris Clements scores to the bottom left corner.
✔️ Josh Sheehan scores to the top left corner.
✔️ Sam Jones scores to the top left corner.
✔️ Antoine Semenyo scores to the bottom left corner.
✔️ Kelsey Mooney scores to the bottom left corner.
✔️ Mickey Demetriou scores to the top left corner.
✔️ Tom Field scores to the bottom left corner.
❌ Mark Harris misses to the bottom right corner. Saved well by Scott Flinders.
Newport County AFC (3-5-2): Townsend, Forbes (Pipe 65’), Foulston (Demetriou 79’), Franks, Butler, Pring, Sheehan, Cooper (Labadie 70’), Amond, Semenyo, Harris
Subs not used: Day, Demetriou, Taylor, Hillman, Collins
Cheltenham Town (3-4-1-2): Flinders, Alcock (Clements 59’), Mullins (C) (Forster 72’), Tozer, Boyle, Field, Atangana, Thomas, Addai, Jones, Barnett (Mooney 72’)
Subs not used: Lovett, McAlinden, Brennan, Handley
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Attendance: 739 (94 AWAY)
Next up for County: Swindon Town (8th December 2018)