Danny Grainger’s stoppage time thunderbolt ensured Newport County AFC’s comeback from two goals down was in vain as they fell to a 3-2 defeat away at Carlisle United.
Jamie Devitt’s early double seemingly put the home side in cruise control in Cumbria, but County showed their fighting spirit to fight back with goals in either half from Padraig Amond and Dan Butler.
Grainger’s return from injury was to be a memorable one, however, as he thumped home in the third of the four additional minutes to give Carlisle United all three points.
The result means County drop to sixth in the League Two table, with two points separating the Exiles from the automatic promotion spots and the chasing pack looking for play-off spots.
Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to his starting side that were pegged back by familiar nemesis Kevin Ellison last weekend in a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade against Morecambe.
A defensive crisis saw Scot Bennett and Mark O’Brien both miss out through injury, Fraser Franks completed the final match of his suspension, so Tyler Forbes came back in to compose a five-man defence.
David Pipe, Mickey Demetriou and Dan Butler were the central defensive partnership, while Robbie Willmott showed his versatility by starting at left-wing-back.
Tyreeq Bakinson recovered from his leg injury to replace Bennett, holding the line with Matty Dolan who both sat in-front of the advancing Josh Sheehan.
Antoine Semenyo returned to replace Jamille Matt, who could only make the bench after withdrawing late on last time out, and the Bristol City loanee partnered Padraig Amond up-front.
Carlisle United manager John Sheridan matched Flynn when also making three changes to his 3-5-2 formation, although the Cumbrians were coming off the back of stoppage time heartache after a 1-0 defeat to Yeovil Town last time out.
Captain Danny Grainger made a welcome return from his injury worries when replacing Kelvin Etuhu, while Jamie Devitt and George Glendon also came back in for Regan Slater and Adam Campbell respectively.
And it was two of those returning Cumbrian players who were instrumental in the home side controlling all the early play and building a healthy lead inside the opening 15 minutes.
Previously, Carlisle hadn’t scored at home for over eight hours, but you wouldn’t have known it by their vivacious start, and they were ahead after just nine minutes.
Ashley Nadesan and Jerry Yates were causing particular problems down the right side, this time the former went on a marauding run before cutting the ball back inside to George Glendon, his cross was inch perfect and the predatory instincts of Jamie Devitt left a stranded Joe Day helpless.
Devitt’s tally for the match soon doubled just three minutes later as the effervescent midfielder put forth his contender for the League Two goal of the season award.
His short corner to Yates came back to him on an acute angle just in-front of the corner flag, but the 28-year old somehow managed to squeeze a powerful shot through the host of players in the penalty area and into the near post.
Day was certainly keeping County in proceedings at Brunton Park as the Cumbrians ramped up the pressure, with the shot stopper twice coming to Dan Butler’s rescue after uncharacteristic errors to deny Yates on both occasions from point-blank range.
Macauley Gillesphey also sent an audacious 50-yard strike safely into Day’s palms when he probably should have passed to a teammate, but County were at-least able to get a foothold on proceedings from there until half-time.
A lot of the attacking intent was coming down County’s left side through Butler and particularly Willmott, although the partnership of Gary Liddle and Anthony Gerrard, for the most part, were happy to head away any incoming pressure.
No such luck for the Carlisle defence on 38 minutes, however, as the Exiles gave themselves a real chance of getting a result with a reply through Padraig Amond.
Willmott was again causing havoc with a lively sprint past Jack Sowerby, and when Amond had worked some space between the centre-halves, the cross was perfect for the Irishman to head home from 10 yards despite the best efforts of Liddle on the goal line.
The combination of Willmott and Amond also gave County their goal at Brunton Park last season, and that was the Exiles’ greatest weapon in the first half as Amond also saw two efforts narrowly evade the crossbar.
Tyreeq Bakinson also tried his luck at the end of the two additional minutes added on, with the Exiles certainly ending the first-half on the front foot even if they were trailing by the solitary goal.
The opening to second-half proceedings was shared as both sides created chances and Butler was required to thwart Nadesan in the area after more tenacious running from Yates, while Demetriou went for acrobatics at the other end but Adam Collin held the strike at the second attempt.
A goalmouth scramble in the County area saw four different Carlisle players try their luck at restoring the two-goal cushion, but Nadesan, Glendon, Yates and Devitt were all denied by vital blocks from wither Forbes or Demetriou.
Up went County down the other end and Amond almost drew the Exiles level from Butler’s looping pass into the area, but he couldn’t find the far corner from a tight angle.
On 65 minutes, Flynn went to his substitutes bench for the first time and brought top scorer Jamille Matt on for Forbes. That saw the Exiles switch to a 4-3-3 formation and Matt almost had the desired effect upon his introduction, but Collin saved well.
Back to proceedings being shared again as both teams piled on the pressure and Josh Sheehan was unlucky not to get his first of the season when hitting the side netting, before even more superb goalkeeping from Day thwarted Cumbrian substitute Regan Slater.
Day might have also got a slight fingertip on a Nadesan header that crashed off the near post as his fine individual performance continued, whilst Collin spread himself well at the other end to again thwart Matt.
It seemed like nothing Matt threw towards the Carlisle goal would go in when Collin tipped his looping header over the top, but it doesn’t matter as long as the rest of the team can score as well.
And that’s exactly what happened on 86 minutes as Butler equalised for the Exiles. Dolan’s drilled free-kick first saw Butler denied with a header by Collin, but the makeshift centre-back reacted well to fire home the rebound from virtually under the crossbar.
It was a remarkable comeback from the Exiles after being two goals down so early on, but it was ultimately in vain as Carlisle United secured all three points in stoppage time.
Day did ever so well once again to thwart a looping header form Nadesan, but the clearance only went as far as Grainger 20 yards out and not even the best jumping efforts of Butler could prevent it nestling right into the top corner.
Newport County AFC (3-5-2): Day, Forbes (Matt 66’), Pipe, Demetriou (C), Butler, Willmott, Bakinson, Dolan, Sheehan (Marsh-Brown 84’), Amond, Semenyo (Harris 82’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Foulston, Cooper, Collins
Carlisle United (3-5-2): Collin, Sowerby, Liddle, Gerrard, Gillesphey, Grainger (C), Glendon (Bennett 66’), Devitt, Jones (Slater 66’), Yates, Nadesan
Subs not used: Gray, Miller, Campbell, Egan, McCarron
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Attendance: 3,541 (136 AWAY)
Next up for County: Metropolitan Police (Emirates FA Cup First Round) AWAY – 10th November.