Newport County AFC suffered their first away League Two defeat since the opening day of the season as Crawley Town secured a 4-1 victory at Broadfield Stadium.
Jamille Matt’s clinical eighth goal of the campaign on the hour cancelled out Joe Maguire’s opener after just a minute, but Crawley grabbed three goals in quick succession to take the game from County.
Captain Filipe Morais’ calm penalty on 62 minutes set the wheels in motion and further strikes from Ollie Palmer and Ashley Nathaniel-George gave the Red Devils all three points.
Due to MK Dons’ victory at home to Northampton, the result means County slip out of the automatic promotion places on goal difference, whilst the other two sides above them Exeter City and Lincoln City could only limp to draws.
Mike Flynn was forced to make four changes to his injury-hit side that beat Stevenage with a dramatic stoppage time winner last weekend.
Tyler Forbes missed out on the matchday squad for an unspecified reason as David Pipe came back in, while the Exiles switched to a 4-1-2-3 formation at Broadfield Stadium with Charlie Cooper and Josh Sheehan coming into the midfield.
Injury kept Tyreeq Bakinson, Robbie Willmott and Matty Dolan out of the contest, hence the formation change, with Antoine Semenyo coming in on the right side of the attacking trio.
After registering as a player yesterday, Flynn named himself on the team sheet as part of the six substitutes when looking for his first appearance for County since 25th February 2017.
Crawley Town manager Gabriele Cioffi made just the two changes to his side that lost the battle for a play-off spot last time out against Colchester United.
Having picked up a needless red card in stoppage time last weekend, Bondz N’Gala missed out at the start of his suspension so the Red Devils switched to a 3-4-1-2 formation from the first whistle.
Romain Vincelot came back in to join the defensive system while the other alteration was slightly more straightforward as Panutche Camara came in for Dominic Poleon up-front.
Unfortunately for County, their best opportunity throughout the entirety of first-half proceedings came after just 28 seconds. Clever play in the middle sent Antoine Semenyo through on goal but Crawley Town goalkeeper Glenn Morris got down well to hold the shot at the second attempt.
To make matters worse for the Exiles after that early attack, the Red Devils hit back immediately and took the lead with their first chance after exactly one minute of action.
County were left exposed in the midfield and were made to pay as Josh Payne spread the play out-wide for Lewis Young, the right-back charged past Dan Butler and sent a perfectly weighted ball into the area for Joe Maguire to get his first goal for the club since joining on loan from Fleetwood Town.
From that point forth, it was all one-way traffic in favour of the hosts and Joe Day had to be at his inspired best to thwart the Red Devils when coming forward.
All the play seemingly came through the midfield general of Filipe Morais, the home captain setting up chances for Young and Luke Gambin, but they were both denied from close range by Day.
Morais then decided to go for goal himself on 16 minutes but David Pipe threw himself expertly at the goal bound attempt, before Day had to be alert and stop his audacious effort from around 35 yards.
After becoming frustrated at not being able to extend their advantage, Crawley then decided to go back to what had worked previously and the combination of Young and Maguire almost paid dividends again on 25 minutes.
The goal scorer probably couldn’t believe how he failed to get his second when wastefully heading past the far post from all of a yard, but in his defence, Pipe had closed the angle down well and limited the space in which to find.
Gambin was at his effervescent best and causing a host of problems with his tricky runs in behind and it again required a vital block from Pipe to keep him out.
Crawley hitman Ollie Palmer then dragged a shot wide as the pressure still kept on coming, the home side profiting from slick and skilful play in all departments of the pitch.
After great persistence down the right, Antoine Semenyo hit the side netting in a rare sighting at goal for the Exiles and in first-half stoppage time, Fraser Franks hooked a shot wide.
The Exiles really needed to start well after the restart if they were going to get themselves back in the contest and Morris had to superbly deny Padraig Amond from Pipe’s cross.
It was certainly a much more positive start to second-half proceedings from the Exiles and birthday boy Jamille Matt twice evaded the far post when flashing headers across the face of goal from Demetriou crosses.
The ascendency had well and truly turned at Broadfield Stadium and County found their equaliser after 59 minutes following more determined and resilient play.
Jamille Matt seemed to have Mark Connolly’s number for a good few minutes before the goal, holding him off with ease, and when Semenyo fed his fellow attacker, Matt turned his marker and fired past a helpless Morris to get the Exiles back on level terms.
But the worst thing to do after working so hard to get yourself back on level terms is let the opposition back in and Crawley were awarded a penalty on 62 minutes.
Franks was adjudged to have pulled down Palmer as the striker went to pull the trigger and captain Morais stood up to take it from 12 yards and he sent Day the wrong way.
The pendulum swung again as Morais had the confidence to dictate the play once again and Crawley built themselves a healthy advantage on 72 minutes.
After a corner-kick was only half cleared into the path of George Francomb, the centre-half played a neat one-two with Camara before throwing another cross towards the far post where Palmer rose highest to guide it home.
It was almost like everything Crawley hit turned to goals at this point and they made it four after 79 minutes when substitute Ashley Nathaniel-George was given too much time and space to pick his spot from 25 yards.
Shortly after, Franks was then shown his marching orders for an overzealous lunge on the latest Crawley scorer, meaning the Exiles had to play the final eight minutes with ten men.
Day made a superb save to deny Panutche Camara in the latter parts of the six additional minutes at the end of the second-half – County suffering a rare League Two defeat in West Sussex.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-3): Day, Pipe, Demetriou (C), Franks, Butler, Bennett, Cooper, Sheehan (Harris 70’), Semenyo, Matt (Pring 81’), Amond
Subs not used: Foulston, Flynn, Hillman, Townsend
Crawley Town (3-4-1-2): Morris, Francomb, Connolly, Vincelot, Young, Maguire (Doherty 68’), Payne (Bulman 81'), Camara, Morais (C), Palmer, Gambin (Nathaniel-George 73’)
Subs not used: Mersin, Mcnerney, Poleon
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Attendance: 2,157 (336 AWAY)
Next up for County: Bury FC (23rd October 2018) AWAY