Newport County AFC have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the Second Round stage but they can take loads of plaudits from the 2-0 defeat against West Ham United at Rodney Parade.
Jack Wilshere and Pablo Fornals scored in either half to take the game away from the Exiles, whose performance arguably deserved more, and they were so unlucky not to hit the scoresheet when more than matching their Premier League opponents.
Manager Michael Flynn elected to make one change to his Exiles side which beat Crewe Alexandra thanks to a stoppage time winner on Saturday, Nick Townsend rewarded for his fine heroics in the previous round when replacing Tom King.
County maintained the 4-2-3-1 formation from the weekend as Ryan Haynes, Mark O’Brien, Kyle Howkins, Danny McNamara played behind a defensive shield of Matty Dolan and Josh Sheehan.
Corey Whitely lined up behind the front three of Padraig Amond, Tristan Abrahams and Robbie Willmott at Rodney Parade.
West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini made 10 changes to the side which secured their first Premier League victory at the weekend – Issa Diop retaining his place – but the strength in depth was evident as it was still an extremely strong side.
There were 58 places separating the two sides in the English football pyramid and that gulf in class did show in the early exchanges as the Hammers created the opening couple of opportunities.
Townsend was left scrambling on 13 minutes when Pablo Fornals’ shot took a deflection on its way to hitting the base of the post, while Robert Snodgrass shot straight at the goalkeeper twice early on.
The Exiles weathered the early storm from the Premier League giants and actually controlled the middle part of the first half and potentially could have been 3-0 up after 40 minutes.
Tristan Abrahams – a threat all night with his pace and power – outmuscled Issa Diop on 24 minutes, he played a beautiful cross into the area for Amond, but he went for placement and instead found the imposing figure of Roberto.
Crosses or long throws seemed to be County’s greatest avenue towards finding an opener and Whitely’s cross into the area was almost turned into his own net by Diop but it drifted narrowly past the far post, much to the relief of a stranded Roberto.
Another cross into the area was only just missed by O’Brien when any touch would have turned it into the goal, but the Exiles couldn’t turn their dominance into a desired goal.
The inability to turn chances into goals ultimately came back to haunt the Exiles as West Ham opened the scoring two minutes before half time with a goal that came against the run of play.
Howkins was dispossessed too cheaply when trying to look for a pass, Jack Wilshere nipped in to sprint through on goal and he used all his league and international experience to calmly side foot past Townsend.
It could have been two for the away side before half time as they seized upon the fact County were so devastated at having conceded and hadn’t quite recovered, Wilshere split the defence perfectly but Townsend thwarted Fornals.
Into the second half and County showed tremendous fight to try and get themselves back into it, Abrahams only just missed a delivery across the face when another cross caused problems, but a second goal was always going to kill the game and West Ham found it on 64 minutes.
It was wonderful football from the Hammers, they kept the ball so well when gradually advancing up the pitch – Anderson took it on into the area and his cross was calmly dispatched by Fornals.
That stifled the game somewhat as West Ham got into their proper fluid football attitude, Howkins saw a header well saved by Roberto and Sheehan hit the crossbar on a breakaway, but the Hammers comfortably saw through their passage to the next round.
County brave in defeat and they can be more than proud of their exploits.
Newport County AFC (4-2-3-1): Nick Townsend, Ryan Haynes, Mark O’Brien (C), Kyle Howkins, Danny McNamara, Matty Dolan (Scot Bennett 63’), Josh Sheehan, Corey Whitely (Taylor Maloney 63’), Robbie Willmott (Lewis Collins 81’), Padraig Amond, Tristan Abrahams
Subs not used: King, Leadbitter, Ekpiteta, Inniss
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Roberto, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, Pablo Zabaleta (C), Jack Wilshere (Conor Coventry 81’), Carlos Sanchez, Michail Antonio (Felipe Anderson 8’), Pablo Fornals, Robert Snodgrass, Albian Ajeti
Subs not used: Fabianski, Ogbonna, Haller, Riche, Johnson
Referee: Stephen Martin
Attendance: 6,382 (1039 AWAY)
Next up for County: Forest Green Rovers (31st August 2019) AWAY