Newport County AFC certainly love penalties and they triumphed again by spot kicks to progress in the Leasing.Com Trophy with a 5-4 shootout victory following a 0-0 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion U21s.
A place in the second knockout phase – the Third Round of the competition – means County have successfully made it through to their best ever position in the competition since the revamp ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.
Michael Flynn elected to make eight changes to the side which secured Emirates FA Cup progression on Friday night against Maldon & Tiptree – only Matty Dolan, Dom Jefferies and Jamille Matt retaining their places.
Tom King earned a recall in goal while 17-year-old Joe Woodiwiss was rewarded for an excellent display in the group stage fixture with Cheltenham Town by lining up alongside Matty Dolan at the heart of the defence of a 4-4-2 formation.
You wouldn’t have known County made so many changes for this Leasing.Com Trophy first knockout phase fixture because they all looked accustomed to their positions and made virtually all the running in the opening 45 minutes.
Corey Whitely was at his effervescent best operating on the right-hand side of midfield, he hooked a shot wide on four minutes but was more effective driving at the defence, causing problems with his pace, and creating opportunities.
Unfortunately, County couldn’t take any of the chances created in the first half as they again lacked that clinical final execution inside the penalty area, Lewis Collins broke clear on 12 minutes but was hesitant and Jason Steele did well to smother.
Dominic Poleon was next to not get the shot away first time, therefore allowing Brighton to snuff out the danger, he was sent through by Whitely but dawdled and Warren O’Hora tracked back to heroically put a tackle in to send the shot over the crossbar.
Collins was also effective on the left side, his trickery and willingness to attack the full-back made Brighton think about how to defend against him, they allowed him more time on the ball when out wide and Danny McNamara almost converted a pinpoint cross after 32 minutes.
The average age of the County squad was roughly 22 but they showed so much composure in and out of possession and ended the half with Poleon firing into the ribcage of Steele after more good work from Whitely.
From a Brighton perspective, striker Danny Cashman was having all their chances, he sent a chip narrowly over the bar on 12 minutes and maybe should have scored just before half time when he had the angle to slot in, but King came off his line well and narrowed the opportunity.
Into the second half and Cashman was again at the fore for Brighton midway through proceedings and will feel frustrated at not opening the scoring after blocking a shot from a teammate and chipping onto the roof of the net.
County substitute Tristan Abrahams almost made the dream impact mere seconds after his introduction with fifteen to play, he broke clear in a counterattack but after cutting inside one centre-half, he saw his shot blocked by the other. He maybe could have squared to Collins.
County’s hesitancy in front of goal reared its head again five minutes from the end, this time Matt burst clear after evading three challenges but couldn’t get the shot away and Steele mopped up the danger.
Brighton almost made the Exiles pay for that missed opportunity straight from the goal kick, a ball was drifted over to the back stick and Lorent Tolaj should have won the match but somehow put it wide with the goal at his mercy.
You couldn’t believe the game was 0-0 due to the volume of chances for both sides – the two teams had a chance to win it in stoppage time but Nurse saw a header magnificently saved by Steele then with the final passage of play, Tolaj again spooned a great chance when he almost blazed out of the ground such was the height of the shot.
✔️ Tristan Abrahams down the middle
✔️ Jordan Davies down the middle
✔️ Ryan Haynes to the bottom left corner
✔️ Danny Cashman scores to the bottom left corner
✔️ Jamille Matt in off the crossbar to the right side
✔️ Peter Gwargis to the bottom right corner
✔️ Taylor Maloney to the bottom right corner
✔️ Romaric Yapi to the bottom left corner
✔️ George Nurse to the middle left side
❌ Lorent Tolaj smashes it over the crossbar
Brighton & Hove Albion U21s (3-5-2): Jason Steele, Warren O’Hora, Tudor Baluta, Haydon Roberts (Taylor Richards 57’), Peter Gwargis, Alex Cochrane (C), Teddy Jenks, Romaric Yapi, Jordan Davies, Danny Cashman, Bojan Radulovic (Lorent Tolaj 69’)
Subs not used: Keto, Freestone, Leonard, Vukoje, Tsoungui
Newport County AFC (4-4-2): Tom King, Danny McNamara, Joe Woodiwiss, Matty Dolan (C) (Ryan Haynes 84’), George Nurse, Corey Whitely (Tristan Abrahams 75’), Taylor Maloney, Dom Jefferies, Lewis Collins, Dominic Poleon (Ioan Evans 84’), Jamille Matt
Subs not used: Townsend, Inniss, Hillier, Jones
Referee: Sam Purkiss
Next up for County: Bradford City (December 7th) AWAY