Substitute Joe Powell’s thunderbolt in the dying embers of the game ensured Northampton Town edged an evenly contested fixture with Newport County AFC in a 1-0 victory at The PTS Academy Stadium.
Both sides created chances aplenty throughout the contest but just as it looked like nothing could separate proceedings, up popped Powell with a strike straight out of the top drawer within 90 seconds of his introduction.
Defeat sees County slip ever further back in the hunt for the play-off places, with the gap now extending to eight points with a game in hand as the Exiles head into the final 10 games of the season.
Manager Mike Flynn elected to make just the one change to the starting side which struggled to create anything in a difficult defeat at play-off contenders Colchester United on Saturday.
Tyreeq Bakinson came in for Ade Azeez, who was named on the bench, as County switched back to the more familiar 3-4-1-2 formation which normally works to good effect for the Exiles.
Northampton Town manager Keith Curle matched Flynn by making just the solitary alteration to his side which secured their third successive victory against play-off contenders Exeter City last weekend.
Experienced attacker Marvin Sordell suffered a nasty looking facial injury against the Grecians and spent a sustained period on the floor before being withdrawn, he failed a fitness test, so Andy Williams came into a 4-4-2 formation.
Ahead of the game, Flynn described the contest as a ‘cup final’ in terms of the Exiles’ play-off hopes, and it was a much improved first-half from the side after the dismal display in Essex.
On 20 minutes, Jamille Matt struck the crossbar with a powerful header after another pinpoint delivery into the area from Robbie Willmott, while Joss Labadie blazed over the top at the subsequent corner-kick.
Two minutes after that double chance, Padraig Amond looked certain to pass home the opener after showing poise and composure in the area, but Aaron Pierre heroically got something on it with David Cornell stranded in the home goal.
Bakinson and Matt both also saw shots hit the side netting before Antony Coggins’ half-time whistle as the Exiles were vastly improved in Northamptonshire.
It was certainly an open game, however, and how there wasn’t a goal from either side in the opening 45 minutes really is anyone’s guess as the Cobblers carved out some good opportunities of their own.
The home side had the first effort of the night inside the opening five minutes when Mark O’Brien had to react quickly to a drilled ball into the area to block away a Sam Hoskins attempt.
From the resulting corner-kick, Joe Day made a superb save right on his goal line to thwart Daniel Powell, before Charlie Goode headed over with the rebound.
It beggars belief how many points Day has won single-handedly for the Exiles not just this season, but in his whole time in South Wales, and more smart work was required a minute before the interval to break up a quick counter-attack which set Powell away.
Cobblers captain Aaron Pierre and Amond both traded headers past their respective posts to begin the start to second half proceedings, the Irishman only an inch away with his attempt, as both sides continued to share the ascendency.
Day again had to come to County’s rescue when repelling Williams’ emphatic volley form distance, whilst at the other end Matt spurned a good chance inside the area just as the clocked ticked into the final 20 minutes.
There just had to be a goal at some point from either side and unfortunately for the Exiles, it went against them with just 60 seconds remaining of normal time.
It was an unbelievable goal to settle the contest, well worthy of winning any game it must be said, as Cobblers substitute Joe Powell smashed a thunderbolt into the top corner from 30 yards within 90 seconds of his introduction into the game.
Flynn responded with an all-out attack idea – on came Harry McKirdy, Ade Azeez and Josh Sheehan for O’Brien, Labadie and Bennett.
No further chances could be created in the four minutes of additional time, however, as County suffered another agonising defeat on the road.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Butler, Demetriou, O’Brien (C) (Azeez 90’), Poole, Labadie (Sheehan 90’), Willmott, Bakinson, Bennett (McKirdy 90’), Matt, Amond
Subs not used: Townsend, Pipe, Marsh-Brown, Forbes
Northampton Town (4-4-2): Cornell, Goode, Taylor, Pierre (C), Buchanan, Hoskins, Turnbull, O’Toole (Powell 86’), Foley, Powell, Williams (Bridge 66’)
Subs not used: Coddington, Bowditch, Elsnik, Roberts, Williams
Referee: Antony Coggins
Attendance: 4,064 (98 AWAY)
Next up for County: Cheltenham Town (15th March 2019) HOME