Newport County AFC will be in the hat for the Emirates FA Cup Second Round, but they still have to earn their place from a replay against Grimsby Town after a 1-1 draw at Blundell Park.
Padraig Amond’s second half penalty against his former side cancelled out Luke Waterfall’s powerful first half header meaning both sides will face each other again at Rodney Parade a week on Tuesday.
Michael Flynn elected to make three changes to the side which suffered their first home defeat of the League Two campaign against Salford City last weekend.
Tristan Abrahams, George Nurse and captain Joss Labadie replaced the trio of Padraig Amond, Matty Dolan and Taylor Maloney as County reverted to a 4-3-3 formation at Blundell Park.
Despite being deployed on the left all season, Ryan Haynes surprisingly found himself in the right back position of a back four which also composed Mark O’Brien, Ryan Inniss and Nurse.
Scot Bennett, Josh Sheehan and Robbie Willmott provided a three-man defensive shield although there was a lot of interchange when in possession, while Labadie and Abrahams were the more forward-thinking players supporting Jamille Matt.
Grimsby Town manager Michael Jolley also made three changes to his side who haven’t had much action recently due to their last League Two fixtures getting postponed for various reasons.
Mariners goalkeeper James McKeown must have been carrying an injury as he surprisingly missed out, so did Elliott Hewitt and Luke Hendrie as Sam Russell, Ethan Robson and Jordan Cook came in to a 4-3-3 system.
It was clear from the off that County were implementing a high-press mentality which got them a lot of success in nullifying most of the Grimsby threat and allowing them to create all the opportunities in the early exchanges.
County were out of the traps with intent and 37-year old Russell had to use all his experience to thwart former Mariner Matt after three minutes. Nurse delivered a crisp pinpoint delivery in towards the penalty spot where Matt powered a header forward only to be denied by the diving home goalkeeper.
On 27 minutes, Matt thought he had given County a deserved lead. Nurse saw a shot scuffed into the attacker’s path but after a really smart finish, the linesman’s raising of his flag cut short the Exiles celebrations.
Inniss also sent a header high over the top but County just couldn’t quite find the desired clinical strike while in control.
From being a spectator in the opening half hour, King was suddenly called into action on a couple of occasions as Grimsby began to grow into the contest.
First he confidently came off his line to punch clear when Lugvig Ohman would otherwise have had a free header, before collecting two scuffed shots from Robson when he couldn’t quite connect 20 yards out.
Grimsby did make their pressure tell when taking the lead on 42 minutes. King will feel frustrated that he let Luke Waterfall’s header squirm into the net, but it was an extremely powerful downward header from Liam Gibson’s pinpoint delivery.
County struggled to wrestle back the ascendency at the start of the second half, so Flynn went to his substitutes just after the hour as another former Mariner Amond and Corey Whitely replaced Nurse and Abrahams.
Immediately the substitutions almost had the desired effect as Amond made a nuisance of himself straightaway from a throw-in, the ball fell kindly for Bennett to strike and it looked destined to go in until Mattie Pollock threw himself into it and preserved his side’s lead.
Amond was making his presence known to the Grimsby central defenders and he was a post away from equalising on 71 minutes. Haynes superbly cut back inside Pollock to deliver the cross, Amond headed it back across goal but struck the inside of the post and the ball drifted to safety.
The Irishman also hit the crossbar although that one would have been ruled out for offside in any respect – you just felt if anyone would score then it was going to be Amond and he found the desired equaliser with 10 minutes to play.
It wasn’t a blatant penalty when O’Brien was upended by Mariners skipper Jake Hessenthaler but you give the referee a decision to make when going to ground and he decided to award the Exiles a penalty.
Russell is renowned for his penalty saving exploits and he wasn’t too far away with this one, getting a hand to Amond’s effort but fortunately it nestled into the bottom left corner despite the touch.
The team’s insistence to rush straight back to the centre circle instead of celebrating with the away fans behind the goal told exactly how they felt about a replay, Inniss saw a volley cleared off the line, but they couldn’t find a second so the two sides will do battle again in the replay.
Newport County AFC (4-3-3): Tom King, Ryan Haynes. Ryan Inniss, Mark O’Brien, George Nurse (Corey Whitely 65’), Josh Sheehan, Joss Labadie (C), Scot Bennett (Dominic Poleon 75’), Robbie Willmott, Jamille Matt, Tristan Abrahams (Padraig Amond 65’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Howkins, Dolan, Maloney
Grimsby Town (4-3-3): Sam Russell, Luke Waterfall, Matthew Pollock, Ludvig Ohman, Liam Gibson, Elliott Whitehouse (Harry Clifton 84’), Jake Hessenthaler (C), Ethan Robson, Matt Green (Ahkeem Rose 68’), James Hanson, Jordan Cook (Harry Cardwell 89’)
Subs not used: Battersby, Davis, Starbuck, Ogbu
Referee: Leigh Doughty
Attendance: 2,086 (59 AWAY)
Next up for County: Cheltenham Town (12th November 2019) AWAY – Leasing.Com Trophy