Newport County AFC suffered a rare home defeat as Zak Mills’ first-half finish gave Oldham Athletic all three points in a 1-0 victory at Rodney Parade.
Mills – by a country mile the best player on the pitch from either side – tapped home in first half additional time after Nick Townsend had initially made a smart save to keep out Jonny Smith.
The result sees County suffer defeat for the third successive league fixture but they still have the two games in hand to get themselves back up the table, where they currently reside in 11th position.
Mike Flynn elected to make two changes to the starting side which secured Emirates FA Cup progression in midweek with a comprehensive victory over League Two rivals Grimsby Town.
Josh Sheehan missed out through suspension and Robbie Willmott was nursing an a calf problem as Danny McNamara – fresh from international duty with Ireland U21s – and Jamille Matt returned in an adaptation of a 4-2-4 formation.
Oldham Athletic manager Dino Maamria had to nurse some walking wounded before naming his team at Rodney Parade which also had the last league matchday off due to international call-ups.
The Latics were the side out of the traps with greatest intent early on and a clever free-kick routine – a trademark of Maamria – almost came off when Filipe Morais forced a strong save from Nick Townsend.
It wasn’t exactly the greatest spectacle in terms of chances in the opening 45 minutes, it took until the 22nd minute for the next opportunity as Corey Whitely stung the palms of Zeus De La Paz with a shot across goal.
That started a sustained amount of possession for the Exiles, but they struggled to turn it into anything with Oldham resolute defensively – another Maamria trait – Matt did rise high to power a header goalwards on 41 minutes, but it was easy pickings for De La Paz.
As time ticked into the added extras, Oldham wrestled back the ascendency and made it count in the second minute of stoppage time by securing themselves a half-time lead.
Alex Iacovitti had been providing the overlap on the left all afternoon but had yet to be found, this time the Latics found him in space to set up Jonny Smith – who saw a shot well saved – but Zak Mills put it in on the rebound.
The second half was a much-improved performance in terms of intensity, but County couldn’t find the desired equaliser as Oldham secured their first victory over the Exiles for the first time in nearly 40 years.
De La Paz didn’t particularly have too much to do in the Oldham Athletic net as they were comfortable heading balls away from the penalty area, Scot Bennett forced a save on the hour, but it just wasn’t County’s afternoon.
Attention switches back to the Emirates FA Cup next week when County will be looking for the right response against eighth tier Maldon & Tiptree.
Newport County AFC (4-2-4): Nick Townsend, Ryan Haynes, Mark O’Brien (C), Ryan Inniss, Danny McNamara (Matty Dolan 62’), Joss Labadie (C) (Taylor Maloney 68’), Josh Sheehan, Corey Whitely (George Nurse 77’), Padraig Amond, Jamille Matt, Tristan Abrahams
Subs not used: King, Howkins, Poleon, Jefferies
Oldham Athletic (3-4-3): Zeus De La Paz, Tom Hamer, David Wheater (C), Jamie Stott, Zak Mills, Christopher Missilou, Chris McCann, Alex Iacovitti, Jonny Smith, Filipe Morais, Desire Segbe Azankpo
Subs not used: Woods, Maouche, Wilson, Fage, Sylla, Eagles, Emmerson
Referee: Craig Hicks
Attendance: 3,748 (207 AWAY)
Next up for County: Maldon & Triptree (29th November 2019) AWAY – Emirates FA Cup Second Round