Newport County AFC’s Leasing.Com qualification hopes hang in the balance after a 2-0 defeat to Exeter City at Rodney Parade in matchday two of the competition.
Stand in Grecians captain Matt Jay scored in either half from 20 yards to virtually guarantee their own progression from the competition as the fate of all four teams will be decided in the final matchday next month.
Michael Flynn elected to make ten changes to the side which moved up to third in the League Two table with a stoppage time victory over Carlisle United on Saturday.
Only Matty Dolan retained his place from the weekend as the Exiles reverted to a four at the back formation. Notable news from the team selection saw Dominic Poleon make his first start for the club and academy prospects Elis Watts and Dominic Jefferies given a run out.
Exeter City manager Matt Taylor matched Flynn by also making ten changes to his starting side which were knocked off the summit of League Two with a draw at Crewe Alexandra.
Tom Parkes was the only player retained for the Grecians as both sides shuffled the pack for this Leasing.Com Trophy encounter.
You wouldn’t have necessarily noticed that both sides wrung the changes as the first half was an enterprising one with chances coming for both on frequent occasions.
County started much the better at Rodney Parade when able to carve through the Exeter City midfield with relative ease – Taylor Maloney, Poleon and Corey Whitely forming a particularly good partnership when interlinking throughout the 45 minutes.
The trio combined to advantageous effect inside ten minutes as the Grecians couldn’t cope with the one touch passing ideology, Tristan Abrahams was fed through but shot wide from an acute angle.
Just three minutes later, Poleon was the benefactor of more intricate football from the Exiles but couldn’t open his body up to get an angle on the shot and instead fired into the body of Jonny Maxted.
It took the visiting Grecians a while to warm up into proceedings, Jayden Richardson impressing with his fancy foot work, before Nigel Atangana headed a Jay corner kick over the crossbar on 23 minutes.
Back came the Exiles but still they couldn’t turn their ascendency into a goal, Ryan Inniss saw a header palmed away on 32 minutes then Maloney saw his shot tipped over just a minute later.
At the other end, Alex Fisher wasn’t too far away with a header before the visitors did take the lead on 40 minutes.
Grecians captain Matt Jay picked the ball up in a central position just outside the area before taking aim and squirming a shot under the body of Nick Townsend.
In immediate response, Abrahams saw a shot palmed away by Maxted, but County had to head back to the dressing rooms with a goal deficit despite bossing most of the proceedings.
In the second half, further academy prospects Ryan Hillier, Ioan Evans and Ryan George were afforded first team minutes, but it wasn’t to be for the Exiles who look likely to be out of the competition because of this defeat.
Nurse came close to an equaliser when replicating his stunning strike on Saturday after 69 minutes. This time Maxted learnt from the weekend and knew where to position himself to make a flying save to tip it round the post.
Two minutes later, Exeter killed the game as a contest when Jay grabbed his second – another stunning finish from 20 yards – this one into the top corner as the stand in captain took his chance to impress at Rodney Parade.
A useful exercise for the Young Exiles who were integrated into the first team again but a disappointing afternoon in terms of result as County’s qualification hopes took a big hit at Rodney Parade.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-1-2): Nick Townsend, Dominic Jefferies, Marvel Ekpiteta, Ryan Inniss, George Nurse, Matty Dolan, Elis Watts (Ryan George 45’), Taylor Maloney (Ioan Evans 75’), Corey Whitely, Tristan Abrahams (Ryan Hillier 77’), Dominic Poleon
Subs not used: King, Haynes, Amond, Bennett
Exeter City (4-3-1-2): Jonny Maxted, Craig Woodman, Aaron Martin, Will Dean, Jayden Richardson, Nigel Atangana (Ryan Bowman 60’), Jordan Tillson, Ben Seymour, Matt Jay, Alex Fisher (Ben Chrisene 79’), Tom Parkes (Pierce Sweeney 60’)
Subs not used: Arthur, Sparkes, Morrison, Diabate
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 635 (47 AWAY)
Next up for County: Scunthorpe United (19th October 2019) HOME