Corey Whitely, Lewis Collins and Ryan Hillier all scored their first Newport County AFC goals but their Leasing.Com Trophy encounter with West Ham United U21s ended in bitter disappointment with a 5-4 defeat.
The Exiles were 4-1 up at half-time. Anthony Scully opened the scoring inside 59 seconds, but County fought back through Tristan Abrahams, Whitely, Collins and Hillier.
It wasn’t to be at Rodney Parade, however, as the Young Hammers stormed through the second half and turned the game on its head with four unanswered goals through Joe Powell, Veron Parkes, Kai Corbett and another from Scully.
Manager Michael Flynn wrung the changes from Saturday’s victory over Forest Green Rovers, nine in total, as he handed several academy prospects their competitive debuts.
After impressing in pre-season victories at places like Moreton and Undy AFC, Elis Watts and Dom Jefferies started the contest while Ryan Hillier and Ioan Evans came off the bench.
The Exiles again started in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation as Nick Townsend lined up behind Watts, Kyle Howkins, Marvel Ekpiteta and captain Daniel Leadbitter. Taylor Maloney and Matty Dolan helped out the defensive system, while Whitely, Collins, Abrahams and Jefferies were all in attacking positions.
The contest was absolutely superb to watch as both sides gave absolutely everything to try and secure three group points – if the competition ever needed an example of what can be produced then this would certainly be it.
It was an end-to-end affair throughout, no one had a moment to breathe and there were five goals before the break.
West Ham United U21s started fastest out of the traps and opened the scoring after 59 seconds. Bernardo Rosa took aim from distance, Townsend made a great save, but Anthony Scully followed it up with a neat finish.
Rosa was by far the best outlet from a Young Hammers perspective – he was excellent in the centre of midfield – and he took aim again twice later in the half but found Townsend in good form with two smart saves to his right side.
Other than that, County controlled proceedings before half time and had a healthy advantage by half time with some free-flowing attacking play – the debutants particularly impressing, and some of them, getting their first goals in County colours.
Abrahams looked head and shoulders above everyone on the pitch before his withdrawal after 20 minutes, he levelled things up with a smart finish on 10 minutes before a mesmerising powerful run set up Whitely two minutes later for a neat half-volley strike from six yards out.
Maloney also impressed and he was linking up well with substitute Hillier and also Leadbitter on the right side, the Exiles had a third on 32 minutes when the right-back’s cross caused pinball in the area and Collins fired through a host of bodies for his first County goal.
There was enough time for four before the interval as Hillier became the third player on the night to get their first goal in Exiles colours. Again, it came from the right, this time Jefferies providing the cross for the striker to tap home.
The second half was another enterprising affair but unfortunately from a County perspective, the Young Hammers controlled everything as the half time substitution which saw Dolan taken off allowed them to get a real foothold in the contest.
Inside two minutes of the second half, they were awarded a penalty after Collins was adjudged to have pushed over Joe Powell when the attacker was advancing forward. The 20-year old picked himself back off the floor to send Townsend the wrong way and dispatch the opportunity.
The Young Hammers had County nervous when they pulled another goal back on 53 minutes. A pinpoint delivery into the area found Veron Parkes and the attacker sent a header back across the goal for 4-3.
On came Ryan Inniss to try and solidify the defence but even that alteration couldn’t stop the Young Hammers in their track, and they found an equaliser on 83 minutes. Space opened up on the right side and substitute Kai Corbett raced through to fire home from about four yards out.
And the Young Hammers completed their remarkable turnaround with a minute to go as Scully squeezed the ball home despite the best efforts of Inniss in preventing the goal.
To end things on a sour note, Inniss was then dismissed in stoppage time for an off the ball incident.
A thrilling contest at Rodney Parade but a disappointing result for the Exiles.
Newport County AFC (4-2-3-1): Nick Townsend, Daniel Leadbitter (C), Kyle Howkins, Marvel Ekpiteta, Elis Watts, Lewis Collins (Ryan Inniss 59’), Taylor Maloney, Matty Dolan (Ioan Evans 45’), Dom Jefferies, Corey Whitely, Tristan Abrahams (Ryan Hillier 20’)
Subs not used: King, Labadie, Sheehan, Inniss
West Ham United U21s (4-2-3-1): Joseph Anang, Will Greenidge (Sam Caiger 45’), Ben Johnson (C), Josh Okotcha (Keenan Forson 45’), Reece Hannam, Bernardo Rosa, Alfie Lewis, Dan Kemp, Joe Powell, Veron Parkes (Kai Corbett 71’), Anthony Scully
Subs not used: Krisztian Hegyi, Kamarai Swyer, Jake Giddings, Sebastian Nebyla
Referee: John Busby
Attendance: 581 (25 AWAY)
Next up for County: Port Vale (7th September 2019) HOME