Tyreeq Bakinson came back to haunt Newport County AFC as his early goal was enough to earn 10-man Plymouth Argyle victory in a thrilling encounter at Home Park.
The Exiles battled well and more than matched their opponents but the all-important goal their performance merited eluded them in Devon. Gary Sawyer’s late red card invited more pressure from the Exiles but the Pilgrims held on.
Michael Flynn kept faith with the same XI that saw off Macclesfield Town in midweek. Hosts Plymouth opted to make three changes with Conor Grant, Danny Mayor and Wales U19 international Luke Jephcott coming into the side.
County were looking to build on their impressive performance on Tuesday but their momentum was halted just five minutes in when full-back Ryan Haynes picked up an injury and had to be replaced by George Nurse.
Midfielder Bakinson then tapped home at the far post from a corner to complete a disastrous minute for the visitors.
The Exiles were keen to test the Plymouth backline with Jordan Green’s pace and the hosts had no answer. The attacker was the main outlet for the visitors and after a number of dangerous runs he helped instigate the attack, involving Padraig Amond and Jamille Matt, that saw captain Joss Labadie test Alex Palmer from the edge of the area.
With County pouring forward, there was space for the hosts to exploit. Ryan Hardie forced Tom King into a low save before Scott Wootton missed the ball when well placed from the resulting corner.
A short free-kick routine almost paid off when Josh Sheehan knocked the ball to Amond but the Irishman’s shot was deflected for a corner. Matt rose highest and nodded the ball towards the far corner but Pilgrims striker Jephcott was in the right place to clear off the line.
County started the second half confidently, passing the ball around the pitch, and could have levelled soon after the restart. Amond showed superb strength to hold off a defender and play Labadie clean through but the skipper’s effort was straight at Plymouth ‘keeper Palmer.
Once again their positive start was dampened when Ashley Baker had to be replaced and Kyle Howkins’ introduction meant a reshuffle with Willmott moving to full back and Scot Bennett pushing further forward.
County continued to probe with Amond firing over at the back post but that proved to be his final contribution as Newport brought on Billy Waters and moved to three at the back.
The hosts still hadn’t found the solution to stopping Green and only a late challenge from Gary Sawyer denied him a free run at goal. The Plymouth skipper was shown a red card as a result and the visitors almost made them pay with Mickey Demetriou’s free kick coming back off the bar.
The chances continued to fall County’s way with Palmer pushing away a fierce effort from Sheehan but it wasn’t to be as Plymouth held on for the win.
Plymouth Argyle: (5-3-2): Alex Palmer; Byron Moore, Scott Wootton, Niall Canavan, Gary Sawyer (C), George Cooper; Conor Grant (Joe Edwards 62), Tyreeq Bakinson, Danny Mayor; Ryan Hardie (Adam Randell 90), Luke Jephcott (Ryan Taylor 82).
Subs not used: Mike Cooper, Joel Grant, Klaidi Lolos, Callum McFadzean.
Newport County AFC (4-2-3-1): Tom King; Ashley Baker (Kyle Howkins 56), Scot Bennett, Mickey Demetriou, Ryan Haynes (George Nurse 5); Josh Sheehan, Joss Labadie (C); Robbie Willmott, Padraig Amond (Billy Waters 75), Jordan Green; Jamille Matt.
Subs not used: Nick Townsend, Dale Gorman, Matty Dolan, Tristan Abrahams.
Referee: Ollie Yates.
Attendance: 10,966 (415 away).
Next up for County: Leicester City U21, February 4 (HOME).