A late double from Leyton Orient condemned Newport County AFC to a disappointing defeat on the road.
The game was goalless heading into the final 10 minutes but a Marvin Ekpiteta header and a Ruel Sotiriou strike ensured the Exiles left the Breyer Group Stadium empty handed.
Jamille Matt’s header, deep into injury time, offered County a glimmer of hope but Orient held on for the win.
County had planned to keep faith with the same team that saw off Swindon Town at Rodney Parade, however, they were forced into two late changes with Joss Labadie and Ryan Inniss dropping out.
Robbie Willmott and Matty Dolan came into the side while Kyle Howkins moved onto the bench alongside top scorer Padraig Amond, who replaced Dale Gorman with the on-loan midfielder ineligible to play against his parent club.
The hosts made two changes with Jordan Maguire-Drew and Sotiriou coming into the side.
There was plenty of energy among the home fans following a tribute to the late great Justin Edinburgh and that seemed to move onto the field too with the hosts enjoying a strong spell of sustained pressure early on.
That could have resulted in the opening goal but Maguire-Drew blazed over after Sotiriou picked him out beautifully with a cut back. Former Wrexham man Maguire-Drew was continually left frustrated as the half went on with Tom King producing two superb saves to keep him off the scoresheet.
The first was a cross that looked to have caught out the goalkeeper but the Welsh international clawed the ball away from the top corner before palming away a fierce effort a few minutes later. The goalkeeper also showcased his reflexes from a corner to tip over a looped effort from Ouss Cissé.
The Exiles struggled to show their threat in attack but Tristan Abrahams, who picked up a knock early on, and Matt worked tirelessly upfront. A Dolan free kick was the closest they came to finding the net but it was a routine save from Sam Sargeant.
County were much-improved in the second half but still had to show defensive nous to deal with Orient’s aerial threat. The centre-back trio cleared everything that was thrown at them, even after Mark O’Brien received lengthy treatment.
Jordan Green and George Nurse replaced Abrahams and Dolan shortly after the hour mark and after Nurse earned County a corner, Matt almost nodded home but couldn’t get a proper connection on Willmott’s delivery.
Just as County were looking more threatening, the O’s went ahead from a corner. Marvin Ekpiteta, brother of County defender Marvel, was free at the back post to head the ball past the impressive King, although it may have taken a touch off Ryan Haynes before going over the line. Mike Flynn’s response was to bring on Amond.
But he wasn’t able to salvage a point for the visitors as Sotiriou knocked in Josh Wright’s to double the advantage. That goal turned out to be decisive with Matt’s stoppage-time header proving to be a mere consolation.
Leyton Orient (4-2-3-1): Sam Sargeant; George Marsh, Marvin Ekpiteta, Daniel Happe, James Brophy; Ouss Cissé (Hector Kyprianou 90) , Josh Wright (C); Craig Clay, Conor Wilkinson, Jordan Maguire-Drew (Lee Angol 78); Ruel Sotiriou (Matt Harold 90).
Subs not used: Lawrence Vigouroux, Joe Widdowson, Myles Judd, Jayden Sweeney.
Newport County AFC (3-5-2): Tom King; Mark O’Brien, Scot Bennett, Mickey Demetriou; Ashley Baker (Padraig Amond 83), Matty Dolan (George Nurse 66), Robbie Willmott, Josh Sheehan, Ryan Haynes; Jamille Matt, Tristan Abrahams (Jordan Green 62).
Subs not used: Nick Townsend, Kyle Howkins, Billy Waters.
Referee: David Rock
Attendance: 5,084 (427 away)
Next up for County: Macclesfield Town, January 28 (HOME)