Newport County fell to a 2-1 defeat against Harrogate Town in a physical League Two encounter at Rodney Parade.
Graham Coughlan made one change from Tuesday night’s victory over Colchester United, with Shane McLoughlin returning to the starting 11 to replace the injured Declan Drysdale.
A cagey opening period saw few clear-cut chances created, with the visitors having long spells of possession in the first ten minutes.
They failed to create anything of note with their team on the ball, though, and the first real opportunity of the game fell to Scot Bennett. After some nice work down the right, a cross from Matty Bondswell found Omar Bogle in the area, with the striker controlling the ball and laying off Bennett on the edge of the box. The shot was hit low into the hands of Mark Oxley in the Harrogate goal.
Chances for the rest of the half were few and far between, with a tenacious battle in the middle of the park dominating much of the game.
Despite some spells of pressure, Newport were dealt an unfortunate blow in the 41st minute. A clever run from Matty Daly down the right ended with him playing the ball across to George Thomson, who drove a low shot past Nick Townsend from the edge of the box, giving the visitors the lead.
The second half got off to the worst possible start for County, with the visitors doubling their lead in the 51st minute.
A low Harrogate corner was flicked on by Josh March, falling to Anthony O’Connor at the back-post, who tapped home to make it 2-0.
Coughlan responded quickly by going to the bench, bringing on Kiban Rai and Lewis Payne for James Waite and Shane McLoughlin.
It didn’t take long for the two to make their presence felt. Some clever link-up play saw Payne break down the right and play a ball across the face of the goal, allowing Will Evans to slide home and put the ball into the net to pull the game back to 2-1 in the 58th minute.
The second half proved to be just as tight as the first, with clear chances coming at a premium. A string of corners from Newport led to several half-chances being created, with a headed effort from Bryn Morris being the pick of the bunch.
We continued to go in search of a winner, with Coughlan bringing Olly Thomas on in the 80th minute to provide some extra firepower up front.
The pressure continued to mount on the visitors, and we came within inches of grabbing an equaliser in the 85th minute. Another dangerous cross from Lewis Payne found Aaron Wildig, with the midfielder heading the ball past Moxley but being cruelly denied by the post.
With five minutes added time, County kept hunting for an equaliser and came agonisingly close in the 94th minute. Olly Thomas and Will Evans played a clever one-two on the edge of the box, allowing Thomas to play the ball back across the face of the goal in front of an open net. With the Harrogate keeper defeated, a scramble occurred, but no one was able to direct the ball goalwards.
This would prove to be the last chance of the game, with the full-time whistle blowing a minute later. County will look to get back to winning ways on Tuesday night when they face Cheltenham Town in their first game of this season’s EFL Trophy.
Newport County: Townsend, Delaney, Evans, Morris, Bogle, Waite (Rai 52’), Seberry, Bennett (Thomas 80’), McLoughlin (Payne 52’), Wildig, Bondswell
Subs: Maxted, Payne, Rai, Thomas, Wood, C Evans
Harrogate Town: Oxley, Falkingham, Thomson, Cornelius, M Daly, J Daly (Sivi 88’), O’Connor, Burrell, Ramsay, March (Armstrong 80’), Gibson
Subs: Thomas, Folarin, Muldoon, Sivi, Foulds, Armstrong, Sims
Attendance: 3,357 (65 away)