ewport County were made to pay the price for yet another slow start to a match as they were beaten 3-2 at Carlisle United, thanks to an injury-time winner from Danny Grainger.
After an initially bright start, Dan Butler miscued a defensive header which set Jamie Devitt on his way one-on-one with Joe Day but on this occasion, it was the in-form Day who emerged on top, saving brilliantly and making sure Carlisle dry spell at home continued. It wouldn’t for much longer, however.
Earlier this week, Mike Flynn said that the boys had begun to rectify their slow starts, having not conceded in the opening half an hour against Bury on Tuesday night. But it was in only the 9th minute of the game that Carlisle opened the scoring. Mike Jones played the ball in behind the Exiles’ defence, George Glendon put it across the face of goal and there was Jamie Devitt to slide the ball into the corner. The strike was the first home goal witnessed at Brunton Park in just under eight hours of football; and it was quickly followed by a second.
Just three minutes later, Devitt was at it again as he played a one-two with Jerry Yates from a short corner, who set the ball invitingly for the midfielder who struck the ball well from outside the box with a cross-come-shot which went under Joe Day. After just a dozen minutes, the game looked entirely beyond County’s grasp.
As has been the case in recent games when they’ve conceded, this did spur County into life. The ever-hard-working Dan Butler had a well struck half volley blocked shortly afterwards and Padraig Amond fired over the bar after he was found by a perfectly weighted through ball. Then it was Mickey Demetriou’s turn to have a go but his shot from a corner was deflected clear.
But it was Yates who almost put the game to bed for John Sheridan side just after the half-hour mark. Dan Butler slipped at the back which sent him through on goal one-on-one. Joe Day, who has made a number of big saves in recent weeks, needed to do so again to prevent the Rotherham loanee from making it 3-0. This time though, the long-serving goalkeeper seemed to inspire the visitors further to get back into the game.
Robbie Willmott sent a deep cross to the back post where Padraig Amond was lurking. The Irishman was able to find some space in the box and send a header into the net via a despairing Gary Liddle header on the goal line.
There was almost parity at the break as Antoine Semenyo, whose striking ability has impressed many waves of fans since his arrival, rocketed his latest attempt from just outside the box inches over the crossbar.
The away side sought to continue their uprising at the start of the second half; good play from the County midfield saw Antoine Semenyo force a corner, from which captain Demetriou produced an acrobatic attempt that went straight at goalkeeper Adam Collin.
Arguably the biggest chance to level the score in the early stages of the half fell to Padraig Amond with just under half an hour left. He got in on goal but from a tight angle, he was unable to steer his half-volley between the posts. Shortly afterwards, the visitors were left screaming at referee Christopher Sarginson after Antoine Semenyo was felled in the penalty box; merely a goal kick was given. Josh Sheehan was next to try his luck; a brilliant first touch and shot from the midfielder could only find its way into the side netting.
Joe Day was beaten for a third time with quarter of an hour of the game left but fortunately for the 136-strong Amber following, Ashley Nadesan’s header cannoned off the woodwork. Straight down the other end, substitute Jamille Matt was sent through at close range but Carlisle stopper Collin was equal to his effort. A moment later, Colin was at it again when he tipped the big man’s header over the bar.
All the huff and puff finally produced the equaliser County deserved with just five minutes left to play as Dan Butler stepped up with his third goal of the season. The man who has delivered many brilliant free kicks himself got himself on the end of one from Matt Dolan; his initial effort was saved on the line but for the former Portsmouth man smashed the ball in from barely a yard out to cue wild celebrations in the stands.
But there was still time for a sting in the tail as, in the third of four minutes of added time, substitute Danny Grainger smashed in a deflected winning goal, sending the home fans into raptures and his side into 11th place in the table. Newport, meanwhile fall to 6th position, within striking distance of Bury in 9th position a potential banana skin of an FA Cup tie against Metropolitan Police next Saturday.
A harsh defeat in the circumstances but it’s another example of County being punished for producing a slow start to a game. They grew into the game and carved out many chances, two of which they took with aplomb. But let’s face it, better teams are going to do more damage if such a trend continues. Yes, the defence was a patch-up job. Yes, the character of the players still cannot be called into question. But if the lofty ambitions shown in the opening quarter of the season are to remain, the side must stop conceding early goals – today’s were the 13th and 14th they have conceded in the opening 30 minutes this season.
Man of the Match: Padraig Amond
Attendance: 3,541 (136 away)