|Newport County||2 – 3||Portsmouth|
Blues win dramatic Boxing Day clash
Pompey ensured there was plenty of festive cheer in a Christmas cracker of a contest at Newport.
It looked like the Blues would be as miserable as Scrooge before a visit from the spirits as the hosts roared into a two-goal advantage.
Danny Rose then provided a spark of hope, only for it to be snuffed out again when Kal Naismith missed from the spot.
But Enda Stevens drew the Blues level with his first goal for the club before Naismith grabbed a late winner.
Paul Cook made two changes from the side that drew with Hartlepool before Christmas.
Naismith and Noel Hunt were brought in for Kyle Bennett and Gary Roberts, as Pompey switched to a 4-4-2 system.
A more direct approach was adopted to cope with the poor surface and physicality of the opposition.
But it was the Welsh hosts who settled quickest and David Forde had to deal with a couple of dangerous balls into the box.
The Blues created most of the half’s clear-cut chances, however, and Michael Smith should have found the target from close range following good work from Naismith and Stevens.
Joe Day then had to come tearing from his box to beat Hunt to an under-hit back-pass and sweep the ball to safety.
But the County keeper lost the same race moments later, with the striker not quite able to guide his looping header on target.
Instead it was Newport who broke the deadlock on 25 minutes when Josh Sheehan curled a fine free-kick over the wall and past Forde’s desperate dive.
There was almost an immediate equaliser, but after Day failed to hold Naismith’s long-range effort, Rose’s follow-up was hacked from the line by Jennison Myrie-Williams.
Scot Bennett then attempted to clear a low cross from Stevens and only just avoided sending the ball into his own net.
And it was Christian Burgess who was next to go close on 38 minutes when a Naismith free-kick was not properly cleared.
The centre-back did well to turn amidst a host of amber-shirted bodies, but his shot fizzed narrowly past the post.
Stevens then almost opened his Blues account just before the break with a deflected strike that Bennett just about stopped from sneaking inside the post.
Half Time: Newport 1 Pompey 0
There was another opportunity for Smith early in the second half when Michael Doyle sent a ball into the box from deep, but the striker was unable to make a clean connection.
Newport were proving more clinical, though, and Rhys Healey doubled their advantage from close range after Forde could only parry a curling effort from Sheehan.
But the Blues soon hit back to reduce the deficit, with Gareth Evans getting free down the right and cutting the ball back for ROSE to slot home.
It was the visitors, unsurprisingly, looking the more threatening side by this point and Day was fortunate to parry Evans’ shot to safety, with Smith and Hunt both waiting to pounce.
But they were given an excellent opportunity to level just past the hour mark when Jazzi Barnum-Bobb pushed Naismith in the box and referee Charles Breakspear pointed to the spot.
It was Naismith who stepped up to take the penalty, only to blast the ball over the bar and turn the party in the away end sour.
The Scottish winger tried to make amends with an ambitious effort from long-range, but there was not quite enough dip on his shot.
Cook threw on an extra striker on 74 minutes as Pompey chased an equaliser, with Carl Baker making way for Conor Chaplin.
It was Naismith who was next to threaten, though, surging half the length of the pitch before drawing a save from Day.
But there was an unlikely provider of Pompey’s equaliser on 80 minutes, as STEVENS latched onto Rose’s pass and lashed home a neat finish.
And Evans was fuming that they did not have the chance to score again soon after, with Breakspear deciding that the right-back had not been pushed in the box.
The winning goal did arrive late on – even if there was a bit of confusion about who scored it.
NAISMITH whipped in a free-kick from wide on the right and it was unclear whether anyone else got a touch as the ball flew into the net.
Not that it mattered to the horde of travelling fans, who celebrated wildly – as did the players and those on the bench.
Newport (3-5-1-1): Day; Meite (Green 90), Jones, Bennett (c); Barnum-Bobb, Tozer (Randall 90), Owen-Evans (Jackson 85), Rigg, Myrie-Williams; Sheehan; Healey
Goals: Sheehan 25, Healey 51
Booked: Healey, Tozer, Barnum-Bobb
Subs not used: Bittner, Bignot, O’Hanlon, Butler
Pompey (4-4-2): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Baker (Chaplin 74), Rose, Doyle (c), Naismith; Hunt (Linganzi 89), Smith
Goals: Rose 56, Stevens 80, Naismith 87
Booked: Burgess, Hunt
Subs not used: O’Brien, Buxton, Whatmough, Lalkovic, Bennett
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Attendance: 3,714 (729 Pompey fans)