County cause another cup upset after winning away at Championship Luton

·5-min read
SCORERS: Chanka Zimba celebrates with fellow County scorer Lewis Collins
SCORERS: Chanka Zimba celebrates with fellow County scorer Lewis Collins

NEWPORT County AFC claimed another cup scalp after winning their first competitive game at Luton Town to upset the Championship side.

The Exiles showed resilience to level twice against the Hatters and then take the spoils 3-2 at Kenilworth Road, previously a scene of little cheer.

Michael Flynn’s side enjoyed several memorable runs in knockout football and now James Rowberry’s team will be in the second round draw of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening.

County reached that stage last year and, despite that 8-0 hammering by Southampton, will be hoping for another lucrative crack at a Premier League side.

Carlos Mendes Gomes, who scored Morecambe’s controversial Wembley winner against the Exiles from the spot, opened the scoring for Luton with a powerful effort from distance in the 30th minute.

However, County responded swiftly through Lewis Collins with the 21-year-old forward calmly drilling in his fourth senior goal.

Luton regained their lead four minutes after the restart through Wales defender Tom Lockyer but there was a repeat with Chanka Zimba soon slotting for his first goal as an Exile.

South Wales Argus: James Waite struck the winner
South Wales Argus: James Waite struck the winner

James Waite struck the winner

County hit the front with quarter of an hour to go when Waite won possession to spark an attack that ended with a close-range finish.

They held firm to take the spoils for the first time this season after starting League Two with a hard-earned draw at Sutton and a mystifying home loss to Walsall.

County can now head to Bradford with a spring in their step, while the boss has some welcome selection headaches.

Rowberry was true to his word and made eight changes to the side that started against Walsall with captain Mickey Demetriou, his fellow centre-back Declan Drysdale and midfielder Sam Bowen the survivors.

Priestley Farquharson completed the back three after being worked back cautiously from knee surgery that ended his 2021/22 early while there were full debuts for left wing-back Adam Lewis and striker Zimba, loanees from Liverpool and Cardiff respectively.

However, this wasn’t a case of throwing the game – none of the starters would look out of place in the XI at Valley Parade.

Both Adam and Aaron Lewis and midfielders Robbie Willmott, a former Hatter, and Waite really had the chance to put the heat on their rivals.

Luton changed their entire starting line-up from their draw at Burnley but still called upon quality, including former Cardiff striker Cameron Jerome.

Drysdale lined up at the heart of the defence and was in the book after just five minutes after being beaten to the ball by Jerome and bringing down the experienced striker.

The Hatters had the better of the opening exchanges but it was hardly dramatic with the first attempt of note a Louie Watson curled effort that was a couple of yards wide after 16 minutes.

That was soon followed by a similar effort by Luke Berry that was on target after County were caught in possession, forcing Joe Day into a solid stop to his left.

Luton were starting to build pressure and it took good work by the ‘keeper to prevent the hosts hitting the front when he was off his line sharply to block from Admiral Muskwe after he got the better of Drysdale in the box.

The Hatters eventually got their noses in front approaching the half hour with a goal that wowed the home fans but will frustrate the Exiles when they watch it back.

South Wales Argus:
South Wales Argus:

Mendes Gomes was given far too much room and he smacked in a superb shot from 30 metres, but one that Day got his hands to only for it to burst through into the top corner.

County’s response was excellent with Zimba doing well to work the ball down the right for Aaron Lewis, who cut inside and found Collins.

The 21-year-old has already matched his tally for last season already after calmly drilling a shot low to Matt Macey’s right.

That goal settled down County and took the sting out of Luton and it was 1-1 at the break.

They returned unchanged and Bowen soon joined Drysdale in the book for a cynical – and worthwhile – foul to prevent a break.

Luton weren’t to be denied in the 50th minute and skipper Lockyer made it 2-1 with a lovely dinked finish after being worked into the box down the left.

County bounced back again when Zimba timed his run perfectly into the box to receive Bowen’s pass before finishing from the right; it might not have been the cleanest strike but the youngster had broken his Newport duck.

Farquharson’s comeback was then ended with Cameron Norman replacing him as right-sided centre-back, before Scot Bennett and Offrande Zanzala were introduced for Bowen and Collins respectively.

The goalmouth action then dried up until Luton sub Carlton Morris volleyed a cross from the right over with 20 minutes to go.

However, County soon had a lead to protect after Waite won the ball high up the pitch and played in Zimba down the left.

He opened up his body to shoot a la Thierry Henry and Waite prodded in when Macey failed to gather.

It was close to 4-2 when the keeper made amends with a super save to deny Zanzala but Day was yet to be tested at the other end as six minutes of added time was announced.

It stayed that way with County’s 207 fans rewarded for their midweek travels while the rest of the Amber Army can tune in to the cup draw with excitement.

Luton Town: Macey, Mendes Gomes, Lockyer (captain), Burke, Pereira, Berry, Lansbury, Watson, Woodrow, Muskwe, Jerome.
Substitutes: Isted, Cornick, Morris, Thorpe, Osho, Williams, Allen, Pettit, Nelson. 
Goals: Mendes Gomes, Lockyer.

County: Day, Aaron Lewis, Farquharson (Norman 52), Drysdale, Demetriou (captain), Adam Lewis, Bowen (Bennett 62), Willmott, Waite, Collins (Zanzala 62), Zimba (Wildig 77).
Substitutes: Townsend, Dolan, Wildig, Evans, Bogle, Stokes.
Yellows: Drysdale, Bowen, Willmott, Adam Lewis.
Goals: Collins, Zimba, Waite.

Referee: Ollie Yates
Attendance: 3,827 (207 away)