Fears of the drop intensify after County pay price for defensive clangers at Carlisle
NEWPORT County AFC paid the price for defensive clangers in Carlisle after going down to a first League Two loss on the road under Graham Coughlan.
The Cumbrians boosted their promotion bid with a 2-0 triumph at Brunton Park while the Exiles continue to look nervously at the relegation zone after failing to add to their tally.
County had the better of the first half only for captain Mickey Demetriou – usually so reliable – to produce a clanger in added time for Kristian Dennis to make it 1-0, the striker pouncing on the centre-back’s awful header back towards his goalkeeper.
It was exactly the sort of error that cost James Rowberry his job, a flashback to Bradford when Declan Drysdale tried to be too clever in possession and ended up being red-carded for a foul as last man.
Carlisle went 2-0 up in the 57th minute when more iffy defending in the wind led to John-Kymani Gordon, whose loan move from Crystal Palace was confirmed on Friday, scoring on debut.
The Exiles remain 18th and are right in a relegation scrap, with several of their rivals recruiting in January to try and climb the table.
County’s next game against AFC Wimbledon in Newport is now massive while supporters are desperate for the boost of new recruits, even if Coughlan (publicly at least) says he would be happy to stick with what he’s got if nothing comes off.
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He made three changes to the XI from the 1-1 at Rochdale, a fourth successive draw, with midfielders Aaron Wildig and Lewis Collins both making their first league starts since the manager took the reins.
They came in for Aaron Lewis, who dropped to the bench, and Scot Bennett, who was forced off at half-time at Spotland.
The rotation continued up front with Will Evans coming in for ex-Carlisle striker Omar Bogle to partner Offrande Zanzala.
County stuck with their 5-3-2 with Wildig starting behind Collins and Moriah-Welsh in the midfield trio in the absence of the dependable Bennett.
They started sharply and had a chance after just 90 seconds after Carlisle goalkeeper Tomas Holy scuffed his clearance.
However, Offrande Zanzala couldn’t create a shooting opportunity and laid the ball off for Collins, whose effort from outside the area was a yard wide with a man covering on the line.
The Exiles stayed on the front foot, dominating possession and getting into promising positions down the left with one dangerous Adam Lewis cross nodded over by Will Evans in the 11th minute.
The same happened in the 17th minute when Demetriou crossed from the right after his long throw was cleared but his fellow centre-back Priestley Farquharson couldn’t work Holy, although the delivery lacked the help of pace.
County were having the better of promotion hopefuls and a quick turn in the box by Zanzala in the 21st minute led to the ‘keeper palming a shot behind at his near post.
Carlisle had a first sniff of goal when Moxon found Dennis on the edge of the box but the top scorer couldn’t control.
Zanzala was clobbered by Paul Huntington after 23 minutes, putting the defender on a booking, and then Declan Drysdale needed treatment after a painful collision.
Day was yet to be tested as half-time approached while Holy was called into action again in the 38th minute when a break ended with a rather tame shot from distance by Evans.
However, all the good work was undone in added time when Demetriou crazily tried to flick a header back to his goalkeeper without looking.
Dennis was lurking and finished smartly past the helpless Day, ruining a half of endeavour and previously good concentration.
The tricky conditions made it had for both sides to get going after the break but Carlisle doubled their lead in the 57th minute when Demetriou failed to deal with a long ball in the wind.
The ball was played for Gordon to drive at the retreating Cameron Norman and the debutant fired past Day with his left.
Coughlan responded by bringing on striker Bogle for the last half hour at the expense of central defender Demetriou.
However, the tables had turned and it was Carlisle on the front foot and looking for a third to avoid their visitors having any chance of repeating their recent Crawley comeback for a point.
County went close in the 75th minute when Norman superbly dinked the ball over a pair of defenders and then blasted a shot narrowly over from a tight angle.
Farquharson went close with a header before it took a good save by Day on 79 minutes to deny Jack Armer, the ‘keeper scrambling across his line and stopping with his legs.
The right post denied Carlisle a third through Jordan Gibson’s curled effort from the edge of the box and the same applied at the other end with five to go when substitute Aaron Lewis pinged a cross in from the right and Adam Lewis headed against the woodwork.
There was to be no late drama as the Exiles fired a blank on their longest trip of the season, piling the pressure on for next weekend’s home fixture with the Dons.
Carlisle goals: Dennis, Gordon.
County: Day, Norman, Drysdale, Farquharson, Demetriou (captain, Bogle 59), Adam Lewis, Moriah-Welsh (Lewis 83), Wildig, Collins (Waite 83), Evans, Zanzala.
Substitutes not used: Townsend, Bright, Clarke, Bowen.
Referee: Martin Woods.
Attendance: 5,603 (168 Newport).