County's cup upset at Championship Luton shows they have a squad full of starters

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DELIGHT: James Waite celebrates his winner for County at Luton
DELIGHT: James Waite celebrates his winner for County at Luton

NEWPORT County AFC added to their list of cup upsets when they stunned Luton Town 3-2 at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night.

The Exiles dumped the Hatters, who made the Championship play-offs last season, out in the first round of the Carabao Cup.

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Luton hit the front twice through Carlos Mendes Gomes and Tom Lockyer only for the visitors to respond swiftly on both occasions with well-crafted goals for Lewis Collins and Chanka Zimba.

James Waite was rewarded for a lively performance with the winner with 15 minutes left, a first success of the campaign after a draw and defeat in League Two.

Here are the talking points from Kenilworth Road…

MORALE BOOST

The season is in its third week but County have endured frustration in the league with a late charge failing to take all three points from Sutton before Walsall burgled the win at Rodney Parade.

This result and performance was just the ticket ahead of a trio of tough encounters with a trip to Bradford this weekend followed by Salford and Tranmere in Newport.

Daft as it sounds after just three games, this cup upset just settles County down ahead of a long, long campaign.

OPTIONS EVERYWHERE

James Rowberry rang the changes for the trip to Luton with just three players – defenders Declan Drysdale and Mickey Demetriou plus midfielder Sam Bowen – retained from the XI that started against Sutton and Walsall.

It was the same last season when Michael Flynn’s men triumphed at League One Ipswich but this time the list of starters and presence of just one youngster, forward Tom Stokes, on the bench showed County’s present strength.

At Portman Road there were starts for Joe Woodiwiss, Louis Hall, Chris Missilou, Aneurin Livermore, Kevin Ellison, Jordan Greenidge and goalscorer Timmy Abraham.

At Kenilworth Road 19 of the 20 individuals in the matchday squad would not look out of place in the League Two XI.

County have a pair of genuine options in every position, allowing the management to rotate, tinker and turn to the bench for impact.

Rowberry challenged his squad to stake a claim for Bradford and they did that to a man.

South Wales Argus: Newport defenders Declain Drysdale and Mickey Demetriou congratulate each other after holding firm against a Luton attack
South Wales Argus: Newport defenders Declain Drysdale and Mickey Demetriou congratulate each other after holding firm against a Luton attack

Newport defenders Declain Drysdale and Mickey Demetriou congratulate each other after holding firm against a Luton attack

DEC IN THE MIDDLE

County stuck with their 3-5-2 and made just one change in the defensive three with fit-again Priestley Farquharson making an encouraging return on the right for 53 minutes before Cameron Norman replaced him in a planned substitution.

Declan Drysdale was given the task of playing in the middle and the summer signing from Coventry grew into the game.

He was into the book early after getting beaten to the ball by Cameron Jerome – after being done for pace for Sutton’s goal he wasn’t going to let the ex-Cardiff striker race clear – and had a few shaky early moments.

However, Drysdale improved as the Exiles went a bit longer towards the front line of Collins, Zimba and then Zanzala to open up the space.

His physical attributes are clear but he also showed a glimpse of being at ease when carrying the ball out of defence.

It will be interesting to see how the return of James Clarke from a minor hip injury influences the back line with Drysdale, Matty Dolan and Demetriou in pole position to start at Valley Parade.

OFF THE MARK

It’s a big season for Lewis Collins, who failed to kick on after being a leading figure in the promotion bid that ended in Wembley woe two years ago.

The 21-year-old scored just one goal last season and it was a cracker from distance against Sutton at Rodney Parade.

His effort at Luton was arguably better because the forward showed the composure to drill an accurate shot in low from the edge of the area after good work by Zimba and Aaron Lewis.

Collins’ pace and work rate can’t be questioned but his decision-making and execution have been his work-ons.

Tuesday’s goal will do him the power of good and the same applies for Cardiff loanee Zimba, who had a big role in the strikes either side of his own effort.

Omar Bogle and Offrande Zanzala, who was denied a clincher by a wonderful save, should start at Bradford but their ‘back-ups’ are pushing hard.

Their performances were encouraging at Luton but them getting off the mark was even better.