Newport City suffered their first pre-season defeat in their penultimate friendly encounter against Southern League Division One (South & West) side Cirencester Town as they fell to an action packed 4-3 loss at Newport Stadium.
City started the game brightly and created the first chance of the game in the 3rd minute when Jake Buckley fed Jordan Chubb who sent a 22 yard strike wide over the bar. The hosts continued to shine and almost scored in the 11th minute when Chubb delivered a free kick towards the 6 yard box and into the path of Mark Dunford who saw his header saved by visiting ‘keeper Matt Wieczorek. Dunford was once again in the thick of the action shortly after but saw two shots blocked by Cirencester defenders Max Arnold and James Mortimer-Jones.
The game then turned on its head in the 18th minute when City failed to clear a Henry Spalding cross which allowed Kieren Diaz-Benitez the opportunity to thump the ball into the back of net from near the 6 yard box to give the visitors the lead. The game took a turn for the worse for City just three minutes later when Aidan Bennett connected on to a defence splitting pass, beat the offside trap as he raced through on goal and calmly slot the ball past the advancing Jack Cropper to double the Centurions’ lead. However City were handed a lifeline in the 24th minute when they were awarded a penalty after Centurion Ellis Dunton handled Dunford’s shot inside the area. Patrick Pope made no mistake as he converted the resulting spot kick and pulled City back into the game.
The Steelmen’s reprieve was short lived as the visitors responded strongly and restored their two goal advantage in the 29th minute when Cirencester striker Sam Walsh managed to wriggle his way into the penalty area and slide the ball low into the bottom left hand corner of the net. The game took a turn for the worse for City just ten minutes later when lively Centurion Louis Loader delivered a smart left side cross into the six yard box, where teammate Henry Spalding was on hand to tap the ball into the back of the net and increase the visitors’ lead. Things could have got even worse for the Steelemen in first half when Cirencester’s Mason Lewis found himself through on goal inside the left hand side of the penalty area, but saw his low strike saved by Cropper’s feet.
City boss Sam Houldsworth responded to a difficult opening half by ringing the changes to the side, most notably handing a debut to Phil Draper who replaced Jack Cropper in goal for the second half. The Steelmen re-started the proceedings strongly as Chubb managed to convert a chipped effort in the 51st minute but saw his goal disallowed for offside. However the disappointment was short lived just three minutes later as substitute Nick Simcock connected on to an assist from Chubb scoring a stunning lobbed effort from 35 yards to bring the hosts back into the game.
The visitors responded in positive fashion as they forced Draper to produce a series of impressive saves. The hosts eventually managed to apply their own pressure late on and managed to score again in 77th minute when substitute Ben Fetahi delivered a superb left hand cross to the far post where fellow substitute Aaron Carew managed to convert a thumping close range header past Wieczorek and set up a thrilling finale. The goal once again managed to spring the visitors into life as Draper was once again repeatedly called into action to preserve a second half clean sheet for City. The Steelmen were ultimately unable to find another goal as they experienced their first defeat of the summer.
Despite the defeat, Manager Sam Houldsworth could feel proud of how his side managed to fight their way back into the game during the second half. Overall it was a good test for City against a competitive side in what literally turned out to be a game of two halves. With the new season on the horizon, Newport City still have every reason to be confident of achieving a successful campaign.