Newport Pagnell Town – 1
Rugby Town – 2
Newport Pagnell were beaten at home on Saturday by the divisions second place side Rugby Town, but for forty seven minutes looked worth of getting something from the game, taking the lead shortly before half-time was no more than the hosts deserved on the balance of play and chances created, but that was all undone within ninety seconds of the restart when Swans keeper Mark Osborn was red carded for handling outside his area and Rugby went on to make their numerical advantage count, two goals from Lewis Rankin put them in front and a late dismissal for Josh Winters meant the Willen Road side ended the game with nine men. Both sides did well to play the game at all in weather conditions not seen for a while, freezing cold temperatures mixed with an ice cold wind and driving rain welcomed the sides onto the pitch, and did not relent for the ninety minutes, there was definitely a huge demand for the hot water taps after this game!
The opening ten minutes offered little to warm the generous crowd who had braved the conditions, the hosts saw a corner easily cleared, two long balls sail out for goal kicks and the visitors attacks were either comfortable for Osborn to collect or the flag denied. The first effort of note came on thirteen minutes when a cross from the Newport left looked harmless however Adam Moussi got ahead of everyone to get his shot away forcing Rugby keeper Matthew Hill away to his left to halt its flight towards the bottom corner, a further four minutes until the Northamptonshire side had their first sight when Danico Johnson curled wide from the edge of the area.
From the goal kick Osborn sent Winters racing away down the right wing and beating his marker with ease he pulled the ball back across the eighteen yard line where Harry Stratton fired low across goal and inches wide of Hill’s right hand post, back at the opposite end full back Charlie Evans found space to the left of goal but dragged his effort past the far upright. A ball down the middle of the pitch then saw an outstretched boot flick straight into the path of Dom Lawless and he was away on goal, Hill advanced but the Swans striker scuffed his effort past the keeper and with no real power and a heavy pitch there was never any danger to the stalemate being broken, Stratton then fed Lawless inside the box where his first effort was blocked but he followed up to force Hill diving away to pull off a brilliant save as it looked as though the ball would nestle in the top left hand corner.
A Rugby corner saw Liam Francis head up and seemingly over but as the ball dipped back down Osborn had to be alert and step back quickly to punch over his crossbar, Moussi at the other end was urged to shoot by his team mates from the edge of the box but he screwed wide, then three minutes before the break Winters did find the back of the net. A free kick in the middle of the pitch was simply floated downfield and Winters climbed highest to head into the bottom corner, a minute after the opener a low cross fizzed along the six-yard box but no green shirts were anywhere near to get the touch, and a free kick then out on their left saw Liam Smyth curl in and Hill had to gather with both hands right in front of his feet, again the conditions making life harder than he’d have wanted. H/T: 1-0
Seconds in to the second period Winters was away down the flank and he touched the ball inside to Lawless who had a clear run at goal but his drive was straight into the trees behind the goal, from there it all went horribly wrong for Newport, the goal kick took a bounce and looped over everyone towards the Pagnell penalty area, as Osborn came out he had the opportunity to kick but let the ball roll and then as a red shirt approached he fell to his knees and handled before kicking away. The referee consulted with his assistant ahead of brandishing a red card to the keeper, who handed his shirt to Smyth before leaving the field of play.
Simeon Tulloch got down the Rugby right and crossed into former Swan Fazal Koriya whose glancing header only helped the ball away for a goal kick, and as much as the visitors started to dominate the possession the hosts were always looking for a counter, one such saw Winters away down the wing and cutting in he curled his shot around the back post. With eighteen minutes left the away side equalised when Rankin was fed with his back to goal and managing to turn his first effort was saved by Smyth but he followed up to level. The away side now sensed they could win the game, a long range drive from Richard Blythe saw Smyth have to push away, from the corner Blyth volleyed straight into the keepers gloves.
The home side never gave up and a great run from Moussi saw him send a perfect cross into Winters who in front of goal could not get the ball out from under his feet, once he dug it out his shot was blocked and the chance was gone, whilst Rankin tried his luck again from eighteen yards where a wicked deflection almost wrong footed Smyth but he recovered to fling himself away to his left to save with both hands. With eight minutes remaining a ball over the Newport backline saw the entire defence call for offside, however the flag was kept down allowing Johnson to get a shot away that was blocked however Rankin was closest to rifle home the rebound.
Two minutes later a tackle on Winters in the Rugby half saw him floored but no whistle, as he lay waiting for his free kick the ball rolled to his offender, the red mist then appeared as he got up and lunged into the tackle sparking a twenty man brawl that ended with the Newport man being sent off. Despite the imbalance there was still time for a late chance to fall to Stratton as he received a pass inside the penalty arc, looking like he was going to hit it first time he took a touch before having to somewhat snatch at his shot that flew wide. F/T: 1-2
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