Newport County 1 Crawley Town 0
Reds slipped to defeat against lowly Newport on the Rodney Parade mud heap and finished with ten men after Josh Yorwerth was sent off.
Mickey Demetriou’s 25-yarder, which settled the game, was a super strike totally out of keeping with a scrappy, error-strewn contest on an awful surface.
Yorwerth and Newport’s skipper Joss Labadie saw red after a 52nd-minute incident spotted by the assistant. Reds pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages but struggled to seriously test County keeper Joe Day all afternoon.
Reds not surprisingly named the same team which had beaten Leyton Orient 3-0 a week ago with Matt Harrold, who scored when Reds won at Newport in September 2015, among the subs.
A downpour about two hours before kick-off forced referee Darren England to inspect the pitch which he declared playable after a lengthy check, although there was still standing water on the surface when the game got underway.
Conditions were a factor but Newport, not surprisingly, looked more comfortable in them and merited their half-time lead, although Reds were their own worst enemies when Demetriou struck.
They had already had a let-off in the ninth minute when, after Newport appeals for handball against Yorwerth had been turned down, Sean Rigg volleyed over from a great position.
Jimmy Smith and Rhys Murphy were off target with efforts from outside the box before Newport took an 18th-minute lead. Josh Payne’s attempt to find Enzio Boldewijn was intercepted by defender Demetriou who took a couple of steps forward before lashing a right-foot shot past Glenn Morris from 25 yards.
The goal enthused the hosts and their fans and Morris made a good save to deny Labadie in the 29th minute as Crawley struggled to get anything going in the final third.
Their best chance of the half came on 42 minutes. Smith laid the ball off to Murphy and his curling effort from the left-hand edge of the box flashed inches wide of the right-hand post.
But Crawley were fortunate to survive going further behind in stoppage time when ex-Reds loanee Mitchell Rose was denied by Morris and Alex Samuel headed the resultant corner over from six yards.
The second half got off to an explosive start with both sides reduced to ten men in the 52nd minute. As Payne prepared to take a free kick the assistant flagged furiously after spotting an incident inside the penalty area. Labadie and eventually Yorwerth were both sent off.
Reds made their first change six minutes later when Dean Cox replaced Djalo and moments later Morris turned Bird’s header from a free kick over the bar at full stretch as Newport sought a second which would have sealed three valuable points.
They should have got it on 61 minutes. Bird beat Morris to a through ball but with an open goal to aim at he somehow sliced his effort wide of the left-hand upright.
Reds were now playing 3-2-4 with Murphy alongside Collins and three at the back but with two-thirds of the game gone they had yet to seriously test County keeper Joe Day.
Harrold replaced Murphy with 20 minutes to go and Reds made their final change when Conor Henderson came on for Payne. He was involved straight away after Boldewijn was pulled down 20 yards out but lifted the resultant free kick wide of the near post.
Collins had been kept relatively quiet by the home defence but got a sight of goal in the 83rd minute only to see his volley from 15 yards take a deflection off a defender when it would probably have beaten Day.
Day came to Newport's rescue deep into stoppage time when he bravely blocked Boldewijn's angled volley and then parried a shot on the turn from Collins, but Reds had lacked quality in the final third in a poor spectacle and on chances created the hosts just about deserved their win.
Reds: Morris; Young, McNerney, Yorwerth, Blackman; Boldewijn, Djalo (Cox 60), Smith, Payne (Henderson 77), Murphy (Harrold 70); Collins. Unused subs: Mersin, Bawling, Clifford, Lelan.
Booked: Djalo, Payne, Boldewijn. Sent off: Yorwerth
Attendance: 2946 (113 Crawley).