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Match Report: Newport County 2-1 Leeds United - Spirited Exiles eliminate woeful Whites
Sunday, 7th Jan 2018 16:02 by @LucasMonk_

On a torrid afternoon in Wales, defender Conor Shaughnessy put through his own goal and attacking midfielder Samuel Sáiz was sent off as Leeds United suffered the abject ignominy of defeat against League Two outfit Newport County in the third round of the FA Cup.

Leeds United were today, owing to a perfunctory performance on their part, eliminated from the FA Cup in most ignominious circumstances, succumbing to a deeply disenchanting 2-1 defeat away to Newport County.

United, who had made nine changes to the starting lineup that laboured to a goalless draw at home to Nottingham Forest on Monday, had established a slender lead in the first half following Gaetano Berardi’s first ever goal for the club; the Swiss defender’s driven effort from outside the penalty area found its way into the net in the ninth minute, to the discernible delight of the travelling supporters.

However, two second half goals for the hosts ensured that the Exiles would be justly rewarded for a tenacious performance with a place in the fourth round. First, Leeds’ Conor Shaughnessy put through his own goal in the 76th minute following a cross by Frank Nouble. Second, Bristol City loanee Shawn McCoulsky soared above United’s Kalvin Phillips in the 89th minute to power home a thunderous header following Matty Dolan’s corner to prompt ebullient celebrations among the Newport supporters.

It would soon get even worse for the visitors; there remained time for Samuel Sáiz to be shown a red card for reputedly spitting at County’s Robbie Willmott in the 91st minute. The Spaniard will at least be suspended for three matches.

The result means that Leeds have failed to win in any of their last three matches in all competitions ahead of a difficult match away to 12th-placed Ipswich Town next Saturday.

The Match

Leeds made a sprightly start to the match, and perhaps should have opened the scoring with only a few seconds of play elapsed. In the first minute, United’s Jay-Roy Grot raced through on goal and reached a loose ball before County goalkeeper Joe Day, but the latter was able to make an attentive save.

Nine minutes passed before Leeds did establish a slender lead, with the opening goal of the match arising courtesy of a most improbable source. Swiss defender Gaetano Berardi, who had never scored a professional goal prior to this fixture, let fly from outside the Newport penalty area and his driven effort found the bottom corner to the perceptible glee of the away fans.

The hosts would come agonisingly close to equalising shortly thereafter. A corner kick in the 16th minute was the mother of much disarray within the United penalty area and a combination of Berardi and fellow defender Conor Shaughnessy was required to keep County at bay, with Shaughnessy blocking an effort by Newport’s Pádraig Amond from close proximity.

Not perturbed by Leeds’ scoring of the opening goal, the home side refused to relent in their energetic pursuit of an equalising goal. In the 20th minute, Joss Labadie met Dan Butler’s pinpoint cross, but could only direct his headed effort straight at Andy Lonergan in the opposing goal.

The hosts then ventured forth into the United half once more a few moments later. Again, Labadie chanced his arm from inside the penalty area, only for his effort to ricochet off Berardi before bobbling behind for a corner.

An erratic Leeds relinquished possession too frequently throughout the first period and were unable to fashion clear opportunities to extend their advantage. Instead, the Newport hegemony continued. On 32 minutes, an excellent delivery by Robbie Willmott was met by a fierce volley on the part of Amond at the back post, but the Irishman’s attempt was wild and it soared innocuously over the crossbar.

At the juncture of the half-time interlude, the hosts could rightly have considered themselves highly unfortunate to be trailing. County finessed for themselves more chances than United were able to manufacture and they would have equalised had Amond maintained his composure in the 32nd minute.

After the interval, the hosts continued to pose to Leeds an appreciable attacking threat. On 50 minutes, Scot Bennett produced an inviting cross that eventually eluded the Newport attackers within the penalty area before bouncing wide prior to Amond attempting an acrobatic bicycle kick - that hit the side netting - approximately five minutes later.

United then conjured a couple of efforts of their own - in the 60th and 61st minutes respectively - but neither elicited a save from County goalkeeper Day. First, Grot lashed an impetuous effort well wide of the mark after a slick interchange of passes with Pierre-Michel Lasogga, before fleet-footed Frenchman Hadi Sacko blazed a wild effort over the crossbar.

Shortly thereafter, Newport took it upon themselves to protest indignantly when referee Mike Dean dismissed vehement appeals for a penalty after Nouble clumsily fell over inside the Leeds area in the 64th minute.

The visitors would soon score a merited equaliser for the hosts in the 76th minute. Nouble’s splendiferous cross from the right was converted not by any of the handful of County attackers lurking within the area, but by United defender Conor Shaughnessy.

Not content with having merely equalised, the hosts continued to perform sedulously and were rewarded for their diligence in the dying embers of the match. Substitute Shawn McCoulsky emphatically met a Matty Dolan corner in the 89th minute to prompt exultant celebrations amongst the home supporters.

There remained a paucity of time in which Leeds could muster a response, but enough time remained for a United substitute, Samuel Sáiz, to be shown a red card by Dean after the Spaniard allegedly spat at County’s Willmott.

Following the last blast of the referee’s whistle, there was a pitch incursion by delirious home supporters - an act that would have been met with ubiquitous condemnation if it were United fans responsible.

Lineups

Newport County (4-5-1) - Day; Pipe, White, Demetriou, Butler; Willmott (O’Brien 90+3’), Bennett, Labadie, Dolan (McCoulsky 69’), Nouble; Amond (Hayes 86’).

Unused Substitutes: Tozer, Reid, Bittner, Sheehan.

Leeds United (4-4-2) - Lonergan; Anita, Shaughnessy, Berardi, Borthwick-Jackson (Cooper 60’); Sacko, Phillips, Klich, Cibicki; Grot (Sáiz 75’), Lasogga.

Unused Substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Pearce, Kitching, Rey, Clarke.

Half-Time: Newport County 0-1 Leeds United - Berardi 9’

Full-Time: Newport County 2-1 Leeds United - Berardi 9’, Shaughnessy (OG) 76’, McCoulsky 89’

Match Statistics (Newport / Leeds)

Possession: 50% / 50%

Attempts: 19 / 17

On Target: 5 / 5

Corners: 8 / 4

Fouls: 9 / 11

Booked: McCoulsky (Newport), Berardi, Grot (Leeds).

Sent Off: Sáiz (Leeds).

Man of the Match: Robbie Willmott (Newport).

The 27-year-old, who was briefly in the employ of a supermarket as a maintenance man following his release by Newport in 2015, produced an alacritous display and was a perennial thorn in the side of United's Cameron Borthwick-Jackson throughout the match.

Match Facts

Venue: Rodney Parade (capacity of 7,850).

Attendance: 6,887.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Writer’s Verdict

This was a defeat that an insouciant and insipid showing on United’s part wholly merited. Although head coach Thomas Christiansen elected to make sweeping changes to the side that drew against Nottingham Forest at Elland Road in Leeds’ last fixture, the perfunctory nature of the performance is inexcusable and United’s goalscorer, Gaetano Berardi, is the only player that can emerge from this debacle with even a modicum of credibility.

The absence of Samuel Sáiz for Leeds’ next three matches (six matches if evidence of him spitting at Newport’s Robbie Willmott is obtained) shall be sorely felt; the diminutive Spaniard has been irrepressible on occasion this season and is perhaps the most technically gifted footballer the club possess.

After two profoundly dispiriting results against Birmingham City and Forest respectively, United were hopeful of securing a comfortable victory against inferior opposition today in a bid to ameliorate morale in the squad. Instead, the plucky League Two side were rightly rewarded for a most mettlesome showing and the exigency for reinforcements at Elland Road has once again been accentuated by another inadequate performance.

Photo: Action Images



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