Newport County 1
Carey pen 38, pen 55, Slew 78
LUKE McCormick celebrated his 300th Pilgrimage by leading Argyle to victory in South Wales on a day when the spotlight unexpectedly shone more on his former understudy.
County substitute goalkeeper James Bittner, who made one start in a Home Park career served as back-up to McCormick, was thrust into the action after Newport No. 1 Joe Day was sent off for fouling Jordan Slew seven minutes before half-time.
Graham Carey sent Bittner the wrong way from the subsequent penalty, and repeated the dose ten minutes after the interval with his second spot-kick following a trip on him by Darren Jones.
It was a timely conversion, given that bottom-of-the-table County had levelled five minutes earlier with a shot from veteran forward Jon Parkin of which any of the world’s great strikers would have been proud.
Once ahead for the second time, the Sky Bet League Two leaders never looked like being headed again and Slew rounded off their excursion across the Severn with a third 12 minutes from time.
Argyle manager Derek Adams had made just one change to the side that had lined up in the Pilgrims’ previous two games, bringing Craig Tanner into the attack in place of Jake Jervis. The on-loan Reading man was given the hole role behind striker Jimmy Spencer, with Carey to his right.
Tanner was soon in the thick of things, latching on to a delightfully cushioned header from Spencer following Ben Purrington’s thoughtful ball into the box, but his shot failed to exercise Day.
Argyle had talked about expecting their hosts to come out hard in their first home game under new manager Graham Westley and they were not disappointed as County won a succession of corners which suggested that the gaffer’s initial training sessions had placed an emphasis on set-piece chicanery.
While more than half of the Pilgrims’ goals this season have come from dead-balls, the division’s best defence is also pretty good at keeping out opponents’ restarts and McCormick has experienced plenty more arduous and involved openings in his previous 299 appearances.
It was not until after the halfway point of the first half that the Argyle custodian was called into meaningful action to mop up Darren Jones’ header from a free-kick which was one of several decisions given by referee Michael Salisbury in favour of Newport that defied reason.
The Pilgrims reshaped with half an hour gone, Tanner and Carey dropping wide and Slew joining Spencer in the van, and Argyle immediately made capital when Tanner fizzed in a cross that was glanced wide by Jordan Slew’s head.
Slew was then brought down by Day after he had reacted quickest to some penalty area pinball that saw an attempted County clearance smack against Spencer and loop back towards the home goal. Slew rounded the goalkeeper, who brought him down, conceding a spot-kick and becoming the sixth player from an opposition team to receive a red card in Argyle’s 14 league matches this season.
Day’s afternoon completed, it was a full two minutes before his replacement, Bittner, was ready to face his former team-mate Carey. One further second later, Argyle had a goal advantage to match their man advantage.
County remained up for the fight and levelled at the start of the second half when Parkin spoiled McCormick’s landmark game with an outrageous lob from wide on the right that would have graced the Nou Camp, never mind Newport. It was the first goal scored by the Welsh side in exactly 400 minutes football.
Parity in the principality lasted less than 400 seconds as Carey again fired the Pilgrims back in front from the penalty spot after he had been tripped, accidentally but fatally, by Jones.
The home side lost Parkin through injury, but kept up the pressure and consequently always looked vulnerable to a sucker punch. However, it was not until the 78th minute that the Pilgrims made sure of their 10th win of the season when Spencer and substitute Jake Jervis led a counter that saw Carey slip in Slew for a simple finish.
There might have been an interesting final few minutes had Argyle Academy graduate Ben Tozer’s header following a corner not slipped the wrong side of the post.
However, this was definitely a day for current Pilgrims, not past ones.
Newport County (4-4-2): 1 Joe Day; 2 Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, 4 Darren Jones, 17 Scot Bennett (capt), 18 Kyle Cameron; 28 Reece Grego-Cox, 12 Ben Tozer, 27 Sean Rigg, 16 Josh Sheehan (30 James Bittner, gk, 38); 15 Jordan Green (7 Jack Compton 78), 9 Jon Parkin (19 Rhys Healey 64). Substitutes (not used): 3 Dan Butler, 8 Mark Randall, 11 Jennison Myrie-Williams, 32 Finlay Wood.
Sent off: Day 36.
Booked: Barnum-Bobb 18, Grego-Cox 26, Cameron 33, Healey 90.
Argyle (4-2-3-1): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 2 Gary Miller, 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 15 Sonny Bradley, 16 Ben Purrington; 4 Yann Songo’o, 24 David Fox (6 Connor Smith 73); 10 Graham Carey, 27 Craig Tanner (14 Jake Jervis 64), 8 Jordan Slew; 9 Jimmy Spencer 11 Ryan Donaldson 85). Substitutes (not used): 7 David Goodwillie, 19 Karleigh Osborne, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 22 David Ijaha.
Booked: Spencer 82.
Referee: Michael Salisbury.
Attendance: 3,416 (1,067 away).