Published: 09:00, 14 August 2019
| Updated: 10:11, 14 August 2019
Former Gillingham manager Steve Lovell was in the crowd on Tuesday night.
He watched from the stands as the Gills went out on penalties in round one of the Carabao Cup - just like his side did a year ago.
Lovell’s team were dumped out of the competition by Millwall after also losing on penalties.
It’s not the first time Lovell has been to see the new-look Gills, now managed by Steve Evans, having also watched the pre-season match at Dartford.
On Tuesday, it was one of Lovell’s former signings, Brandon Hanlan, who was the centre of attention, scoring from the spot to put the Gills ahead but then missing a second penalty and a great one-on-one for the chance to finish Newport off.
The Welsh side - managed by former Gills player Michael Flynn - fought back to win 4-1 in the shootout after the game ended 2-2 in normal time.
Gills boss Evans, who took over from Lovell on a permanent basis in the summer, was pleased with Hanlan but knew he could have ended the tie as a contest.
“I thought Brandon was tremendous,” Evans said.
“He covered every blade of grass, but everyone knew he could have had four or five, he could have had a couple of match balls.
“There were chances first half where we would expect Brandon to do better but penalties get missed and I don’t fault any player for missing, they are different situations, but he had a couple of one on ones in the second half to kill the tie. We just didn’t kill the tie when it was important to do so.”
Another young forward, Mikael Ndjoli, was sent off by referee Trevor Kettle in a chaotic end to the match. He was penalised for an adjudged tug on an opponent, leading to Newport’s penalty which they scored to level the match deep in injury-time.
Ndjoli had scored Gills’ third penalty of the evening, with Hanlan having been replaced.
Evans felt the red card - for two bookable offences - was harsh.
He said: “When Trevor gives the penalty in the 92nd minute is that not sufficient punishment?
“It sounds like a double punishment for me. He gave away a penalty and gives him a yellow, which he knows means a red, and that is harsh. Trevor is an experienced referee, someone I respect, but I don’t respect that decision.”
Flynn’s team left Kent victorious and landed a home tie against Premier League West Ham in round two.
The Newport manager had told his own supporters not to bother attending, as he planned to shuffle his pack. He also said he wouldn’t get het up about the result either. Despite considering watching Plymouth instead of travelling to Priestfield, he did make the trip himself.
Around 200 Newport fans also ignored Flynn’s advice and their loyalty was rewarded with a win.
He said afterwards: “It’s not a priority and I’ve been honest about that but I think we showed how much we want to be in the cup.”
Evans felt his side had done enough to win the tie against a League 2 team that made nine changes from their league game - not that Flynn had to play the kids.
“Every one of them (replacements) is a top League 1 and 2 player,” said the Gills boss.
“It’s what happens when you have a good budget, you go and get those players.
“Michael would accept they are very fortunate to have gone through in the cup but that is what a cup tie is about, winning.”