Jason Steele’s acrobatics take Brighton past Newport after penalty shootout


Jason Steele saves the decisive penalty from Scot Bennett.

Jason Steele saves the decisive penalty from Scot Bennett.
Photograph: Kieran McManus/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

It would be hard to script a better redemption story on a football pitch. After flapping at a stoppage-time cross to gift Newport of League Two an extraordinary equaliser, Brighton’s backup goalkeeper Jason Steele made four fine penalty shootout saves to help the Premier League strugglers advance to the FA Cup fourth round and spare any embarrassment after the ordeal of a nail-biting tie.

Adam Webster, whose unfortunate own goal paved the way for extra time, scored the decisive spot-kick as Brighton won 4-3 on penalties following Scot Bennett’s miss.

It was to be another agonising climax for Newport, who came unstuck on penalties against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup in September, and a particularly cruel crescendo for their goalkeeper, Tom King, who made three wondrous saves, including a superb stop to deny Lewis Dunk in extra time.

In the end King’s opposite number proved the hero but Steele could not bear to look as Webster stepped up to drill in the 14th penalty. “Jason was disappointed with the goal but he responded well,” said the Brighton manager, Graham Potter, who described a hairy escape a traumatic experience. “Credit to Newport and we wish them well in terms of their promotion push. We knew they would be tough opponents.”

Newport’s form for an upset has been one of the most charismatic stories in recent years and they almost topped the lot when Kevin Ellison powered at goal with only seconds of extra time to play. A day which began with Ellison, who turns 42 next month, winding up the club physio by calling to say he was overcome with “FA Cup fever” ended with the former Morecambe winger wondering how Dunk managed to block a thunderous half-volley. The game spiralled into extra time after Webster’s own goal, which stemmed from Steele making a mess of a teasing cross, cancelled out Solly March’s 90th-minute strike.

Michael Flynn, the mastermind behind Newport sending Leicester, Leeds and Middlesbrough packing in this competition from Rodney Parade, promised Brighton a bobbly pitch and, within three minutes, Dunk was guilty of failing to read the conditions. The Brighton captain undercooked a back pass but Pádraig Amond, who finished as the joint-top scorer alongside Gabriel Jesus in the FA Cup in 2018-19, unusually fluffed his lines.

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Despite vying for promotion from League Two, the finances of the competition meant Newport were never going to take this lightly. King saved superbly to deny Andi Zeqiri his first Brighton goal but ultimately it was Steele who made the difference. “I’m really thankful for that because I nearly cost us in the last minute,” Steele said. “A lot of credit has to go to my goalkeeping coach who had done a lot of research. In the end I dug myself out of it.”

For different reasons, Brighton, whose dressing room constituted a marquee behind the away terrace, were always going to take this seriously, despite this being the first of three away matches in six days. Next up? Manchester City on Wednesday. Newport are back here on Saturday to play Salford. “There’s players there [for Brighton] on more [money per week] than some of my players earn in two years,” Flynn said. “It is not by fluke or by coincidence, we work hard and they have put the club on the map again.”

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