Barker starts reign with defeat at Fratton Park
The Richie Barker era failed to get off to a positive start as Pompey lost to Newport for the second time in just over a month.
There were some good chances created by the hosts, with Patrick Agyemang having an effort cleared off the line and Jed Wallace twice striking the woodwork.
Christian Jolley was wasteful at the other end, but a second half brace from Michael Flynn secured victory for County.
Barker made four changes from the side that had drawn with Wycombe 10 days earlier.
David Connolly skippered the Blues alongside Agyemang up front, while there were also starts for Thery Racon in midfield and Yassin Moutaouakil at right-back.
Ryan Bird, Johnny Ertl and Wallace all dropped to the bench, with Danny East not involved after injuring his neck against the Chairboys.
It looked the visitors had won an early penalty when the linesman flagged after Jolley went down in the box under pressure from Dan Potts.
But the Fratton faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief when the officials decided that the original contact had taken place outside the area and only awarded a free-kick.
Newport – playing a fluid 3-4-3 system – then had another opportunity, but Flynn could only drill the ball straight into Trevor Carson’s arms.
Pompey were playing at a high-tempo, although they only had half-chances from Andy Barcham and Racon to show for their efforts in the opening stages.
And County should have broken the deadlock on 14 minutes when Jolley somehow failed to connect with a cross from left, despite being left in acres of space.
Pompey finally clicked into gear a few moments later and a neat passing move ended with Connolly curling a shot just over from the edge of the box.
And they almost took the lead on 24 minutes, with Connolly and Agyemang linking-up nicely before the latter saw his low drive cleared off the line by Andy Sandell.
The Blues began to take control as the half progressed and had another great chance when Joe Devera headed Ricky Holmes’ free-kick back across goal, but there was no blue-shirted player there to meet the ball.
Shaun Cooper then flicked another dangerous Holmes cross inches over the crossbar as the hosts tried to make their pressure count.
But Pompey’s recent defensive frailties almost cost them as they failed to get the ball clear and Harry Worley headed narrowly wide from David Pipe’s cross.
They were back on the attack just before the break, however, and Potts’ free-kick evaded everyone as it curled just past the post.
Half Time: Pompey 0 Newport 0
There was plenty of festive fun at the break as three secret Santas were unmasked to reveal former Fratton favourites Svetoslav Todorov, Linvoy Primus and Alan Knight.
Unfortunately there was not much entertainment on the pitch as the second half got off to an extremely slow start.
Things livened up on 59 minutes, however, as both sides had great chances just seconds apart.
First Agyemang rose highest to meet Holmes’ corner, but his header was palmed away by County keeper Lenny Pidgeley and Pipe hacked clear.
The visitors went straight down the other end and Robbie Willmott sent a fine low cross into the box that Jolley somehow diverted into the side netting.
But Newport were ahead on 64 minutes as Ryan Jackson pulled the ball back for Flynn to lash into the roof of the net.
Barker reacted immediately, making a double switch as Bird and Wallace replaced Agyemang and Holmes.
But things quickly got worse for the Blues as Flynn arrived inside the box to convert a cross from the left.
They were agonisingly close to pulling one back on 83 minutes when Wallace turned Connolly’s cut-back onto the post and Barcham’s follow-up was then pushed away by Pidgeley.
Wallace found the woodwork again soon after, this time clipping the top of the bar with a drifting cross from the right.
Pompey were unable to find a way back into the game, however, as Barker’s reign started with a defeat.
Pompey (4-4-2): Carson; Moutaouakil, Devera, Bradley, Potts; Barcham, Racon, Cooper (Ferry 80), Holmes (Wallace 66); Agyemang (Bird 66), Connolly (c)
Booked: Potts, Cooper
Subs not used: Sullivan, N’Gala, Ertl, Padovani
Newport (3-4-3): Pidgeley; Worley, Oshilaja, Sandell; Pipe, Chapman, Flynn (Minshull 85), Jackson; Washington (Crow 42), Jolley (Naylor 80), Willmott
Goals: Flynn 64, 67
Booked: Oshilaja, Pidgeley, Chapman, Worley
Subs not used: James, Barker
Referee: Darren Deadman
Attendance: 15,295 (864 away fans)