Newport County AFC secured back-to-back victories at home for the first time since January as the Exiles put Accrington Stanley’s League 2 title party on hold with a 2-1 victory at Rodney Parade.
The opening goal for the Exiles came directly on the half-hour mark and it gave Padraig Amond his 14th goal of the season.
It was the product of some superb passing work from County on the right-hand side, Ben White and Josh Sheehan both involved, before Ben Tozer played the ball through for Amond to smash home from eight yards after the Accrington goalkeeper had committed himself and gone to ground.
Joe Day had to be at his magnificent best to preserve that lead during the second-half and was required to make another three world-class saves by the time 65 minutes had elapsed on the scoreboard.
Strikers Kayden Jackson and Billy Kee were both denied at point-blank range as Stanley searched for the precious goal that may have confirmed them as League 2 champions, while the best save was yet to come as Day shouldered another effort from Mark Hughes onto the post and away from danger.
The Exiles weathered that storm and put themselves in a much more commanding position with just five minutes remaining as Frank Nouble scored for the first time since January to double the advantage.
It was a goal started and finished by Nouble. The striker picked up the ball out-wide with a lot of work still yet to do, but Nouble was up to the task, skipping past two challenges before curling an effort into the far corner from 20 yards.
The away side certainly made things interesting right at the start of the added time, however, getting a goal back when talisman Billy Kee poked home amidst a host of bodies in the County box.
The Exiles held on despite five minutes of additional time at Rodney Parade, moving up a place to 13th in the process, while the champagne had to put on ice for at-least another four days when Stanley go again to try and secure the title.
Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the starting side that last played on Saturday in the defeat at relegation threatened Barnet.
The first of those alterations came in the defence as Mark O’Brien came back into the side for his first start since 30th March having overcome a recent knee complaint, replacing Scot Bennett who missed out from the entire matchday squad through injury.
Flynn also decided to name Josh Sheehan in the starting side for the first time since the clash with Crewe Alexandra on March 24th, taking the place of David Pipe who was named amongst the substitutes.
Despite that alteration not necessarily being a like-for-like one, the Exiles were still able to name a 3-5-2 formation from the first whistle at Rodney Parade, as Robbie Willmott dropped back into right wing-back and Sheehan moving into the midfield.
The final change came up-front for the Exiles, with Frank Nouble replacing Aaron Collins in the starting side to lead the line for County alongside Padraig Amond.
Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman decided to name the same starting side for the fifth successive match, although their last game came on Saturday when they did a demolition job on automatic promotion hopefuls Wycombe Wanderers in a 4-0 success at Adams Park.
That saw the away side line-up in their familiar 4-4-2 formation at Rodney Parade, with Billy Kee and Kayden Jackson, who had 41 goals between them before the game, leading the line for Stanley.
Stanley came to Rodney Parade needing just a point to secure the League 2 title following confirming a minimum of promotion last week, so it was no surprise that they bossed the opening proceedings of the contest.
They couldn’t quite force Joe Day into any difficult saves with all that possession from the opening 10 minutes, however, although they were playing some very intricate play along the floor out-wide with Jordan Clark and Sean McConville.
Some clever work from Josh Sheehan did provide County with some rest-bite shortly after, although after skipping four challenges with ease and being hacked to the ground, the midfielder couldn’t get the resulting free-kick on target as it sailed high and wide out of the stadium.
The pressure from the away side did continue following that short spell of possession for County, and they almost found the target with a free-kick of their own, but McConville couldn’t get the desired height to lift it over a resilient wall from the Exiles.
Despite all the possession seemingly coming through the superb running and passing work from Stanley, it was in-fact the Exiles to muster the first shot on target in the contest.
It came after 19 minutes and it was the product of some neat build-up play by Dan Butler and Frank Nouble on the left-hand side. The latter’s cross was inch perfect for Padraig Amond, although away goalkeeper Aaron Chapman read the situation well to make an easy save.
That started a good spell of possession for the Exiles at Rodney Parade and they should have taken the lead after 24 minutes, only for Nouble to blaze over the bar from six yards out having been set up perfectly by Amond.
All that hard-work from County in gaining the ascendency could have been for nothing, however, as the visitors almost took the lead themselves after 29 minutes.
Nouble was dispossessed near the centre circle which allowed Scott Brown to play a splitting ball into the path of Jackson who was just 20 yards away from goal, only for Demetriou to recover back and put in a last-ditch sliding tackle to prevent the striker getting the shot away.
And that tackle from the County centre-half looked even more important when the Exiles took the lead just 60 seconds following that chance.
It was another spell of good passing play from the Exiles to create the opener, Ben White and Josh Sheehan both involved, before Ben Tozer played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Amond just eight yards out – and when the goalkeeper committed himself and fell to the floor, Amond smashed the attempt into the far corner.
That gave the Exiles even more confidence to build on, that clearly doing the trick for Nouble following the goal, and his speculative attempt from 35 yards caused a host of problems for Chapman what with the swirling conditions at Rodney Parade.
But the goal also sparked Accrington back into action as they tried to wrap up the title as fast as they could, McConville getting the first shot on target for the away side with five minutes of the first half remaining.
That chance was the final one produced despite the indication of one additional minute at the end of the first-half, meaning the Exiles took a slender lead back with them to the dressing rooms.
You would have to say that the first-half was certainly a well-balanced affair at Rodney Parade, both sides having several spells in possession during the contest, although County - and Amond in particular - showed that bit of clinicality required to break the deadlock.
Sheehan was by far and above the best player in a County shirt during that opening half of football, controlling the midfield with ease and allowing the Exiles to create some chances.
The away side were also playing some great stuff as they looked to pip Luton Town to the League 2 title, putting together a succession of passes along the floor on quite a few occasions, although couldn’t find a way past Day and a resurgent County defence.
The second-half was certainly a more open affair and both sides had massive opportunities to score within five minutes of the restart.
Some clever play between Nouble, Sheehan and Amond afforded the Irishman with another opportunity to shoot, this time from 25 yards and with a swirling wind behind the attempt, only for Chapman to follow the flight of the ball and tip it around his near post.
At the other end, Day had to make another world class save to keep the visitors at bay.
Jackson had too much strength to outmuscle his way past Demetriou and into the danger area, pulling the ball back for an onrushing Kee to strike from six yards, although Day somehow got a leg to it.
And Day was required to make smart saves on another two occasions before the hour mark, first denying Jackson from close range, before acrobatically diverting a volley from Clark over the crossbar.
Despite that host of unbelievable saves from the County shot stopper, the best was still yet to come, and it came on 68 minutes.
A corner-kick evaded everyone but Mark Hughes in the County penalty area, smashing a volley towards goal with emphatic pace from as little as four yards out, although Day somehow shouldered the ball onto the post and kept it out.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Exiles could have put the game beyond doubt when on the counter-attack, Amond becoming the benefactor from a splitting pass by Willmott but Chapman made a smart save.
County substitute Aaron Collins also came close with ten minutes remining when drawing another fine save from Chapman, but the game was eventually put beyond any doubt five minutes before the end.
Nouble was the man to get it, superbly cutting in from the right past two challenges with sublime skill, before burying a curling attempt right into the far corner from 25 yards.
The away side were still intent of making a game of it, however, and they had a deserved goal themselves at the start of the added time when Billy Kee stabbed home amidst a host of bodies in the County penalty area.
But the Exiles held on despite Accrington just needing another goal to wrap up the League 2 title, ensuring County’s recent good record against the Lancashire outfit continues for at-least another season.
Exiles: Day, Butler, Demetriou, O’Brien (C), White, Willmott, Dolan, Sheehan (Collins 71’), Tozer, Amond, Amond
Subs not used: Bittner, Pipe, Jackson, Reid, Jahraldo, Hayes
Accrington Stanley: Chapman, Johnson (Zanzala 75’), Dunne, Hughes, Donacien, Clark, Brown, Conneely (C), McConville, Jackson, Kee
Subs not used: Richards-Everton, Nolan, Williams, Maxted, Sousa, Rodgers
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 2,370 (189 AWAY)
Next up for County: Cambridge United (28th April 2018) HOME