Ben Tozer scored a stunning header with twelve minutes remaining to see Newport County AFC to a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Swindon Town.
The match-winner came after what was a very slow opening first-half, no real chances created from either side, only the one shot on target which came from a Matt Taylor 55-yard strike.
And Swindon looked to be having the greater chances in the second-half, Harry Smith and Keshi Anderson wasting glorious chances in the penalty area.
But as is so often the case in football, County made sure the Robins were made to pay for those missed opportunities as Tozer got the match-winner.
It came from a superb corner delivery from Matty Dolan, with Tozer getting his just rewards for an impressive display, as his header was too powerful for Reice Charles-Cook in the away goal.
That was his first goal in just over a year and it secured County a first win in League 2 since October 14th, moving the Exiles up a place to 9th in the table and just two points outside the play-offs.
Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Barnet at Rodney Parade on Tuesday night.
Interestingly, that saw a change in all of the defence, midfield and attack as the Exiles reverted back to the familiar 3-5-2 formation at the County Ground.
That saw captain Joss Labadie make his first start since 17th October, replacing the injured Robbie Willmott. Mark O’Brien also missed out through injury, as Dan Butler returned.
The final change saw Padraig Amond make way for Shawn McCoulsky up-front, as another County striker Momodou Touray made the bench after his three-month stint with Merthyr Town.
Swindon manager David Flitcroft made two changes to his side that lost through a late winner to Grimsby Town in midweek.
That meant Paul Mullin and Ellis Iandolo came in to the starting side, in place of Kellan Gordon and Kaiyne Woolery, as the Robins nominated a 4-2-3-1 system in-front of their home support.
Both sides shared the opening ten minutes of the contest, with the defences of either side dealing well with the aerial pressure in the opening proceedings. Keshi Anderson did have an opening for Swindon, although couldn’t test Joe Day in the County goal with the effort just inside the area.
County, debuting the all-black kit in Wiltshire for the first-time this season, had to wait until the 12th minute to materialise their first chance of the afternoon.
Matty Dolan caused havoc in the area from his corner and after Frank Nouble had flicked on, the ball wouldn’t quite present itself to an awaiting McCoulsky, as Swindon captain Olly Lancashire managed to clear from all of two yards.
County were certainly having a greater spell of possession after a cagey opening 20 minutes. Nouble was looking particularly impressive, using his strength to open up the Swindon defence, although all County could muster was a Labadie shot that curled over on 25 minutes.
The ascendency was certainly changing in Wiltshire, and after McCoulsky did superbly well to out-sprint the two centre-halves, he played the ball back to Butler who was inches away from finding the far post.
On the half hour mark, Mullin had an opportunity for the home side on the counter-attack. Anderson did well to find the ex-Morecambe man on the edge-of-the-area and after spinning Bennett, fired well wide of the crossbar.
Bennett did well to close the angle down, but unfortunately sustained an injury in doing so. That ended his afternoon early, with Sean Rigg replacing the defender, as Tozer retreated into the defence with the formation staying the same.
Mullin fired well wide again after cutting inside from the right-hand side on 39 minutes, with Matt Taylor at-least registering the first shot on target for Swindon just after, although in reality it was a shot from at-least 55 yards.
But even the indication of two minutes of additional time couldn’t inspire either side to create any further opportunities as the two teams went in goalless at the break.
You would have to say that there was certainly a lot of effort, a lot of endeavour from both sides in the opening 45 minutes, even if only a few chances were created. Both sides were cancelling each-other out somewhat, with Michael Flynn probably the happier of the two managers at the break.
And after Swindon looked to have made the livelier start to the second-half with some intricate passing, it was in-fact County to have the opening opportunity of the half. However, Dolan could only fire the free-kick into the wall from a positive position.
Swindon were certainly having the better of things as the game approached the hour mark, even if County were dealing well with any potential threat.
Butler had to clear one away with Anderson lurking on the edge of the area after super work from Ellis Iandolo down the left, for the best opening of the first 15 minutes of the second-half.
A deflection off Olly Lancashire may have saved the home side shortly after, however, with the central-defender blocking a Labadie effort to send the shot wide.
It may have originally been heading wide anyway, and the home side were again straight up the other end from the corner and attacking the Exiles.
If Harry Smith had been a little more alert he may have tested Day, with the striker completely missing the Iandolo delivery that was rifled across the face of goal.
An injury to Tozer halted the proceedings with 20 minutes to go, one of the better players for County in the game after looking composed in two positions, although he was okay to return to the action after a slight time-out on the side-lines whilst receiving treatment.
But when he did return, he certainly made a significant impact on the proceedings.
Dolan whipped in a beautiful ball into the area, which Tozer met and fired a header that Charles-Cook could only turn into his own net, such was the power of the headed effort.
Flitcroft made a double substitution almost immediately to try to alter the proceedings, but you would have to say that County actually looked more likely to extend their lead as four minutes were indicated at the end of the match.
But then, Swindon did create some openings. Day was required to make a stunning save in the second minute of the additional time to deny substitute Kellan Gordon, as Demetriou had to clear one off the goal-line from the follow-up.
Matt Preston whacked one off the crossbar with 30 seconds to go as they really pushed for an equaliser, although that was the last chance they could muster as the referee blew his whistle for full-time.
It was certainly a happy first visit to the County Ground in 30 years for the Exiles, for their first league win in seven outings.
County: Day, Pipe, White, Bennett (Rigg 34’), Demetriou, Butler, Labadie (C) (Owen-Evans 89’), Dolan, Tozer, Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond 82’)
Subs not used: Bittner, Reynolds, Foulston, Touray
Swindon: Charles-Cook. Purkiss, Lancashire (C), Preston, Taylor, Dunne, Goddard (Wollery 76’), Mullin (Brophy 89’), Anderson, Iandolo (Gordon 79’), Smith
Subs not used: Henry, Robertson, Smith, Knoyle
Referee: James Linington
Attendance: 6,764 (880 Away)
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