Matty Dolan scored his first goal of the 2018/19 campaign to ensure Newport County AFC made it three from three at Rodney Parade with a slender 1-0 victory over Grimsby Town.
In a game completely controlled by the Exiles from start to finish, it was a wonder how they couldn’t muster any further goals, but when it did come it was a goal worthy of winning any football match.
Five minutes before half-time, County finally broke the deadlock after a sublime 20-yard free-kick from Dolan. It showed his class to find the net, the midfielder sending a similar set-piece a mile over the crossbar shortly before, but getting his angles correct with this one to secure all three points.
Grimsby goalkeeper James McKeown made a couple of saves to deny County extending the lead, but one goal would have to do as the Exiles rose to 5th in the League Two table.
For the first time this season, Mike Flynn elected to name an unchanged team following Tuesday night’s thrilling stoppage time winner against Notts County.
That meant Mickey Demetriou again deputised as captain in Andrew Crofts’ absence, while Padraig Amond and Mark Harris continued up-front in the familiar 3-5-2 formation.
Grimsby Town manager Michael Jolley was forced to make one change to his starting side after their credible 1-1 draw at MK Dons last time out.
Paul Dixon was sent off in Buckinghamshire so missed out through suspension, his place in the 4-1-4-1 system being taken by Luke Hendrie at left-back.
In a similar vein to every game so far this season, the Exiles again started the brightest at Rodney Parade when controlling the preliminary stages of the contest.
Within two minutes of action, the Exiles were in on goal in bizarre circumstances. Mickey Demetriou’s decision to clear his lines paid dividends when his clearance looped over everyone and set Padraig Amond clear, but the Irishman couldn’t quite get the ball under his spell and Akin Famewo recovered to block.
The menacing threat of Amond and Mark Harris’ pace in behind was again causing problems for the away side, but having the screen of captain John Welsh did help his defence somewhat and limited the effectiveness of the County attack early on.
On the counter-attack, Grimsby created their best chance after 17 minutes. Some of their crosses into the area were causing trouble, and from this particular one Alex Whitmore rose highest to head across goal, but Mickey Demetriou got in the way to deflect the ball back to Joe Day.
Demetriou – on his son Theo’s first birthday – almost gave him the perfect present on the half-hour but after some intelligent work from a corner, could only send a snapshot wide of the top right corner.
Grimsby goalkeeper James McKeown was called into action for their first time shortly after, parrying a Dan Butler shot from 20 yards back into the danger area, which Tyler Forbes could only hit into Luke Hendrie.
All the play was coming from the Exiles and some quick interchange almost got them the opener on 34 minutes.
Forbes did well to play a ball back into Demetriou, that went to Josh Sheehan then Bakinson, before it eventually fell to Amond who shot past the near post after hitting Fraser Franks on the way through.
The goal was always going to come as County continued to have all the ascendency and they finally took the lead on 40 minutes.
After sending a previous free-kick a mile over the crossbar, Matty Dolan got his angles correct this time around and sent a 20-yard set-piece over the wall and into the left corner with the sort of conviction needed to break the deadlock against a stubborn defence.
But credit also had to go to Amond for Dolan being able to net the opener, the Irishman certainly psyching out former Mariners team-mate James McKeown whilst he was trying to set-up the wall and ultimately giving Dolan the angle to utilise.
That was the first time Grimsby had conceded first in a League Two fixture this season and it certainly worried them as it took them until the half-time whistle to settle down and try to get back into the game.
It was as comfortable a first-half performance from County as you could expect to see at Rodney Parade, but credit had to go to Grimsby for keeping the lead to just a solitary advantage.
Harris and Amond were again making a nuisance of themselves up-front, but the best player in a County shirt had to be Tyreeq Bakinson. He exuded class from start to finish in the opening 45 minutes and highlighted why parent club Bristol City had paid a substantial fee for his services.
That poise and composure from the Exiles carried into the second-half too and Bakinson almost got his just rewards for a class performance when sending a shot over the top following a menacing run.
Harris hit the side netting after yet more intricate play from the Exiles, but they were struggling to find that needed bit of clinicality to ensure that the three points would be staying in South Wales.
McKeown had to be alive to prevent Sheehan’s cross-shot creeping into the far corner, whilst Forbes dragged a shot narrowly wide as the chances just kept on coming for County.
On the counter, Grimsby almost grabbed an unlikely leveller when Martyn Woolford waltzed his way into the area after skipping past three challenges, but Dolan capped a fine individual display with a late challenge.
The Mariners had to start chucking things at the Exiles in hope of an unlikely equaliser, but their cause wasn’t helped when substitute Wes Thomas picked up a straight red card for a hefty challenge on Forbes.
County were able to hold on from there with relative ease as they were able to secure a more than deserved three points.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Butler, Demetriou (C), Bennett, Franks, Pipe, Dolan (Cooper 81’), Bakinson, Sheehan (Matt 86’), Amond, Harris (Semenyo 72’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Pipe, Foulston, O’Brien
Grimsby Town (4-1-4-1): McKeown, Davis, Whitmore, Famewo, Hendrie, Welsh (C), Woolford (Vernam 75’), Clifton (Mitch Rose 45’), Hessenthaler, Hooper (Thomas 55’), Cook
Subs not used: Russell, Robles, Fox, A.Rose
Referee: Neil Hair
Attendance: 3,288 (242 AWAY)
Next up for County: Oxford United (HOME) 28th August 2018 – Carabao Cup Second Round