Newport County AFC staged a remarkable comeback at Rodney Parade to come from two goals down and win 4-2 against Cambridge United.
The Exiles started off slow in South Wales and were left to rue giving Reggie Lambe too much time and space around the area and the attacking midfielder found the net twice in 21 minutes with superb finishes.
Jamille Matt’s introduction just before half-time turned the game back in County’s favour and they were rewarded for their persistence when Mickey Demetriou converted a penalty in additional time at the end of the first-half.
Dan Butler then took centre-stage in the second-half when providing three assists for the County attacking force, first for Padraig Amond to prod home, then for Matt to get a double in quick succession as the Exiles defied all odds to win at Rodney Parade.
The victory keeps County in the automatic promotion spots and up to second after Exeter City conceded late on, three points behind league leaders Lincoln City and four points ahead of the chasing teams currently occupying the play-off positions.
Mike Flynn made two changes from the side that kept County in the automatic promotion spots of the League Two table with a hard fought and gritty victory at Tranmere Rovers last weekend.
Goalkeeper Joe Day missed out due to personal reasons so that gave Nick Townsend his inaugural Football League berth for the Exiles, while Matty Dolan missed out through injury and was replaced by Josh Sheehan.
Those like-for-like changes meant it was again the ever so effective 3-5-2 formation at Rodney Parade, with Padraig Amond and Antoine Semenyo up-front.
Cambridge United manager Joe Dunne made three changes to his starting side that fought back to earn a point at home against Mansfield Town last time out.
Captain Gary Deegan missed out after he accrued a suspension for five yellow cards, the armband going to Greg Taylor, while Barr Corr dropped to the bench and David Amoo missed out completely from the matchday squad.
Jabo Ibehre recovered from injury to start as the lone striker, while Liam O’Neil and George Taft were also restored to the starting line-up as the visitors switched to a 4-3-3 formation in South Wales.
Cambridge headed into proceedings on the back of a rotten run of results in League Two but certainly helped their cause somewhat by opening the scoring after just four minutes.
Mark O’Brien’s injury after two minutes affected County’s start, Charlie Cooper coming on in his place, and the visitors capitalised on the Exiles having to move players around when finding the target.
It came from the left-hand side, Jake Carroll, George Maris and Reggie Lambe all combining, before the latter was afforded too much space outside the area to pick his spot inside the bottom far corner from 20 yards.
That goal sparked life into County and they were unfortunate not to find an equaliser before the 20-minute mark, Padraig Amond acrobatically firing wide before Cooper wasted a glorious opportunity when found clear in the centre.
As County continued to pile forward in search of the equaliser, they were always left vulnerable at the back when committing men forward, and the away side again took advantage when doubling their lead on 21 minutes.
It was another goal of quality from Lambe as he found his second goal from his second attempt, the attacking midfielder this time found on the right and after dancing past Butler and Demetriou, who both perhaps went to ground too early, picked his spot in the top corner to increase the lead.
Scot Bennett went for the audacious when trying to get County back into the contest and wasn’t too far away from 45 yards, but something had to give if County were going to get back into the game.
Flynn went to the bench for the second time in the first-half when bringing Jamille Matt on for Sheehan, switching to a 4-3-3 formation, and County looked a completely different side after the attacker’s introduction.
Matt came close twice from successive Dan Butler corner-kicks, but even if he hadn’t found the net himself, his menacing presence up-front was causing numerous additional problems for the away side.
And Matt was again involved as the Exiles gave themselves a chance to get back into the contest when winning a penalty at the start of the three additional minutes.
Tyler Forbes’ long ball was nodded down well by Amond then Matt into the channel of Charlie Cooper and when Liam O’Neil went into a challenge a bit overzealous, the referee pointed to the spot and County had the chance to make a game of it.
Mickey Demetriou – somewhat desperate to get his first goal of the campaign after seeing his fellow defenders take the headlines in recent weeks – calmly dispatched the penalty hard into the bottom left corner and that certainly gave Flynn a different sort of team-talk at half-time.
It cannot be underestimated how much life was injected into the County side upon Matt’s introduction and that goal in stoppage time certainly gave the side something to fight for in the second-half.
The Exiles defence was looking back to their assured best after the second goal was conceded, thwarting Cambridge from having any further opportunities up until the half-time whistle.
They always say a goal on the stroke of half-time is one of the best times to score and County were still riding that wave when they found an equaliser just four minutes after the interval.
County were finally afforded space to put a succession of passes together and when Brad Halliday could only scuff a clearance inside the area, Amond reacted quickest to prod home the equaliser from close range.
The ascendency was quickly turning at Rodney Parade and Jamille Matt finally got the goal his game deserved when turning the game completely on its head exactly on the hour mark.
Antoine Semenyo’s persistence forced Halliday to hook a ball into Dan Butler’s path, and when Matt evaded the challenge of George Taft, the left-back found him with a superb delivery and a diving header later saw the Exiles in-front.
Cambridge didn’t know what had hit them, they were on the ropes, and County dealt what appeared to be the knockout blow when Matt got another just three minutes later.
It was a third assist of the afternoon for Butler, this time the left-back playing the perfect weighted ball from a free-kick and Matt again rose highest to head into the net past David Forde.
Semenyo almost made it five when shooting just wide but it appeared the Exiles were happy to see out proceedings and take the victory by a two-goal advantage.
In fact, no further chances could be created despite the five additional minutes added time, meaning County made it five wins on the spin against Cambridge United with an unbelievable comeback at Rodney Parade.
Newport County AFC (3-5-2): Townsend, Butler, Franks, O’Brien (Cooper 3’), Demetriou (C), Forbes, Bakinson, Bennett, Sheehan (Matt 39’), Amond, Semenyo (Pring 86’)
Subs not used: Pipe, Marsh-Brown, Harris
Cambridge United (4-3-3): Forde, Halliday, Taft (Lewis 66’), Taylor, John, Carroll, O’Neil (Corr 84’), Maris, Lambe, Brown (Azeez 69’), Ibehre
Subs not used: Iron, Osadebe, Davies, Knowles
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Attendance: 3,104 (111 AWAY)
Next up for County: Macclesfield Town (2nd October 2018) HOME