Tyreeq Bakinson’s first goal in professional football ensured Newport County AFC moved joint-top of the League Two table with a resilient 1-0 victory at Oldham Athletic.
In County’s first visit to Boundary Park for 37 years, the game started off at a quick tempo but neither side could really assert any ascendency on the contest during the first-half.
There was a lot of endeavour but no real end product as both defences made it extremely difficult for the other, but when County created their best chance it was taken with the sort of aplomb required to secure victory in one of the toughest away days of the season.
David Pipe’s tenacious work down the right resulted in a cross into the area, that was cleared as far as Matty Dolan then Dan Butler, the left-back playing a splitting pass into Bakinson who took one touch before firing a shot across Zeus De La Paz into the far corner from 10 yards.
That was enough to give County their fourth successive league victory and first ever away triumph at Oldham Athletic, and the Exiles moved joint top of the division after Lincoln City’s shock home defeat to Crawley Town.
Mike Flynn elected to make one change to the side that ascended into the automatic promotion places last weekend with a resilient and hard-fought 2-1 victory at Port Vale.
Mark Harris was the only absentee from that win in Stoke-On-Trent, but he was away on international duty with Wales U21s, his place in the team being taken up-front by Jamille Matt.
That like-for-like change meant the Exiles kept to the ever so effective 3-4-1-2 formation at Boundary Park, a stadium the club hadn’t won at in their previous history and hadn’t even visited since a 1981 League Cup tie.
Oldham Athletic manager Frankie Bunn chose to make four changes to his side that rose into the play-offs last weekend with a stoppage time winner at home against Crawley Town.
Like Flynn, Bunn was also missing two players from his first-team squad for international duty – Gevaro Nepomuceno and goalkeeper Daniel Iversen – and they were both replaced by Zeus De La Paz and birthday boy Callum Lang respectively.
After impressing once again whilst scoring in their midweek defeat to Barnsley, Sam Surridge was restored to the starting league side in place of Jose Baxter, with the changes of a 4-4-2 formation being completed by Andy Taylor’s inclusion for Samuel Graham.
The first half was certainly an interesting affair, both sides creating a couple of chances when afforded the space to put a passage of play together, but the game was that even it was impossible to get a foothold within it for a sustained amount of time.
The battle between Fraser Franks and Latics striker Sam Surridge was certainly the most interesting thing to look out for in those opening 45 minutes, both getting the better of each other at times, but Franks was the happier after preventing limited sights at goal for the frontman.
Oldham’s only real opportunity came just before the half-hour, midfielder Callum Lang – who looked the liveliest player from either side during the half – had a sight of goal but after a deflection off Franks it went easily into the clutches of Joe Day.
The Latics’ greatest threat came when sending several tempting crosses into the area towards the imposing presence of Surridge and Chris O’Grady, but Joe Day was equal to most of them in tough wet and windy conditions to clear the danger.
County had their greatest spell of possession just after the 32-minute mark when they were finally afforded some space out wide.
Dan Butler, Matty Dolan and Tyreeq Bakinson all combined down the left-side with a neat interchange passing movement, Butler’s cross into the area flicked back by Jamille Matt into Josh Sheehan, but his shot was thwarted by the lightning reactions of Zeus De La Paz in the Latics goal.
The Oldham goalkeeper – making his first league appearance of the season – was called into action again from the resulting corner-kick, leaping high into the air to prevent Franks’ snapshot after a clever pass from Amond.
Day’s gloves were tested just once more from that point until the half-time whistle, midfielder Dan Gardner skipping past David Pipe’s challenge out-wide during his mazy run that was eventually stopped by Day’s acrobatics after standing firm and refusing to go to ground.
One word to summarise that half would have been cagey, but it certainly wasn’t in the second-half as both sides could have broken the deadlock within five minutes of the restart.
Matty Dolan’s delivery sat up nicely for Demetriou on the edge-of-the-area after 47 minutes, but De La Paz was again equal to the header as he tipped it over the crossbar.
Lang was causing the Exiles trouble again with a mazy run through the middle past three challenges, electing to unselfishly square for Surridge, but instead of shooting he decided to pass towards Branger but it drifted out for a goal kick.
The Gabonese midfielder eventually created a sight at goal for himself after failing to connect to the prior cross, but Day stood firm to deny his snapshot and minutes later his header.
Some unbelievable last-ditch defending from Bennett prevented the effervescent Lang from breaking away towards the area, the County defender intercepting the play with a slide-tackle after Surridge’s flick-on.
That decisive intervention became even more pivotal when County took the lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Pipe’s cross was only half-cleared out towards Matty Dolan, the midfielder found Butler about 40 yards out, he played a splitting pass into the path of Bakinson who controlled it before smashing across goal from ten yards for his first goal in professional football.
Flynn had previously said if Bakinson could shoot he would be the “deal of the century” and the midfielder certainly showed the poise required to make it at the top level – taking his chance when it came to give County a priceless lead.
Substitute Keanu Marsh-Brown almost doubled that advantage just a minute later, but after knocking the ball past De La Paz, it trickled just wide of the post as the attacker was about to retrieve it and pass into an empty net.
Oldham’s substitute Jose Baxter also came on and made a difference, seeing a shot saved smartly by Day from outside the area, before setting up Branger who headed clear over the crossbar.
Five minutes were indicated at the end of the contest but County held out resolutely just like they did last time out at Port Vale, securing their first ever victory at Boundary Park with another resilient and inspired performance.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Pipe, Franks, Demetriou (C), Bennett, Butler, Dolan, Bakinson, Sheehan (O’Brien 83’), Matt (Marsh-Brown 74’), Amond
Subs not used: Townsend, Pring, Forbes, Crofts, Cooper
Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): De La Paz, Hunt, Edmundson, Clarke (C), Taylor, Lang, Gardner, Missilou (Maouche 89’), Branger-Engone (Benteke 90’), Surridge, O’Grady (Baxter 75’)
Subs not used: McFarlane, Graham, Stott, Hamer
Referee: Mark Heywood
Attendance: 4,293 (259 AWAY)
Next up for County: Swindon Town (11th August 2018) AWAY – CheckaTrade Trophy