County’s first Football League outing inside a quarter of a century certainly lived up to the hype; the carnival atmosphere inside the ground was one you simply wish you could bottle. Sunny Rodney Parade was a sea of excitedly smiling faces bedecked in amber, the place literally throbbing and pulsating with anticipation. All that remained was for the team to do their bit and a perfect day was complete; and boy they didn’t disappoint. A super brace from debutant Chris Zebroski, after fellow new-boy Harry Worley had grabbed that iconic first goal was perfection enough; but the Christian Jolley curler that sealed the afternoon’s script was pure poetry.
Visitors Accrington were always going to be on a hiding to nothing on such an emotional day, but to their credit, they made life tough during an even opening period in which Zebroski thought he’d scored, only to be thwarted by a rather obvious handball call. Indeed there was little to separate the teams until the 25th minute, when the aforementioned Worley smashed home a goal that will forever earn him a place in Newport folklore. A long throw from Adam Chapman fell perfectly inside the packed box, where Worley remained as cool as a veritable cucumber to blast home with one shrewd swing of his left peg.
With the shackles now thrown clear, the Exiles began to enjoy themselves with the classy Chapman pulling all the strings in midfield. Two minutes before the interval he orchestrated a second County goal; his searing run and subsequent ball out to the wing with the outside of his boot was pure Football League quality. The rampaging Christian Jolley was the chap on the end of it, and he wasted no time before delivering a low cross into the box that Zebroski simply buried.
There was precious little respite for James Beattie’s Stanley after the break neither; just ten minutes of the second-half had elapsed before the mercurial Jolley brought the house down with a stunning individual effort. Receiving a pass from skipper Pipe, Jolley teased and jinked his way towards the visitors’ goal before unleashing a left-footed curler that bent home quite majestically. Poor Ian Dunbavin in the Accrington goal didn’t stand an earthly in stopping that one.
With the ground already in raptures, the icing on a very special cake duly arrived on 66 minutes; Zebroski treating the home faithful to another epic goal. Pipe crossed deep to the far post, where Sandell climbed highest to nod the ball back; the skilful Zebroski did the rest, slamming home a perfect volley on the turn ‘a-la-Zidane’ as the stadium erupted once more. Not even a Stanley consolation three minutes later could take the sheen off this one; Accrington’s own debutant, Danny Webber seizing upon a loose ball to fire coolly past Jamie Stephens in the Newport goal. Wasn’t it Harold MacMillan who told us we’d never had it so good?!
“I was very pleased with the start of my partnership with Christian Jolley;” explained two-goal Chris Zebroski afterwards. “We got three goals between us and I thought our understanding was pretty good; our games perfectly suit each other. You won’t see many faster partnerships than Christian and I.” Delighted boss Justin Edinburgh added “My job as manager is to get the best out of the boys and sometimes to do that, you need to embrace the occasion and not shield them from it” he explained. “There aren’t many times this group of players ever let me down, I thought today was a really good team showing. I think this group will deliver whenever; there was more pressure on us today than for 18 months. These players set standards and maintain them; that’s just how they are.”