To coin a modern footballing phrase, something the County have always possessed during the tenure of Justin Edinburgh is ‘bouncebackability;’ and that proved to be the case again, as the Exiles banished any lingering memory of last Saturday’s three-goal trouncing at Rochdale by inflicting an identical score-line onto York City. Indeed, but for a couple of interventions from the frame of the visitors’ goal, the margin of victory would have been even more emphatic. Newport’s intent was evident from as early as twenty seconds into the contest, when Adam Chapman rattled the crossbar with an exquisite volley. From thereon, despite conceding large chunks of possession to the Minstermen, County displayed a hungry streak all afternoon to outline their Football League credentials once more.
This was the first time the two sides had met since that sunny day at Wembley in May of 2012, and the huge strides of progress County have made since was another factor clearly visible. The Newport boss made a few brave selection decisions for this one, not least the selection of right-back Ryan Jackson in place of skipper David Pipe. Elsewhere, Tom Naylor came in to lend authority in midfield as the Exiles reverted back to their favoured 5-3-2 formation. As previously alluded to, just twenty seconds had elapsed when Adam Chapman swung his boot at Chris Zebroski’s pass, only to see his superb effort rocket back off the crossbar with City keeper Michael Ingham a virtual spectator.
A sudden downpour an hour before kick-off had left a lot of surface water on the Rodney Parade pitch, something that County used to their advantage as they zipped the ball around. Conor Washington might have put the Exiles in front on 12 minutes, wriggling free before firing wide, whilst at the other end, an Ashley Chambers shot was deflected narrowly wide. Washington, having his usual excellent game, soon threatened again as he curled wide, before Josh Carson was literally inches away from scoring for York from a Fletcher cross.
That proved to be a huge turning point when, within twenty seconds of that miss, County were in front. Chapman led the charge out before finding Jackson on the right, and his low cross was turned back by Washington for Chris Zebroski to stab home on 23 minutes. Eight minutes later came an incident that could have altered the destiny of the match; Lenny Pidgeley being pulled up for not releasing the ball quickly enough. A yellow card was brandished after the keeper had kicked the ball away in frustration; but, after Newport had blocked the resulting free-kick from just inside the area, the subsequent applause from the stopper directed at referee Mr. Salisbury wasn’t the wisest of reactions. Another yellow could have easily been brandished there.
As it was, County duly doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time with a marvellous effort from Lee Minshull; his first goal of the season surprisingly. Picking the ball up via a fortunate deflection off the match official, the Tank looked up before curling a terrific effort past Ingham and into the top corner. A minute shy of that, the Exiles had been forced to switch back to 4-4-2 when Robbie Willmott was introduced for the injured Harry Worley; but County were into their stride now and continued to look on top in the second period too; Washington striking the base of the post on 49 minutes following a delicious turn.
Zebroski was next to go close to adding a third, whilst York, for all their possession rarely troubled Pidgeley during a comfortable second-half for the hosts. Chapman with a rare lack of control spurned another opening, whilst Washington’s low ball looking for Zebroski unmarked in front of goal just evaded the big striker. The gloss on a satisfying afternoon for all in amber eventually arrived just a minute from time; Danny Crow netting County’s third from Willmott’s free-kick from all of a yard out.
“I am absolutely delighted,” explained the County boss afterwards; “Last week we were short but I was delighted for my players today, they were worthy for the win. My line-up was particularly difficult; any of the ones who dropped out couldn’t complain and the ones who stayed in were lucky. I told the players that I kept in that they owed the ones who dropped out a good performance, because anyone could have bitten the bullet after last weekend. However it’s one bad performance and we have to keep that in perspective. The turning point today was when Ismail Yakubu made a great interception and we went up the other end and scored. The players did exactly what we asked; we wanted a reaction and it came, while everything we said we’d do we did.”