REPORT | Newport County AFC vs Yeovil Town FC
The Exiles are one point from safety after a determined 1-0 victory over Yeovil Town.
Mickey Demetriou scored the winner for the second successive game at Rodney Parade as his 53rd minute free-kick closed the gap even further on safety.
County defended their lead in determined style until the end and even had a few opportunities to increase their advantage.
But Mike Flynn said in Thursday’s press conference that he wanted to drag Yeovil into the League 2 “relegation dogfight” and that is exactly what the team did.
Flynn named an unchanged team to the side that beat play-off contenders Exeter City last time out. Sean Rigg, who missed the trip to Devon with an ankle injury made the bench.
Darren Way made five changes to his Glovers side that lost 3-1 at Portsmouth last time out. The most notable of those was in goal, with Jonny Maddison making his league debut for the Glovers in place of injured Artur Krysiak. Otis Khan would be making his first start since January and Nathan Smith came in as captain for his 250th Yeovil appearance.
Ahead of the game, this was one of the worst goal scoring fixtures in League 2 history, with just two goals scored in the three previous meetings since Yeovil’s relegation in 2015. And you would have been forgiven for thinking the game was heading that way again as neither side created a meaningful opportunity in the opening 10 minutes.
Alex Samuel almost nipped in from a David Pipe long ball in the 12th minute but debutant John Maddison came out quickly and forced the Swansea loanee into hooking his chipped effort over the crossbar.
Ryan Bird then came agonisingly close to giving County the lead on a quarter of an hour but he couldn’t quite clip Mitch Rose’s splitting pass on target.
The crowd sensed a goal was coming but Rose wasted a good build-up opportunity when he lashed over from 40-yards moments later.
Yeovil were offering very little at this point as County searched for the opener as Joe Day and his back 5 kept the Glovers spearhead attack out - Alex Lacey coming the closest for the visitors in the opening 20 minutes with a header that Day comfortably dealt with.
David Pipe had the opportunity to create something when he found space wide right but his cross drifted out of play. Rose then missed the target again with another long-range effort as County continued to pressure the visitors.
A succession of fouls from Yeovil then had the crowd in uproar wanting a yellow card and County nearly created the opener from the last of those free-kicks. Alex Samuel had found space in the area from Pipe’s cross and his shot on the turn looked destined for the top-corner until Alex Lacey acrobatically dived to block the attempt. Bird then headed wide from the resulting throw-in.
Joe Day then had to be alert to smother a good Yeovil counter with Francois Zoko’s drilled delivery looking dangerous as it came in to a crowded County area.
Samuel, as busy as ever upfront, again came close in the 33rd minute after being found from Mickey Demetriou’s delivery but the Glovers stood firm to prevent ‘keeper Maddison being tested. Zoko went straight up the other end but couldn’t test Day.
Maddison would soon find himself making a smart save to deny ex-Glover Ryan Bird in the 37th minute as County continued to be the more likely to find the opener, with Samuel firing over shortly after.
A mistake at the back from Scot Bennett almost undid all that good County work but Zoko, looking for his 4th goal in five games couldn’t find the target at a tight angle.
Another dubious penalty decision then again went against County. After Ryan Bird had tumbled in the area, all eyes were on referee Dean Whitestone but he stood firm and waved no penalty.
Mark Randall and Otis Khan both tangled just before half-time, with the two being the first to receive yellow cards.
That brought proceedings to a close for a low-key first half which County had clearly edged but could find no breakthrough. Glovers keeper Maddison would have been happy with his first 45 minutes as a League 2 goalkeeper as the 22-year-old looked composed between the sticks and had dealt confidently with what County provided.
Flynn decided to shake things up for the start of the second, with Sean Rigg replacing Mark O’Brien as County appeared to change to a 4-1-3-2 from the usual 5-3-2.
And Rigg almost got involved straight away with a nice pass through to Samuel, but Nathan Smith dealt with the danger.
Otis Khan then tried his luck for the visitors but his effort sailed way over the bar.
Scot Bennett then came close to giving County the lead in the 57th minute but his header from Randall’s corner went wide.
Then, in the 59th minute County finally took the lead. Mickey Demetriou, with his 2nd goal in three matches fired home a 25-yard freekick that left Maddison with no chance. Ryan Bird said in his press-conference that the team have a habit of scoring ‘worldies’ and this was another prime example. As it stood at that point, County were out of the drop-zone. But that didn’t last more than 60 seconds as Rhys Oates levelled for Hartlepool against Carlisle United.
Glovers boss Darren Way retaliated by replacing Otis Khan with Jean Louis Akpa Akpro.
‘The Port are staying up' sang from all corners of Rodney Parade as the Great Escape took another step towards an unlikely completion.
Matt Dolan tried his luck for the visitors in the 63rd minute but his 40-yard effort was never going to test Joe Day. Substitute Shayon Harrison then came close from a corner but Day was again equal to it.
Bird then fired home from close range, but his effort was adjudged offside. Rigg then came agonisingly close to a second for County but his effort drifted inches wide of the far post.
Samuel then wasted a glorious opportunity to double the advantage with a quarter of an hour left but his shot drifted wide of the far post.
Kevin Dawson then found himself in the book after preventing Alex Samuel from darting into the box. Sean Rigg couldn’t create anything from the resulting free-kick.
Substitute Jean Louis Akpa Akpro came inches away from a leveller with 10 minutes to go but his header went wide.
Sean Rigg then forced a decent block form full-back Liam Shephard as County continued to press for another.
The indication of six additional minutes did nothing to ease County home but the Exiles defended like at Exeter last week to secure a third straight 1-0 win.
It also meant Flynn had five wins from his eight games in charge as County took another giant stride towards safety.
Flynn said in his programme notes that last week’s performance at Exeter was the best of his interim spell in charge - but he would have been equally as pleased with this performance as County showed the determination needed to survive.
The team will be heading to Plymouth on Monday ready to take another step and spoil the Pilgrim’s promotion party.
County: Day, Pipe (C), Bennett, Demetriou, O’Brien (Rigg 45), Butler, Randall (Jones 86), Rose, Owen-Evans, Bird, Samuel (Williams 90+6)
Subs not used: Bittner, Gordon, Barnum-Bobb, Myrie Williams
Yeovil: Maddison, Shephard, Smith (C), Dolan, Lacey, Dawson, Khan (Akpa Akpro 60), Dickson, Zoko, Butcher (Lawless 75), Sowumni (Harrison 67)
Subs not used: Mugabi, James, Eaves, Goodship
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 3,789 (396 away)
Next up on Parade: Accrington Stanley (22nd April)