Mike Flynn heaped praise on his entire Newport County AFC side by saying the victory over league leaders Accrington Stanley at Rodney Parade was the perfect response to falling behind expected standards last weekend.
After weathering an early storm from the champions elect, County took the lead in South Wales on the half-hour mark when Padraig Amond popped up to score against his former employers.
The opening goal was the product of some intricate passing play by the Exiles, Ben White and Josh Sheehan both involved on the right-hand side, before playing the ball into the centre for Ben Tozer to run forward with intent before feeding it into the path of Padraig Amond.
The Irishman did the rest and when Accrington goalkeeper Aaron Chapman committed himself and went to ground, Amond smashed the ball into the net from eight yards to give County a lead at the break.
Joe Day had to be at his magnificent best to preserve that lead during the second-half and was required to make another three world-class saves by the time 65 minutes had elapsed on the scoreboard.
Strikers Kayden Jackson and Billy Kee were both denied at point-blank range as Stanley searched for the precious goal that may have confirmed them as League 2 champions, while the best save was yet to come as Day shouldered another effort from Mark Hughes onto the post and away from danger.
County again battled their way through that spell of possession for the away side and duly doubled their lead in the final ten minutes.
Frank Nouble was the man to get it, scoring for the first time since the 13th January in the process, and it was a goal all of his own making. The striker picked up the ball out-wide with a lot of work still yet to do, but Nouble was up to the task, skipping past two challenges before curling an effort into the far corner from 20 yards.
Before heading to Rodney Parade, the away side had scored in every game since 16th December and they weren’t about to give that statistic up too easily and they found a route back into the game at the start of stoppage time.
Billy Kee forced the ball home from two yards amidst a host of bodies in the County penalty area, but the Exiles held on to put the Accrington title champagne on hold for at-least another four days by securing a hard-fought victory.
The visitors had only dropped seven points from 19 games ahead of their trip to South Wales, the last 15 of which they had been unbeaten from, and Flynn was delighted to see his side show just how good they are by picking up another positive result at home.
“I thought they were excellent,” he affirmed.
“Slow-start – I always try and be honest with how we do, and the outcome is that we did have a bit of a slow start and we just had to grow into the game.
“We should have scored more, and it should have been more comfortable. I’m still waiting to win a game without my blood pressure going through the ceiling.”
With Amond and Nouble getting the goals at Rodney Parade, it was interestingly the first time that the pair had scored in the same game since the thumping win over Chesterfield in late August.
The Irishman now extends his lead as County’s top scorer for the campaign and moves up to 14 goals, ten of which have come in South Wales, while Nouble moves onto nine for the season.
And Flynn says the goals on the night were just rewards for two players who never stopped trying to make an impact on proceedings from the first whistle.
“Yeah they were great goals,” he added.
“I thought Padraig Amond was the best player on the park. I thought he was absolutely outstanding and he was a pleasure to watch tonight. Lots of other good performances but I have to say that he was the stand-out performer.
“I’m really pleased that Frank has managed to get a goal, it’s been a while, and someone with his ability should be scoring more.
“Just because things weren’t quite going for Frank at the start, he still puts a shift in. He cares about the club, he cares about his team-mates and he cares about his career.
“He’s just laid back. I’m not getting carried away just because he scored a goal, but he does care. That’s the most important thing.”
The most pleasing thing for Flynn about Nouble’s goal in particular was County’s ability to extend a lead in the second-half and not invite too much pressure from the opposition.
The Exiles had only scored once in the second-half from the previous six matches, that coming when Mickey Demetriou scored a consolation against Crewe last month, but this time it was Nouble to pop up late-on and secure County back-to-back home league victories for the first time since January.
And Flynn was pleased to see his side continue their positive exploits from the first-half and take them into the second-half at Rodney Parade.
“Of course we do [go for more goals,]” he continued.
“I have never ever given them the instructions to sit back. If you sit back against a quality team like Accrington, then you are asking for trouble.
“They threw caution to the wind, had nothing to lose and in the end, a draw would have won them the title.
“They will win the league – 100% they will win the league, but I’m just glad it wasn’t here.”
A first defeat in 16 league matches for the visitors sees the champagne have to go on ice for their title coronation, although a point on Saturday at home to Lincoln City would see them crowned champions.
And while Flynn was pleased to see his side overcome the league leaders - he couldn’t praise John Coleman, his coaching staff and his players enough for securing a first ever promotion into the third tier for the club.
He stated: “It’s not something where I’m glad to get one over on Accrington Stanley, I’m just glad that we picked up the three points.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for John Coleman and a lot of their players and staff, Jimmy Bell and the others at the club.
“They are a fantastic group, got a great team spirit and you saw that they went until the end tonight.
“That was in my team-talk. Do not switch off because they will go to the last minute. They did at their place as-well where they nearly turned it around and could have beat us in the last couple of minutes.
“I’m just pleased that we got the three points.”
The game at Rodney Parade also gave the Exiles a chance for normal service to be resumed, following the side slipping below expectations on the weekend during a defeat to struggling Barnet.
County failed to register a shot on target at the Hive but mustered eight against the league leaders, while they certainly had a lot more ascendency on proceedings at Rodney Parade by changing the possession stats from 46% to 55%.
And Flynn couldn’t contain his pride towards his players following a commanding performance at Rodney Parade.
“Of course it was [a superb performance],” he affirmed.
“That’s the frustrating part but it is what it is. We spoke about it after Saturday and nobody could really put a finger on what it was.
“Nobody went out onto that pitch against Barnet not to put in a shift for the football club because they do it day in day out.
“Saturday is when it matters, and it was a bad day. Like I said on Saturday, we prepared right and did everything right. That was the same team that beat Swindon comfortably, but it happens.
“It’s happened during my playing career as-well, but it’s gone now, and they’ve given me exactly the sort of reaction I wanted – beating the best team in the league.”
He added: “I’ve got a lot of time for all of these players at this football club. Believe me, every single one of them cares about this club.
“It hurts me, I’m as hurt as any other fan when we lose. It’s not a nice feeling when you lose a football match but it’s an amazing one when you win a game.
“They knew the standards were way off on Saturday and even though I told them, they have still put in a phenomenal amount of effort over the season.
“It’s been a remarkable turnaround from where we were last season. We’ve definitely progressed.”
* Photo by Mac Morgan
JUST ONE MORE CHANCE TO WATCH THE EXILES AT HOME THIS SEASON.
Newport County AFC
28th April 2018 | 3pm