Mike Flynn heaped praise on his entire Newport County AFC side after seeing them return to winning ways at Rodney Parade following a 2-1 victory over play-off chasing Swindon Town.
The Exiles were on the front foot from the first whistle in South Wales, winning the midfield battle that had been taking place early-on, and got a deserved lead after 14 minutes with the first real chance created by either team.
Aaron Collins skipped past two challenges on the County right-hand side before allowing David Pipe to guide a pinpoint delivery into the area for Padraig Amond to get hold of. It only required one touch to get it under his control, volleying a superb effort from the edge-of-the-area over away goalkeeper Stuart Moore and into the top left corner.
That was the Irishman’s first goal since the defeat to Lincoln City on January 30th and he was clearly playing with a new sense of confidence, trying an audacious overhead kick that Rollin Menayese had to deflect away from the near post.
County continued to command proceedings in the first-half at Rodney Parade, even if Swindon were slowly growing into it the longer it progressed, and they duly doubled the advantage with 35 minutes on the clock.
It was another inch perfect delivery into the Swindon penalty area that created the goal, this one from Ben White 25-yards out after Robins defender Chris Hussey could only clear another cross into his path.
Ben Tozer did the rest, guiding a header into the far bottom corner to ensure that he once again scored past his former employers – and it turned out to be another matchwinner after his solitary attempt at the County Ground on 25th November.
Swindon did find a way back into the game during the second-half and it was the combination of their double half-time substitutions that created the goal on 61 minutes.
Donal McDermott floated a delivery into the danger area which seemingly bypassed everyone on it’s way through, although Robins striker Paul Mullin may have got the slightest of touches to guide it past Joe Day.
Menayese was then dismissed for the Robins with 25 minutes remaining following a second bookable offence, referee Charles Breakspear electing to give the 20-year old his marching orders after a late challenge on Matty Dolan.
The Exiles were able to see the game out from there, creating a few more good chances themselves before the final whistle, although they had already done enough to secure a first league double over the Robins since 1956.
And Flynn attributed that first home victory for 85 days to the positive strides put in during the opening 45 minutes.
“I thought we were absolutely superb first-half,” he affirmed.
“The boys were back to what they do well and the things we work on in training. Different passing patterns, switching the play, and they did everything we asked from them.
“In all fairness, I think it should have been a couple more at half-time.”
Amond’s stunning finish saw him nominated for the Sky Sports goal of the day competition, while the strike also moved the Irishman ahead of Shawn McCoulsky in the goal scoring charts and now County’s sole top scorer with 13 for the campaign.
It was his first goal in County colours at Rodney Parade since the draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the Emirates FA Cup – and Flynn feels finding the back of the net was just rewards for Amond’s sensational work-rate off the ball in the intermittent period.
“Of course he could be [a 20-goal a season striker,]” he continued.
“He was excellent, he was superb today. His work rate is different class and he took his goal really well. He has been down on confidence, I know he has played most of the games or maybe every game, but strikers are a funny breed.
“They need goals and you just need that one to kickstart a run and to be honest, I think he would have taken one off his backside today.
“But that finish he has gone and done today was superb.”
The Exiles could possibly feel slightly aggrieved at not having more goals following a commanding home performance.
Moore made a smart save to deny County substitute Frank Nouble late on, while Tozer narrowly missed out on adding to his tally in the game after hitting the post in the dying seconds when attempting a long-range effort after Moore had come up for a corner.
And Flynn feels that it goes to show just how good County’s performance was on the day, that he is disappointed not to have added even more goals at Rodney Parade.
He stated: “The amount of chances we have been creating, we should be winning more convincingly. We had enough chances to make it a lot more convincing, maybe four or five, especially with the open goal that Tozer has missed.
“And I’ve just said in there now that Frank should have scored. I think he should have scored but when he came on, he did make a nuisance of himself.
“On the whole, I know they had ten men for 25 minutes, but even when they had 11 men we were the better team by far.”
Another disappointing factor for Flynn during the game in South Wales was the goal conceded just after the hour mark.
That was one of only two shots on target created by the away side, with Mickey Demetriou doing well to block another attempt from Mullin off the goal-line.
And Flynn felt his defence would have deserved a clean sheet at Rodney Parade following an authoritative performance throughout the game.
He continued: “It was another poor goal that we conceded today, and we didn’t kill them off. I told Mickey to stay with Mullin. Now because he’s honest, he gets dragged out to the ball. The problem was that Mullin was still in the box and that’s the danger area.
“Nine times out of ten, like he did today, he headed everything away. Scot Bennett also headed everything away and Ben White headed everything away.
“They defended superbly I have to say, but that one lapse in concentration, we seem to get punished from it all the time.
“It’s frustrating but I just hope that they keep learning – I won’t take anything away from what was a very good performance and a very important win for a great group of players who have given their all this season for the football club.”
The red card for Swindon shortly after they found a way into the game did stifle proceedings somewhat.
Flynn said: “When he did the second foul, I have to be honest and say that I turned to the fourth official and said that he has to be on his final warning now.
“I don’t like seeing players get sent off but he did make a couple of fouls after the first yellow. I did think that he would get one more warning because I don’t think that warranted a second booking.
“It’s about time we got a bit of luck for a change.”
The victory against the play-off chasers saw County close the gap on the top-seven to just ten points with five games remaining, in addition to having two games in hand on Mansfield Town, who currently occupy the final play-off position.
It also moved County back into the top half after leapfrogging Crawley Town into 12th position, while the current points tally of 57 is just eight adrift of matching the best ever points tally from the Exiles since returning to the Football League.
But Flynn says he will not be allowing his players to get ahead of themselves going into the remaining fixtures, although did admit that surpassing the total of 65 points achieved in 2014/15 is an achievement that he has his sights set firmly upon.
He affirmed: “We were the better team today but like I said, I won’t be getting carried away. We’ve got a tough game next weekend against Barnet and then Accrington the following Tuesday.
“It’s going to be tough, thick and fast, and trust me, I can’t wait for this season to be out of the way and with us hopefully on a record points tally since we returned to the Football League. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
He continued: “I’m not getting carried away with this win because we haven’t been on a good run of form. As I said before to the sponsors, the games we lost we deserved to lose.
“But the games we’ve drawn, quite a few of them we have deserved to win. It’s small margins and we could be easily sat on another six or seven points. It’s not to be, but it gives us an opportunity to improve on that next season.”
Another piece of good news for County came at half-time when it was announced that academy stars Jay Foulston and Momodou Touray had put pen to paper and signed their first professional contracts with the club.
Foulston, who became the third youngest player to ever appear for County when coming on as a late substitute in the Carabao Cup victory against Southend United, has also featured twice in the CheckaTrade Trophy this season and has signed until 2020.
Touray, who has trained with the first-team all season alongside starring in academy matches, has been on the bench quite prominently in recent months and the striker has signed until 2019.
And Flynn believes that Newport County AFC are the perfect club for the youngsters to get their first taste of professional football.
He stated: “Listen, they’ve got a chance. They deserve their contracts, they’ve got a long way to go and they have to work hard.
“They will have to put in the dedication but it’s up to them now. They deserve those contracts and we’ll have to see how they progress.
“We’ll give them a chance if they deserve it and possibly [it may be this season.] We’ll have to see how it pans out but yes I would [like to give them a chance before the end of the campaign.]"
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